Teaching Cursive Writing

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I have had cursive writing as an academic goal for Vincent the last four years running. Four years! We first came to Waldorf when Vincent was in grade 3 which is normally when cursive is taught. I purchased the special fountain pens and extra refills for the lovely copywork I pictured us doing in our main lesson books. This did not happen in third grade. Fourth grade? No. Fifth Grade? No. Sixth grade? Hallelujah, YES!!

Over the years, I have tried many different approaches: workbooks, free printables, using my handwriting as a guide – nothing worked. Vincent has always struggled with coordination and flow in his physical movement, and I came to realize this correlated with issues related to handwriting. Knowing something cognitively, however, did not necessarily translate to how I was teaching. And if I am being honest here, I didn’t want to address it from a wholistic perspective. I just wanted him to write in script – damnit! – how hard was this??!!

A couple of things happened this year that helped me to change my thinking and I was (finally!) able to take a wholistic, long view. We started with form drawing in September (like we always do) but this year I was committed to it in a different way. We followed the forms in The Write Approach Book 1 – step by step, form by form, week by week. It was not easy. The flowing nature of the forms and the progression of the movements was all very hard for Vincent. I thought we were going to come to blows one day when I introduced this “wave” form. We struggled through a few lines over a couple of days and then put it away to rest.

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In October, I attended a eurythmy workshop with Cynthia Hoven and also scheduled Vincent for 2 private curative eurythmy sessions. I have shared my personal love of eurythmy before in this space, but watching Vincent struggle profoundly with body geography, fluidity and space was about more than I could bear. I swear 90% of his energy and awareness is in his head – I have always known this – but I never made the connection that that doesn’t leave a whole lot left over for the rest of his body. Ms. Hoven gave us several practice sequences to address specific concerns. Four days a week we worked with copper rods, rice trays, jumping movements and walking exercises. In addition to this gross motor movement, we also kept practicing our written forms with The Write Approach.

By February, Vincent was much more at ease with the flow of the pen across the page and I thought we could just jump right into the letters. I had the expectation that he would be able to write a sentence in script. When I asked him to do this, he gave me a blank stare. He had absolutely no idea how to go from something typewritten to writing it on his own in cursive. So we backed up and started with book two of The Write Approach series. Here the letters are laid out very logically as to how and where they are formed on the page. Using these pink handwriting books in conjunction with the suggestion of gel pens in this great blog post, proved to be a winning combination.

We are continuing our eurythmy practice and daily cursive writing practice at least through the end of this year. I am so proud of Vincent for sticking with the program. I know he feels a huge sense of accomplishment every time he goes to write something in script – even if it is endless lists of cars and NCAA basketball teams!

**One thing I want to say about The Write Approach books: they are very difficult to use as workbooks. The tight binding and the spacing of the practice lines were a deal breaker for us. So I used the books more as a teacher’s manual and had Vincent copy the forms from the chalkboard onto big manila paper (12 x 18). When he proved proficient with a form he then copied them onto good white drawing paper (again 12 x 18). We used the handwriting books only when he moved onto book 2. His writing is still rather large, but otherwise fluid, straight and nicely spaced.

15 thoughts on “Teaching Cursive Writing

    • There are hours and hours of inner work that went into this process as I’m sure you can guess. The thing I had to come to terms with was vacillating between “This is too hard. He just can’t do this.” and “How hard is this?! Just do it!” LOL Ultimately I saw the struggle for what it was – a struggle – no doubt – for Vincent. Once I could honor this and not excuse it or be drawfed by it, I finally had a point of entry that was compassionate. I knew with patience and kindness and direction he could master this skill. Finding all of that within me and within him was another story . . . again LOL.

      Inner work . . . that’s really what it comes down to for me. Nothing is superficial and if we can dare to look just a little deeper, we are able to see.

      Thoughts for a snowy morning.
      xxoo to you.
      S

      • I wish I had known about waldorf sooner. I had similar struggles with both boys and was advised by my middle sons school specialists to abandon cursive with him bc if his OT struggles. I wish I had known differently! Believe it or not I am doing some very basic drawing with him and am almost tempted to bring cursive back to him now that his confidence is so much better:) xoxo

        • I have that same feeling of wishing I had known about Waldorf earlier as well. But we can only stand where we are now.

          My new attitude is that it is never too late. Especially if you look at the path to cursive writing as a means to easier flow and movement in the body. What does Melisa say? I’m sure she would give you sound counsel.

          Cynthia Hoven, with whom we did all the eurythmy is returning to Asheville next month (April 25 – May 3 I think). Wish you lived closer and that it was a feasible option for you guys. Again, talk to Melisa about incorporating eurythmy into your rhythm. I know she and Cynthia are working on bringing eurythmy to homeschoolers.

          Just some thoughts.
          S

  1. Great thoughts! They mirror my own these days on the ways this homeschooling gig works on and deepens our own souls and expands our capacities if we become vulnerable and respond deeply to “what is.” Way to be brave!

    • Looking forward to long talks over endless cups of tea and bottomless glasses of wine . . .

      Brave . . . yes, I think that is accurate, but I’m finding I constantly need to adjust my definition of this word. It is usually something so very, very small.

      xxoo to you today.
      S

  2. Terrific! We are having similar issues. My younger two are picking cursive right up but my oldest struggles with it even though the motivation is there. I have not looked at these materials. I will check them out. Thank you.

  3. Congratulations to you for keeping cursive writing alive ! I believe it is no longer part of the academic goal of most.NJ schools! How sad that most students do not know how to write their signature in cursive ! Sent from my iPad

  4. Dear Sheila,
    LOVE the Trans Am and congratulations on your strides in cursive writing! My children have had similar challenges and we’ve worked through those wonderful “The Write Approach” books combined with eurythmy too. The combination of movement and form drawing was truly magical in how it transformed their writing, drawing and even reading. (all related to their ability to use both sides of their brains) I’m a true believer!
    And hooray…as always…for inner work.
    Much love to you and hope that you are well…
    Aloha,
    Lori

  5. Pingback: Thinks to Change How You Think | The Parenting Passageway

  6. Hi Sheila! What a helpful post on doubt at Simple Homeschool and Vincent’s cursive looks wonderful! I haven’t ever looked at The Write Approach books, but they seem fabulous. I was glad to see a release date for your ebook! I’m looking forward to reading it. ~Rachel

  7. P.S. – Just minutes ago I found your exceptionally nice comment on Carrie’s linky-love post. I replied there, but it made my whole day. Thank you so much! I hope you are having a terrific evening.

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