The boys go to classroom one day a week and the school here used “Handwriting without Tears” in pre-school and I think Kindergarten. It is a very popular curriculum; but it is not one we have chosen to use. More correctly it is not the one I have chosen to use for the boys. There are a lot of elements to the program, the child starts making letters out of sticks and then traces them in sand and so on long before they write. Seems a bit arduous to me; more for a classroom than the home; though I know it is heavily marketed to homeschoolers and in fact many recommend it. I have looked at it several times and never liked it – it seems too much; too elaborate, and much of it seems to be just stuff to sell or just an excuse to sell you something else (teacher / parent training on the method for example).
Personally I do not like the style / font. I have chosen for the boys to learn the D’Nealian style of handwriting. I think it looks nicer and is less blocky then the “ball and stick” styles (including the classical “ball and stick” used Handwritting without Out Tears). It may or may not be more work than “Ball and Stick”; there are the “tails” on some of the letters that some complain of, but there is also a more fluid stroke and less lifting of the pencil and the letters are more ‘one unit” than “built of sticks”. So the debate can, and does, go either way. I desire my boys to have good penmanship, to have nice writing and to be able to communicate by hand in an age when most pre-schoolers their age are already learning to type. This is the font and it seems to me to be one that is going to “grow or meld” in to cursive better / easier. (it bascially looks like this picture).
If you look at http://www.drawyourworld.com/dnealian.html there are examples of several of the handwriting fonts currently being taught; including good old palmer which, honestly I thought we were going to choose and is my fall back if D’Neilian is a flop. D’Neilian is there and the font from Handwriting without out Tears is also. So you can really compare them.
Let’s face it – few of us truly use, now as adults, either true print or true cursive. The D’Nealian style seems to accept that and lay the ground work for it from the very start by teaching print as almost a hybrid of standard print and cursive. I hated penmanship as a child, and hid in the coat closet in First grade each day when we had to copy off the blackboard (somehow Mrs. Randles always found me, and I never knew why). I know I hated it mostly because I struggled with it and was really poor at it. I do not want the boys to have that same experience.
I like this site: http://www.handwritingworksheets.com/. You can choose to use a standard ball and stick print if you desire, or the D’Nealian font is an option. Type in the word, phrase or even paragraph and choose your size and – there you go – you have a custom made handwriting sheet. I am working on some for Big Brother that are simply letters (A a A a); I am not sure how he is going to do. He may not be ready, yet, for the size that this generators creates (may be too small for him yet). However I have been looking and there are several other handwriting sites out there that allow you to make your own practice sheets. http://www.handwritingworksheets.com/ seems to be the most simply one.
There is no “complete program” for D’Nealian like Handwriting without Tears; but there are several work books available. Really, all you need is the basic directions for the best way to form the letters, and plenty of practice options, and a variety of practice options (such as generating our own sheets above). Penmanship is after all, practice, practice, practice. I have also found several “copy book” options that offer D’Nealian font as an option. I have found a couple of posters and “desk tapes” with directions for letter formation.
My goal for next week is to do just a little assessment / game with Big Brother and see where he stands on drawing his letters. Just making them, he obviously doesn’t know any style yet. In some kind of systematic fashion he and I will go though all 26 letters and I will show him how to write the capital and the lowercase; and have him copy me. This is going to create our baseline; I’ll save it. In a month or 6 months we can look back and see how much he has improved.
I have no interest in pushing him; but he is “making words” and “writing messages” a lot and seems to be interested (asking me how to spell things) and I do not want bad habit to start (that is I do not want to ignore what he is doing and let him get into habits of misforming letters or doing things in such a way as to make more work for himself). Also I know they do trace their names at work and do a letter a day (tracing “writing it”) so if this is something he is already doing, I want to / need to be sure I am providing the accurate guidance to him and helping him do it correctly.