Friday, May 9, 2014

Review: Homeschool Handwriting Program

There are a lot of subjects my Schnickelfritz takes to like a duck to water ---writing is not one of them.  I believe he probably has dysgraphia (forming letters backwards, starting at the bottom instead of the top, making his circles clockwise instead of counter-clockwise).  With hard work and practice, we have seen improvement, but there’s always room for more.  We were not going to pass up the chance to try Logic of English, more specifically their Rhythm of Handwriting Cursive - Complete SetWe received the following components:

The Cursive Handwriting Workbook(softback 174 pp.) The first section is directed to the parent/teacher with  Steps to Teaching Handwriting, Tips,  Schedule Ideas, and Ideas for Practice. The majority of the book is for the student to practice writing—first individual lowercase letters, then learning to connect the letters, then uppercase letters.

The Student Whiteboard  (7.5” x 11”)  The board is designed to be used in a landscape format. One side has a single practice line about 3 1/2 inches tall and the other has five practice lines each about 3/4 inches tall.  Both sides have a bolded base line and a dashed middle line.

A set of Cursive Tactile Cards – One side of each 4.25” X 5.75” card has a sandpaper textured letter applied to it, the other side  lists what “type” of letter it is and the “rhythm” instructions to write it (more on these terms below). There is a set of cards for each lowercase and uppercase letter, each digit 0-9, and each component to form the letter (loops, swing, straight down, etc.) I’m including a photo of the card for T, Q, and Z and these are the ones that show the most discrepancy in different fonts (e.g. sometimes a capital Q looks like a large 2 in cursive).

The Cursive Quick Reference Chart (laminated tri-fold) The letters are arranged by the main component used to form them. For example  l,b,f,e,h,and k are considered “loop” letters while n,m,y,v,x, and z are “bump” letters.  The letters are color coded to match examples and instructions to form the components also listed on the chart.

Up to this point, teaching Fritz how to form letters has been visual – either having him watch me write the letter first or tracing dotted images of the letter on paper. Logic of English breaks down the formation of each letter into components and teaches you to say each step.  The complete instructions to form a lowercase w are:

  1. Swing up to the midline
  2. down to the baseline
  3. swing up to the midline
  4. down to the baseline
  5. swing up to the midline
  6. dip connector at the midline

After practicing and becoming familiar with the letter, the student only needs to recite the bold font words (thus forming the rhythm in the title of the program). 

Logic of English lists their handwriting program for ages 4 to adult (they actually recommend starting with cursive). Schnickelfritz is 11, but still has poor handwriting. There is nothing in the program to make him feel behind or that it’s designed for younger students (no silly pictures, etc.). We simply skipped the teaching steps that taught the sounds of the letters (this only appears in the teacher’s section of the Workbook). Because of his age we were able to go through several letters per day—sometimes all the letters of a certain “type” although I would stop if he complained his hand was hurting.  I’m more interested in quality instead of quantity.

I would start by giving him the Tactile card for the type of letter we be studying.  After tracing it with his finger several times, I’d put out the letters and let him trace just that component on each card so he could see how they belongs to the same family.  Then we’d look at one letter at a time and he would trace each component while I said the instructions out loud (I had to use the Quick Reference Chart since the card instructions were face down on the table).   Then we moved on to the Workbook.  I had heard at a homeschool expo somewhere that students need the friction of pencil on paper to help the muscle memory move to the automatic side of the brain – that dry erase boards were too smooth to accomplish it.  I could print out blank sheets of writing paper from the Logic of English website when needed.






Some days when Schnickelfritz absolutely refused to pick up a pencil, I’d just let him trace letters and say the rhythm to himself.  His muscles were still getting the practice forming each letter.







After six weeks, I have to say I can see improvements it Fritz’s handwriting.  I don’t know if it’s from his having to slow down to say the rhythm while he forms letters or just adding an auditory component to the presentation or seeing letters as a series of detailed steps rather than the whole.  Whatever it is, I’ll take it.  If you’re just starting to teach writing, you might consider Logic of English first so you won’t have to deal with some of the struggles we’ve had. 

The Rhythm of Handwriting Cursive - Complete Set sells for $65. You can also buy the components separately.

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Wendy @ Simplicity Breeds Happiness said...

My oldest son forms his letters "wrong" too. I didn't really know that there was a name for it. I'll have to research methods to correct him now that I know more.

My second son used the cursive program for this review, too, and he loved it :). He just finished it today and is so proud of himself!

Missouri Mama said...

Wendy, I recommend you Google Dianne Craft's website and her articles on "blocked learning gates." She has a great figure 8 exercise to help with dysgraphia.

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