Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Do You Teach Cursive Handwriting?

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Do You Teach Cursive Handwriting or Penmanship? in the How Do You Homeschool series on Homeschool Coffee Break @ kympossibleblog.blogspot.com

No matter how long we've been homeschooling, we are curious about how other homeschoolers do things. And homeschoolers who are newer to the game obviously have lots of questions! This series will try to answers some of the questions homeschoolers ask each other. Questions about how we handle some of the little details and about our opinions on different aspects of homeschooling. Questions that we all might answer differently because what works great in one family might not work at all in another. 

Do you teach cursive handwriting? Do you require good penmanship? Do you teach keyboarding instead of handwriting? How important is it for students to know cursive?

Here are the short answers! Did I teach cursive? Yes. Do I require good penmanship? To a certain extent. Did I teach keyboarding? Yes, but not instead of handwriting.

How important is it? That one is a little harder. On the face of it, it might seem that keyboarding is the far more practical skill, and perhaps it's no longer necessary for kids to be able to write neatly. While it's true - and perhaps regrettably so - that handwritten letters and notes are not sent nearly as often as in years gone by, that doesn't mean neat handwriting isn't useful and appreciated. By the time they reach high school, students will be pretty much finished with handwritten essays and research papers, but legible handwriting is still a valuable skill, even if it's just for their own use.

Let's look at the question of why young people should learn cursive. Maybe you've heard stories, like I have, about young people who don't know how to sign their name on identification, legal documents, or checks. (Yeah, paper checks are still in use!)  To be honest, one of the things I made my kids figure out before they could get a job or bank account was what their signature was going to look like. And I'm not sure that any of them are happy with what they came up with! Practically speaking, we do need to have a legal signature that should be relatively consistent from one document to the next.

Knowing cursive - knowing how to read it, anyway - is a connection to our history too. Stop and think about how many historical documents would be indecipherable to students who cannot read cursive. The Declaration of Independence is the most obvious one that comes to mind. We need to be able to read those original documents, if only to know for sure that the transcribed versions in our textbooks are accurate! How can we possibly discern what the intent of the Founders was if we cannot even read their words for ourselves?

And on a more personal level, what about our family records and letters from before a time when we all used computers? I have a couple of aunts who send handwritten letters, and I think my kids should be able to read them. They should be able to read birthday cards or gift notes handwritten by relatives and well-wishers.

There is actually a lot of scientific evidence for the value of writing in cursive. It builds neural pathways, assists in fine motor control and fluency of thought, and involves kinesthetic learning. (If you've ever tried to remember the correct spelling of a word by writing it in the air, that's what's going on!) I was especially interested to find out that cursive is helpful to people with dyslexia!

(For more, start with this article: Cursive: Reasons It Is Still Relevant Today and the Science Behind It)

So back to the first question - yes, I taught cursive, and spent some time on it with my students when they were in primary grades. I didn't go crazy and have separate penmanship 'class' or workbooks for them to practice in. I used an all-in-one Language Arts curriculum and taught them how to correctly form the letters. I did my best to have them able to write fluently in cursive by the end of primary grades. I was satisfied for them to know how to read and write cursive. If they still preferred to print their schoolwork, that was fine with me. My rule was that they needed to be able to write by hand neatly enough to be legible to someone other than their mom. The written work that they handed in to me in our homeschool could be written, printed, a combination, or whatever - it just needed to be easy for me to read!

Keyboarding is obviously also a very valuable skill and my kids have learned that too, but it was never as a full replacement for handwriting, just as handwriting could not fully replace efficient keyboarding.

I also consider it very important for students to be able to write their research notes or lecture notes using a pen or pencil and paper. And since writing in cursive is more fluid and faster than printing, that's another very practical reason to be able to do it. Call it old-fashioned, but I want my daughter to be taking her class notes by hand when she starts college in the fall.

For more about why hand writing notes in school is a wise choice, see my article Books in Print and Handwritten Notes.

Books in Print and Handwritten Notes on Homeschool Coffee Break @ kympossibleblog.blogspot.com

Do you teach cursive handwriting? Is it important to you? Leave a comment and let me know what works for you - or leave a homeschool question you're curious about.

This post is part of the July 2019 Homeschool Collection on the Homeschool Review Crew blog.

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