Back to School : The Write Stuff

Summer is winding down, and I’ve been going through the back-to-school motions this weekend. Labels, packed lunch ideas, haircuts and internal monologues on how much finger-wiggle room there should be at the back of school shoes. So, with thanks and goodbye – here’s a pick’n’mix of our summer:

One thing that has stood out for me this summer is how K’s reading has started to gain momentum and it’s been pretty cool watching this transformation. I’ve watched his confidence grow with each word-shape memorized, and how his eyes flick to the picture for context less and less as he becomes more adept.  We were passing through the playground yesterday and he pointed out to me, his tone colouring with authority :

K:‘That girl’s t-shirt says she’s ‘mummy’s happy butterfly.’

Me: ‘Yes, it does, well done!’

K: ‘Well, she’s not.’

Didn’t really occur to me to ask why not.

Angus and I also cracked up after we spotted this note K left for us tonight after we told him off for various misdemeanors. :

‘Bee Nis Two Kian’

This learning to read lark is especially significant for me because reading and writing have always intertwined in my life. I started doing the one as soon as I learned the other. I’m actually working on a series of three poems (triage sounds pretentious – even to me)  on reading, writing and arithmetic which  fits nicely with the back-to-school feel of this post. The poems need some serious refining but admittedly, earlier versions have been read at Joyce’s Peel Street Poetry. (Every Wednesday from 8 onward / 49 Peel Street. COME!)  I find a voice can carry a poem a lot better than words on paper –  and you can generally disguise any flaws with intonation.

The purist in me wants to cry ‘wolf’ at this but half-finished, half-arsed writing is sometimes the compromise I have to make in order to keep the rhythm going. Failure to comply  results in a cyclical tirade of poems about poems, writing, or the lack thereof – and I really don’t want to go there again. The editing stage has now become the meat and potatoes of the writing process which has been good for me. Time constraints demand I have to be really clear about what I want to say in each poem. I can no longer entertain writer’s block. I  keep trying – consistently – a couple of times a week, and the best part is; even if nothing comes out of it I feel like my subconscious gets a little exercise and it never feels like a waste of time.

Back to K and his reading – here’s a part of that poem:

My four year old’s homework comes in dot-dot-dot’s, trace the letter,
Strokes one, two, three – ALWAYS, one, two, three.
Use a ruler to join the sound and the picture.
Colour her dress red. No, not blue – Red!
There are lines that he must stay in, NOT straddle,
His letters must sit,
And if his pencil is not sharp enough we get notes sent home.

See that, I still get notes sent home.

At bedtime he takes the book from me,
And we’re back there again – the  World about to get bigger,
The hover before a first step,

He reads the shape, his lips rhythmic, lashes flick
from print to glossy Oxford Reader pictures for a hint,
He finds cliffhangers in the sound of a suffix,
his voice mounting to hysteria, look at me, mummy!
Our grins playing Marco Polo,

My boy has already found a way outside the lines,
Eyes glistening with first dew of a new outside.

The first paragraph makes a reference to K and our experience of kindergarten homework in Hong Kong. It was also in part inspired by my friend Tanya Hart’s excellent Quintile Class Book Project. I think this series is brilliantly executed, candid, and for anyone from this region: this will strike a chord.

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