June 02, 2010

Handwriting Update

First, let me THANK every single one of you who took the time to comment and leave your suggestions and/or empathy concerning our handwriting issue with my eldest son.

I'm taking all suggestions to heart. I'm laughing because three of my girlfriends who read went into absolute overdrive and I think we may have our arms wrapped around this. I am buying a special pen to see if it helps training his hand in holding a pen/pencil, I have a potential tutor and a book for practicing (I'll be talking to him about block letters for printing as he swears his printing is worse) and I brainstormed with my one girlfriend and realized... from where most of our problems stem.

She was aghast as we figured it out... as was I.

When my eldest was in 2nd grade, there was too much to teach, so the second grade teachers dropped the handwriting curriculum. It was pushed into third grade, where they spent all of one quarter on it, if that. By fourth grade, nothing was done. Come fifth grade... the new teacher who'd just come into the school and was the language arts teacher realized she had a class full of 5th graders who could not use cursive.

If you don't know how to write in cursive, how do you read it as an adult?

She was able to squish it into two weeks, teaching them what she could, because if you don't know 5th grade, there isn't time to be spent on frickin' cursive. They named that show "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?" for a reason. It's a tough dang year... on every level, from organization to a push into independent thinking.

It's middle school prep.

In all of that, where did you read about practice?

You didn't... because there wasn't any.

He essentially taught himself on the fly, making letters the way he thought they needed to be made, not the way we would make them to be legible.

I believe, they have stopped teaching handwriting in the public schools as well.

I was at the bank three weeks ago, moving money around in my son's college savings account and it required his signature because he is over 14. The teller said to me, "Can he sign this?"

I looked at her oddly and said, "Can he? Yes, of course..."

And she said, "No, I mean, does he have a signature?"

I paused and said, "Yes. He's 15. Of course..."

She smiled and said, "I'm sorry, Mrs. L, its just that you would not believe how many kids I get in here his age who do not know cursive and don't have a signature. They only know how to print."


What in the hell are we doing to this generation?

Odder still, when I was telling my girlfriend this, she said she had a similar conversation with a woman working with her teenage son's passport!

All THREE of my children have signatures!

Seeing a need, although cursive is now introduced again in the early grades, our 5th grade teacher has the kids currntly with a handwriting workbook. They PRACTICE their cursive.

Bones has hope. Mr. 'I have to do everything Perfect" T has great handwriting, as the curriculum had been changed already as he followed behind Ringo.

But Ringo will be spending his time with a tutor from a local private school who teaches 3rd graders how to write, and she'll hopefully be able to tell us where to start the deconstruction and with practice, help him get legible.

My other girlfriend who teaches with this woman said all the teachers she spoke to were appalled that nobody had honed in on this writing weakness earlier.

As I said to her, "By the time he got to middle school, it was too late. Middle School teachers don't focus on that." And honestly, that's not their place.

It's supposed to be ironed out by then.

So let's see what happens. I'll be keeping you posted. I'll find some dreadful stuff to scan in for you to see. His writing is small and cramped and you can tell the letters are malformed.

Works in progress... we are all works in progress.

Posted by Boudicca at June 2, 2010 10:13 PM

Phew. Glad you got that done. I feel so bad for him.

Posted by: vwbug at June 3, 2010 04:38 AM

This is how most kids end up with a gaping hole deficiency in their education. Some little thing overlooked early.

Tell him that as he is now older and he "knows" the letters from looking at them, what he needs to learn is more of a drawing skill... back in the earlier grades, when they used to teach hand writing, kids were learning the letters and the writing at the same time. Therefore he has less to "learn".

BTW - if he draws pictures at all, perhaps he can rethink the hand writing thing as drawing pictures of letters. Start slow and work up to drawing them faster. I'm thinking by the end of the summer he'll be 1000% better than he is now. Go Ringo.

Posted by: Teresa at June 3, 2010 11:32 AM

At the beginning of the second grade my middle son, Daredevil, had excellent hand writing but he was slow and methodical. Half way through the year he got a new teacher. She told him not to worry about neatness just write faster. So, he did. Now, he has the worst handwriting. Her impatience did him a great injustice.

Good luck to your son. I'm sure he will make a drastic improvement and he will feel more confident with his writing.

Posted by: Sticks at June 3, 2010 08:52 PM

I never really learned cursive. I attended 7 schools grades 2-5 and each school was in a different place when I arrived. I can write some letters, but not all. Sure, if I sit down and focus I can figure it out. But it certainly doesn't come naturally or look pretty.

I now do my own combination of print and cursive. I write fine when filling out forms or taking time, but if I'm taking notes, no one will be able to ready it, sometimes not even me.

I'm glad you are finding some ways to help him. Him figuring this out is important...but I'm surprised the school would not allow some alternative like taking notes on a laptop. Considering he's in a lot of honors classes which are basically college prep, and in college we were allowed laptops in the classroom, you'd think they'd make an exception for him if this were truly holding him back.

Would he be allowed to use a voice recorder in his classes? That might help him read his notes and/or redo his notes later.

I personally hate to take notes and get out of it every chance I get. I'm bad at it, do not write down the pertinent information and don't review them later. I'm wishing that was something they would have taught when I was younger!

Good luck!

Posted by: Sissy at June 3, 2010 09:53 PM

Looks to me like you may have this under control. Good luck to all. It brought back memories of my active duty days when I was required to "play" office secretary when Mrs. J was on leave. After the first draft of meeting minutes she recommended I learn shorthand.

Posted by: Mike D. at June 3, 2010 09:53 PM

They taught me cursive in the 3rd grade. This was in the '50's. I practiced and practiced and practiced. My handwriting is still illegible. It's so bad that many people have told me I should have been a doctor.

Posted by: Denny at June 3, 2010 10:29 PM