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Copyright 2002
The Teaching Home
Box 20219
Portland OR 97294
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          The Teaching Home E-Mail Newsletter # 35
          Information, Inspiration, and Encouragement

          Cindy Short and Sue Welch, editors

Table of Contents

  • 15-Part Series on Basic Skills: Penmanship
  •      Why Penmanship Is Still Important
  •      How Penmanship Training Enhances Education
  •      Choosing a Handwriting Style
  •      Writing Position
  •      Handwriting Goals
  •      Penmanship Teaching Methods
  •      Tips for Teaching Handwriting
  •      Cross Curricular Assignments
  • Recommended Resources
  •      NorthStar Academy
  •      Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting Series
  •      Beyond Phonics
  •      AVKO Spelling & Dyslexia Research Foundation
  •      Teaching Home Back Issues
  • Sunny Side Up: Humorous Anecdote


         This issue is packed full of information and teaching tips to help your child develop the useful lifetime skill of legible handwriting.

         God also gives us some writing instructions in Proverbs 3:3-4:

         Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
              Bind them around your neck,
              Write them on the tablet of your heart.
         So you will find favor and good repute
              In the sight of God and man.

         May the Lord richly bless your family for His glory!

    Pat, Sue, Heather, Holly, and Brian Welch
    The Teaching Home is a 22-year-old, home-school family business.

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    15-Part Series on Basic Skills
    by Cindy Short and Sue Welch, editors

         Our 15-part series is written to help you evaluate your children's skill levels and help them improve in those areas.
         Topics are listed with the newsletter number in parenthesis. These can be viewed in our Newsletter Archives at

         1. Listening (#18)
         2. Word Analysis/Phonics (#19)
         3. Vocabulary (#21)
         4. Reading Comprehension: Knowledge (#23)
         5. Reading Comprehension (#25 & #26)
         6. Reading Comprehension: Analysis & Synthesis (#28)
         7. Reading Comprehension: Application (#29)
         8. Reading Comprehension: Evaluation (#30)
         9. Spelling (#32)
         10. Grammar (#34)
         11. Penmanship (This Issue)
         12. Writing I
              13. Writing II
         14. Math I
         15. Math II

         The main purpose of penmanship instruction is to promote legibility in handwriting so that we can communicate with others (and ourselves!).
         Penmanship is the art of writing clearly and quickly.
         Handwriting is a physical activity that incorporates posture, balance, visual motor, and fine motor skills as well as knowledge of how individual letters are made and how they are connected.

    Why Penmanship Is Still Important in the Computer Age
    * Legible and beautiful handwriting gives a warm personal touch
         to personal correspondence such as thank you notes, invitations,
         and letters.
    * Grocery lists or notes to self and others are usually
         hand-written and must be written quickly, yet legibly.
    * Class or sermon notes and exams are written by hand.
    * Clear handwriting is a valuable skill in the workplace,
         enhancing communication and preventing misunderstanding.
    * Legibility shows respect for the reader.
    * Beautiful handwriting (calligraphy) embellishes written

    How Penmanship Training Enhances Education
    * It teaches attention to detail.
    * It helps develop fine motor skills.
    * It can increase interest in letters and words that can lead
         to good reading skills.
    * It is a useful teaching technique for children with special
         needs who benefit from kinetic activity.
    * Being able to print and write bolsters self-confidence.
    * Good penmanship fosters an appreciation for words and language.

         Use the Program Homeschoolers Prefer!
         Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting Series K-6

         * Effective because it makes sense.
         * Legible because it’s loop-free.
         * Smooth transition from print to cursive.
         Mention this ad and receive free handwriting desk strip.
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    Choosing a Handwriting Style
         Using one specific handwriting curriculum can assure consistency from year to year as children develop and improve their writing skills and master the process of handwriting, a skill that can easily become automatic and beneficial for life.
         Different styles of writing have been popular at different times and in different countries. In the mid-1800s, the Spencerian form of penmanship became a standard. The style taught in most American schools through the late 20th century is called "Palmer Hand."
         Handwriting methods vary based on letter shapes -- such as elliptical without loops or vertical, straight letters that resemble book print.
         We recommend the elliptical italic style without loops such as that presented in the Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting Series.
         Advantages include:

    * Research indicates that ovals and slanted lines are easier
         for children to form than round circles and straight lines.

    * The difficult transition from ball and stick printing to a
         completely new alphabet of looped cursive can be avoided by
         starting with the basic italic slanted and oval-shaped letters
         and simply adding a series of joins to turn precursive into
         cursive. Using the identical letter shapes for precursive and
         cursive means there is nothing to relearn.

    * Eliminating many pen lifts off the page makes for smoother,
         faster writing.

