Monday, October 18, 2010

Could someone just give me the answers? Please???

Today I had an interesting conversation with another homeschool mother. I respect her opinions and she has 5 kids, the way I figured it she'd have that answer. You know  what I'm talking about, right? I mean THE answer. For you, THE answer might be for a different thing. For me it was: Drum roll please and some dramatic music..... climaxing.... climaxing....

Cursive Handwriting
Well, this 'handwriting' thing is leaving me 'handwringing' and the way I saw it, the other mom, experienced as she is, had the answer. Or so I thought. Dang that woman.... I feel no wiser now that I did before.  Didn't someone give her the memo? The memo that says: If you have five kids and are homeschooling you know all the answers?  But at the end, she really is the wise one. Her recommendation is to listen to my heart and that, at the end of the day, I know my kid best.

You see, my daughter is a south-paw and the cursive she learned in third grade in school was just about the only thing she hated about school. She has a decent print handwriting but her cursive is well, let's say degrading quickly.  Yes, I could sit her down once a week and force her to write cursive. However, I have a feeling that it would be a thing she would deeply resent in addition to wasting hours of our time which would be better spent studying something else. Now, the question is, why do I feel so strongly about this? After all, as long as she can read cursive just fine, and write legibly why would her ability to write cursive make one bit of difference? That's the part I am not sure about. There are plenty of 'learned men and women' who have a lot to say about this, both in favor of cursive and against it. And to be honest, both make some good points. So, do I feel like I ought to teach her cursive simply because it's what her father and I learned? Is it because when I look at some things other people have written I always observe their handwriting? We see approximately 1,000 -1,200  people's handwriting in our company each year. Is it because a good neat handwriting conveys a sense of being educated and thorough? Or are all these preconceived notions a thing of the past. A thing of the 'we grew up without word processors and spell check' past.

What do you think? Where do you stand on the 'Cursive' vs. 'Print' Issue?


Eva said...

Marlis, I belong to the people who think the earlier you learn cursive, the better. In fact I learned it before I learned manuscript. Having said that I know that cursive is a struggle for some children. My son learned it quickly, but he really has to watch his writing because otherwise it gets very sloppy. My first daughter didn't have any problems with it and has beautiful handwriting. My second daughter had problems with manuscript at the beginning and so I have slowed down our introduction of cursive.

I always introduce cursive at the end of grade one or beginning of grade 2. I don't like the American cursive, none of it. I looked at all different types, even "Getty-Dubay" (Italic) and "Handwriting without Tears," but prefer the German "Lateinische Ausgangschrift." Didn't you learn that one too? Now there are different options in Germany in addition to that one ("Schulausgangsschrift" and "Vereinfachte Ausgangsschrift"). My children have done very well with "Lateinische Ausgangsschrift." Of course there are no American books you can use, but if you are interested, I could recommend you a few you could order from Germany. You could also google "Lateinische Ausgangsschrift" to take a look of what it looks like and take it from there. It is similar to Italic cursive, but the capital letters are more connected.

Something that really helps with developing good cursive is -- believe it or not -- knitting. My daughter who struggled with handwriting also struggled with knitting (I introduce knitting in grade 1). Now in grade 2 we focused a lot on knitting and her handwriting is improving by leaps and bounds.

We practice cursive in grade 2 for 5 to 10 minutes a day and switch from manuscript to cursive when all the letters have been learned.

I hope that my ideas will help you to find your own approach.

Arby said...

Are you asking, "Should my daughter master cursive writing?" My immediate answer is "Yes," although I have no strong reasons why. It's what has always been taught in school. At the same time, I am the last person who will tell you to do anything simply because "it's always been done that way." I am more interested in understanding why your daughter struggles with cursive. Identifying the "why" might give the answer to the "how."

KateGladstone said...

Cursive is very prone to accidents and degradation (even if you're not a lefty), and research shows that the fastest and most legible handwriters avoid cursive. The fastest and most legible handwriters join only some of the letters -- not all of them -- and tend to use print-like letter-shapes for those letters whose printed and cursive shapes disagree.

For more on this, and for many teaching resources (including an iPhone app) designed to take account of what the research makes clear, visit

Kate Gladstone
Handwriting Specialist
Director of the World Handwriting Contest

Marlis said...

Eva, thanks for your comments. I too learned Lateinische Ausgangsschrift. I'll show her and see if she is interested in trying it. You didn't mention why you feel that it is important and I would love to learn about that. Why do you feel it is important.

Arby, thanks for the reply. (I am still giggling about your pancake pooch btw). My daughter finds the directionality of the cursive writing challenging. Her 'print' is quite neat for the most part.

Kate, thanks for the link. I'll look into that some more. As I analyze my own handwriting or my dh's we see that we do the combination script a lot. Some jointed and many stand alone letters.

Eva said...

Marlis, first of all I think that cursive looks nicer and more alive. I've never really thought about handwriting a lot until I came to this country and realized that many of my students here (I used to teach German at the University of Notre Dame) did not write cursive. I thought that was very odd. For some time I was fascinated by Friedensreich Hundertwasser, who stated that only the curved line is a line from God, but not a perfectly (man-made) straight line. When researching different styles of handwriting and the process of writing at all in connection with Waldorf education, I came across many ideas that connect the writing of cursive with the development of your own personlity and soul. You can read about this in Teaching Children Handwriting and in Soul Development through Handwriting. There is also the German book Der Anfangsunterricht im Schreiben und Lesen und in seiner Bedeutung für das Lernen und die Entwicklung des Kindes. Ever since then I have thought it important for children to learn cursive. My thinking in that direction also got supported by some research I read about prisoners and their inability to write with connected letters. I read about this in the newsletters published by APS.

In case you are interested in another simple cursive type, you could also try SmithHand.

I hope that my ramblings are of some usefulness for you.

Marlis said...

Thanks for elaborating Eva. You've been so helpful.



A Homeschool Story said...

Really interesting information, Eva, thanks for posting all the links!

Angela, a Waldorf sort of homeschooler, with a good dose of unschooling mixed in!

Eva said...

You're welcome, Marlis and Angela.