If you have children who struggle with their handwriting, then this free cursive program from the McGuffey readers is for you.
I think we’ve had just about every type of child among our fifteen. We have had energetic types, and quiet thoughtful types. Some have been great at drawing, others prefer sports. While some of our girls love to write, our daughter Patience prefers to talk.
So, we let her talk all about everything she learns, but we still need her to write things down because, you know, that’s a good thing, right?
Because she has trouble making her hands cooperate with her brain, we tried all sorts of cursive programs, including Spencerian (based on old-fashioned copperplate) and some modern ones, but she continually struggled.
Finally, I took out my handy-dandy home-made McGuffey’s script pages I had created from the revised readers a few years back, and it CLICKED!
All-of-a-sudden (or at least after about 10 pages of practice) she could write legibly and neatly—hallelujah!
I believe it has helped her so much because it is simple, straight-forward and does not require any slant.
I had plans way back to share this free cursive program with everyone, but I thought I should try and get the pages perfect—you know, with all sorts of software editing and the like. But I just have not found the time to get them perfect-looking, so I put the project aside.
When I realized how much this program has blessed Patience, I decided it was time to put it out there to bless others (besides, I have a brand new, hands-free scanner that works amazingly, so it must be God!).
So, here it is (warts and all). You are perfectly welcome to download, print, and use these pages as you see fit with your child(ren). Just start at the beginning and proceed as slowly or as quickly as you wish.
Also, I think it would be a good idea to republish a post I wrote about handwriting a little time ago. Hope it gives you some motivation!
Here it is:
Researchers are confirming what educators have known since the dawn of time; handwritten work increases retention, comprehension, and higher brain function.
On some levels this sounds counter-intuitive, even “archaic,” in an age where we are surrounded by digital devices. Many are arguing children need to have more keyboarding skills and less handwriting skills in order to navigate in a technology-rich society. However, numerous studies are being produced which suggest otherwise.
It all goes back to Common Core:
According to the CCSS [Common Core State Standards], handwriting instruction is no longer mandatory when students progress
beyond Grade 1. After that time, states can choose to teach manuscript handwriting, cursive handwriting,
or a combination of both by invoking the right to augment the standards with an additional 15% of content
that they deem appropriate.
So, basically, children in most public schools are not even receiving handwriting instruction past the ball-and-stick scribblings of first grade. Unfortunately, the evidence suggests that this lack of handwriting competency is working to decrease working literacy.
In a recent study entitled “The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard,” researchers Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer found that students who take notes by hand perform better on conceptual questions than students who take notes on laptops. They concluded that students who type their notes tend to transcribe the lecture and to process the lecture only on a shallow level. Student who take notes by hand actually digest the content and reframe it in their own words—a process that increases both understanding and recall.
Research findings suggest that self-generated
action, in the form of handwriting, is a crucial component in setting up brain systems for reading
According to Dr. Karin Harman James, associate professor of psychological and brain
sciences at Indiana University, handwriting appears to contribute to reading fluency by activating
visual perception of letters and improving children’s accuracy and speed for recognizing letters.6
Still further (from same source as above):
Without consistent exposure to handwriting, research indicates that students can
experience difficulty in certain processes required for success in reading and writing, including
• retrieving letters from memory.
• reproducing letters on paper.
• spelling accurately.
• extracting meaning from text or lecture.
• interpreting the context of words and phrases.
There is also ample evidence that simple “printing” does not go far enough. In order to receive the greatest benefit a child needs to learn cursive. Here are some reasons why:
- Fine motor skills. In cursive writing, the strokes used are continually changing according to the word being written. These movements are more demanding and cause the child to actually think about what they are writing.
- Brainpower. Cursive writing causes different parts of the brain to be used in order to complete each letter. Combined with repetition, this increases both cognitive development and function.
- Treatment for Dyslexia and ADD/ADHD. Did you know there is an actual treatment for dyslexia involving cursive handwriting?Children who have trouble with memory and focus find that writing in cursive helps them to stay on track and keeps their thoughts connected (see this PBS story).
This is more than just interesting information. It is vital to the education of our children.
Even with all of our increasing technology, the literacy rate in America has continually declined for the past 100 years.
According to John Taylor Gatto, draftees during WWI were tested and showed a 98% literacy rate, while draftees for the Viet Nam War only had a 73% literacy. There really is no telling how low our “working” literacy rate is today, but we do know universities are seeing an increase in entrants requiring remedial classes.
About half of first-year college students discover that, despite excellent GPAs and getting into college, they are not ready for continued studies after high school, according to The National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education. Taking college-prep courses, earning high school diplomas, and passing state high-school exit exams — none of it is sufficient to ensure that these students are actually ready for college work.
In all of the education literature from the time of almost complete literacy, there is rarely a mention of the learning woes we complain about today. Could it be we have lost some vital keys to helping children learn? What were the secrets our predecessors knew that we have lost sight of?
The recent research sited above suggests there is a connection between the emphasis on handwritten work and a competent knowledge of the English language. Educators of the past, without any scientific studies or massive educrat-style papers to back them up, knew this intuitively.
To them it was simply common-sense.
Children of the past actually learned to write in cursive before they learned to “print” their words (I was shocked when I first discovered this, but I have read first-hand accounts that confirmed it). This practice kept their minds focused and kept them engaged. They had better retention and knowledge of written material because they were intimately acquainted with it.
It seems this is why a country teacher in a one-room schoolhouse could manage so well. Her students were not trapped into lower-level comprehension and cognitive ordering skills; they could sit and concentrate because they were naturally connecting one thought with another as they copied quality language materials.
This is great news for those of us who homeschool our children.
We are not hampered by Common Core or any of its predecessors. We can connect with our children on the highest levels using the same, simple methods that insured competency a century ago.
And the great thing about it is that it is so very, very inexpensive! (I think this is what scares educrats more than anything). Teaching children well doesn’t require a lot of money. It doesn’t even require a degree in anything. It simply requires an adult who understands a few basic methods and a child who is eager to learn.
And this (finally) brings us to the practical side of this post.
With just a few modifications, you can teach your child to write in cursive with the same method used by the wise teachers of long ago.
Besides being simple enough for a young child, it is also easy for mom, and it’s cheap to boot. I’ve been using it for years, with wonderful results!
I know, there are probably a hundred programs out there, even free ones that are ready to be printed out, and they are so cute! However, none have stood the test of time quite like this one. There is no slant, and the lines are easier to follow than the modern versions. Even the capitals are simplified and easy to produce.
It also fits in with the rest of our language arts program, which is almost exclusively comprised of vintage learning materials.
(Think about this: Back in the day the McGuffey readers were first being published, copybooks with lines did not exist, and yet children from that time grew up with great penmanship. The above is an actual handwriting example from the year 1893 done in the old way by dipping a pen in ink. Children can do more than we think they can).
Here is an example of one of the pages with script from a revised reader: