Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Case for (Ugly) Cursive

I'll admit that I do not have great penmanship. It was one of the few areas in elementary school where I consistently got a "needs improvement" grade. Most of the time these days, I type or print, though I do still use cursive upon occasion when writing a letter or a card.

I do believe that cursive is an important thing to learn, however, since it's faster than printing and even with the widespread use of computers, my kids will still be required to hand-write certain things like the essay portions of standardized tests. The New York Times had an interesting recent article on the subject.

I'm not 100% certain which style of cursive I learned growing up, but the one I've seen that's the closest is Peterson Directed Handwriting. It is a very "pretty" font IMHO with lots of loops but more legible than something like Spencerian (which is gorgeous but harder to read).

Last spring, I got Miss Scarlett the 2nd grade Peterson kit. However, every time I tried to do it with her, it was like pulling teeth. She went into meltdown mode and I ended up shelving it within a few weeks.

Going into the spring semester of 3rd grade and with the 4th grade California STAR writing test looming next year, I decided to resort to bribery. I promised to buy her a game for her Nintendo DS if she learned cursive. I thought that would be incentive enough, but she still resisted. It was getting to the point where I was seriously considering taking her to an occupational therapist for a dysgraphia assessment.

Last week, I had to go to Sacramento on an errand for DH, and while I was there, I stopped by A Brighter Child Homeschool Supply store. They had a copy of the level one workbook of Memoria Press' New American Cursive. Miss Scarlett's biggest complaints about Peterson cursive were "there are too many loops" and "it's too slanty". NAC has only a slight slant and has simplified the letters.

I *DETEST* the look of NAC. But by this point, I was willing to give it a try as an ugly cursive is better than no cursive.

Miss Scarlett loves, loves, *LOVES* NAC. She has cheerfully completed at least 30 minutes penmanship practice per day, and can now write all the letters in her full name (10 different ones) both capital and lowercase. At this rate, she'll have earned the DS game by the end of the month.

I am insisting she learn a more traditional capital F, Q, T, and Z. I can live with the ugliness of NAC but put my foot down on their print-like versions of those particular letters.

Lesson learned- if a student really complains that much about a particular program, it might just be a bad "fit" rather than a "needs more time to mature" thing.

1 comment:

Lynne Diligent said...

I think you are right that cursive is still an important skill to learn, even if neatness is not achieved. One reason is that if a person is never taught to read cursive then a number of original documents (such as the Declaration of Independence) are not readable. Nor are old family letters and documents readable. Europeans don't teach printing at all, but start teaching cursive directly at 5 years old. So any handwritten message from a European would be unreadable.

Aside from all this, it's important to do it when kids are young, because most kids are excited about it at that age. It makes them feel "grown up." If you wait until sixth grade, for example, they are no longer interested in the same way.

Sometimes kids have resistance to things when they learn them from their own parents, but I'm glad you have gotten around that with the new program.

Speaking as a teacher of two decades, you sound like an EXCELLENT and DEDICATED homeschooling mom!

Best regards,
Lynne Diligent
Dilemmas of an Expat Tutor