Teaching kids to handwrite is an ongoing debate in the schooled world. Do we even need to learn handwriting?
Some would argue no. As I weighed the pros and cons, I determined that teaching my kids how to handwrite would mean they knew how to read handwriting: bonus. And since I loved calligraphy as a child, I was game to play in the handwriting world anyway.
Enter my fourth child, Zachary, who was in grade one when I first thought of teaching him handwriting. Zachary was my first son, our only son after three daughters, so I was reminded by many that he’d be challenged by reading and writing.
All kids learn to read and write at varying ages, but he had just begun reading at age six, while his sisters were five, four, and three when they began reading (not a vast difference there).
I wasn’t sure what to expect but this is what I learned: our son was as capable and as quick to learn reading and writing as his three older sisters.
As with everything homeschool, I’ve had to learn that my expectations have to be realistic: when they learn to handwrite, it’s going to be messy. It might be pretty, as it was with my third daughter, but I can’t script it. (Haha, yup I wrote that.)
Here are some approaches and tools I used to teach printing and handwriting:
Baking soda table: dump a half cup of baking soda on a baking tray and show your child different letters. He can practice them.
iPod apps: Easy to entice a child to practice letter writing, printing, and handwriting on screens.
Dollar store books: Those colourful, inexpensive books have their place. Not every aspect of learning has to come from a workbook, but using a variety of tools increases the ease of learning.
Handwriting Without Tears: These were the workbooks we used for our kids for years. (The only real way to prevent tears while learning to handwrite is to be realistic with your expectations of your child. If they have a hard time or show resistance, pay attention, slow down, or change the activity.)
Draw ‘n Write: Simple handwriting or printing practice alongside the creation of a beautiful art piece (also created by your child). This series focuses on a different topics. We used the Arctic animals book when we visited the Arctic. One of my girls loved the Aquatic animals. You name the topic, they might have that book.
Writing verses, speeches, poems, or quotes: Simply choosing bible verses, famous lines from speeches, stanzas of poems, or favourite book quotes that your child can practice and include in his own quote journal.
Wikistix: Use those waxy coloured strips to shape into letters or words.
Personal letters and postcards: Grandparents get to know what their grandkids are up to during this period of their childhood. There are also online penpal sites.
Making books: They can create their own mini-books, flip books and books of riddles.
Newsletters & emails: Not only do the kids learn how to print or handwrite, but they also learn how to format a newspaper article. They could do interviews of their neighbours or ask for their sibling’s editorial piece and charge a quarter for each sold newspaper (always a favourite).
Invitations to Plays: Is it just my kids or are your kids creating their own theatre presentations for your post-dinner entertainment? (Ok, they aren’t doing that anymore, now that the oldest is nineteen and in first year university, but they were always doing it when she was thirteen and younger.)
Animal encyclopedia: If your child is interested in any aspect of history or science that can be categorized into an encyclopedia, they could be creating their own handmade versions.
Pretend historical newspaper articles: If your child is interested in history, like two of mine have been, they could create newspaper articles specifically to the era they are researching. It could be entertaining, akin to Horrible History videos, or it could be discussions on the times, advertising of products they may have used, or
Book reviews: I’ve tried to bribe my kids to write a few book reviews for my blog, to no avail. But no matter how old they are, I ask for a few book reviews of books they’ve read throughout the year. If they’re just learning how to write, they could dictate that book review to you, or an audiorecorder, and you could write it down so they can see what clever thoughts they had on their recent read. (And when they share that with their family, or their homeschool coop group, they get feedback too.)
Blogs: One of my girls wrote a travel blog (we did a lot of travelling for seven of our homeschool years). One of my girls wrote a cooking blog as she cooked her way through a French cookbook.
Movie reviews: Some of my most fun moments is watching and discussing movies with my kids. Then they can write their movie review for the rest of the family to consider. (This was an especially useful activity when their older sibling was at a youth group that they were too young to attend).