I’ve had it in my head for some time to do a post about handwriting. This post, How and Why to Improve Your Cursive Penmanship, from The Art of Manliness, covers the subject very well. The Art of Manliness has a lot of high quality content. I recommend it even if you don’t identify as “man”.
Our homeschool journey with hand writing began with my mother. As a profoundly left-handed person in an era that believed that left-handedness was a weakness to overcome, she still somehow managed to acquire a most beautiful Spencerian writing style. She was grimly proud of this accomplishment, and had even won a penmanship award before she was forced to leave school at the end of eighth grade to help support her family. The teachers, she said, would hit her hands with wooden rulers in an attempt to force her to write right-handed. Even with physical pain and shame as motivators, she was unable to make the switch.
When I was born, she vowed never to let anyone attempt to force me out of being left-handed. I’m one of those people who can learn to do things with either hand without being truly ambidextrous. I write left-handed because of my mother’s fierce protectiveness, and do a bunch of other things right-handed. I took my mother’s life-lessons to heart. I let my kids be whatever hand they were wired to be, and taught penmanship even though it was out of style by the time we started homeschooling.
Is teaching penmanship a waste of time?
Many people, including other homeschoolers, thought that teaching penmanship, especially cursive, was an insane waste of time. A lot of people who went to school when penmanship was still taught have memories similar to my mother’s, even if they weren’t left-handed. Now that I have one kid in college and one kid working on her last year and a half of high school, I can say for certain that penmanship was not at all a waste of time, nor does it have to be painful. Though neither of my kids took after their maternal grandmother and her award-winning handwriting, both of them can write decently. They are the envy of their friends. It turns out that in this future of robot maids (Roomba, I Love You!) and computerized everything, decent handwriting is still necessary and in some circles, considered quite posh.
We got through handwriting lessons with a minimum of tears and a regular application of practice. We used Zaner Bloser books. After we finished those, I had each kid pick out a style of calligraphy to learn for fun. The important thing in a homeschool handwriting curriculum is to treat handwriting as an art, not a punishment. Like all art, you don’t learn it in an afternoon, but when you do start to master it, the feeling of accomplishment is huge!