Mark and I knew that we wanted to homeschool our children before we were even married. So when our oldest finally got close to being school age we were very ready to start “officially schooling” her.
When Amber was 3 we pulled out “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons” and she progressed beautifully, except for the short writing assignment at the end of each lesson. She struggled and tried but could not do it. Being the naive beginning homeschooler that I was, I insisted. After all sometimes “education is hard work”. She continued to struggle and the result was often tears at her failure. I hope that you are all just shaking your heads at my inexperienced self.
Finally, I wondered if writing a letter each day was really necessary for a 3 year old (ya think?), so we dropped it. She learned to read lightening fast, she was no longer reduced to tears at not being able to write, and neither of us was frustrated with the process, but I hadn’t really learned my lesson yet.
When Amber turned 5 I pulled out our handwriting book. She was officially in Kindergarten and Kindergarteners learn handwriting. We were once again in the land of frustration and once again I backed off.
It was only a few weeks later that she brought me a “note”. She had written, “mom”. Over the next few weeks she continued to bring me handwritten notes. The light bulb went off, NOW she is ready to learn handwriting and she was.
So in our house there is no handwriting instruction until the child begins to write letters or notes on their own and then formal handwriting begins immediately. Our logic is this, if they are trying to write on their own then they are ready to begin handwriting and we want to start teaching them the correct way to form their letters before they develop bad habits. (Why is it that children always want to go clockwise when writing the letter a?) This method has worked with all of our subsequent children, no more handwriting tears.
We have used the Getty Dubay Handwriting books. This is an italic style of handwriting, so rather than teaching the children ball and stick letter formation and then completely changing that formation when they are ready for cursive, Getty-Dubay teaches italic handwriting and then simply teaches how to join the letters when the children are ready for cursive. There is no drastic change between handwriting and cursive, the children simply add joins.
The final book of Getty-Dubay introduces calligraphy, extra flourishes and fancy joins. Both Amber (12) and Kaitlin (11) have chosen to complete this book which is optional in our home. Matthew (10) is still debating if he wants me to purchase it for him. He likes the calligraphy pen, but is it worth a whole extra year of handwriting practice to get to use it?
While we are happy with our choice of handwriting books this decision, like every other homeschool decision, is personal. I’ve heard some people say that they don’t care for Getty-Dubay because the cursive does not look traditional. Everyone has their own preferences.
Of course you don’t really need to use any handwriting program, you can simply teach your children proper letter formation and then use copy work for them to practice. We do plenty of copy work and I’ve often wondered if our additional handwriting was necessary. Although nice handwriting is important to this very visual mom who loves order, and Getty-Dubay has produced lovely results. This falls into the category of “Why change a good thing?”
How do you teach handwriting and what books or resources do you love? Have I missed the handwriting boat on some wonderful new (or old) program? I’d love to hear from those who don’t use a handwriting program and simply rely on copywork or dictation. How have you implemented that and how has it worked for your family?
You can read more posts about how we homeschool or why we homeschool. I also have an expanding series about how we are making our physical home into a great place to learn and of course my list of homeschool product reviews is also growing. Also, since many of you all REALLY want to know more about multi-grading (read point 4 in this link), I am going to attempt to tackle that next.