I have pretty cursive handwriting, at least when I choose to. All those loop and swirls are satisfying to me as I drag my pen across a page. When we pulled our children from the public school system I was sure I would teach them to have legible, if not beautiful, handwriting. Cursive handwriting is a skill I want my kids to have. Or should I say, wanted them to have?
Where Did Cursive Handwriting Go in the Public Schools?
Cursive (at least in our district) is introduced around third grade. After a brief amount of practice it seems it is a done deal. It could be because cursive handwriting is not a part of the Common Core State Standards. Having beautiful handwriting won’t help anyone pass a standardized test. Keyboarding skills are taught at a very young age and as the world becomes increasingly digital are often deemed more important than handwriting. Unique penmanship doesn’t help you type faster.
Cursive Offers Benefits Both Practical & Cerebral
Some benefits of cursive handwriting are practical, such as the ability to read birthday cards from grandparents and great aunts. The academic benefits are what reeled me in. One of the benefits of cursive writing is that it helps create connections in the brain. (Who doesn’t want more brain connections, right?) Writing in cursive is a demanding activity for a child’s brain. Cursive writing has been shown to engage the brain in areas of thinking, language, and memory, all while requiring massive fine motor skills. And reading cursive can be just as challenging as writing it, because, depending on who did the writing it may be like ciphering a code.
Teaching Cursive at Three Grade Levels
My oldest two children were beginning their fourth and seventh grade years when they quit attending public school. They had both had an introduction to cursive handwriting in third grade. My younger son had a more recent experience with cursive and had retained most of it. I ordered a cursive workbook for him that focused on jokes and riddles. He already knew the basics of letter formation. This book was just to give him additional practice. It’s silly and fun. The corniness of it was a good thing at our house! (Affiliate Link) We used Cursive Writing Practice; Jokes and Riddles by Scholastic Teaching Resources. It rings in at under ten dollars and provides a years worth of cursive practice!
My second grade daughter begged to learn cursive, mostly because her big brothers are doing it. I wanted her program to be a little more intensive because she had not yet had instruction on letter formation. For her we ordered (affiliate link) Cursive Handwriting by Handwriting Without Tears. For her this program is perfect. It gives helpful little cues for the kids and groups like letters together in the learning process. There is lots of practice. She works only about ten minutes a day and can already write beautifully! I think learning early in her elementary years was a benefit, at least for her. Since this series offers such a solid foundation it is one we will continue to use in future years.
Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks IS Hard!
My oldest son, a seventh grader, had lost most of his ability to write in cursive basically because he hadn’t done it in four years. When we went to open a savings account I realized he did not even have a “signature.” I optimistically ordered (affiliate link) Cursive Handwriting Copybook; Historical U.S. Documents, Volume 1.
I gave assignments and we set up a plan for him to complete this book during the summer between seventh and eighth grade. He’s a bright kid, school comes easy to him. So I had no doubt he would pick this skill back up in no time. Ummm, I was wrong. It was a hard core struggle. We tried to push him through it and he just wasn’t getting it. It wasn’t the book. I have no doubt this book would work for a child that already had some foundational skills. He didn’t. Every day was hard and it wasn’t getting easier.
We’re Quitters. Bye-Bye Benefits of Cursive Handwriting
So guess what? We gave up. That’s right. I threw in the towel on teaching cursive to my oldest. Instead we worked on a signature. He can read cursive. He is in eighth grade and already taking high school classes. His work takes a lot of time in the day. I try to focus on what will be most beneficial for him in the future. I honestly believe that even if I made him struggle through the above workbook and the next that he would never write in cursive of his own accord. Starting to teach cursive at a younger age probably would have been easier for him.
One of the benefits of homeschool is that as a parent you get teach what you think is right for each individual child. It seems to me cursive handwriting is not worth the struggle it was taking him to learn it. While my other children may learn cursive and reap the benefits of it it is not the be all end all of their education. So, I’m okay with a mediocre signature. His knowledge of cursive writing is functional. He will spend his time on something else. And, really, as adults, don’t we do that all the time? Choosing priorities. It’s a great choice to have.
What are your experiences with teaching cursive and what types of benefits or struggles have you seen your child go through?
These (affiliate) links below are what we have used. I also included the Handwriting Without Tears printing program we used and loved with our kindergartener.