Academics – ‘Riting – Penmanship

For many of us, when we think of “writing” we are thinking about writing compositions, because that was our experience for most of our own academic career.  But for the “Three R’s,” writing has to do with Penmanship, the formation of letters so that others can read what we’ve written.

The first part of that is simply “stylus control.”  Of course, by “stylus,” I’m meaning pen, pencil, marker, crayon, chalk, etc.  Until one learns to hold it correctly, it is difficult to make legible marks.  The correct hold is to place the pencil on the first portion of the middle finger and control it with the thumb & index finger, without gripping tightly.

Some artistic children will insist on a different hold.  I suggest requiring the correct hold for penmanship, but allowing the alternative hold for artistic pursuits.

I recommend the program ReadyWriter for stylus control. It helps your beginning writer make straight lines, wavy lines, zigzag lines, etc., with a fun story for each practice page.

Prior to 1935, according to Samuel Blumenfeld, children were not taught to print their letters.  First graders were taught cursive. This has several advantages.  There are no reversals of smaller letters like b, p, d, q … and spacing is automatic as each word is joined together, then a space before the next word.  I like this plan.

There are two penmanship programs that I like and recommend.  One is called “Spencerian Penmanship,” and I recommend using the copybook from Mott Media.  Don’t bother with the instructor’s manual unless you are a calligraphy buff.  It won’t help you teach your children this technique.  In the copybook, I would have my children make the marks on only one line per day.  I had tiny stickers, and on a mark that was perfectly made, I would place a sticker below it.  That would eliminate that space for next day’s work and would encourage them to do better each day.

The other penmanship program that I like comes from Queen Homeschool Supply.  Their penmanship also stresses writing it perfectly each time.  No busywork. They include art work from the old masters in their penmanship copy books.  It is my favorite program.

Neither of these programs are expensive, but you can go with even less expense by purchasing a cursive pad from a dollar store, and use their examples from the cover.  When I used this, I would often show my children the different ways to form certain letters, particularly capital letters.  There is no one right way, there are just common elements.  I had two requirements; make the slant all the same way and make it legible.  I also had the slant go straight up or forward.  Backward slants are difficult to read.

A note about printing or manuscript writing.  I actually taught my children to write with all capital letters.  I know this isn’t the accepted use in schools, but we aren’t in an institutional school, are we?  In the rare instance when a person has to use manuscript in real life, it is usually on a form, and all caps are acceptable there.  All caps are easier for children to write.  They are mostly just straight lines and they are all the same height. As a bonus, I found when I was in college that I could take notes more quickly and more legibly if I used all caps.

In short, in this day of computers, penmanship or handwriting is a still a useful skill in daily life.