Looking back over our homeschooling journey to graduation, I am grateful to recognise and promote some of the simple things that really worked!
You need NEVER buy a handwriting program to teach beautiful, functional handwriting. I discovered a fantastic, simple method ~ and all my children have learnt to write cursive this way ~
Laminated handwriting charts and copywork
I created simple print and cursive handwriting charts.
I taught them the letter formation with simple demonstrations and oral step-by-step descriptions. The kids spent 5 minutes daily tracing over the letters with a whiteboard marker and they learnt their letter formations within a week or so. First the lower case, followed by upper case letters. Finally combination of the upper case with its lower case partner.
Now, rather than spend a fortune on exercise books and tedious practice pages, we went straight on to copywork. We started with copying the memory verse for the week, or a sentence taken from a read aloud, or we simply used our Language Arts dictation as copywork. I also made a whole selection of quotes from famous artists, or world leaders for older children ~ here are my free copywork pages. Once again, Charlotte Mason’s principles have worked!
They start by tracing over the letters on the laminated chart with a whiteboard marker and then work in pencil on nice wide-lined paper. Draw a margin and start by drawing a head, body and tail (you’ll notice those little cats in the print chart) in the lines so that the child can see where to place and where to start each letter.
Read all my handwriting tips, step-by-step lesson ideas, relevant posts and free chart downloads ~ Handwriting Page, Print Handwriting, Cursive Handwriting
What they copy is not important at this stage because they are learning to master the physical, technical, fine motor work of handwriting. The content just adds to the real purpose of writing. Real sentences with capital letters, punctuation marks and words that convey meaning.
What is important is that this is functional handwriting.
It is real.
It is in context.
These factors are a wonderful motivation. A young child is not merely filling exercise pages with patterns and repeated letters. They are actually WRITING! A young child can run and show dad a whole sentence that he wrote by himself! What joy!
What is important is that you sit and watch the physical process and encourage your child as they learn.
- Look to make sure that they sit correctly. For this short lesson, posture is vital!
Booster cushions and feet supported
- Make sure that the seat height to table height is correct. You may need to add a booster cushion or place a foot stool under swinging feet. (Look at how I use a flexiband to support the legs and provide some movement stimulus.)
- See that they hold and grip the pencil correctly. Train the right grip and reinforce with a soft rubber pencil grip if needs be.
- Use a suitable pencil – soft and yet sharp.
- Keep your lesson short and sweet. It doesn’t matter how much is written, but how well each letter is formed.
- If your child is uncertain how to form the letter, pull the laminated chart closer and trace over the letter again before trying to write on paper.
- Repeat the same copywork daily.
Before long, maybe within a month or so, your child will simply refer to the chart for those odd letters they are unsure of, but they will be writing capital and lower case letters in the correct lines, with the correct size and shape as they do their copywork. From this point on, they need to refine and polish their style. I often asked my kids to put a star over their “best” or “favourite” letter or word. Even on their worst days, (remember that fatigue, stress, illness affect handwriting) every child can still find one letter or word that came out right!
Finally let me encourage you to keep handwriting lessons to the copywork or dictation lessons. Allow your child to develop their “own style” for narrations and other written work. My eldest daughter had to forsake her totally perfect handwriting she used in all her work for a slightly looser, informal script when she reached high school. She needed to work faster. Her perfect handwriting slowed her down. I don’t mind if my teens use print. When it comes to formal assignments that need to marked by external markers, letters posted to real people, filling in official forms, etc., then neat, correct handwriting matters!
You can teach your child to write for free in short, simple lessons!
Please write and share your handwriting tips or ask questions in the comments below.