Impromptu and Educational Play Date

My friend got into a jamb yesterday and asked me if her two children (classmates of J’s last year) could come over to our house for a little bit after school. Of course!

When I got to school to pick them up the three of them were so excited they practically bounced the two blocks home. I asked them to help me taste test a cookie recipe I am working on for next week’s Fill the Cookie Jar post over on That Recipe. It got six thumbs up! Check over there on Thursday for the cute and tasty results.

Then they were all over the house:

  • jumping on J’s bed
  • making his room dark to check out his Donnie Dream Light
  • playing dress up
  • setting up the hot wheels track
  • playing with the Ninja Turtles figures
  • etc. etc. etc.

Typical six year olds. When it got a bit quiet I looked in on them and saw them on the floor with the crayons and notepads writing.

they wrote more than it shows, I chose to blur their names

I immediately remembered a New York Times article I read recently about all of the studies showing the importance of physically writing to brain development. More and more research is demonstrating that more of the brain is active when you write by hand versus typing. This is important not only for children whose brains are developing but for adults wanting to keep their brains active.

This is not going to be a rant against Common Core. I have actually read through the standards and honestly, I like them a lot.  While the basic Common Core standards only mention handwriting through second grade, the authors emphasize that the standards are a basic framework and should not be used as the final word on all that is taught. In California, printing is taught through grade 2 and handwriting in grades 3 and 4.

I am not thrilled about the testing methods in California, but that has more to do with the fact that I am concerned about J’s ability to demonstrate his knowledge on computerized standard testing than the actual method for the general population. More on that after we have our official IEP on Tuesday.

I had a discussion with my aunt (a retired teacher and school librarian) and uncle about the importance of teaching handwriting a year ago. My aunt and I knew it was still important to learn the skill, but neither of us could explain why. Now, I can. But it is tough to carve out time for it with all of the other things the teachers are required to cover these days.

Hopefully, with continued research such as the studies mentioned in the NYT article the standards will be modified, or at least all states and/or school districts will find a way to make sure writing skills are still covered in the elementary classroom. If the research continues to hold up, and I suspect it will, children will benefit overall academically by finding time for handwriting instruction.

On a personal note, I am not going to ban electronic devices because of this research. They have their place in today’s society too. But, I will continue to provide J with notebooks and writing implements so he can explore on his own.

It makes me smile to think J and his buddies thought they were just having fun when they were actually exercising their brains. That is Edutainment at its best.

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