Midway through this past school year, at a parent teacher conference, after speaking glowingly about my four-year-old for a solid fifteen minutes, Harlow’s teacher dropped a bombshell: she doesn’t know her alphabet.
Huh? What? Are you talking about my kid who can recite every lyric from Katy Perry’s Dark Horse? The one that corrects me when I confuse the Jewish holidays? The same child that has memorized every word to Fancy Nancy so that she insists on “reading” it to us instead of the other way around?
Yep. That one.
Somehow, while marveling upon Harlow’s quirks, fabulous dance moves and the fact that I truly believe she is smarter than all of us, I missed that when you ask her to sing the alphabet, she stops at “F” and then says, “What comes next?”
Mazzy knew the alphabet almost the second she left the womb. Actually, my favorite video ever taken of baby Mazzy was one where she sings the alphabet repeatedly, at a higher pitch and with more enthusiasm each time, until she literally falls over in an “I know my ABCs” stupor.
You can watch it for yourself below:
Mazzy’s familiarity with the alphabet probably existed because she had a steady diet of Sesame Street and alphabet themed books and toys.
Harlow, on the other hand, has had a steady diet of Mazzy her whole life and her seven-year-old sister is way past Sesame Street. She thinks Elmo and Grover are “babyish” (as a result, Harlow does too) and prefers her TV education to come from shows like Teen Titans Go and Liv and Maddie.
Shows that exist for kids who should have learned their ABCs about 5-10 years ago.
Mazzy and Harlow go to bed at the same time, in the same room, so when I read them a bedtime book, it has always been more for Mazzy’s level than for Harlow’s. When Harlow was a baby, it didn’t seem to matter what I read to her, as long as we were reading. As she got older, she wasn’t interested in the board books that might teach about body parts or the ABCs, because she had already been exposed to books like Pinkalicious and Iggy Peck. “That’s boring!” she would yell when presented with Ten Tiny Tickles or Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
I agreed, so I didn’t push it.
Meanwhile, I don’t think Mazzy even knew the word “boring” until 1st grade.
As for toys, when Mazzy was little, we had mostly gender neutral things to play with. Blocks, a caterpillar who taught the alphabet, stacking toys, sorting cubes, etc. We didn’t get princess dresses or Barbies until Mazzy started asking for them herself, probably at around four or five.
Harlow, on the other hand, has had princess dresses and Barbies since Day One. She’s also had a permanent playmate in her sister so obviously, it’s way more fun to role play Rapunzel with your sister, than a caterpillar teaching you the alphabet by yourself.
I guess, since we weren’t really singing the alphabet at home (or any of the nursery rhymes and kids songs that we sang ad nauseum when Mazzy was a baby, opting for Kidz Bop on the Alexa instead), I never noticed that we had skipped right over basic parts of our toddler’s education.
Harlow has been going to preschool since she was 18 months so it’s not like she wasn’t exposed to the alphabet at all, but I’ve learned that reinforcement and repetition at home is pretty important too. Once I knew about our oversight, we corrected it pretty quickly. Now Harlow has no problem reciting the alphabet (except for that tricky LMNOP section) and we’ve moved on to helping her identify the letters too.
That’s a little tougher because we don’t want her to view it as homework, which is something she already associates with a task that her big sister doesn’t want to do.
Again, Harlow is learning letter identification at school but reinforcing the learning at home really seems to help. It’s not something we are worried about— we just want to make sure she isn’t behind when she starts kindergarten in the fall.
Super Why’s ABC Adventures app (a show she refuses to watch) has been helpful, as well as the Touch and Learn Activity Desk we have at the summer house. When Harlow said she was bored with those options, I created a board of letters with sticky notes on the coffee table. Then I rounded up all her miniature figurines (princesses, My Little Pony, Frozen, Inside Out, Doc McStuffins, Sophia, etc.) and had her identify the first letter of each character and then put them on their respective note.
Slowly but surely, she’s getting it.
I’m still convinced Harlow is brilliant. It’s just that up until recently, she was being taught by her big sister instead of her parents.
Which, I might add, I’m sure has a lot of value too.
All school photos were taken by Stomping Ground— hands down the best school photo company in New York City! It’s the same company that took Mazzy’s pics in preschool, Mazzy’s pics in second grade and Harlow’s preschool photo that killed me dead.