7 June 2010

unschool monday :: writing without a license

I've used a pic similar to this before, but this one gives me a giggle. Note little owlet's concentrating face... its the same one I make. Not a tongue or a funny jaw like big owlet, or curled over toes like Huz, but sucked in cheeks. I love that something like that can be hereditary. I also love that she holds the pen the same way I did, confidently, but with two fingers gripping it instead of just her pointer. I remember my struggles at school holding my pen that way. All wrong. It helped me gain control so that I could move the pen the way I needed to, but it was wrong. It needed correcting, so we trialled various pen grips and mum spent many hours helping me practice my writing, the way the school wanted me to. I lost confidence and even still, I'm quite critical of my handwriting.

I was one of the last in my class to obtain a pen license. I've always been a late bloomer. I've also always considered the notion of a license or certificate to use a writing implement to be rather silly. Well it is really, isn't it? I believe its still custom to hand out pen licenses to kids in about grade four. I'm sure there's a sense of achievement when you finally get the piece of paper that says you can use the pen, but I remember what its like to be the kid waiting to be good enough, still not being there by term 3, and the teacher handing it over reluctantly because its getting a tad embarrassing...

Not wanting the owlets to feel the same sense of exclusion, they have free reign on the art materials (even the good ones) and writing implements around here. They've been happily writing unlicensed since about 12mths. Little owlet writes very complicated prose in a series of little squiggles that are quite legible to her and that's what counts. Letters of the alphabet are making an appearance now too, as she learns to recognise them. Big owlet is just beginning to write words that the rest of us can read too. She's moving through mirror writing and the words are coming together beautifully. We're careful not to correct her, but occasionally point out what we see and she's getting there in her own time. Its wonderful to watch her write a card or letter in her own hand and with little help. Also interesting to watch her understand how words work, words that she can already read but can now understand and remember. Of course, much writing happens on the computer now too, which kind of makes the notion of a pen license redundant... We were told we'd need one so we could write legible notes for senior school or university, irrelevant now in an age where many children head off to school with a lap top... Its funny how you can see the silly ways the adult world works when you are just a child, see it all so clearly, then remember and then accept it as part of the normal experience. Until you make that choice to question it... I hope the owlets experience is one of encouragement and freedom and achievement of things that are important to them.

Then they can apply those concentrating faces to the important stuff, like content and the process of making their own mark.


  1. I've never heard of a pen license! Wow, need a smilie to complete that like :shock Perfectly beautiful photo too - I love the writing, and your comment about mirror writing and not correcting is exactly what I need reminding about as we've got that going on here and I don't remember to keep my mouth on quiet mode. Thank you x

  2. great pic! I was only thinking recently about pen licences, my primarysbhool didn't have them but my best friends did. I felt it was a redundant idea then and is still a redundant idea :)

  3. I was one of the last to get it too, and I remember knowing that I only got it because the end of the year came and we had to have them. Which begs the question of what is the point if you get it just because the year is ending anyway?! Very vivid memories of the teacher being reluctant to give me the privilidge of writing in pen :(
    How wonderful to be watching writing evolve naturally for the owlets!

  4. I just wanted to de-lurk and say that I really appreciate your blog, especially the Unschooling Monday posts. They've been so helpful in understanding *how* my daughter learns and how I can best nurture her learning.


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