Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cursive in a day

I've gotten used to "graphomotor delays" in my kids. Erin was 8 when she first managed more than a kindergarten-style scrawl. She had been reading proper novels for four years and was playing the Bach Double on the violin but still printed in mostly upper-case tilted, squashed letters. I remember Noah agonizing for an hour over signing his name on his passport application at age 11. Even Sophie, who was considerably less asynchronous, has only developed a legible cursive script in the past couple of years.

It hasn't mattered much. We don't need to use written work as a form of evaluation of the kids' learning. It is always clear, from their enthusiasm, their questions, their conversation, their observations and their honest self-assessment, what they have learned. For the most part it's been fine to wait. Erin now writes easily and well. Noah can write neatly but his dysgraphic tendencies make it a heck of a lot of hard work for him, so he much prefers to type. Sophie does fine and while writing is still a bit slower for her than it would be for most 12-year-olds, I'm sure that whenever she starts doing lots of writing her speed and fluidity will quickly catch up.

Then there's Fiona, the surprise at the end. She hasn't inherited her siblings' lags in the realm of written text.  She hasn't done much printing compared to schoolchildren her age, but what little she does is neat and easy for her. And so last evening when she said "I want to learn to write my name in cursive" I figured why not? The Portland (Getty-Dubay) Italic font we've tended to use around her makes for a pretty quick transition from printed to cursive.

It took about 30 minutes of practice for her to learn the "joins" necessary to write her name in cursive. Not bad, I think! Now that she can do it neatly, she plans to work on a messy version, so that she has an artistic grown-up looking signature.

She's using a nifty notebook and pen set we found a few weeks ago. The paper is treated with invisible dyes which are revealed by the oxidizing ink in the pen. Naturally this led to all sorts of experiments to figure out the patterns and the processes of the chemicals. And it has also led to more interest in handwriting.


  1. Amanda1:10 p.m.

    Lovely writing and a great model to learn from - but she would find it easier if she could improve her pen grip by holding the pen a bit further up, and moving her middle finger underneath, ie into a more stable and hence more relaxed tripod grip. (You could tell her it is just like getting a nice relaxed bow hold with the right soft curve on the fingers.) It is very hard to change your pen grip by the time you are eight or nine, but she could still do it.

  2. Anonymous6:35 a.m.


    I am not sure how much privacy you want on this blog, but I did notice in the picture we can see your last name. Just thought I would point that out.
    As to the writing and printing well times have changed. I work in the school system and are complelety amazed at the small amount of time that is used for printing and writing. I guess I am from the old school where we use to win awards for our writing and some kids don't have proper technique down for holding pens and pencils and others have penmanship that is so bad that what they are writing is very unclear and messy.
    I am not saying that it should be perfect but at least the kids need the skills to hold their pencils properly and have legiable printing. It seems like it is becoming a lost art and technology is taking over. I often think to myself when is the last time I recieved a handwritten letter in the mail? Maybe ten years ago.
    Anyway not a cristism just a thought.
    ps. do you have any snow on the ground and your level yet???

  3. Yes, that's okay Ann, our surname is peppered elsewhere throughout my blog. My general philosophy on privacy has evolved to the point that if I wouldn't object to having something in our local community newspaper (which is also searchable on-line and has contained plenty of references to and photos of my kids over the years) then I don't worry about it here.

    I would have tended to agree with you about the value of handwriting. However I have watched Noah, who is quite dysgraphic, evolve into a comfortable and confident writer -- he could have a great career as a tech writer -- but only using the keyboard. With pen and paper while the end product is neat, it is painfully slow and you can almost hear the neurons over-heating and the creative thought-processes bumping into each other as they get lost in his mind. And when I think back to how handwriting was traditionally taught and emphasized in the 60s and 70s when I went to school I know he would have ended up feeling like a total loser and hating anything to do with writing. I'm happy he has been saved from that kind of emphasis, for which he simply isn't neurologically equipped.

    And now that I have an iPad I can see how even college and meeting note-taking can be easily done, wonderfully formatted and paperlessly saved without pencil and paper or large bits of intrusive hardware. My medical office has been paperless for years. My violin teaching notes are now paperless.

    The romantic in me bemoans the lost art of the handwritten letter. I have a lovely wooden box of pens and stationery and sealing wax that I keep to hopefully inspire handwritten correspondence in myself and the kids. But contemporary reality pushes
    us towards the immediacy and ease of email.

    No snow on the ground here yet!

  4. thanx so much for this entry and for mentioning Noah's troubles with writing. I suspect my oldest (10.5) might have some dysgraphia, especially now that he's been writing on the computer and doing SO much better than when he writes by hand. You've given me some marvelous ideas to help him along and eased my concerns about it =)

  5. Wow - that is great! My boys both print mostly in uppercase still (they said if that is what the keyboard uses then that is what they should use - ha!). They are not too interested yet in cursive (other than wondering why it exists). They spell and type really well, but only use handwriting to make comics so far. Will be interesting to see that evolution.

    Love her pen. :)

  6. Oh we have had great success since starting GD Italics a few years ago. I really wish I had used it sooner. It makes for such nice handwriting even with boys =P


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