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  1. #1

    Default Explode the code is not working for us

    I started using Get Ready For The Code with my DS (he's 5). He likes the pages where he has to circle or color something, but he is having a terrible time with any writing. He hates those pages and really lacks the ability to write. He hates anything that requires fine motor skills (crafts, coloring) and I'm thinking we need to give up on these books, or skip the writing pages for a while at least. We are also using the Bob books and he is doing great with them, he can read the Mat and Sam books (although he says he can't read). He loves phonics games and we do them a few days a week.
    Should I try Handwriting without tears? or something else that might improve his motor skills and confidence? Or just drop handwriting for a while?

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  3. #2


    When my DS had trouble with is fine motor skills, I focused on other activities that helped him develop it. I think I read somewhere that boys may develop it slower. Mine hating anything like writing or coloring too at that age:

    Here are things we have done to help with his fine motor skills that was not cutting or coloring:

    Playing with play-doh or clay
    Doing dot-to-dots
    String beads on pipe cleaners or yarn
    Ripping paper. Use for paper-mache projects or other art projects
    Needlepoint on plastic frames or lacing cards
    Weaving - this can be simple project with a cardboard loom and yarn

    The games Operation, Plunk-It or Jenga all require fine-motor skills too.

  4. #3


    My little one has been in OT (Occupational Therapy.... Fine Motor Skills) for the past two and a half years.

    He can draw all his letters, and sometimes has stamina to write a few words, but I wasnt planning on having him do "writing" for a while yet.

    We do mazes and dot to dots, and thats where we are with our formal handwriting.

    Does he have a "proper" grip? Getting that pincher / tripod grasp isnt easy! They make lots of grip helpers (google OT pencils), but I think it just takes time and persistence.
    We use markers, because they dont require pressure to make marks. Sometimes crayons, but pens and pencils are just too hard.
    Try doing a coloring, or maze, or writing activity, while lying on his stomach. It will stabilize his core, and elbow on the ground will keep him from trying to write with his whole arm instead of just his wrist.
    Writing on a sloping board may also help. A good OT consultation (because youre a parent, probably dont have training on how to teach your kid to grip properly) might help as well.

    I consider Explode the Code to be reading, not writing. And honestly, I dont remember there being writing in the early levels of it. (I started at level 1, didnt do stuff before that.) Circling and checking were the extent of writing that i remember.

    Sure, do HWT gently for writing skills if he doesnt know how to write his letters yet.
    We do reading (Bob books and word games) each day we do schoolwork. Mines been memorizing the words and story instead of decoding them, but my older son would slog through them decoding.
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.


    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  5. #4


    It's pretty normal for boys to need a little extra time in fine motor skills. If you're worried OT is definitely an option, if you think he needs some more time I would probably just drop the writing for a while. For my son I used a variety of methods, I would write his answer for him after he reached it independently, let him glue the numbers/words down, use stamps, or just switch to a curriculum that didn't use as much fine motor skills. We also did more play dough, stringing beads, buttons, latches, etc. to work on it in a fun way.

    For phonics we have loved Phonics Pathways and it requires no writing (though there are plenty of people who have the kids write the words in addition to reading them, we just read). For handwriting I let him trace a giant rendition of the letter on our large white board. It was much less fine-motor-skilly since the letter was over a foot tall, but it still gave him the practice to learn the proper strokes for each letter.

  6. #5


    As a mother of 4 boys (and 2 girls), I would say drop handwriting and work on pre-writing skills for a while. Some boys (and a few girls) are just allergic to pencils and paper at that age. Luckily they do outgrow it eventually and there are plenty of ways to practice handwriting skills without putting a pencil to paper.

    Practice handwriting strokes with sidewalk chalk on the sidewalk or driveway, or with finger paint or in the sandbox, writing letters in the air with your finger or in a cookie tray with shaving cream, pudding, or salt in it.

    Get some letter magnets, I found an awesome wooden set at Dollar Tree during back to school sales last month, or you can make your own by making or finding some printable letter tiles (just enter "printable letter tiles" in Google, tons of free options to choose from) and laminating them and add a magnet to the back if you want. When a workbook or activity asks him to write a word, let him use the letter tiles to "write" it instead until he builds up his ability to write.

    Does he have a preferred writing/drawing instrument? My 4 year old prefers markers so I let him do a lot of his writing practice with markers on paper or dry erase markers on marker boards. Does your son like to draw with colored pencils, markers, or crayons? Whatever his preferred medium for drawing is, try letting him practice writing with that.

    For teaching him to write with a pencil, I found some awesome mechanical pencils in the back to school section this year! They are triangular which encourages the tripod grip and they have super thick lead, 1.3mm as compared to .7mm that most mechanical pencils have, and we have not broken a single lead in one of these pencils yet! They look and feel like a wooden pencil and the ease of sharpening of a mechanical pencil without the super fragile lead. I don't get a kickback or anything from the link, I just seriously love these pencils! They have been our best back to school purchase this year, lol!

    I have one that has graduated high school and two that are in high school, 6th grader and a 4th grader in addition to my 4 year old, none of the older ones suffered academically from doing little to no formal writing in kindergarten. Unless they showed an interest, I didn't start teaching handwriting until first grade. Usually by the end of their kindergarten year, they started showing an interest in learning how to write. In kindergarten, we worked on recognizing letters, learning to read and how to form letters using shaving cream, sidewalk chalk, pudding, sand etc. I wrote down their narrations, their stories... the more they saw me write for them, the more they wanted to start being able to do it themselves and got over their pencil and paper allergy.

  7. #6


    Above are great suggestions for working on the writing.

    Explode the Code is definitely tricky for kids not ready to write. I would just hold off on it. Some people write for their kids at this stage, so that's one option, but the writing is *intended* to be an integral part of the program. You could try another program that requires less writing - there are lots of options out there - Progressive Phonics is one I like that's free, but there's much more intensive programs like All About Reading and cheapie programs like Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading and all kinds of things in between. BOB books are fine and there are other leveled readers out there like the Nora Gaydos books. You might also like Peggy Kaye's Games for Reading to get new ideas for other ways to gently introduce reading.

    Basically, lots of potential approaches, but he's young, it all sounds normal. No need to do much yet other than don't push it much.
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  8. #7
    Senior Member Arrived Elly's Avatar
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    Jul 2013


    It definitely took my son a lot longer on the writing than the reading. I would drop that part, or at least find a way to decouple them. My son did HWOT at his pre-K programme, but he was much more reluctant at home and his handwriting was always slow and clumsy. Eventually, a few months ago (so he was about 9) I got a cursive handwriting book and he picked that up in a few days and he writes quite nicely now. (In contrast, he was reading fluently before he was 6 from the Bob books). Hopefully, that will give you some encouragement and reassurance!

    4th year of homeschooling DS, now 9!

  9. #8


    Thanks for all the ideas. I think I'm going to drop the handwriting for now and try a few of the suggestions for fine motor skills. He is still holding pens and stuff with a fist. We are planning on moving out of state soon, so after we are settled I might look into OT for him.

    He was a late talker (over 3), but when I started looking into speech therapy he figured it out. He's just really physically active and is more interested in jumping off the couch then sitting at the table, but he loves being read to and really likes his math books.

    I'm thinking of getting letter and number stamps so he can still do his math and stuff. I guess I was just hoping that the writing in explode the code would be enough for now so that we wouldn't need to buy more stuff.

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