Starting Cursive

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If you have been reading this blog for a bit, you may know that I do not believe in teaching manuscript first and then cursive. In fact, I don’t believe in teaching manuscript at all. My children will experience what I did when I went through school: cursive first and only.

In preschool, they learned to print: MAMA LOVES ME, for instance. In the second semester of kindergarten, they started learning cursive. By first grade, they would be ready for copy work and a writing program. We spend most of first grade perfecting handwriting, all in cursive.

Girl holding tablet with cursive handwriting

Her first lesson in cursive handwriting

Romanian children and children elsewhere have done it for centuries. Manuscript first is a relatively new phenomenon and the result of extremely liberal principles introduced in education, one of them being dumbing down the curriculum. I am surprised by the number of conservative people who have not looked into this issue more carefully.

Since small children may not have the tactile skills for holding a pen properly, I have always made it a goal to wait until mine were at least six years of age before starting cursive. My daughter is one month away from being six, but she recently asked to start cursive.  Continue reading »

She likes to look at her brother’s handwriting and sometimes feels left out or handicapped if she wants to write a card or label a picture. She will print her messages, but she has come to the point where she will sigh and make statements like, “I don’t know cursive…” with regret in her tone.

When a child feels that way, and asks to begin cursive, who am I to rigidly enforce my own “no cursive before age six” rule?

So we started. No ceremony. Just like that. She asked, I obliged. We are using Logic of English Rhythm of Handwriting. She is delighted to produce a whole tablet full of lower case i or t or whatever. I know this enthusiasm will wane, as it always does, so I am bracing myself for the days when we will just skip over writing and work on other things. The rhythm of handwriting can be a relaxed one, at the pace of the child. But I expect that by summer time she will have all the lower case letters learned. Then, it will be time to start on the upper case alphabet.


The Value of Teaching Cursive Handwriting

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I have written here before about our choice to teach cursive first and only. Here’s more information on the subject.

Many families truly appreciate the flexibility that homeschooling offers them. It allows them to include skills and subjects they deem appropriate as part of their learning day and they can include religious education if they choose. And they can focus more on subjects that public schools do not include, or deemphasize. Some of these subjects often include music, the arts, and cursive handwriting.

Zaner-Bloser Homeschool Ways Fonts Online

More and more public schools today are eliminating cursive handwriting instruction, citing a lack of time in the daily school schedule and instead focusing on preparation for standardized testing. Many experts in early childhood education, however, believe this can prove detrimental to young students during early brain development. Continue reading »

Some educators are still “fighting the good fight” to include cursive handwriting in their curriculum, such as Dr. Denise Guy, superintendent of public schools in Abilene, Kansas. She cites Virginia Berminger, an educational psychology professor at the University of Washington who says, “Because handwriting necessitates physical sequential strokes to form just one letter (as opposed to a single strike in hitting a single key), massive regions in the brain are activated, including areas of thinking, language, and temporary information storage and management.”

Zaner-Bloser Handwriting

Even the new Common Core Standards adopted by most states no longer require cursive handwriting, much to the dismay of many educators and researchers.

While homeschoolers can take cues from public schools, this is where that important level of flexibility and personal choice comes into play. One of those skills children should learn despite reduced instruction in public schools is cursive handwriting. There have been multiple studies that cursive handwriting instruction can help develop cognitive ability and confidence to more efficiently perform the skills required for a variety of different content areas.

Zaner-Bloser Intro Cursive

Some primary education experts actually suggest teaching cursive writing before print as a way to help improve reading skills, as children often confuse letters such as “b” and “d” when learning to both read and write print. Generally speaking, when teaching cursive writing first, children will learn to print quite nicely later on, while if print it taught first, their handwriting may not be as nice as it could be, and they often develop a “hybrid” of print and cursive when writing every day.

