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Handwriting is an often neglected "subject" for many children. The National Education Association reports that certified teachers often feel as though they do not have adequate training to teach kids how to write. Ultimately, most kids receive less than one hour of handwriting instruction each week in their early elementary school years.

It's not surprising that many homeschool parents tend to spend little, if any, time on handwriting, also. Some parents believe that their kids will naturally learn how to write when they have a need to express themselves in written form. Other parents just give up because of the battles over the tedium of daily penmanship practice.

While it's true that many kids will develop their own form of handwriting without explicit instruction, leaving a child to teach themselves how to write can have negative consequences.

Not holding a pencil properly can cause hand muscles to get tired quickly. Tired hands don't like to write, making for either sloppy or incomplete work.

Improper letter formation can create confusing print. A lower case d might be mistaken for an a, for example, causing perceived or real spelling problems.

Even though children learn to work on a computer at a younger age, learning to write is still an important skill. Not sure? Fast forward 15 years into the future.

  • If you think your child is college bound, they will need to develop critical note taking skills. Sitting in class, students must have proficient writing skills to be able to take notes during a lecture. A slow writer who takes breaks to rest their hand muscles won't be able to keep up.
  • Even if your college student brings a laptop to class for notes, they will still need to be able to write efficiently and accurately during exams. Illegible handwriting, apparent spelling mistakes, or too short of an essay answer in college will not likely to get a sympathetic second chance from professors looking for a high quality of work.
  • Regardless of your child's ultimate profession, basic writing skills are integral to everyday work and life. An illegible job application is not likely to get a call for an interview. Once you have a job, sloppy handwriting, when copying down a phone message or addressing an envelope, can cost individuals and companies time and money.

Whether you opt to use a formal handwriting curriculum or decide to teach your child how to print and write cursive on your own, you should keep in mind a few essential elements of proper penmanship.

First and foremost, a child must be able to hold a pencil properly in order to write clearly. Next, letter formation, sizing, and spacing should all be addressed when teaching handwriting.

A proper pencil grip has the thumb and index finger gently holding the pencil near the tip. Think of the two fingers as pincer grips. The pencil should lie on top of the middle finger, by the side of the fingernail. The ring finger and pinky should curve under, into the palm of the hand.

Overgripping the pencil or using other finger placements can actually cause muscle and joint pain. Tired muscles can create reluctant writers. Who wants to write when their hand hurts?

In some cases, an incorrect pencil grip can block a child's line of vision. Rather than have the pencil lean towards the right shoulder (or the left elbow for left-handed kids), the pencil sticks up in the child's face. Without being able to clearly see the paper they are writing on, the child may have problems with learning letter formation or self-correcting errors.

You know how people say that you never forget to learn how to ride a bike? Well, that's because muscles form memories. It is very hard relearn a pencil grip after the age of 7, if a child has been holding their pencil incorrectly for two or more years.

Letter formation uses top-down, left-right steps for printing letters. The slant of letters is also addressed with cursive letters. Learning the start points for each sequence of lines that make up a letter is more important than size when first learning.

Once a child masters the basic steps for writing individual letters, you can work on making the print smaller. Children will also need to learn the proportion of size of lower case letters to upper case letters.

For example, lower case letters like c and m should be half the size of a capital letter. Lower case letters with a flagpole top, like f, should be as tall as a capital letter. Lower case letters with a bottom tail, like q, should be the same size as a lower case o but with the tail extending below the bottom line.

When your child begins to link letters together and write words, spacing needs to be addressed. Spacing is important for letters within the same word. Too much space and it becomes hard to know where a word ends or if there's a spelling error. Spacing between words is also important. Too little spacing can make an entire sentence look like one word.


April 07, 2020


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