Handwriting skills not a dying art

Last fall the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “How Handwriting Boosts the Brain.”  The author addresses the fact that in spite of our ever advancing technological world, the ancient skill of handwriting still has real value. For the children, “the practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development.” But even for us oldies it offers an exercise in keeping our minds sharp. The article gives several accounts of experiments that have shown the advantage of handwriting.

In our homeschool we practice Copywork along with using the Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting series to practice beautiful letter and word formation. The question has come up from time to time in various discussion groups of why we continue to focus on penmanship in this computer and texting keyboard age. The WSJ article was very encouraging to me as to why. I considered the difference between manually forming an S on paper and pushing down the left ring finger on the keyboard. I’m sure there is good brain activity and programming  that goes into memorizing the position of the keys on the keyboard, but there is something missing if you don’t also continue the art of manually forming letters on paper.

I think of the other manual activities that Charlotte Mason advocates for the student — some in which we could do far better. The drawing, particularly in our nature journals,  and handcrafting. I see such value in nature drawing — the real connection you can make with that object by spending time forming the details on paper. Nature drawing is similar to narration in that it forces you to pay attention to detail. And then the drawing etches those details in your memory.

So as I sit here and type these thoughts, I wonder the advantage there might be in recording my thoughts by hand and then transferring them here.  Just as I am training James in narration and realizing my own need to develop that skill, I think I’d better practice what I preach when it comes to handwork.


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5 Responses to Handwriting skills not a dying art

  1. Megan says:

    Kay, I found your blog through the Question of the Week group on Yahoo. Thank you for writing this blog! It’s so refreshing to read your well thought-out posts. You write beautifully, and I like your ideas.
    I agree that handwriting is important. It’s part of our daily school routine, and my girls really enjoy looking at the page of finished text and comparing their letters to mine. For my 7-year-old, handwriting is part of memorization. I give her a poem or scripture verse to copy and after a week or two of copying it every day, she has it memorized. The younger ones don’t memorize so well with handwriting since they are still focused on the letters more than the words.
    My Grandma taught me handwriting, and while my writing doesn’t compare to her beautiful script, she gave me strong fundamentals, and I credit my skill with a needle to those early muscle-building exercises.

  2. Kay Pelham says:

    Thanks for visiting and commenting, Megan. Wow! copying the same thing every day — that I’m not sure James could handle 🙂 We basically get through a line a day in our Copywork. I’ve let memorization of poetry and scripture slip this second half of the year and need to get back into that. When I have had him copy the Scripture or poem that we’re memorizing, I’ve only had him do it once. Then we just read it a few times a week until it is learned.

    You convict me with the skill with a needle. I’m the daughter and sister of seamstresses and I am not. I want to be. The machine is sitting over there. The sewing basket loaded with essentials is in the bedroom. Just haven’t been able to get much past threading the needle. I did learn sewing in junior high and then that was about it. That has been too many years ago. I would like to learn to make useful things. I’d like to learn to crochet or knit. We had a daughter 5 years ago that lived only 21 days and spent 3 days in the NICU. I was delighted with the little knit hats and booties that volunteers donated for the tiny babies. I thought then that that was something I would like to do. But here I sit 5 years later still thinking about it. Any suggestions on where to begin?

  3. Megan says:

    I’m so sorry about your daughter. That must have been so hard! Sometimes I forget how blessed I am to have never experienced a trial like that.
    As for copy-work, I think there is a HUGE difference in boys’ tolerance level and girls’ tolerance level for sitting in a chair doing book-work. My girls do extra because their idea of fun is making pretty things. The next-door neighbor boy (who is 7, like my Eve), spends about 20 seconds on his and rushes off to the next activity.
    I love sewing because it’s relaxing and satisfying to me. I’ve never really enjoyed knitting or crocheting becuase it takes too long to finish anything, and the work is so repetitive.
    Maybe you should find a project that looks exciting, easy, and has a short project life. If you enjoy it, pursue it, if not, keep looking for something you enjoy doing. There are so many tutorials on line for handy crafts! My sister does felting with raw wool and a needle – she punches the felt into the shape she wants, like a lion or a doll, or… The end product is amazing!
    I just made pencil rolls for my kids and the neighbor’s kids. You might enjoy making one, especially when you see your son using it.
    I put a how-to in my blog last April when I first started making these for birthday gifts. Of course, my own kids had to wait a year to get their own ;0) http://theapplegatemavys.wordpress.com/2010/04/
    I’m enjoying getting to know you, Kay – you’re a cool lady!

  4. mrl says:

    Another idea might be to find a class locally. That’s how I learned to knit. By the way Anna is learning how at Thursday school. Don”t think it’s too late, it’s never to late to learn something new:)

  5. Kay Pelham says:

    You bet. Me and Grandma Moses. Actually, we’re getting our milk and eggs from a lady that works in a local sewing shop (not a big Joann’s type chain at all) and I think they have lessons there. Guess I’ll get brave and check it out.

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