I like teaching handwriting, I may have mentioned this before – mainly because it is so easy to teach. So I thought I’d do a quick post about Jude’s handwriting improvements over the last seven months.
Before I start I’d like to say, by way of disclaimer, that a large part of the reason I homeschool is so that we can give our children a life that is relatively stress free. Of course I’m proud of what they achieve but it’s the quality of our days together that are important. We spend less than two hours per day on academic work, for Jude, who would only be in Reception, it is more like an hour. Less if he gets on and doesn’t waste time. I don’t want anyone to think I work them really hard or anything as it’s quite to the contrary, they would have much less free time if they were in school.
So, stree free handwriting teaching. Rule number one: start young. I start to teach formal handwriting as soon as they can write all the letters of the alphabet, with Jude this was just before he was five. Schools in the UK often don’t start until later and by that time they have formed lots of bad habits. And handwriting usually only happens once a week in school so they forget what they’ve learnt during the week. Well, here is a piece of independent writing that Jude did in October 2012:
It says, Buzz says “Ola” Buzz Lightyear he says “To infinity and beyond” in case you were wondering.
Around this time, Jude began to practise his handwriting every day. Rule number two: little and often. He would spend fifteen minutes maximum on this job but we did it every day. First he had to write all the letters of the alphabet independently. I would then mark them with him and he repeated any letters he had formed or placed incorrectly. Then he did his handwriting sentence. I wrote each word above and he would copy on the line underneath. This is a piece of work from November 2012.
After a week or so of doing this he could spell some of the words by himself so would write those words independently then ask me to write the harder ones. I would mark his work after each word, a word at a time. It’s intensive but this makes it very short because you can keep the momentum up and they don’t lose concentration too much.
By the end of November, only two months after the Buzz Lightyear writing at the start of the post, Jude could write his handwriting sentence independently and no longer needed me to sit by him all the time.
And that’s all we do. Every day, fifteen minutes of handwriting. It has to be his best work because he’s free to write how he wants the rest of the time. By March this year, I would tell him to draw his own lines and he would go over to the table and work totally independently.
This is the handwriting Jude did today. He asked to write a different sentence so we started doing some Michael Jackson lyrics because he loves this song so much. I gave him the three hard spellings at the top and he did the rest by himself with just a little chivvying from me. Of course, he’s a five year old boy so he has the concentration span of a gnat. He kept getting up and doing Michael Jackson moves but because he can write so much faster it still wasn’t much longer than fifteen minutes.
My aim is to stop teaching handwriting by the time the children are seven and Jude’s sister who is nearly seven no longer needs any lessons and hasn’t for some time. Her handwriting is sorted. You may wonder what Jude’s writing looks like when he isn’t having a formal handwriting lesson, well, because he’s a boy he still isn’t especially keen on writing. While his sister was writing her own book this afternoon (yes really, it’s called ‘The Orange Pear’ for some reason and she’s on the third chapter) Jude preferred to colour in Spiderman pictures and practise his Michael Jackson moves. But he decided to write a quick note to his ten year old cousin because he wants to send him his Spiderman PS3 game to play until he gets to the Black Spiderman level and then give it back. You may wish to look back at this point to how Jude was writing last October…because this is how he writes now: