Cursive Handwriting- Should we still teach it?

About a month ago, one of my best friends and I were at a homeschool convention discussing all the different handwriting programs that are available. We were both trying to decide on a program to use this upcoming school year, which was a little overwhelming with so many choices.

I briefly mentioned that after all the years I spent instructing my oldest child in writing in cursive, he could not write out a complete sentence in cursive now that he is in high school. I felt embarrassed. Should I have caught this sooner?

The majority of handwriting programs end in the elementary grades after the children have mastered the lessons. In middle school, most children will use one preferred method of writing- cursive or manuscript- for handwritten assignments. Therefore, I never paid close attention to my son exclusively using print. In fact, I write primarily in print so I assumed my son was just following my lead.

And then my friend asked, "Do you think we should even teach cursive anymore?"

And the famous Arsenio Hall line from many years ago came immediately into my head-

"Things that make you go hmmm..."

Wow! That is a great question. Since most school work is done on the computer after the elementary grades, should our instructional method switch from a strong focus on teaching cursive to teaching typing?

I tried to recall when I use cursive in daily life and the only time I can think of is when I sign my name. Cursive is faster than print but typing surpasses them both. Printing is more legible and there are many times when people are forced to print, but I cannot think of any times when a person is forced to write in cursive. Even everything that we read is in print, unless it is an old historical document, such as the Declaration of Independence. So do I teach cursive at all? Is it one of those things that die out with new generations like chalkboards and quill pens did?

A little bit of handwriting history

I briefly researched the history of handwriting when I returned from the convention since my curiosity was now sparked. I learned that when the tools for writing were pointed nibs affixed to the end of sticks and feathers (quill pens), writing in cursive was actually a necessity. These tools would produce blotches instead of strokes when a little downward pressure was applied. Cursive letters were produced by sliding the pen sideways and they allowed us to take advantage of the tools of the time.

The invention of the pencil changed things dramatically. Ink wells, blotters, and nib pens disappeared and were replaced by pencils. The print alphabets were then introduced in our schools. So the question again arises- should I teach cursive?

I still do not know my final decision and I am not trying to encourage you either way. It was just something that makes you go hmmm.

Here is a great article about handwriting from Todd Wilson, Familyman Ministries-

To all of you moms who worry, fret, and are appalled by your seventh grader's terrible handwriting, let me just say, "Let it go!!!"

My friend Bill is a highly educated, successful engineer who is gainfully employed, has raised a great family, and plays a vital role in our church,    BUT. . . Bill has the not-so-great handwriting.

My brother, bless his soul, has a vital ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ in a college town and has about the worse handwriting of anyone I've seen . . . including his college-educated wife's (whose handwriting skills are not much better).

My mother taught me how to write my cursive letters nice and straight . . . and no one cares. I hardly have to write anything now-a-days except to fill out a form or sign up for free windows down at the county fair. And you know what? I can't even remember how to write in cursive anymore . . . especially the letters Z and Q.

If you think that what I'm suggesting has gone too far . . . "Let it go!!!!"

The absolute truth is . . . handwriting doesn't really matter. We live in a day and age where hardly anyone writes with pen and ink anymore. We use keyboards and cell phones for most everything. Yet, I know many moms who are in constant turmoil because their teenager's writing looks like scribbles and scratches on paper.

"Let it GO!!!!!"

January 2011 UPDATE: Cursive handwriting has been omitted from the Common Core State Standards, the new curriculum standard that more than 40 states adopted last summer, the Associated Press reports.

Typically taught in third and fourth grade, cursive is already disappearing in some classrooms. With students widely using computers or text messages instead of handwriting their communications, teachers are choosing to spend less time teaching script, the news service says. Even when handwritten assignments are required, many students reportedly prefer to use printed block letters instead of script.


February 2014 UPDATE: I am still continuing to teach my children cursive through the elementary years. It will be up to each individual child if he decides to continue using it afterwards. I want to at least introduce the option to them and have them be able to read historical documents that are written in cursive.

January 2016 UPDATE:
I thought this is a creative way to get your kids to learn cursive. LOL


Mindy said...

I thought you raised some good thoughts in your blog post. Recently I came across some information that I found very helpful. Why SHOULD we teach cursive handwriting? It helps those children prone to having dyslexia. Starting children out writing in cursive can actually help them to not switch their letters because the nature of how cursive letters are formed prevents it. This article/webiste has SOO much information that is helpful to anyone teaching children. (side note, Common Core standards are HARDLY something to follow or look up to if we can help it!) It has been found that if you teach a child cursive first, they are still able to read and write in print just fine.
So teach cursive, and if they choose to write in print later in their
lives, at least they will be able to read cursive if they come across
it. Also, yes, I think it is important to be able to read handwriting from those that proceeded us. What are we going to do when no one can read cursive anymore? Documents are still out there that are of value even if they aren't on the computer. I love technology of course, but we should teach our children how to survive without it, and how to communicate without it. I hope this didn't seem like a rant because I didn't mean it that way. I just wanted to share my thoughts on the subject. :)

Tamara L. Chilver said...

Thanks so much Mindy for your insight. I will certainly check out that site you recommended. that makes a lot of sense with cursive being taught first in letter formation. I have seen many programs that do this, such as ABeka.

I completely agree with not looking up to the Common Core standards and you brought up a great point about reading older documents in cursive. I actually teach cursive to my kids until they are in the upper elementary years. Even though they may not to continue using it in their adult years, I do want them to be able to read it well.

Thank you for sharing. :)

Amanda said...

I applaud you on teaching your children cursive. I am a very big fan of all things English and will be teaching my children cursive as well.

Amanda said...

That's excellent. I even have ideas of teaching kids calligraphy to keep up their penmanship.

Tamara L. Chilver said...

Ooooo Amanda, I would even love to learn calligraphy. What a fantastic idea! I will have to consider learning it as a family. Thanks!

Kathryn said...

I'm so glad you are addressing this issue. I pulled my children from school and am homeschooling this year. I'm having to teach my son cursive because he was never taught in grade school. He's now 13, we got his passport renewed and he had to sign his name. We submitted his application with his printed signature and .... yes you guessed it ... it was rejected. He HAD to sign his name in cursive. I started asking around ... bank documents, driver's licenses, mortgage papers, insurance papers .... ALL require a cursive signature. An electronic signature is actually a scan of your cursive written signature. Another thing that came up was that he couldn't read cursive because he's never been taught what the letters looked like in cursive. This was brought to my attention after a nursing student couldn't read the patient charts because she couldn't read cursive. That is a HORROR I don't even want to contemplate .... nurses who can't read charts!!!! So ... I am teaching him his cursive letter so he can read them and teaching him how to cursive write his name. The bulk of his work is still in print but at least he can read my cursive written notes now!!!

Tamara L. Chilver said...

This is great information to know Kathryn. Thanks so much for sharing.