Sunday, December 9, 2007

Steps in Teaching Handwriting (Copywork: Part Five)

I'm not sure about all of you, but I've been enjoying going through a rather detailed series on Miss Mason's instructions for copywork. Hope you don't mind a few more posts on the topic. I'll try to break them up a bit over the week. Now, where were we...

"One letter should be perfectly formed in a day, and the next day the same elemental forms repeated in another letter, until they become familiar. By-and-by copies, three or four of the letters they have learned grouped into a word––'man,' 'aunt'; the lesson to be the production of the written word once without a single fault in any letter." Home Education pg. 234

Here Miss Mason gives us some step-by-step instructions on how to give our handwriting lessons. We've been following this method very closely in our homeschool for a little over a year now and the results, I have to tell you, have been tremendous. I'm attributing a great deal to the details of which Miss Mason writes. I will concede, though, that I do think there is some form of handwriting "heredity" (and it seems closely linked to drawing ability). Maybe it comes through in the teaching when Mama has nice handwriting or maybe certain children are somehow pre-wired, but I think it's at least possible that there's a kind of genetic handwriting predisposition. BUT, remember our dear mentor's examples of classrooms full of children thriving under these methods. Not every single one of those children had good writin' genes ;) Every child can learn to write well.

SweetP began learning to form her printed letters when she showed a sustained interest at age four (bigtime breaking the CM rule of no school before age 6). I didn't push her; she really was interested in learning. So, we learned. Now, nearly three years later, she is transitioning into cursive. She's extremely excited about this, and I think it's been good to keep handwriting interesting by adding in the cursive twice a week. Actually, the PNEU schools taught cursive alongside manuscript for ages six and seven. I thought that was interesting.

The first bit of cursive that SweetP learned was her own name. This was just our own preference, not a CM recommendation. There is a lowercase "h" in her name, so her second lesson began with letters that share the same "elemental form", as the CM quote above suggests. One entire lesson was devoted to forming a perfect lowercase "l". This does not mean a page full of imperfect letter "l"s with one good "l" at the end. It means maybe four to six very good ones, finally stopping after a perfect one is formed. The next lesson was then focused on forming a perfect lowercase "b", and so on. Whenever she formed one of the letters poorly, we quickly erased it and she tried again. No emotionality about it (matter-of-factly, remember?), just a little word of encouragement from me and another earnest try. If a letter was very good with a tiny mistake, I praised her and let it stay on the line, but she still tried again to write a completely perfect one. When we are just beginning to introduce new letters, I like to do handwriting lessons when there is absolutely no rush or interruption. Dawdling is never an issue with this particular child (Shug is another story), so I let her feel like we had all the time in the day for that one letter. Once she had formed the letter perfectly, the lesson was done for the day. On occasion, she would form the day's letter perfectly on the first try. Knowing she would be disappointed to have her cursive lesson over so soon, I chose to add another letter in for the lesson. So, on those days, she actually practiced two letters to perfection before we stopped. If any of our lessons had gone past ten minutes without a perfect letter, we would have - on Miss Mason's recommendation - stopped for the day (on an encouraging note) and tried again with the next cursive day.

Now, several weeks later, SweetP has learned to form her own name as well as lowercase cursive h,l,f,b,k,o and e perfectly (still doing several days of printed copywork a week). On Thursday, we combined some of these letters (again, as the quote at the top of this post suggests) to form a word. First, we reviewed the letters she had already learned and she wrote her best four to six of each of them. Then, I wrote the word "bell" on the top line of the paper. SweetP gave her strongest attempt on the line beneath mine. She did better than I did on her first try! I had a small glitch in my "b", but she did not! She thought that was a hoot ;)As she learns more of her letters, there will be more and more of this sort of a lesson. She will be writing words comprised of the letters she has already learned. She was really tickled with writing "bells" in cursive today. She beamed and said, "It won't be long before I do all my copywork in cursive!"

We should all have such simple joys in life :)