Handwriting Curriculum at Lamp Post Homeschool
Thoughts on Teaching Handwriting in the Homeschool Setting
by Harriet Yoder
When I talk to customers about handwriting, I generally recommend a handwriting book for the time they are learning to print and then again when it is time to learn cursive. Teaching handwriting in the homeschool setting is very different from the typical classroom setting, We have more time to watch handwriting as it occurs and provide instant feedback. Our students don’t need busywork. Once they learn basic printing, they don’t need to review it every year. We don’t need to use a repetitive handwriting book every year. Why not? You teach handwriting every time you notice that a letter is made incorrectly and you say, “Let’s make that letter like this!” You show the child how to do it the better way. I always ask the child to write a couple for practice–not a whole line or page, no, just a couple of those letters that were incorrectly written. Then I put a little heart or star on the best one. If the child makes a fantastic/perfect letter or word, I question them (it’s a joke!), “Did I make this beautiful letter or did you?” They always think that’s hilarious and TRY even harder to make nicely shaped letters in order to “fool” me.
I’d like to recommend the BJUP Handwriting 1 Worktext for homeschool student who is beginning to print in earnest. This could range from an advanced 4 or 5 year old to a late blooming third grader who is ready to catch up. The key here is to have a student who wants to practice his penmanship with some excellent work pages. After completing this book, your student should be ready for cursive. I would recommend Reason for Handwriting Transitions. Again, it’s great for the homeschool situation because it has three sets of lessons (basic, transition, and cursive), lots of practice, and can be done independently.
Ready for Cursive Handwriting?
I have two simple guidelines to determine when to start teaching cursive handwriting. The first is that the child has demonstrated skill in printing. Tall letters are tall; short letters are short; the printing is reasonably neat; and it flows. If that’s evident and the child expresses a desire to learn cursive, then I ask him to print all the letters of the alphabet in lower and upper case from memory. If he misses a few, then you can focus on teaching those until the child is ready to learn cursive. There are two aspects to learning cursive: the new shapes and the connections. Learning the new shapes is the less difficult for most children. Making the connections usually causes the problem. If you have used a cursive book and the student isn’t getting it, I would recommend making a special notebook with 26 pages. Fold each page in half lengthwise to make two columns. On page 1 in the first column write (in cursive) aa on line 1, ab on line 2, ac on line 3, ad on line 4, etc. The student will copy each “connection” about two or three times. SAVE the second column of each page for later. On page 2 you will write the b connections (ba, bb, bc, bd, be, etc.), and on page 3, you will do the c connections and so on until you get to page 26 for the z connections! Maybe you have guessed what the second column is for! The upper case letters and their connections. Some upper case cursive letters stand alone and some connect but you have to practice! Repeat from page 1: Aa, Ab, Ac, Ad, etc. to page 26 Za, Zb, Zc, Zd, etc. OK, some of the connections aren’t “Englishly” possible, but there are other languages, and children create unusual words when they do creative writing. And so do I! The New American Cursive Penmanship program from Memoria Press is now available. Their reasoning is that children in first grade should be taught cursive handwriting with a simplified cursive. It follows the recommendation of the Penmanship Council of America about teaching cursive writing in the first grade.
Horizons Penmanship for Grades 1 to 6
Another good handwriting program comes from Horizons. The Horizons Penmanship workbooks and teacher’s guides are available for first through sixth grades. Our sons used these when they were in junior high to spruce up their handwriting.
For the secondary student who wants to improve his handwriting I would like to add the following thoughts. If you want a beautiful cursive handwriting, the Spencerian style is the old fashioned style that was used in the late 1800’s. It has more ruffles and flourishes than modern handwriting styles, but the workbooks offer more practice in doing the different strokes than typical handwriting curriculum. You don’t have to add all the extra curlicues to your cursive writing. When your student does the exercises, his handwriting should improve considerably at a very reasonable price. On the other hand, if your older student is extremely handwriting challenged (preferring to print as some successful adults do), then you might want to look at the Getty Dubay Italic Cursive (also called Portland Italic). It is basically a printing style that is connected to resemble cursive–nice and easy to master. The book I would recommend, in that case, is the Write Now! book.