3 Mistakes Homeschooling Parents Make When Teaching Handwriting
Handwriting is an essential part of what our children need to learn. They’ll be writing every single day of their lives, and it’s up to us to help them develop handwriting skills to make this essential life skill easier for them!
Many times I have seen homeschooled children struggle with handwriting. I have seen a lot of homeschoolers with very messy handwriting. There are plenty of children in “regular” schools with messy handwriting too, but here are some of the mistakes that seem to be specific to homeschooling families when it comes to teaching handwriting:
1. They don’t make it a priority. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with all that must be done as a homeschooling family. I get it. There is not only schoolwork to be done, but housework, supper, running errands, and soccer practice and piano lessons. The need to simplify and streamline is always there.
I think many times a dedicated handwriting class is one of the first things to go because we think, “My children are writing all day while they do their various assignments. Why should I eat up more time with a handwriting class when we can just combine handwriting with their other subjects?”
That’s a valid question, and as a homeschooling mom, I’ve thought the same thing.
But here’s why I think it’s important to have a specific time designated for practicing handwriting skills, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day:
- Combining handwriting time with another subject detracts from fully focusing on the handwriting skills your child needs to develop. Thinking about proper letter formation, pencil position, posture, and spacing is a lot to do all at once! Add that to whatever else they’re supposed to be concentrating on (grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc.) and it’s just too much to remember at one time! Consequently, the brain is going to leave something out, which means your child will be practicing something the wrong way. Unfortunately, practice doesn’t make perfect; practice simply reinforces what is done over and over. If your child ends up practicing the wrong way, poor handwriting skills are what will become engrained into their muscle memory (and/or poor language and spelling skills will become engrained into their mind.) I’ve come to the conclusion that while it is good to encourage neat handwriting during other assignments, the main focus of concentration should be on the subject at hand. Handwriting should have its own focused practice time so that the brain and muscles have the advantage of focused repetition.
2. Their child is so ahead that they’re behind. This is what happened with my second child. She has always been very observant while I taught her older brother, and she just couldn’t wait to get started. Before I even realized what was happening, she was reading, writing, and doing arithmetic problems without my having formally taught her any of it!
While it has been amazing and fun to watch her soar academically with no help or prompting, there are some places where I am having to back up and re-do some things because she learned them the wrong way. This is especially true when it comes to her handwriting. Reading and spelling aren’t much of a problem because she has been able to observe the correct way to make sounds and spell words. But with writing, she has only been able to observe the finished product of the letters rather than the actual process of writing them. She forms the letters the best way she can figure out, writes them too large or too small, and doesn’t put any spaces between her words.
I could either be excited that she has figured all of this out on her own and let things continue to roll, or I can back up and teach her how to do it right. If I let things continue as they are, she will only continue to engrain in her muscle memory the wrong formations of the letters. We need to go back and allow her some focused practice on doing things the right way. Skipping it will result in a lowered quality of handwriting from here on out.
3. They don’t know how to model good handwriting themselves. I can remember watching some of the education majors where I went to college practicing their handwriting. They had worksheets just like we had in elementary school, and they had to work on them over and over and over until they were perfect. I would assume that most teachers with an education degree had this type of class in college. Homeschooling parents don’t usually have that type of training behind them. We don’t always have the neatest handwriting ourselves, and we don’t always know what to look for when it comes to correcting our children’s handwriting.
But if we’re going to be able to equip our children with good handwriting skills, we’ll have to do something about that!
I think the most important thing we can do is to invest in a good handwriting curriculum. A good homeschool handwriting curriculum will not only provide the practice your child needs, it will also equip you, the parent, to teach them properly.
I’ve been reviewing a handwriting curriculum called BestEver Handwriting, and I am very happy with how well it helps the parent in teaching their child. Lately I am adopting more and more of a Charlotte Mason philosophy in our homeschool, which includes mainly copywork for handwriting, but I also believe it is important to incorporate something more than that.
Most homeschooling parents are not trained to teach their child all they need through copywork alone. If you are not specifically trained in teaching handwriting, I think a guided curriculum is important. (Handwriting is more complicated than it might seem!)
With the BestEver Handwriting Curriculum, we received all of their workbooks as well as the Writing Journal and Phonics Packet. These materials are everything I need for teaching handwriting for the first several years of homeschooling. (After that, daily practice through copywork should be sufficient.)
Each book has instructions for the teacher on helping the student with proper pencil position, posture, and paper placement. As you proceed through the lessons, there are additional notes to help with proper letter formation. I love that everything the teacher needs as well as everything for the student are all included in the same book. There are no lesson plans to prepare; I simply need to work page by page through the book with my child.
The Level 1 Book starts off with pre-writing practice, which is very helpful for children as they gain coordination.
When it comes to my appreciation for the Charlotte Mason method of education, I was happy to see that there is a good bit of integration with other aspects of language, like punctuation and capitalization as well as story prompts and a drawing/journaling notebook. I really feel that this curriculum is offering the best of both worlds – formal, focused practice on the letter formation, and then integrating handwriting with other subjects once letter formation skills have been sufficiently developed.
Have you ever made these mistakes when teaching handwriting?