Fifth grade, circa 1974 or 1975. Rows and rows of cursive handwriting drills. I always enjoyed handwriting practice, because I have always loved to write--it came easily to me. In fifth grade, my beloved Mrs. Pressman selected the four students with the best handwriting (all girls, imagine!) and sent us off with the student teacher to learn how to do calligraphy. It was great fun, and the beginnings of my fondness for beautiful writing.
Jump ahead 30 years later. Chris learned cursive in third grade, probably because he had a great "by-the-books" teacher who emphasized the three Rs. She was a stickler for cursive, and we found that his handwriting improved tremendously once he started writing in cursive. It seemed to work better for him than printing, the poor lefty.
Then in fourth grade he seemed to take a step backward and began printing everything again. When we asked his teacher about it, she said that she'd asked him to print because she found his cursive difficult to read! Unfortunately, he's never gone back. I asked her to have him write in cursive again, but she didn't. She probably prefers printing herself!
Jump ahead to sixth grade, when he's needing to take more notes in class. In conversations with his teachers, we've discovered that very few of the middle schoolers write in cursive. It appears to be a lost art. I Googled "cursive lost art," and found this New York Times article from 1996! So it appears that it has been a lost art for 13 years already!
Apparently not only are students not being taught to write cursive, but they are also unable to read it!
Mike and I are both lucky to have the good handwriting gene, and I believe that it's a useful skill. One will not always have a keyboard at hand!!
I went to Border's to look for handwriting practice books, but the only ones I could find were geared for much younger kids. Then Mike reminded me of "Handwriting without Tears," which is a program that is designed for kids of all ages--especially ones with fine motor skills issues--to improve their handwriting. (They use a much more vertical approach than typical cursive.) We've been having him practice his writing each evening, and already it's improving tremendously! Now if we can only get him to use it at school! Cursive is so much faster than printing!! I think it will be a useful tool to be able to take notes more quickly. Here are some samples of his work:
We are determined to make a cursive writer out of him once again!