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Teaching Cursive?


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I never learned to write in cursive and I have always been able to read in cursive just fine. So, obviously originally I did not see the need for cursive. However in homeschooling circles it comes up a lot (researching reading/spelling things). So, I'm on the fence. My son is interested in learning to write now (4.5), so the door is wide open whether I teach him to write in print or cursive.

I just want to see everyone's thoughts. 

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We began with a style of print that easily converted to cursive: D'nealian.  It was simple to teach the upstroke and the small handful of letters that changed formation, but I never had to completely reteach it all.  He was writing all his print letters by 5.5 and by nearly 6 had figured out the upstroke, writing small words in cursive on his own.

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We also begin with print and teach cursive in 3rd grade. I don't make them write their papers in cursive, though. Some of what I want them to get from it:

-ability to read cursive

-ability to sign name

-faster writing. I personally do a combination of cursive/print and it makes my writing much faster.

-artistic pursuits. Who knows! If I teach them the basics they can do whatever they are called to do in life.

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It seems like a silly preference, but my understanding is that studies have shown that more goes on in a child's brain when writing in cursive than you would think. It seems to have a lot of benefits even though most children will develop a hybrid for their own writing later in life.

My children started with print in preK, but then I discovered and felt super convicted by the "teach cursive first!!" idea. But I couldn't find many programs intended for very young children. I ended up using Abeka's preK cursive books for my two littles, with mixed results. The books were colorful and cute, but there wasn't much instruction and they just weren't really learning much.

In the end, we went back to print. Once that was well established (for us, by about the end of K year) I started cursive in first grade using MP's New American Cursive, since MP starts these cursive books in first grade, and I wanted something intended for that age. The instruction was better and they were more ready. Now we do both print and cursive, a little of one or the other. It has worked well. If you do just a little a day, it does add up. 

 

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4 minutes ago, Emily ZL said:

It seems like a silly preference, but my understanding is that studies have shown that more goes on in a child's brain when writing in cursive than you would think. It seems to have a lot of benefits even though most children will develop a hybrid for their own writing later in life.

If I were you, I'd take things like this with a huge boulder of salt. I'm all for doing whatever works best first, and I don't doubt that for some kids, cursive first is a good idea... but I wouldn't assume it makes much of a difference on average. 

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DS9 is a lefty and, despite being taught how to properly form all his printed letters, continues to write his letters bottom-up/inside-out/right-to-left/ass-backwards. He is slow and messy when printing. His cursive, on the other hand, is BEAUTIFUL. Writing in cursive completely eliminates his mirrored letters/words and has helped him to start to form *some* of his letters in a more economical (and traditional) method.

Next year, I will start requiring some of his 4th grade output to be in cursive, and we will increase through the year. I did the same thing with DS12, whose printing is atrocious, but his cursive is at least legible. DS7 starts cursive next year, but he has some fine-motor issues so we will see how that goes.

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1 hour ago, Not_a_Number said:

If I were you, I'd take things like this with a huge boulder of salt. I'm all for doing whatever works best first, and I don't doubt that for some kids, cursive first is a good idea... but I wouldn't assume it makes much of a difference on average. 

I wasn't talking about whether to teach it first. I personally don't teach it first -- I tried that and it failed. I now teach all my littles print and then cursive once print is established. I was just saying I do think it's worthwhile to teach in general, at some point.

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Just now, Emily ZL said:

I wasn't talking about whether to teach it first. I personally don't teach it first -- I tried that and it failed. I now teach all my littles print and then cursive once print is established. I was just saying I do think it's worthwhile to teach in general, at some point.

Ah, sorry, misread! My bad. 

As for whether it's worthwhile, I still think it depends heavily on the kid. Apparently, when DH was in school, he thought it was so stupid that he rebelled and never learned it at all. He currently write all in small printed capitals 😛. (My kids come by their noncompliant genes honestly, sigh.) So, I have to say that with a kid like that, I probably wouldn't bother. 

But my DD8 wanted to learn and enjoys learning it, so we did it. 

I guess what I'd say is that I wouldn't worry about what goes on in a kid's head when doing cursive and just think about whether there's a purpose to a specific kid learning cursive 🙂 . There's lots going in a kid's brain when they do all sorts of stuff, and cursive is not an essential life skill. So... I'm very "you do you" with it! 

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4 hours ago, Emily ZL said:

It seems like a silly preference, but my understanding is that studies have shown that more goes on in a child's brain when writing in cursive than you would think.

