I recently entered into a debate with a teacher over assessing a student’s handwriting as a measure of academic ability. The teacher’s argument was this: handwriting is a necessary skill, and this skill should be permanently bound to the art of creative story telling, personal reflection, and nonfiction writing. I can’t tell you just how much I disagree with this way of thinking, especially in a time when our children have so many available outlets for their creativity.
My handwriting is horrible, as is the handwriting of both of my biological children. I watched them struggle through kindergarten and first grade, feeling embarrassed about their handwriting. They were insecure because their prolific friends were writing stories that were many pages long while they could only manage a few sentences before their time was up. Both of these boys love to tell stories, describe events in great detail, and put on elaborate plays. But, their struggles with handwriting made it difficult and frustrating for them to apply these skills in a classroom setting.
When we made the switch to home school, we made a few changes to this process. If your children struggle with handwriting, I hope some of the solutions that we came up with can help you out:
Handwriting is a Skill
(but not as important as it once was)
One of my children struggled with handwriting to the point where he developed a negative opinion about his abilities at school. So, when we started to home school, we change things a bit. When handwriting gets in the way of learning other skills (like math, for instance), we get creative. We use magnets, base 10 blocks, anything that might represent the numbers that he struggles to write. He spends a short amount of time each day practicing forming letters and numbers, but I don’t push him to write anything down outside of that practice. We have a book called “Handwriting Jokes and Riddles” that makes it a little more entertaining – he only gets to read me the joke when he has finished writing it, so he is motivated to make it happen.
Teach Your Kids to Type!
Typer Instructor for Kids (Typer Island)
My children spend more time practicing their typing than any other skill. Typing, more than handwriting, is essential to a student’s ability to navigate the world of information that is available through the internet. Entire libraries are now available online, but you have to have the ability to reach them and navigate through them. The first skill that I would say is absolutely essential to our modern day world is the ability to type. So, my kids practice typing about 15 minutes each day. Typer Island is an entertaining program. It can be a little bit buggy, but it has kept my kids engaged as they learned how to type, so I’m not complaining too much.
StoryTELLING not StoryWRITING
Storytelling is an art form that has only recently been linked to writing. Many cultures still have an oral tradition and I would argue that we are more suited to produce stories through the spoken word than the written word. Maybe we could have the best of both worlds, though… Dragon Dictation is an iPad app. Dragon Express and Dragon Naturally Speaking are PC/Mac program that are available for your computer. Basically, these programs take your spoken word and convert it to text. We use the iPad app as a way to get those stories out “on paper” and ready to edit.
Stop Motion Studio
Hooray for Stop Motion! This is such an amazing way to get kids to be creative. They understand how it works almost immediately, and they are making great looking movies with minimal direction. When a kid is making a movie, they can begin to think about how their story needs a beginning, middle and end. They can work on the components of a great story without being so restricted by their medium. I would recommend not only getting the app for $0.99, but also shelling out for the feature pack, which is an in app purchase. It is definitely worth the price.
Other Forms of Expression
Edublogs.org: The traditional journal entry may be tedious (pronounced “boring”) for younger students or for those who have a hard time with handwriting. Once a student is able to type, blogging becomes an interesting alternative. Blogging is meaningful – thoughts are shared with the world in a way that makes them feel more important. Students can do more than evaluate how they are feeling about a topic – they can think about how they want to present the topic to the world and how their feelings may relate to the feelings of others. They can also instantly share their work with friends and relatives. A blog doesn’t just have to be writing – it can have images and movies as well!