Eight weeks of summer home education evaluations leave me pondering.
Methods and means.
Preparing our children for the future. What skills will they need? Thoughts today revolve around penmanship and cursive.
All those practice books.
Oh yes, there is good reason to teach penmanship and cursive, teaching correct strokes and rotations. Proper letter formation does make composition easier. However, once initial instruction is complete and letters are formed properly, practice begins. Practice.
Purposeful cursive allow for greater retention, practically and naturally.
All those practice pages? Maybe, since progress can be seen if a person thumbs through pages, first practice page to the last. But could there be another way? Another means?
Seeing books full of practice pages was helpful to us and to the learners. There was completion and progress. However, there was a missing element to learning.
Quite honestly most of the children who completed the work were less than excited about their accomplishments. Sadly, some learners didn't even care about their work. It was pushed aside or tossed back in the crate with other books. Further, most learners hadn't even considered their ability to write with purpose, compose. Handwriting was just another thing to do, complete.
Handwriting can be valued;
something of purpose, useful.
Then there were other learners. These learners pulled out papers that were important to them: a creative writing piece, a business plan, a data report from a science project (which included very delicate drawings), a list of important goals.
These papers mattered, and they were completed in cursive!
The purpose of this post is not to argue whether or not cursive (the mechanics of it) is important or if it has proper place in a school day. Of course learners need proper instruction in strokes and formation. They will be more efficient writers if they choose to keep working in cursive.
However, once strokes and formation are known, practice and purpose may look different. In fact, productivity--not to mention attitude--will be effected.
Looking for fun, productive means to practice cursive?
- Paper checks. Have any old ones resting in a box collecting dust? Pull them out. Hand them to a learner and watch fascination drive learning. First, there will be a discussion of what they are, what they are used for, where the money comes from, and how they are becoming obsolete. Then, there will be instant need to use them! Play store, restaurant, shop and more, while practicing handwriting. To encourage their play, I write related vocabulary on the white board: check, date, total, receipt, cashier, pay, cash. I add number words as well as dollars, hundred, thousand. Then, my children have the words needed to play and to write their checks (spelling!). They play, practice, and enjoy using their best handwriting because it mattered to them. Checks were something of value. The written checks from play time became part of a portfolio of work samples.
- Grocery lists. Children love to dream about what they would like to buy at the grocery store. Let them dream in lists! Using a sale ad from a local store, I allow my children make a grocery list, either in manuscript or cursive, their choice. The next day I make the project more applicable to life. Children worked together to combine their lists and create a nutritionally sound family meal plan on a budget. Not only do we practice handwriting, but we discuss lessons in health and math. There is intentional purpose. The list and meal plan are added to the portfolio of work samples.
- Plan an in-state vacation. Use a state map. With the help of the map, I ask my child to plan a vacation to visit 6 cities, 1 lake, and 1 river in our state. The names of the places (capitalized proper nouns) are written in the spelling notebook or on a white board. Handwriting (and capitalization) is practiced while considering state geography. To add math, the learner can use the scale of mile to add and find an estimate of the total mileage to be traveled.
- Plan a European (or other location) vacation. As above, the learner plans a vacation to include visits to 1 mountain, 2 rivers, 2 lakes, 5 cities, and 2 countries.
- Create a menu. The menu should be complete with prices (writing decimal numbers). Using play coins, an adding machine or pretend cash register, learners can play restaurant. I remind the learners that handwriting should be the best it can be so customers can read and order.
- Copy a recipe. This is a great practical handwriting for a budding chef. The best handwriting will help the recipe be read by others, if necessary.
- Write a poem. Poetry writers will appreciate this intentional, practical suggestion. Some families we know use poetry or verse for handwriting and copy work.
- Create purposeful lists. Learners have interests. One of my elementary learners is creating handcrafted jewelry. Making a wish list of supplies, chains, and beads allows her to check off items as she makes purchases. Learners may choose to make a lists of colors, car parts, robotic supplies, hair accessories, and more.
- Foster creativity. Creatives will welcome using fancy charcoal pencils, felt pens, or quill pens to practice manuscript and cursive.