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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Junction of Function

**This is not a paid post. This is a product review. I met the creator of this product at the home school convention I attended in July and asked her to allow me to use this product and write a review.**

I was wandering the aisles of the vendor room at the Southeast Home School Expo checking out the various materials that were being offered for display. I had passed up booth after endless booth of materials that were irrelevant to my own needs when I came across the Junction of Function tables. I was immediately drawn into the display area to play with the products that were available to be touched and held. I was so excited to see the Writing Made Simple product that I nearly jumped for joy as I phoned my husband to beg him for permission to buy the set for our girls.

Kira had been learning about her letters, but was not able to write those letters with any level of proficiency. Try though I might, I could not get her to understand the concept of lifting her pencil from the paper in order to make a new movement to create the entire letter. She was determined to write her letters with one stroke of the pencil. (We all know this does not work...) Her failure was causing her to become frustrated with the entire process and whatever progress we made was quickly washed away by that frustration.

Standing in the midst of hundreds of people and hundreds of possible purchases, I held in my hand the solution to my problem. This manipulative would allow me to explain to Kira how to make the appropriate movements in order to create her letters on paper. I knew this would be exactly what she needed. Lucky for us, Dad said it was just fine with him for me to buy the set.

I spoke with Kelly, one of the creators of this system, to learn more about what it was that I was bringing home with me. I learned that each character that was used to create the magnetic letters was cleverly named to make it easy for kids to remember who was who. I also learned that Kelly and the co-creator of the system worked together to create a cast of characters that would be fun for kids to get to know.

When looking at the magnets that are used to show kids how to form their letters, each character is performing a specific action in order to create the correct movement for writing the given letter. The action is created from the toes to the head of each character. For example, to create the backbone of the letter "K" Harry Head dives to the ground in one very long motion. (To write the letter "K" we begin at the top of the backbone and go to the bottom. Following the motions of Harry Head diving to the ground, the child can learn to write this part of the letter "K" in one long motion.)

There is a transparent overlay that is used as a guide to show which character in which pose should be used for the letter. By explaining the action of the character, the child can follow that action with her pencil in order to create the letter.

It all sounded pretty good, but would it work?

The theory was sound. The magnets looked really cool. I loved the characters.

What would Kira think?

Well, as luck would have it, my life got a bit crazy and my promise to use the system for the month of August and write about the system in September failed to materialize. I only had a small opportunity to use the magnets with Kira during August and felt that I needed more time before I could accurately review the product. Add to that my method of home schooling (unschooling), I needed to wait for a time when Kira was actively interested in sitting down to learn how to write her letters.

Such a time did present itself early in August. Kira desperately wanted to know how to write her name. She had mastered writing the little 'i', the little 'r', and the little 'a'. Unfortunately she was struggling with the 'k' that begins her name. She just couldn't figure it out on her own. I was so excited that I finally had a good opportunity to sit down with her and show her this new goody that I found.

I pulled out the transparency for the letter 'K'.

I pulled out the appropriate magnets that corresponded with said transparency.

I sat down with Kira and a stack of papers ready to tackle the task of learning how to draw the letter 'K'.

I was in it for the long haul.

We - Would - Master - This - No- Matter - How - Long - It - Took!

It took less than a full minute. (Sigh...and I was so prepared to stick it out, too.)

I kid you not!

Kira took one look at the adorable little kids who were creating her coveted letter 'K' and with one short explanation of the motions that the kids were making she was drawing away. I left for a brief trip to the store and returned to a stack of pages with "Kira" written on them. Yes, her letters were still choppy and still in serious need of practice, but they were also very clear and very readable. Kira was beyond ecstatic at this new ability. She was so ecstatic that she had ZERO interest in learning to write any other letter. She spent days and days writing her own name on every scrap of paper she could find. (I'm sure the bill processors at AT&T found that to be quite odd when they received our monthly payment with the name "Kira" written all over the payment stub in crayon...)

I waited and waited and waited... and suggested and suggested and suggested... for another opportunity to learn more letters. Kira just wasn't interested. She was completely satisfied with having learned how to write that coveted letter 'K'.

So the review was delayed... until a time would come when Kira decided she wanted to learn more. Little did I know that she would begin practicing on her own. She had made a crucial connection in that one lesson. She now understood that she could create her letters by lifting her pencil and using more than one motion.


We have pulled out our Writing Made Simple set a few times since that first lesson. I still love those little characters and love how easy it is to show Kira how to create the letter she has chosen to study. If it weren't for mischievous Marisa, I could leave Kira to play with the magnets and transparencies completely unsupervised. It is a very sturdy set. Marisa would surely abscond with the magnetic characters to cast some exotic play on the refrigerator if I did not fully supervise their usage.

This item is by far one of the best tools I've been lucky enough to possess. If you have a child that is struggling to write his letters, there is no doubt that this one product will help your child visualize the necessary motions and make that crucial connection to allow him to succeed in writing.


Jason said...

Great job! Kids usually learn their own names first when learning to write and it is common for kids to want to write all in one stroke. There are many advocates who say that we should teach cursive first, because it is all one stroke.

Remember, the kit is a great tool, but it would not work without your dedication.


Sugar cribs said...