    * Letters shaped without lifting the pencil from the paper make
         letter reversals virtually impossible for dyslexic children, who
         can otherwise experience mirroring or reversing of letters.

    * Children with ADD and other learning challenges may find italic
         easier to learn.

    Comparison of five handwriting programs.

    Writing Position

    * Both feet resting on the floor (or on a box or block for
         shorter children) with knees and hips bent at about 90 degrees.
    * Back straight, supported by the chair.
    * Forearms lightly resting on the writing surface.
    * Desk surface at the correct height so that the elbows are
         bent at about 90 degrees.
    * Lean on the non-writing arm (leaning on the writing arm
         restricts movement across the page).
    * The writing hand resting lightly on the page.

    Paper Position
    * Slant top of paper counter-clockwise about 15 degrees for
         right-handed students (as well as for left-handed students who
         write with a hook, wrist above the writing line).
    * Slant clockwise for left-handed students who write with the
         wrist below the line of writing.
    * Paper is held down by non-writing hand.

    Hand Position
    * Hold writing tool firmly, but not tightly, with the thumb and
         index finger;
    * Rest it near the large knuckle of the next finger.
    * The fingers should be placed back away from the pencil point
         so that the pencil tip is visible.
    * Relax the hand from time to time throughout practice by
         tapping the index finger on the pen or pencil three times or
         putting down the tool and flexing hand as it hangs toward the

    * Paper for beginners should have lines marked to show the
         position and size of the letters, as well as lines for capitals,
         ascenders, and descenders.
    * The distance between lines will be greater for beginning
         writers and gradually decrease to college-ruled lines in junior

    Writing Instrument
    * Beginning writers may need fatter pencils, crayons, or a pencil
         with a foam grip.
    * Sometimes a small, short pencil is easier for a child to use.
    * Older students should practice using either ball point or
         calligraphy pens.

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    Handwriting Goals

         Handwriting is an art. It needs to be practiced. It is not like a math fact that is simply memorized and applied.

    Correct Shape. In a handwriting program, certain groups of letters are made up of similar shapes such as straight lines, curves, angles, and ovals.

         The 8 lower case families are:
         i, j, l
         k, v, w, x, z
         h, m, n, r
         u, y
         a, d, g, q
         b, p
         o, e, c, s
         f, t

    Strokes. Each of the letters is made with a specific sequence of movements. The place to start, direction to follow, and pen lifts (if any) should be the same every time the letter is formed.
    * It may help beginners or dyslexic students to place your hand
         on his to guide the pencil and verbalize the sequence for each
         letter as it is formed.

    Size. There should be a consistency in body and capital sizes and ascender and descender lengths.

    Slope. All letters should have the same slope, e.g., 5 degrees (or as desired up to 15 degrees) for Italic Handwriting.

    Horizontal Spacing. Letters within words should be closely spaced, but not cramped; space between words should be about the width of an n, or wider for younger ages.

    Vertical Spacing. It is important for legibility that the ascenders on one line do not touch the descenders on the line above.
    * Teach your child to leave a small, consistent space between the
         top of his ascenders or the bottom of his descenders and the line
         if he isn't skipping lines (double-spacing).

    Speed. Words should be written fluently at a comfortable speed and with a rhythmic motion.

    Precursive to Cursive. Cursive means joined letters. Precursive means the basic unjoined letters which are easier for a beginning reader to identify with the print in his reading book. Precursive is transformed into cursive by simply adding a series of joins to the same letter shapes.
    * Teach your child to recognize and read penmanship styles (e.g.,
         looped cursive letters) other than the one he is learning.

         We wish to thank the Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting Series for much of the above information.

    Components of Handwriting: The Handwriting Checklist

         Teach Reading & Spelling Skills AS You Teach Handwriting
              The AVKO Spelling & Dyslexia Research Foundation has
         developed a manuscript and cursive handwriting program
         that is based on a common sense order of presentation
         of the letters. It may be used with Italic, D'Nealian,
         or any style of handwriting you choose.

    Penmanship Teaching Methods

    __ 1. Post an alphabet chart on the wall or an alphabet strip on the desk for your child to refer to any time he is writing.

    __ 2. Laminate an alphabet chart for your child to trace over with a water-soluble pen.

    __ 3. Teach the vocabulary of penmanship so that you can refer to the parts of letter formation without having to define or describe them each time. These include: base, waist, ascender, descender, body, capital, downstroke, slope, join, serif.

    __ 4. Teach and have your child practice the basic shapes first: normal slant of downstroke, diagonals, counter-clockwise and clockwise ovals, and arches.

    __ 5. Next work on similar letter shapes by letter families (see above).

    __ 6. Continue to practice the basics, and slowly and gradually add words and sentences.

    Tips for Teaching Handwriting

    __ 1. Many normal childhood activities promote the abilities children need to develop before they can write. See:

    __ 2. Have your child practice penmanship for at least 10 minutes every school day, either in one session or in two shorter sessions (especially while fine motor skills are still developing).

