Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tickle Me...er, I Mean COLOR Me...Pink!

Micah doesn't really like to color.

He'll get out the markers and the crayons and scribble all over a blank piece of paper, but he almost never wants to sit with a coloring book and color the pictures. I always thought that he just didn't like doing it.

Coloring is kind of a big part of preschool. And when you don't like to color, you end up bringing home pictures that look like this:

Occasionally, Micah would bring home something like this. You can tell there was an attempt, but just not much desire to keep at it.

I have worried about it a little bit in the past. It's okay for Micah to not like coloring, but there's an educational principle (and life skill!) here that you just have to learn at some point -- you do your best at whatever it is that you're doing, whether you like it or not.

At what point to you start stressing this with your preschooler? On the one hand, he's three. He doesn't have to like coloring. As long as he's not throwing a fit about it or refusing to do it, okay. But on the other hand, one of the purposes of preschool is to prepare for big school. Coloring is a big part of kindergarten, too. I would like for Micah to understand that he needs to do his best on all of his work. It doesn't have to be perfect -- we don't expect that at all. But we do expect his best.

I wrestled with it some, but to be honest, just didn't have the energy to stress over it much last fall. I ended up in the it's-okay-as-long-as-he's-being-nice-about-it camp. I figured that he'd either get it on his own, or we'd deal with it next year in pre-K.

But then there was that day last fall, just after Thanksgiving. Micah got in the van after school, and I told him the news that we would be getting cheese-rollups from the Taco Bell drive-through for lunch. He was appropriately excited. And then I asked him about his day. He matter-of-factly told me that he had to go to the office that day.

Having just begun to back out of our parking place, I threw the van in park. In my days of teaching preschool, going to the office meant just what you automatically think it means - the kid got in trouble. I wondered why I wasn't called, and then hoped that I would find a note in his bag when we got home. I asked Micah to tell me more about it.

I don't remember all of the details about what he said exactly...but basically he told me that he went to the office because he wasn't coloring, and that he talked to the principal. I knew there had to be more to the story than this, so I asked again. I didn't think I was getting visibly upset, but I guess Micah was picking up on it anway. He immediately quit talking. I couldn't get anything else out of him -- except, "Well, I was just kidding. I didn't really go to the office today, Mom."

Now he was in trouble. Now he was lying. We talked about that, but he didn't change his new story any...so we ended up going home without any cheese roll-ups.

I immediately checked the backpack for a note. Not finding one, and not having Micah's teacher's phone number, I send her a quick email.

Then later that afternoon, I got a call from the director. Micah's teacher had gotten the email, and had asked the director to call me, since it was the director who had been the one to actually talk with Micah. Micah's teacher wanted to make sure that I got the information firsthand. I appreciate that. But it still caught me a little off guard when it was the "principal" who was calling! :)

Here's what really happened: Micah had been acting not-quite-himself for the past few days at school -- kind of quiet, maybe a little tired, just not himself. Mrs. Summer was a little concerned, and when she passed out the coloring sheet that day and all Micah did was lay his head down on the desk, she called Mrs. Belinda (the director/principal) to come up. Mrs. Belinda invited Micah to come down to her office with her so that they could talk, just the two of them.

On the way down to her office, she had stopped and pointed out one of Micah's pictures that was hanging up on the wall. He told her about it, and they kept walking. She said that Micah was very talkative, and actually complemented me on his big vocabulary. She said that she could immediately tell that this was a smart kid that she was dealing with. They talked about the Thanksgiving break for a few minutes, and just visited. She asked him again about his picture that they had seen. She pointed out that he hadn't colored much on it like the other kids had, but he didn't really say much about it.

Then Mrs. Belinda told him that she just wanted to make sure that he knew that, if there was ever anything wrong, he could tell either her or Mrs. Summer. They love him, and it's always okay to talk to them. Was there anything bothering him that he wanted to talk about? He said no, so they stood up to go back to class.

Mrs. Belinda took his hand and started walking, and then turned to look at him when Micah didn't start walking, too. She said his eyes had teared up, and his bottom lip was poking out and quivering. "Well Micah, what's wrong? Is there something you want to talk about?"

