I’ve learned something about choosing homeschooling curriculum: its appeal to me is every bit as important as its appeal to my students. If I enjoy opening a set of books, I’ll open them more often. If I find a curriculum boring or confusing or annoying, then I am extremely creative in thinking of reasons not to open it that day … or the next day … or the next day.
Curricula can appeal to me for different reasons. I enjoy Writing With Ease because the end is worth it, and because I open it and teach it for about 5 minutes every day. Easy-peasy. I like Story of the World because the core text is a pleasure to read, there are fun (optional) add-on projects, and there are maps. I like Singapore and Miquon math programs because they come at topics in new ways for me.
So when it came time to pick a handwriting program, I knew that if I didn’t like it, I probably would find a reason to skip it often. (Or all the time.) After looking at lots of samples, I realized that the writing style was what was going to swing me. Some handwriting programs may be effective, but I find the resulting handwriting incredibly unattractive. (Handwriting Without Tears fell into this camp for me.)
Enter italic handwriting, which is a simplified calligraphy. It’s beautiful. I think I swooned when I saw the capital letters.
Apart from its beauty, an advantage to italic handwriting is that the letter forms change very minimally from print to cursive. Once a child has mastered her print letters, beginning cursive is a simple matter of adding serifs to those letters and connecting them.
There are a couple of italic handwriting programs available: Penny Gardner’s Beautiful Handwriting for Children (available at CurrClick) and Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting. We chose the latter, and thus far have been happy with the selection.
The Getty-Dubay books are leveled, with A being the entry book. Cursive italic is introduced in Book C; however, every book includes some print italic review before moving into cursive. The books are clean and enjoyable, and occasionally include content that provokes a, “Hey mom! You’ve gotta hear this!”
Because I didn’t learn italic handwriting as a child, I’ve challenged myself to learn it now. (I’m using the book Write Now for my self-education, and am enjoying it.) But to cover my bases, I’ve also invested in an italic font from Educational Fontware so that I can create accurate models for my girls to copy.
One thing I would suggest: don’t bother with the instructional guide. I purchased it, and have opened it approximately three times to help me teach. The student workbooks are complete enough.
I’ve adopted a dot-to-star marking system for our handwriting. We do handwriting for about five minutes a day, and during that time I expect them to work slowly and concentrate on forming their letters perfectly. After a daughter has completed a line in her handwriting book, she calls me over to mark it. I put a star over letters that have been done exceptionally well, and a dot over letters that are incorrectly formed. She then has to figure out how to turn the dots into stars by correcting her letters. Once she’s done that, I change the dots into stars, and she’s thrilled with all of the stars on her page. This has been a lot of fun for my girls, and has turned handwriting into yet another favourite subject.