Zaner-Bloser offers cursive handwriting programs that fit perfectly into a homeschooler’s plans. Each lesson can be completed in 15 minutes and research shows that students who have greater ease with fine-motor writing tasks have better academic skills in second grade in both reading and math. The Student Edition includes easy step-by-step instruction and self-evaluation, provides meaningful practice and application, and engages students with colorful, fun activities. The program goes beyond simple repetition and works to explain why each stroke is done in that particular manner so the student has a complete understanding of cursive. The Zaner-Bloser method definitely provides the homeschooler with all the tools necessary for success!

Zaner Bloser Fonts Online Plus

Another tool from Zaner-Bloser that works hand-in-hand with the cursive writing program is ZB FontsOnline. This program helps to reinforce the handwriting instruction by creating worksheets, practice pages, and more with this online application’s editable page templates featuring grade-appropriate guidelines and Zaner-Bloser’s manuscript and cursive alphabets. Right now, there is a great offer from Zaner-Bloser to purchase ZB FontsOnline for only $14.99. Simply go to http://www.zaner-bloser.com/zb-fontsonline-plus and use code ZBFOP. Offer expires 12/31/14.

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Logic of English, Rhythm of Handwriting Review

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Logic of English publishes great language arts curriculum sets for homeschools, as well as for classroom settings. I recently had the privilege of reviewing Rhythm of Handwriting Complete Set for cursive.

Handwriting is a big topic. Let me just briefly mention that I believe in teaching cursive first and only cursive. Here is a great article about the advantages of cursive first and only.

As I was waiting for my son to mature his fine-motor skills, Rhythm of Handwriting became available to me through the Review Crew. I decided to try it. Perfect timing, as my son seemed to have developed enough to begin and lay the foundation for future copywork.

Logic of English, Rhythm of Handwriting, Cursive Curriculum Set

Logic of English, Rhythm of Handwriting, Cursive Curriculum Set

The complete handwriting set costs $65 and contains a student book, a quick reference guide, a set of tactile cards and a small student whiteboard. This curriculum is recommended for ages 4-adult, but, as your child’s teacher, you know if the fine motor skills are in place or not.

The student starts by using large motor skills to form the letters – the tactile cards have sandpaper shapes of each letter and even one card for each individual stroke utilized throughout the curriculum. Then, the student moves to writing on the whiteboard with a dry erase marker. That way, all the mistakes can be easily erased and the process can start all over again on a clean slate.

Boy learning cursive on a small white board

My son writing on the small white board before moving to paper

The whiteboard has two sides, one with a very large area containing the baseline, the midline and the topline for writing. The backside contains several rows of smaller widths, which also facilitate the transition to paper.

If need be, they also recommend the student practice in a sand box or any box with cornmeal or rice.

Finally, when you, as the teacher, decide he is ready, he can start using the paper pages in his student book to practice handwriting with fine motor skills.

Cursive r boy on a small white board

My son had fun drawing himself as an R boy.

The paper worksheets contain varying widths and the student can choose whichever they feel best about. My son always preferred the largest (or widest) lines, which are the last two rows on the worksheets.

To recap, here are the steps to get your young student to start penmanship:

1. Sand paper (tactile) cards – as you rehearse the instructions (curve up to the midline etc.)

2. Make the letters in sand, cornmeal, or rice.

3. Write with a dry erase marker on the large side of the whiteboard.

4. Write on the smaller side of the whiteboard.

5. Move to paper and let your student decide which height he likes the best in the provided worksheets.

6. Work your way through the list of letters.

7. Practice, practice, practice.

The first week for us was easy. It was something new and exciting. The second week was tough. The newness had worn off. His hand would do the required motions in the sand box or on the board, but not on paper. He was frustrated with his own lack of skills. I was wondering if he just was not ready for fine motor skills.

The breakthrough came when I showed him that he was almost done with the “Swing Letters” in ROH. That it’s a category and then we can move on to the next group of letters. He looked at the chart and noticed all the categories. He got excited. Now that he had an idea of what to expect, he seemed motivated to press on. And motivation took care of the skills needed to transition to paper.

