Sunday, September 20, 2009

Curse of the pen?

Last night I was looking over some news stories online when I came across this article called, Cursive writing may be a fading skill, but so what? If you have school-aged children, you might want to read the article. It begins when a mother asks her eighth grade daughter to sign her name, only to realize she didn't know how. I can only imagine how shocked the mother was, not to mention how belittled it might have made the girl feel. With technology as advanced as it is, and everything being done on electronic devices, it's not surprising kids don't know how to sign their name. I'm not saying kids don't know how to write with a pen or pencil -- I'm talking about penmanship -- cursive handwriting, in particular.

The article goes on to say that the girl was only taught cursive writing in the 3rd grade. I'm in my 40s and I remember being taught handwriting in grade school. I switched from public school to a Catholic school for a year and a half and cursive writing was even more of a big deal there. I remember getting scolded by a nun because I didn't make my Rs right. By 5th grade, I was establishing my own handwriting, but that didn't cut it with Sister Whateverhernamewas. Looking back, I'm glad she did that. Eventually, I came up with my own style of handwriting, but the basics were instilled in me. Knowing what I know now, I needed those basics to teach my kids.

We're in our 12th year homeschooling and I've always taught penmanship. It's one of our daily assignments. By no means, do my kids have perfect handwriting, but they know how to do it. I could have them sign a form or a birthday card and they'd know what to do. Neil is just starting to learn cursive this year. He's in 2nd grade and last year he just wasn't ready. Nathan has beautiful handwriting, when he takes the time to do his best. Nicole has developed a cute signature. That's because she's always dreamed of being a famous writer and she used to practice signing her name over and over. Honestly, I don't know where she gets that from. ;)

I understand this could be a big debate since people just don't write by pen as much as they used to. Even signing your name on a check has almost become a thing of the past with credit and debit cards. However, I still think it's important. Can you imagine the embarrassment of having to sign loan documents and come to the part where it says to sign AND print your name? What if you never learned at all? How important do you think it is for people to know how to write by hand? Is cursive a big deal, or is it okay just to know how to print? What are your thoughts? If you believe this is important, find out what your child's school is doing. Is it being taught? If not, teach it yourself. You can find cursive workbooks anywhere -- from book stores to drug stores and there's tons online as well. It only takes a few minutes of practice each day.


  1. This is a very touchy subject for me. Both my sons were taught how to write in grade 3 and then no one ever followed up. Once they hit grade 8, they had teachers who insisted they use cursive writing in all their notes -- but they couldn't remember how!

    This year, my younger son (grade 8) is being forced to do a booklet that teaches him cursive writing over again and by November, he'll be expected to use it in class or fail. He feels stupid because of it. I'm furious! But I can't figure out who to be angry with. The teachers who let the skill go? Or the ones who care too much now.

    My daughter (grade 3) will be learning cursive writing in school this year and I'm going to make sure she gets it and keeps using it, but only so she doesn't have to go through what her brothers did.

    I haven't hand written anything but my signature since Junior High. I print. When I'm rushed, I do a sort of connected printing that looks like handwriting but isn't. It works for me.

    Honestly, I think kids should know how to sign their names, and learn the skill of cursive writing, but it should be up to them after that if they use it.


  2. Yeah, I remember writing exercises. Hated them. I hated spelling worse because I was always missing words because my cursive wasn't acceptable. For example, my teacher thought my "d"s often looked like "cl"s. They still do -- though the space between the curl and the bar is bigger in the "cl".

    On the other hand, I can see why cursive was once so important. It speeded up writing when you used a pen to communicate. Good writing sometimes equaled a good job.

    Where is cursive still useful? I think people should have cursive signatures ... only to illustrate their personality and idividuality.

  3. Here's my cynical, teacher-opinion about why it's not taught past 3rd grade. Cursive is not scored on the Achievement tests, therefore, teaching it is considered time wasted in the classroom. My co-workers will say they don't have time to teach everything else on the test, let alone cursive - and they're right. Again, in my opinion, this is just one of the many gaps in learning created by our test-driven educational system.

  4. I don't have children, but I did read this article yesterday as well and found it interesting. I remembering struggling with myself in school, as it was not taught for very long as well. Thankfully, my father kept pushing me and I am grateful that he did. Although the tech world is more prominant these days and used for "letter writing", I do still have relatives and some friends who actually write letters....and I return them in the same manner.

    Good post. I am anxious to read other followers' thoughts as well.

  5. Even with "credit" cards, one has to sign their name and signing is always in cursive. When I ask my kids to sign something, they tend to ask if that means in cursive. I have to agree that this should be taught and continued throughout their school days. At least when they get out of school, they can decide to use it or not but will still have the skills to do so if they use it or need it. Unfortunately, the stupid lawmakers don't see that with the "no child left behind" garbage and all the standardized testing required to get out of a grade. It's absolutely ridiculous.

    Great posting Rena. Thanks for sharing with us - E :)

  6. Emily likes to write her name in cursive and she does a fairly good job. Her printing is terrible. lol


  7. I learned cursive as a child by reading and copying letters, and wrote my first short story in cursive as a kid. The freedom of expression, having control of that instrument that conveys to paper what your mind envisions. It's something kids need today to counter the spoonfed bytes of misinformation that requires no thought but obeisance.

    Remember those theme books? One used to have an essay question that had to be answered with thought, not merely by vomiting factoids.

    Why not a theme book as a parent's gift, each school year, where the kids are FREE to write what they want, in cursive ~ a poem, a wish, a favorite toy, what they hate about school, whatever? Not to grade but to share without judgment.


  8. I remember learning cursive in the 3rd grade and then a follow-up refresher in 4th grade. Cursive came easily to me and I never had a problem with it. But eventually, I wound up using printing in all caps as my main writing style. I never received any complaints from teachers - they always mentioned how neat & clean my writing looked, and how easy it was for them to read it.

    We taught Ellie how to print her first name and she's been doing it for a little over two months now. Just 'Ellie', not 'Eleanor' - we figured it was easier to write and she wouldn't get discouraged too quickly. We figure she'll learn how to do her full name, once she's in school. Though, I've just thought of something awful - we've never called her by her full name. What if the teacher calls out her name and she doesn't recognise it? Aw crap...


  9. Thanks for your replies. Interesting to see everyone's thoughts on this, both here and on my Facebook page.

    LOL Gale -- I'm sure Ellie will figure it out. It's not too late. :)

  10. I teach it because I have to (grade 3) but other than signing your name I really see little use for it.

    People should also remember that time is limited in school and teachers are asked to cover more curriculum these days. If you insist on cursive being taught, then you have to accept that something else will get short shrift. It becomes a question of priority and when compared to other subjects, I just don't see spending time on cursive as very pragmatic.

  11. Paul -- That's what I was thinking and that it was probably an issue of time restrictions. That's why I suggested parents doing it at home with their kids if they feel it's important to them. One of the benefits of homeschooling is having time on my hands for things like this because I don't have to deal with a classroom full of people. It is interesting that they made time for it when I was in school, but they don't know. I guess perhaps computer classes and such have taken over that time slot.