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Teaching Handwriting

Homeschooling Expert Advice from Isabel Shaw

Q: I discovered that I have several options of handwriting styles to teach. How do I choose? Does each style have its own merit, or is it just a matter of personal taste?

My son's fine-motor coordination is not as well-developed yet as many of his peers. Will he have difficulty learning something new? I have considered italic handwriting because there isn't much of a transition from manuscript to cursive, but where his textbooks show examples of handwriting, it is traditional style. Any suggestions?

A: Children usually learn to print first, then move on to cursive around third or fourth grade. Most homeschooled children I know, my own included, followed this procedure, with some age variance for abilities and learning styles. I have read about italic handwriting being a good compromise. The best part about homeschooling is that you can try whatever method you wish. Stick with it if it works for you, and find another if it doesn't. You have the final say, and your son will benefit from this freedom.

I also feel that five is very young for your son to practice writing skills. My daughters worked on the alphabet -- memorization, letter recognition, and later sounds and combinations, but neither were ready to practice handwriting at five. In fact, my eight-year-old has just now developed the dexterity and desire to write clearly and legibly. Don't compare your son to what other kids are able to do; some kids are verbally advanced, others are more physically competent. This usually has nothing to do with intelligence, but rather different levels of maturity (within a normal range, of course). By six he will experience a growth spurt. You can struggle and spend hours each week teaching him how to write his letters now, or wait a year or so and he'll grasp it in a few short weeks. Focus your energy and attention reading interesting, colorful books to your son every day, and help him develop a love for books and the written word. Then, at seven or eight, when he is more mature, his writing will take off so fast you won't believe it!

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Isabel Shaw is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom of 15 years. She and her husband Ray homeschool their two daughters, Jessica and Amanda. Besides being a contributor to, Shaw has written for Home Education Magazine, The Link, Homeschooling Horizons Magazine, The Homeschool Gazette, and other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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