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The Old Schoolhouse Magazine


October 5, 2011

Handwriting: How Important Is It?


Deborah's  Picture  


It's a good thing our kids are home and can take a longer, more relaxed approach to becoming legible (especially so for boys and special needs kids). Some of our kids' writing is just neat by instinct and gifting, and others' needs much deciphering and even more parental help.


I have read studies that said teachers tend to give students higher grades if they have nice handwriting and that they assume those kids are smarter than their hard-to-decipher counterparts. As far as homeschoolers go, I know that SATs, high school equivalency exams, colleges, and scholarship applications require written essays. These all need to be legible, so we need to make sure they are. I don't believe we should let our kids' handwriting look like scrawl, but I don't believe it needs to look perfect either. We should teach our kids excellence in all they do but not stress out if their handwriting is not a work of art by the time they are 10. We should not be looking necessarily for perfection, but rather improvement with time.


One tip I've learned is to allow the students to use pens instead of pencils for writing assignments or workbook pages (maybe not for math, where a pencil and eraser are needed to rework problems). Pencils can make the physical aspect of writing harder, as a pencil doesn't flow like a pen does (besides the fact that kids tend to break their pencil leads, or their pencils, or they eat their erasers!) and they lose concentration on their writing. We switched to a pen for some of our kids, and it helped get their writing work done easier and faster for them. For the final copy of an assignment, we may use a pencil to slow them down and make it neat.


One of my children had manual dexterity problems, gripping the pencil so hard that the hand hurt after only one sentence. I taught that one to hold the instrument a bit more loosely and to write smaller. Writing big letters took longer, and it was also harder to keep the writing instrument under control in those big spaces. The smaller the letters, the more control they will have in writing them. This child also had very sweaty hands, so we added a rubber grip to the pens and pencils. We most recently found the "yoropen" for special needs writers, left-handers, or children who put too much pressure on their pen or pencil and strain their hand.


Also, give them good copywork for practice. When my older kids were small, we would write a verse from the Bible from Monday through Thursday, and sometimes by Friday, they would not only be able to write it without having to look much at it, but often had it memorized as well. If it wasn't memorized that week, we kept the same verse for another week until it was memorized by heart and by hand. And, teach them to do all that they do as unto the Lord, even handwriting.



TOS Senior Editor     


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Our guest writer this week:


Handwriting: Unlocking Your Child's Personality      

By Elsa Gonzalez    


Thinking back, I can still remember those early summer mornings when my mom had me sitting at the kitchen table practicing handwriting. It was hard to concentrate on those curvy lines when I'd rather be outside watching the butterflies and dragonflies flittering about in mom's garden of cosmos and phlox. She didn't use any kind of program or special paper. She simply wrote capital and small letters for me to copy. Mom didn't have beautiful writing. In fact, it wasn't even pretty! As she strained to shape every letter, I would notice how they would come out rather wiggly. But she was the boss and I had to practice anyway.  


Mom was another wonderful example of how an ordinary person with ordinary skills can accomplish much. You see, my mom never got past second grade in her formal education. Her family lived on a farm, and my grandfather thought that he didn't need his daughter filling her head with a lot of useless information that wasn't going to help put food on the table. She was needed to tend to the pigs and the bees. So my grandma taught her to read, write, and do basic math-she homeschooled, too! As an adult, my mom had the opportunity to teach her four children and two nieces to write in manuscript and cursive. She didn't let a lack of formal education stop her from doing her best with these children. We all learned successfully by the hand of one woman.   


Personality comes out in all we do. Though we all had the same teacher, as adults, our style of writing in manuscript and cursive was as unique as our personalities. The styles ranged from messy, doctor-style (sorry, doctors!) to smooth and elegant, to somewhere in between-like mine.   


Fast-forwarding to my personal experience in teaching my own children, it has also shown that personality comes out in each child's writing style. I started out each of my nine children in copying the manuscript letters that are on the inside of the writing tablets you can find in most grocery stores. I would first write the letter to be learned while she/he watched. Then I'd put my hand over the child's and guide her as she wrote the letter. With repetition, she would eventually be writing lovely letters in manuscript that we would proudly show her dad when he came home from work. However, by the time they reached fourth grade, I'd realize that they weren't writing those big, round, wonderful letters anymore! I still wanted proper, neat writing, and I would get it, but it had taken on a whole new personality.   


Teaching children cursive has been more of a challenge. Many parents are teaching cursive to their children by the third grade. I'm not in a hurry, so I wait till I feel they're mature enough to better handle that pencil. I teach my children the cursive style I was taught. It seems that trying to make those smooth, curvy lines requires finer motor skills, so when I see them flying across the paper in manuscript style, then I begin to teach them cursive style. Of course, by then their personalities are stronger, so they have an opinion about how I shape those letters! They are also easily disappointed to see how unattractive their first attempts are, too. But as they say, "practice makes perfect," or legible, anyway.   


Many programs are available to parents these days. It seems that many people are turning away from the cursive style my generation grew up with. Italic handwriting has become very popular. For many, it has simplified the connecting of one letter to the next. Reading it is simple since it's so similar to manuscript. My reason for choosing to teach my children "the old-fashioned way" is that this would enable them to more easily recognize the writing of the older folks around them. I also happen to like the look of the traditional cursive style. Following in my mom's footsteps, I keep it simple. I write the letters on a tablet of practice writing paper. Then I put my hand over theirs and guide them as they make each letter. Thankfully there are several writing programs out there to suit your needs and taste.