I felt like the bulk of the research just backed writing by hand begin helpful in learning. The few pieces of information that are causing me to reconsider is 1) cursive is easier to learn than print, and 2) it somehow helps spelling. Currently I would not plan on teaching my kids both print and cursive just one or the other. 

 

2 hours ago, Not_a_Number said:

Apparently, when DH was in school, he thought it was so stupid that he rebelled and never learned it at all.

As for me, my family used to complain my handwriting was atrocious and determined it was because my pencil grip was wrong. To prove them wrong I continued with my "wrong" pencil grip but determined to have beautiful handwriting. This lead to me learning copperplate to hand address 200 envelopes for my wedding - I finally learned the "correct" pencil grip. The apples don't fall far from the tree, so I have to be careful how I push my children because they definitely will push back.  

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Posted (edited)

I have taught my kids cursive first.  It “worked” for my oldest in that he still writes in cursive.  His handwriting leaves something to be desired but considering his father’s handwriting, I knew it would be an uphill battle. My middle writes in print now and it is legible.   I used Handwriting Without Tears after she made it clear the cursive was too much of a struggle for her.   We will see how it works with the youngest as he is just learning to write.  I think it worked out fairly well for us.  
 

ETA: Both my kids got OT and handwriting was something they worked on after addressing some other sensory processing issues.   

Edited by ealp2009
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Posted (edited)
7 hours ago, Clarita said:

I felt like the bulk of the research just backed writing by hand begin helpful in learning. The few pieces of information that are causing me to reconsider is 1) cursive is easier to learn than print, and 2) it somehow helps spelling. Currently I would not plan on teaching my kids both print and cursive just one or the other. 

I can't say I have made a meta review of the studies! But this quote from a New York Times article is typical of what I've seen: "In fact, learning to write in cursive is shown to improve brain development in the areas of thinking, language and working memory. Cursive handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and right hemispheres, something absent from printing and typing." (*ETA: this was an opinion piece by an OT. I totally have not examined the studies. Just sayin.)

When I was looking at this issue, I saw lots of people say that when children learn cursive first/primarily, they are able to back their way into print if needed without being taught. It's (anecdotally) a derivative skill. But the same is not true in reverse.

Another interesting thing I picked up at that time was that people in Europe and worldwide do NOT have "printing"!! How crazy is that? They literally don't understand what Americans are talking about. "Joined up writing" is the only writing. One person said "I'm so confused. Like you try to pretend you're a computer or a typewriter and try to separate each letter? Why?" Apparently printing was introduced very recently in the history of education in America as a "reform" to make things "easier" and this just did not happen elsewhere. Anyway, interesting! But I found the whole "teaching both" thing to be very easy and natural. 

Edited by Emily ZL
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25 minutes ago, Emily ZL said:

I can't say I have made a meta review of the studies! But this quote from a New York Times article is typical of what I've seen: "In fact, learning to write in cursive is shown to improve brain development in the areas of thinking, language and working memory. Cursive handwriting stimulates brain synapses and synchronicity between the left and right hemispheres, something absent from printing and typing." (*ETA: this was an opinion piece by an OT. I totally have not examined the studies. Just sayin.)

When I was looking at this issue, I saw lots of people say that when children learn cursive first/primarily, they are able to back their way into print if needed without being taught. It's (anecdotally) a derivative skill. But the same is not true in reverse.

Another interesting thing I picked up at that time was that people in Europe and worldwide do NOT have "printing"!! How crazy is that? They literally don't understand what Americans are talking about. "Joined up writing" is the only writing. One person said "I'm so confused. Like you try to pretend you're a computer or a typewriter and try to separate each letter? Why?" Apparently printing was introduced very recently in the history of education in America as a "reform" to make things "easier" and this just did not happen elsewhere. Anyway, interesting! But I found the whole "teaching both" thing to be very easy and natural. 
 

 

I wouldn’t put much stock in these studies, that’s all. This kind of science is pretty dubious. 

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8 hours ago, Clarita said:

Currently I would not plan on teaching my kids both print and cursive just one or the other. 

I did cursive first with my dd years ago because that was what SWR said to do. Reality was, she WANTED to learn to print for a variety of reasons and we had to go back and do it anyway. I think, having taught a whopping two kids, that the suggestion to do some basic printing and then at some point move to cursive (late k5, early 1st) is solid. Your kids will probably have reason to want both.

