The other day while cleaning out Emmett’s backpack, (our 2nd grader), my mouth dropped. I was unexpectedly holding a worksheet for students to trace and then write a letter “B” in cursive!! This was too good to be true. I know the Minneapolis Public Schools system no longer teaches cursive, choosing instead to spend time studying for standardized tests among other reasons, so I was (pleasantly) surprised by the find. After asking Emmett and his teacher, Mr. Janssen, why Emmett had been practicing cursive, I learned it was an extra bit of work the students could select during their free time. Although his teacher feels strongly about the importance of handwriting, he must use his class time for other school district requirements.
I was taught cursive in 3rd grade soon after D’Nealian was introduced in 2nd grade. Through the years my handwriting took the form of half-cursive, half-block writing. Surprisingly, the cursive has returned. Although I can’t say the same for my two closest friends from grade school. Both Kari and Theresa were taught cursive in the same fashion but have printed for as long as I can remember (and adoringly, their writing has barely changed!).
I generally like the look of my writing and it’s become clear over the years that my cursive is here to stay. Not only does it hold a unique form but it’s by far faster to use cursive versus block writing especially when it comes to writing page after page while journaling.
Awhile ago I caught a great story on the Today Show (patience with the 30 sec add, it’s worth the wait!) asking the question; are computers really fazing out penmanship? There are two clear sides to the battle; those who believe learning cursive takes time away from other subjects pitted against others who look at the values it brings to a student. Today in 44 states teaching cursive is optional, and in Hawaii and Indiana cursive is no longer in the curriculum. Which means as a school and a teacher and a parent we need to fight the good cursive fight.
The Oxford Dictionary’s definition of cursive is “any style of handwriting that is designed for writing notes and letters quickly by hand” and “many or all letters in a word are connected.” There you have it – Cursive is meant to save us time. I should share this with Emmett. He’s all about how fast can he get through his work! Maybe cursive is his answer. Stay tuned this summer as I remind you all of the benefits of handwriting, both print and cursive.
P.S. I’m headed to the National Stationery Show tomorrow to find more paper goods for the shop! Be sure to follow my adventures on Instagram – Lots to discover at the Javits Cetner.
Over the past three years I’ve become friends with Beth, a mother & wife who lives on our block. I’ll share basil from our garden with her and she’ll send her daughter over to play with the boys. She’ll ask what can she pick up for me at Target and I’ll ask her for the inside scoop on teachers at our neighborhood school. It’s a great relationship and one that grows with each season.
Yet, last week when I received both a written Thank You note and a card for Beatrice from Beth, it dawned on me that I had never seen her handwriting before.
Beth is a former teacher so it should have been no surprise that she writes with impeccable cursive, with a bit of D’Nealian. What did take me back was how moved I was to see this new part of her, Beth’s personal stamp, if you will. I had never realized or gave much thought to the fact that her handwriting was unknown to me up until that point. But after seeing it on paper it was another reminder of the value I place on handwriting. It has become personal.
And speaking of helpful neighbors, our friend Bryan, who lives next door, mentioned an article in Monday’s Business section all about the importance of handwriting. It’s a quick read but to sum it up, writer Steve Wilburs states “Students need to learn handwriting, even in this age of texting and keyboarding, because forming the letters by hand — shaping and creating them — slows them down, helps them think more clearly, brings them to a more intimate connection with language, makes them feel more committed to their words and helps them remember what they’ve written.” Thank you, Steve, for reminding us why it is important to keep our writing up, student or not.
Handwriting needs to be looked at as something which shapes our minds as well as what makes us all original. So why not write a quick note to a new friend or someone who has only heard your thoughts in person or via email. Your handwriting makes you unique. Even if your penmanship is not as lovely as Beth’s, it’s your personal mark that they’ll appreciate.
Last month I had the privilege of volunteering at Emmett’s school Book Fair. I say privilege because it’s truly such a treat to see these kids walking up to the register with sparkles in their eyes, digging in their pockets to find crumpled up bills to pay for their new shiny books. Be it a vampire series or Dr. Seuss, these kids were book hungry.
Not only were they excited about books but every other customer was purchasing a pencil or an eraser. Right on! Of course, what really got my heart pounding were the kids walking up to the check out table with journals. Ahhh. Not just the girls, boys picking up journals as well! No fooling. The boy’s journal, DUDE Diary, has a strong male overtone which potentially helps when going against the norm while purchasing such a book. It’s not surprising there’s quite the variety of girl themed journals but my favorite, All About Me, diary even has a lock and key.
A particular third grader named Ava mentioned this was her third journal…in third grade. Hello? Can you say a future Miss Wendy Longacre? I about jumped over the folding table to give her a scary stranger hug. You go Ava. I actually did ask her if she might provide me with a short interview sometime to learn more about her writing. She didn’t seem hesitant. And her father didn’t shoot me down with the “who are you?” glare either. I like these folks.
So here’s to those young readers and writers out there who still find the desire to pick up a pencil or pen to scribble out their highs and lows of the day rather than texting or emailing their BFF to share current emotions. We all need a place to download and breathe…privately. As I child, journaling was my haven. This was the one sacred place I stored all of my fears, excitements, disappointments and wishes. My first journal began when I just turned 8 years old. I’m sure it was a gift since I can’t imagine myself asking for a journal as I entered third grade. There was nothing too fancy about the QuillMark journal. The margins were wide enough to hold all kinds of writing and the cover was made of soft cloth with a preppy, flowered pattern which made sense for the 80’s.
My first journal stayed with me for a little over three years. Aside from the vastly different topics between 3rd and 6th grade, what amazed me the most was the change in my handwriting style. From the simple print with a bit of a D’Nealian touch (we’ll come back to D’Nealian in a future post) to thick cursive where the word “locker room” takes up one full line.
The more I think of it, my very first journal is valuable not only by holding a glimpse into my younger years but also symbolizing the beginning to a way of life which has brought clarity, problem solving and verifying progress through all kinds of times. What a gift.