    Free Penmanship award to print and give your child.

    __ 3. Supervise your child's writing practice so that he is not practicing errors. Have him constantly check his writing with the alphabet chart or strip and have him erase or cross out and rewrite unacceptable letters.

    __ 4. Hold your child to the standard of his achieved level of penmanship skill in all his writing. If you cannot easily read a handwritten assignment, ask that it be rewritten.

    __ 5. Ask your child to respond to questions in workbooks either orally or in writing as penmanship practice.

    __ 6. Help your child learn how to legibly sign his name in cursive. His signature should consist of his first name, middle initial, and last name. (If he goes by his middle name, it should be first initial, middle name, and last name.)

    __ 7. If your child holds his pencil too close or too far from the tip, you can wrap a rubber band around the pencil to remind him where his fingers should be placed. You can also tell him to be sure that his fingers are above the end of the paint on the pencil.

    __ 8. If your child moves his entire arm when he writes, you can correct this habit and help him put his wrist in the writing position by having him lay on the floor to write. This puts weight on the arms and stabilizes them. You can also have your child write on a vertical surface.

    __ 9. If your child writes with his fingers straight, you can help him learn the correct position by having him hold a small object like a sponge or marble in the palm of his hand with his last two fingers while he writes for a short while.

    __ 10. If your child applies too much or too little pressure while writing, use the following to correct the problem.
    * Check finger placement and pencil grip.
    * Have him practice shading an area with a pencil light, medium,
         and dark to become acquainted with different amounts of pressure
         on the pencil.
    * Have your child place his paper on a piece of Styrofoam so that
         if he presses too hard he will poke holes in his paper.

    For more information see:
    The history of handwriting.

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    Cross-Curricular Assignments Involving Penmanship

         Handwriting skills complement other language arts skills such as spelling, note-taking, composition, and editing.

    Reinforcement and retention of any subject.
    * Writing something down helps you learn and remember it because
         of the strong impression the motor or kinetic modality makes on
         the brain combined with the visual image (seeing the writing).
    * Involving speech motor skills and the auditory mode by saying
         and hearing the words as they are written reinforces the memory
         even more.
    * Write out spelling lists, Bible memory verses, history and
         science facts, vocabulary words and meanings.
    * Math facts and formulas can also be written to practice
         numerals and symbols.

    Copying exerpts from high-quality literature into a copybook is not only good penmanship practice; it also expands vocabulary and models good composition.

    Art. Calligraphy means "beautiful writing."
    * Italic handwriting can be easily turned into beautiful
         calligraphy by using a flat-tipped ink pen or felt pen, which
         produces the thick and thin strokes.
    * Your child can use calligraphy to copy a verse, quotation, or
         poem on special paper, decorate the border, and frame it.
    * These uplifting works of art can be hung on the wall, given as
         gifts, or saved in scrapbooks.
    * Calligraphy can even become a home business.
    Caligraphy Centre.
    Calligraphy for the left handed.
    * After your older child has learned the handwriting form that
         you have chosen, he will be able to learn a variety of other
         styles as well.

    Composition. A journal is a very special way to develop writing and penmanship skills. Provide a hardbound book and pen for your child to preserve his writing.

         Please Thank & Support Sponsoring Advertisers!
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              Please remember those that have advertised in our
         last issue (below) as well as the ones in this issue.

         FaithWeaver Friends Bible Program
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         The Painless Alternative: Basic Cozy Grammar Course
         Easy Grammar: A Solid, Successful Grammar Program
         Bible Curriculum: Easy to Prepare and Effective To Teach

    Sunny Side Up: Teach You To What?!
         One Lord's Day after worship services, our 6-year-old daughter hurried to the car rather anxiously. "Mom," she said, "when will you teach me to curse?"
         Feeling rather weak, I sat down and calmly asked, "Why are you asking this?"
         She replied, "Sarah's mom taught her to curse when she was only 6, and she showed me today in Sunday school. She curses better than anyone!"
         Feeling not-so-calm now, I called Sarah over to the car. I said, "Sarah, I know your mother, and I know she did not teach you to curse, did she?"
         "Oh, yes, ma'am!" Sarah replied, and she pulled out a piece of paper and a pencil and began to write with gracefully connected letters: My name is Sarah.
         We began cursive handwriting the following week!
         Sent by Leighton and Katharine S., Monroe, Louisiana.
         You are also invited to submit your humorous anecdote.

    God Loves You.
         Because we were separated from God by sin, Jesus Christ died in our place, then rose to life again. If we trust Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, He will give us eternal life.
         "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast" (Eph. 2:8, 9).

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