Topic | Handwriting woes

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  • ominitsyn

    My son is almost 9 and his handwriting is atrocious. It is a painful exercise for him. He for many letters and numbers will write from bottom to top rather than from top to bottom. I think he also somehow does the curved( circular) parts of the letters in a reverse manner as well. He prints his letters and numbers with the correct orientation with a few that he may get backward. I would like to start him on cursive and am wondering if you think this is wise. My thought is that we can start some new habits and that they may transfer to his printing. If they don’t, I don’t really see it as much of a loss as I would guess that if cursive comes easier he will prefer to use it. I have looked at HWT and wonder if I could start with their cursive program or would I need to start at the K level with printing? I spoke to a rep there and didn’t get much satisifaction. I am open to suggestions! 😉


    Sara B.

    I know very little about dyslexia, but could it be that?  Regardless, I have heard other moms say that cursive is easier to start with.  You may want to try it and see how it goes.  I have considered it, but it’s kind of too late with my oldest 3.  😛  I have about 4 mths to debate with my 4th.  🙂

    One thing, too, that I just read in CM’s 1st book is that keep the assigment super short and “demand” perfection.  I actually stopped telling my kids to do “2 lines.”  I have started saying, “A, do 6 perfect A’s.  R, do 1 perfect line.  L, do 2 perfect lines.”  If they get done before the time is up, great – free time for them until the timer goes off.  If not, we try again tomorrow.  It’s important to not ask them to attempt more than they can actually do.  I will be starting my son differently than my 3 dds because of this newfound info.  When he gets to the age of doing copywork, even just in the sand, I will have him start with just 2 or 3 perfect A’s, then gradually move up to 6 by K or so, and gradually up from there based on how much he can do perfectly at a time without causing him frustration.  Since I started doing copywork differently with my girls, only a week or so ago, I can already see a big difference in their handwriting.

    Hope some of this helps and that others chime in here, as well!


    I would not have thought dyslexia as he is a very strong reader. I have strong suspicions that he would be diagnosed as ADHD if I took him in for an eval. Our family circumstances may be changing and he may have to go to a school next year. It is a small Christian school that leans on CM’s ideas, but I am concerned that his writing will not be up to par for 4th grade. I feel like I have to “catch him up” so he does not have to struggle with handwriting on top of other adjustments. 


    My son is also 9 and has sensory processing disorder.  He has poor fine motor skills so I am just now starting to see that his hands are getting strong enough to write for any length of time at all.  He also does his writing a little differently, starting at the bottom or some are backwards (he’s also left handed).  I am starting him out slowly with tracing over a passage that I have printed out (he prefers D’nealian style writing) and then I have him write it out on his own on another day.  I am using manuscript type paper that has the dashes because he doesn’t differentiate between sizes of upper and lower cases.  I let my son choose which style of writing (block, D’naelian, or cursive) he felt most comfortable doing.  He chose D’nealian style writing, although his writing is a mixture of block and D’nealian right now.  I am more concerned about getting the sizes correct and using the upper and lower cases in the right spot. 

    I’d say right now make sure his fine motor skills are up to the task and if not work with that a little, or go slowly so as not to discourage him.  Tracing might help him to see what it should look like and then move on from there.  Hope that helped some.


    Has your son been homeschooled from the beginning?  My 11 year old still struggles terribly with printing, and right now cursive isn’t on my radar for him.  He attended public school until last June.  He was struggling so bad we had him assessed for a learning disability and it was confirmed that he has dysgraphia.  This effects his letter formation, his spelling, his ability to put any thoughts on paper.  He dictates to me often in order to try to eliminate the interruption of thought by the frustration of the mechanics.  He can edit what he’s dictated to me afterwards. 

    Dyslexia is not it, and dysgraphia, or something similar, may or may not be the issue.  He may have another issue that effects his small motor skills.  Does he play wiith lego or do other kinds of detailed work?  As far as forming letters — both of our sons have the same habit of starting from the bottom and it is something we work hard to correct.  Our younger son has much better handwriting — not perfect, but appropriate for a 7 year old.  I’ve learned that correct letter formation is not something taught in most PSs any more. 

    I know a lot of people don’t like to have their child evaluated because they don’t want them to be defined by a disability; however, not having an evaluation done also may prevent a child from reaching their full potential.  If you are continuing to homeschool, you could just do a bit of research and find some strategies to help him on your own, but a professional diagnosis can prove beneficial if he is going to attend a public or private school. Occupational therapy might be an option for him, oral testing or other alternative options for presenting or completing projects may be made available to him depending on the circumstances. 

    Some children do find handwritng easier, some not so much.  A large part of it is habit.  Habits take a long time to form, and even longer to erase.  What will work for your son?  I’m not sure, but you are a good mom and you want the best for him.  You will figure it out. 


    It sounds like he has picked up some bad formation habits that makes writing with a nice flow difficult. I think Charlotte Mason recommended that when doing copywork you actually sit right with them and watch as they form each letter, instantly correcting any wrongly formed letters. My son picked up a few bad habits with printing such as the reverse circles because I used a preprinted handwriting curriculum and just showed him the letter but then once he made it satisfactorily I would let him finish the rest independently.

    When we switched to cursive last year I sat right there and made sure he formed each letter correctly everyday so that he would not Pick up bad formation habits. We set the timer for 10 minutes and he would write. As he wrote I would watch and if he started to form the letter incorrectly I would stop him immediately and he would erase and fix it. That way he wouldn’t be practicing incorrect formation and forming the habit of doing it wrong.

    So maybe if you switched to cursive you could do that or you could take the time to retrain in printing by sitting and makin sure each letter is correctly formed.

    All last year I did copywork with him and now this year I can let him do it on his own. I now do copywork with my dd5 this way and she writes nicely. Just a little time each day really adds up through the year.


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