Teaching our children handwriting is like unlocking another aspect of their personality. You might be thinking their writing will be lovely like yours-or ugly, if you feel that way about it. But you never know-in the end it may look just like Dad's or Grandma's! You are simply giving them a tool for expressing themselves. "Enjoy the process," as my husband likes to say. You're on the verge of discovery!  


~Elsa Gonzalez

Blessed mom of nine great kids  





Psychology. It's the study of God's grandest creation: the human mind. It's also the most worldview-challenging class your children will take in college. Are they prepared? Whatever you think about psychology, the time to deal with it is now. Finally, there's a Christian perspective.    


The FamilymanTodd Wilson
Todd Wilson, Familyman Ministries

Handwriting-do people still do that kind of thing? I mean, we live in a Facebook world . . . a texting world . . . a non-handwriting world. Now don't get me wrong; I think everyone should know how to make a letter Q . . . but a letter Q in cursive? I don't think so. In fact, my wife just told me about a recent announcement regarding this exact topic. Check it out at


I know some would disagree and spend time each day working on penmanship and have all kinds of reasons for teaching an increasingly archaic skill. But you know what? That's the great thing about homeschooling; you can teach what you think is important. If you think handwriting is important to teach your kids . . . then teach them.


But if you think handwriting is a waste of time and want to forgo teaching it . . . then forget it. Remember, God made you wise enough to figure out how to homeschool your kids.


I gotta go . . . it's time for our quill pen writing time.


Be real,



P.S. My older boys (16 and 18) often tell my wife that the best thing she taught them was how to correctly type on a keyboard. They say they use that skill more than any other.


P.P.S. I'm about to hit the road with the whole family on a speaking loop down through Nashville, 10/14; Knoxville, 10/15; Pell City (Alabama), 10/16; Wilmer (Alabama), 10/17; Panama City (Florida), 10/18; Pinellas Park (Florida), 10/20; Naples (Florida), 10/21; Geneva (Florida), 10/22; Jacksonville (Florida), 11/1; and Charleston (South Carolina), 11/3. Boy, if you're near any of those locations and you need a shot in the arm, reminding you about what's most important, then plan to be there. All the events listed are homeschool events (except the one in Pell City) and are sure to make you laugh and be encouraged. Check out this link for location and times. 




There IS such a thing as an easy foreign language program! Great Commission Languages offers phonics-based French and Spanish textbooks complete with crystal-clear CDs recorded by native speakers. Fun stories about homeschooled kids, Scripture verses, and tons of cultural information help equip your children to change the world!



Creation Revolution  

This week, I want to take the opportunity to expound on the comments left by two of our visitors concerning the controversy between evolution and creation . . .


Read more from the article What Are Evolutionists So Afraid Of?  


It's Just Common Sense

Ruth Beechick, Curriculum Specialist 


Debbie Strayer, Homeschool Consultant  


I made two systems that people call crash courses. These are to use after the children have switched from manuscript (printing) to cursive writing. And after they basically know the letter forms. By the way, during these early stages it is a good idea to have on the wall or desk a chart of the letters that children can refer to if they want. This is not a lesson on memory of the forms, but on writing them neatly and beautifully.


Crash course No. 1 works on uniform slant and uniform height of the letters. Start with a letter like l, and do it rhythmically. Up, down, up, down. Try double ls, still using rhythm. Add short letters--maybe m and i--with the same rhythm. Then combine the letters into the word mill. Write it with exaggerated rhythm. Count aloud, or bang a ruler on a desktop, or whatever it takes to make your point. Use other short words, always with exaggerated rhythm. Don't immediately move on to phrases and sentences. Stick with just the rhythm practice for a few sessions. Later while the child writes, the rhythm will not dominate but will be in his head nevertheless. Once I asked a grown man what he remembered most about his time in a certain class, and he remembered the writing lessons on rhythm.


Crash course No. 2 is an individualized system. Have the child copy a short sentence or phrase, like "Jesus loves me." Choose one feature of his copy that could be improved and show how. The child practices the feature first and then copies the whole sentence again.

Two to three weeks on either crash course should be enough for most children. Once, three third-grade teachers decided to separate children for handwriting practice. I said I would take the lowest group. That's when I invented the crash courses, and after a couple of weeks many of those children qualified to be in the top group.




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Contest Central  

For the month of October, 2011   


Famous Figures of the American Revolution: Movable Paper Figures to Cut, Color, and Assemble


Famous Figures of the American Revolution: Movable Paper Figures to Cut, Color, and Assemble is a book of Revolution-era figures drawn on cardstock. The American patriots that are included are Benjamin Franklin, Betsy Ross, Daniel Boone, George Washington, John Adams, Molly Pitcher, Patrick Henry, Paul Revere, Thomas Jefferson, and a soldier of the Continental Army. Each figure contains a short biography. There is also a companion reading list containing read-alouds and independent readers. For this review, the Punch and Fastener Pack was included, so I had all that I needed. If you don't have a small hole punch and fasteners, you will need to purchase those.


First the parent or the child will need to cut out the figures. The perforated pages make it easy to tear the page out of the book. The figures come in color and black and white, so the children can color the figures. Then the children punch holes at the appropriate places and place brads to attach arms to bodies so that the figures can move. The figures are designed for students ages 6 to 12. (...)


Ms. Diez-Luckie's moveable figures are beautiful. They will liven up any history lesson. She has more historical figures in production.


Read the rest of the review here.


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