It can be a challenge when a child has skills that aren’t where they should be for their age. We have been unable to used certain all-in-one curriculum because my son’s fine motor and writing skills were not where the program wanted them to be for the activities. We have participated in years of Occupational Therapy to learn strategies to improve his fine motor skills and found ways to add practice into our life naturally. I’ve written before about adaptions we made in Kindergarten for early writing skills. In this post, I would like to expand on some other adaptations we have made for the elementary school years.
One big thing I have started doing to help was to isolate the difficult skills. When we were doing a history activity that expanded on our history lesson, I would gladly serve as his writer. We would not get stuck on his difficulty about writing. However, when it was language arts and handwriting time, the work must be done. Now the activity’s purpose was to strengthen the area of weakness. Don’t fight the battle for every subject, save the battles for when you aren’t holding up other things, so you don’t both get exhausted and end up giving up. I structure our lessons so that weakness in one area doesn’t slow down his other areas of learning, while also finding ways to include practice to grow those skills gently and gradually.
Note: I am a mom sharing what I have l learned from the professionals that have helped our family. This is not meant as medical advice.
Lapbooks can be a great alternative to worksheets. The creative process includes both cutting, and short writing or coloring for each piece you include in the book. Cutting is one fine motor skill that can be hard to practice without a purpose. Lapbooks require lots of cutting for each element you include, but it has triggered less frustration because it has an obvious purpose. The writing element of a lapbook is not overwhelming, because each piece requires only a sentence or two of information. We have used lapbooks for Nutrition Unit Study, and for our Art and Geography studies.
For our history we listen to Audiobooks, so I don’t have to pronounce all the historical names correctly. While their minds are listening, their hands are kept busy with matching coloring pages. Coloring is another creative way to add practice holding writing utensils and build fine motor stamina. My rule is 3 colors on the page, which encourages them to color longer than 5 minutes and think about what they are coloring.
Primary Ruled Paper
When we do write, we continue to use Primary Ruled Paper. That means the paper with the 3 guides, and the dotted line down the middle. He is now in 5th grade and this paper would be left behind in 3rd grade in the public school, but since we are homeschoolers it’s still available because that is what he needs. And having constant access to it allows him the freedom to develop as a writer in his free time as well as school work.
Fine Motor Play
Offering toys like LEGOs and Playdoh also increases Fine Motor Strength. There was a season when we bought every LEGO Star Wars model set for Cub to assemble. It was part of his home therapy program. He had to follow detailed directions, work through frustration and also put the pieces together which at times was difficult. But the LEGOs motivated him to work through and complete each set.
Playdoh is another way to play and practice at home. Working the dough builds strength. The activity may last only a few minutes to start with, but over time the child will build stamina and strength to make more complex projects. We pulled out the dough during our Archaeology unit to make our own clay artifacts.
The beauty of addressing these Fine Motor challenges as a homeschooler is that you can make it part of your regular routine. It isn’t something extra or special for one student in a classroom of many, it’s just part of daily life. The child can experience the growth without feeling insecure about the accommodations they are receiving.