The tears started falling as he exclaimed, "But I just don't want to color! I only want to scribble-scrabble!" Suddenly everything was clear to Mrs. Belinda. They worked out a deal with Mrs. Summer. If Micah would do his best work on one paper everyday, he could scribble-scrabble on the rest. Everyone seemed okay with that. Some kids just don't like to color.

Mrs. Belinda apologized for not calling or sending a note. She just didn't see that it was a big deal, she and Mrs. Summer was just checking on Micah, and everything had been worked out. She had no idea that he would "tell on himself."

I hung up the phone, and I just cried and cried and cried. I felt so bad that Micah had gotten punished when that's all that had happened. Granted, it was the lying that he had been punished for, not going to the office. But I wasn't sure if he really understood that. Looking back, I'm not real sure exactly what it was that made me so upset. But I literally cried for pretty much the entire rest of the evening. Stress and exhaustion will do that to you, I guess!

I think there were only two days of preschool left before Christmas break, and Micah ended up getting sick and missing both of them. So when he started back to school in January, we made a deal. Every time that he brought home "good work" -- we made clear that this did not mean perfect work, or that the entire picture was completely colored, simply that he had done his best on the parts that he was coloring -- four school days in a row, he would get to go to WalMart and pick out a new HotWheels Color-Shifter car.

I also renewed my efforts at teaching Micah to hold his crayon correctly. It had occurred to me that it may be that part of the reason he didn't like coloring was because he didn't feel like he was good at it...and that part of that could be the way he was holding the crayon. We had worked on it off and on in the past, but the kid is just so stubborn! (I know Mrs. Summer has been working with him on this, too. Sometimes you just take stuff like that better from your teacher than your mother!)

Mom had ordered some of those special little pencil grips that help kids learn to hold it correctly. We used those for only a couple of days, and he got it. He still wouldn't hold the crayon/pencil correctly on his own, but if pressed he could finally at least do it.

So in January, Micah started bringining home work that looked like this:

We were ecstatic! What a difference! Micah added a couple of cars to his collection, and we thought we were really making progress.

Then he turned four. I don't know what it was, but that morning when he woke up and realized that he was finally four, the kid was convinced that he was really stronger, faster, and cooler now that he was four. It's really been pretty funny.

His birthday present from Mr. Ron and Mrs. Debbie, our wonderful neighbors/adopted grandparents, was a workbook. He was very excited about this, too. It took him a week or so to get through the first section of mazes, but then this week he hit the ABC coloring picture section. Suddenly, now that he's four (and possibly because he could hold the crayon right now) he likes to color -- and he's good at it! Something somewhere along the way gave him that extra little boost of confidence that he's needed. I don't know what it was -- other than being four now instead of just three -- but I'm so thankful that it happened!

Now this week, he's spent a considerable number of hours just sitting in the kitchen coloring. Now his papers are looking like this:


What a difference a birthday and a boost of confidence make, huh?!

He's also been suddenly excited about writing -- tracing all the letters at the bottom of each page and yesterday he actually wrote his own name on his papers at school. He's been able to write his own name for about a year now, I've just never been able to get him to do it on his papers at school.

The kicker to all of this is that he doesn't want to sit at the table and color alone. He always wants someone to sit and color with him. When Conner's home, that's who he wants. But when Conner's not home, of course it's me (and not Joey!) that he wants. The not-Joey part of it has been kind of difficult, but we've managed to get a lot of coloring time in together.

He's so funny -- everything has to be colored rainbow. But I usually only get to color with the pink crayon. I guess because you have to have pink in the rainbow, and since there's no way he's going to be the one using the pink crayon, it has to be me!

Mrs. Belinda and Mrs. Summer, thank you for loving on Micah and encouraging him to do his best. We appreciate you!

Micah Moo, I am just tickled...er, I mean colored ;)...PINK! that you have discovered what a wonderful little artist you are! I am so very proud of you, my big four-year-old! I look forward to many more hours spent coloring with you and many more pictures from you on my fridge.

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