8 hours ago, Clarita said:

As for me, my family used to complain my handwriting was atrocious and determined it was because my pencil grip was wrong.

Maybe put some energy into learning about fine motor development and get an OT eval if they seem to be having problems? As you say, apples and trees. My dh has issues with handwriting and both my kids have. They even had difficulty learning to type, if you can imagine. Both have done OT for handwriting and I'm still not done with my ds. We thought he was fine (hard but ok) and then a fresh OT eval showed more fine motor issues. I now I'm reading this brilliant book https://www.amazon.com/Fine-Motor-Skills-Children-Syndrome/dp/1606132598/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=fine+motor+down+syndrome&qid=1621603154&sr=8-1

The answer to challenges is to get help or become the help. There are resources and options maybe you didn't have 15-20 years ago. I also get a lot of materials from Therapro https://www.therapro.com

My ds does not have Down Syndrome btw, rather autism (support level 2). However that book does an excellent job of going through all the basics of fine motor development which are, barring SLDs, going to be a major reason someone has issues with handwriting. My dd had issues with core support and was resting on her wrist. But when you're talking grasp, these are issues you can get OT for and find help for. It doesn't have to turn into a try harder thing, rather a try smarter. There are OTs who specialize in handwriting, so you might need to shop around.

8 hours ago, Clarita said:

I have to be careful how I push my children because they definitely will push back.  

This cuts both ways. You are so smart to be listening, because it's natural for them to be protective when things are not working well or feel harmful. There's a saying "Kids do what they can do well." So when we bring the tasks within reach by getting therapy, by finding someone to help fill in the holes that are making it hard, it's easier to get the dc on board and get compliance.

When my ds started OT for handwriting, they had him climbing on a jungle gym, doing mazes, completing drawings, doing spy school with codes. It was all very FUN. And he was a top ranked competitive gymnast at the time, not someone you would think had issues needing OT!! Reading through that book I linked, I see now what the OT was trying to do, the holes she was trying to fill in. It's nuanced developmental stuff and when it doesn't happen, then the tasks are just too hard, not within reach, which leads to pushback. And unfortunately, not every dc is going to have the drive for herculean efforts, sigh. 

8 hours ago, Clarita said:

it somehow helps spelling.

Motor memory. So IF the handwriting is already automatic, then writing to learn becomes a natural way to input and get that motor memory. The Eides (of Dyslexic Advantage) have shown there is also motor memory for spelling through typing. So handwriting was not the only way. However if writing is very difficult and the motor planning for the handwriting is not automatic, then obviously they're not going to be learning well through that. Then you're back to OT evals. The ps is not legally obligated to provide intervention (unless your state or district compels them), but they ARE federally obligated to provide evals. You write a letter stating you "suspect disabilities affecting your dc's ability to access their education" and request the evals, easy peasy. 

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3 hours ago, PeterPan said:

The answer to challenges is to get help or become the help. There are resources and options maybe you didn't have 15-20 years ago.

Thank you for your super thorough answer. My son is still early in his handwriting/drawing so there isn't any clear indication he is any different from any other 4.5 year old. As for my issues I got 0 resources and options as a kid. I was 100% in that era of teaching where it was let's not teach kids anything boring. I was a pretty good student so essentially I was not explicitly taught anything (except math) no explicit phonics, no explicit handwriting, no grammar, etc. My kids are going to get a better education than I did. 

I think I'll try teaching my son cursive first and seeing how that goes.  

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11 minutes ago, Clarita said:

As for my issues I got 0 resources and options as a kid.

Yup, that's what I figured. What you might do is google for a chart on grasp development and do playful activities that allow you to see he's going through the stages. And then if he has pain or discomfort or anything resolved, consider an OT (occupational therapy) eval. At this age not only would you be looking at grasp but you want to see other things like pouring (which is stability, a whole chapter in that book I linked), crossing the midline without needing to switch hands (bilateral coordination), and sensory awareness (enjoyed a variety of textures and sensations). You can also look for little Kumon activity books for paper folding, scissor work, and mazes meant for his age (4).  The best thing you can do to make handwriting go well is to be doing playful activities together that involve those skills (stability, bilaterality, sensory awareness) and beginning dexterity (buttons, toys for his age that involve manipulating objects or using tweezers or hanging with clothes pins, stacking pegs, etc.).

If you want to begin with cursive, he's quite young. You'll want to start with a salt tray, sandpaper letters he can trace, drawing on each others backs, and similar gross motor movements.

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