Thursday, October 27, 2011

Struggling with Handwriting? Try Handwriting Without Tears

     My oldest son started "scribbling" at a young age, and like many children, figured out how to write his name by copying the letters he saw.  We practiced handwriting as he got older, and we worked on breaking some bad habits such as starting letters at the bottom or capitalizing letters in the middle of words.  However, writing just wasn't a big issue.  
     My youngest son, in contrast, had no interest in drawing, coloring, or picking up a crayon or pencil for any reason at all - ever.  In kindergarten, when it came to handwriting, it just didn't click.  Writing was physically and mentally taxing for him.  After doing some research, I purchased the Handwriting Without Tears preschool level called Get Set for School, and the program really made a difference.
     The program approaches writing at the preschool level in a multi-sensory way.  Children build the letters on a card and on a mat with 4 wooden block shapes:  a big line, little line, big curve, and little curve.  Every capital letter can be made with these 4 shapes.  For example, the letter "B" is a big line down, little curve, little curve.  The letter "D" is a big line down, big curve.  The letter "L" is a big line down, little line. Children also roll out play dough to make the lines and curves to make the letters.  They draw the letters on a small chalkboard and on a magnetic erase board.  Also, fun songs help teach important concepts:  "Where do you start your letters?  At the top!  Where do you start your letters?  At the top!  If you're going to write a letter, then you better, better, better -- you better start your letter at the top!"  (sung to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It")  The children also practice in a workbook. 
     For him, we practiced the order of how to make the letters with the blocks, and we did all the fun stuff I discussed above.  After a while, this whole mysterious thing called "writing" started to click.  He didn't LOVE it and it was still hard, but he began to make progress. After preschool, we progressed through the other steps in the program.
     As your child ages, the curriculum offers consistent review and reinforcement.   I have not started the cursive program with my youngest, but while in the 6th grade, my oldest worked through the book, "Can-Do Cursive" that is for students in fifth grade or older to reinforce and practice cursive skills.  He really liked the book because it included cartoons, Greek and Latin roots, grammar, etc. 
     For the parent or teacher, the preschool year of this program is the most difficult because there is planning that has to be done ahead of time.  However, with the teacher guide, it really is not that time consuming.  After we moved through the preschool curriculum, I rarely used the teacher guide.  We usually just worked through the workbooks one at a time, following the directions in the workbook.  Also, I never rushed through the books.  If he began to get frustrated, I would have him do only half a page -- sometimes only a third.  My goal was and is to help my child learn the skill of handwriting -- not get through the book in a year.
     My youngest son, now 9, has filled notebooks upon notebooks with his drawings.  He took a notebook with him today while we went to Home Depot and drew pictures while I did some shopping.  If you saw his handwriting, you'd think it wasn't the best, but I know how far he's come and how hard he's worked to get this far.  Sometimes it just takes time, patience, and lots and lots of practice.

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