Handwriting

handwriting image

I make my children practice their handwriting.  Not just printing, but cursive.  If they are sloppy or make mistakes on their homework, I make them redo it.  And I don’t feel one bit bad about it.

Sadly, I think cursive is a dying art.  I hope not, but I’m afraid it’s true.  It’s no longer taught in many American schools — I know it wasn’t in the schools my children attended.  Many kids I know can’t READ cursive, never mind write it (including, occasionally, my own, although I will be sure to remedy that).  I just find that really sad; if you can’t read anything but printed block letters, basically every historical document ever written is suddenly outside the scope of your understanding. 

When I was in elementary school (a while back, to be sure, but not THAT long ago), penmanship was a subject upon which we received a grade.  It was on my report card, right up through 6th grade.  If a student handed in work that was sloppy or illegible, they were made to rewrite it.  I can remember that happening.  We were taught cursive beginning in about 3rd grade, and then we were required to use it.

For my children, though, handwriting wasn’t emphasized after kindergarten or so, when children were taught how to write the actual letters.  Somewhere around third grade, I remember Bridget bringing home a packet with cursive letters in it that she could learn on her own if she chose.  She DID choose to (and if she hadn’t on her own, I would have made her anyway), but I imagine that many of the students did not make that same choice, and most parents don’t have the time to force it.  It has to be hard for the teachers to grade work if they can barely read it, but a focus on good penmanship in the early grades seems to have gone by the wayside and teaching cursive has been abandoned almost entirely.  I don’t blame the teachers, but I do think it’s a shame that good penmanship is no longer taught or required by the schools.

The school here in England does require good handwriting — in Quinn’s class (the equivalent to American kindergarten), they focus on it.  “Tall letters tall, small letters small” is the standard, and the children are held to it.  And the effort pays off: the children in the equivalent to 1st and 2nd grade have lovely, legible, neat printing.  In about 2nd grade or so, teachers begin to ask the kids to “connect” their letters; they are not using plain printing anymore, but a sort of pre-cursive script.  Then in Gabe’s grade (equal to 3rd grade in the States), children can only earn a coveted “pen license” once their connected, script-like penmanship is deemed good enough by a teacher.   

In my opinion, teaching handwriting also teaches attention to detail.  The act of ensuring the letters are neatly written forces the writer to slow down and take his time.  Teaching that concept and enforcing that standard from the youngest ages simply sets a precedent that will become second nature as children get older.  It’s important.  It matters.

And that’s why my kids have handwriting practice at home.  And why I won’t feel a minute of guilt over it.

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3 thoughts on “Handwriting

  1. karin w

    Catholic school growing up- penmanship grade until 8th grade! But my kids, like yours, barely have been taught print. Our school, when we lived in the same county as you, did not even encourage lined paper until 2nd grade and even then, it wasn’t “handwriting paper” with the blue line on top, red line on the bottom and dotted line in the middle, but wide ruled looseleaf paper where they skipped lines. And then cursive was taught for approximately one quarter. After moving, we found our new school system emphasize handwriting a little more strongly but still did not teach cursive over the full year or enforce cursive only in assignments.

    I’ve done journal-based research on the effects of handwriting both print and cursive on the brain. Print is shown to increase spacial relations and organizational skills. Cursive lights up the creative centers as well as the analytic centers of the brain. Both print and cursive affect the brain differently when taking notes then typing on a computer. The general conclusion is that handwriting making your brain synthesize the material so that you can keep up with taking notes. Since you can type faster than you can write, notes taken on a keyboard tend to be more Word for Word and unsynthesized.

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