What also helped was the weekend – not doing any writing for two days. After the weekend, when we picked it back up, his skills had improved dramatically. It’s as if his brain had needed some time to process. He was not ready to do a whole Practice Sheet in one sitting yet, but he could do four lines without even questioning it. Progress.

The following week, he asked to see the rest of the letters in this first category. I showed him that we would start on Curve Letters that particular week if we kept at it. He was excited at the prospect.

Cursive p on a small white board

Divide and conquer. My son made his own dots to connect before writing his “p”.

And so, one day later that week, we started Curve Letters. Once he got “a” down, I showed him how “d” is just like an “a” but with a longer “tail.” He got it after a few tries. I was trying to see if we can do two letters a day. Apparently, we could.

That’s when he asked me about writing whole words. Hmm… Really???

I showed him in the book that, at the end of the chapter on Curve Letters, we have practice pages with words. Well, he saw “dad” – the letters he learned today!

He wrote it down once and I was congratulating him so heartily, he took off running. He likes being chased around the house, so I played along. My daughter wanted to be part of the action, so, with her in my arms, I chased my son around the house, running from room to room and laughing all the while.

He loved it. He would sit down to write another “dad” and then he would say, “Now you start chasing me.” I would run and we all laughed and squealed. Whenever I got to him, I showered him with hugs and kisses. He was covering his face, laughing.

This was one of the most fun days in homeschooling my little boy. Breakthroughs are always exciting. And any time we can laugh during school, I’m happy.

The fact remains, after two weeks of cursive instruction, my son wrote his first cursive word.

For the next four weeks, we kept on practicing and almost got to loop letters. I am so glad this curriculum has worked out for us and look forward to using it through the summer, as we don’t want to lose our hard-earned skills.

Here are the social media links for Logic of English:

https://www.facebook.com/TheLogicOfEnglish

https://www.pinterest.com/logicofenglish/

https://www.youtube.com/logicofenglish/

https://twitter.com/LogicofEnglish

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7 Factors In Choosing Handwriting Curriculum

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In our homeschool, we teach a range of subjects, but we focus mainly on the 3Rs this year. When we started in September, I realized the R of ‘Riting had to wait for a semester. We kept plenty busy with math and reading, as well as monthly science classes, weekly violin lessons, Home Ec., crafts, P.E., service projects, and Adventurers.

The overall task of getting into a routine took some time, too. Besides, I just knew my son was not ready for the effort required in learning good penmanship. He can print (that’s writing only upper case letters, manuscript-style, e.g. HOMESCHOOL). He signs his name on his worksheets and he can write a short card for somebody. This gave me time to look into several handwriting curricula.

Handwriting page from a Romanian workbook

Handwriting page from a Romanian workbook similar to what I use.

Here are 7 factors I considered when choosing handwriting curriculum:

1. The age of the student. Fine motor skills, essential for handwriting, don’t even develop until after the age of six.

2. The gender of the student. Boys mature more slowly than girls.

3. Cursive or manuscript? It’s a big debate. Personally, I only teach cursive and printing (needed for filling out forms by hand). I don’t teach manuscript at all.

4. Right-handed or left-handed student? The position of the hand and the strokes are different for a south paw.

5. Start with big letters and go smaller OR start at the letter size your student will use throughout his life? Again, a big debate. Some people say writing big letters equates drawing, which is different from penmanship. I tend to agree.

6. Should you use a curriculum that does not change the size of the lines? To me, changing from one line-spacing to another is like teaching somebody to play cello and then moving them to a bass a few months into it. Why make them re-adjust the strokes to a different size line-spacing?

7. Consider a curriculum that offers not only horizontal guide lines, but also slanted ones, so the child knows how far he can go sideways.

Personally, I am using a Romanian handwriting curriculum similar to what I grew up with. Initially, I planned on using Cursive First, which I really like, but they don’t have slanted lines, like the Romanian handwriting curriculum. I said it before and I will say it again: homeschooling allows for a tailored approach, so we might as well take advantage of it.