Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Is Teaching Penmanship Really Worth It?

Before we realized we were going to be moving Sue at Homeschool Chick threw  out a question on Twitter. Her question was a simple one, “Is Penmanship still something we need to teach?” She prompted me to write about my feelings on penmanship, to which I said I would. Then the move came along and I didn’t get around to writing this post. Well, Mary here it is.

Some think that Penmanship is not worth worrying about in the age we live in, with all the technology. I understand many feel that their children will not need good penmanship since they will probably just sit down at a computer and type away. I realize most jobs do not require a lot of writing, but there are still some who do. That is not my only reason for feeling this strongly about this subject though.

As I surf through the blogs, and ramblings of some of our youth and young adults, I discover there is a real lack of how to use proper grammar. Sure some of this probably comes from just not being taught grammar. I can’t help but think however that a good lesson in penmanship can also help to build on the skills needed to be a good writer.

It is so easy even for me to sit down and just type away on the computer, and get what I want to say out there faster, but am I truly putting the same thought process into typing that I would if I were to sit down and write it out? I certainly hope I am, but sometimes even I look back and discover grammar, spelling, and syntax errors. I also notice the more I have become use to just sitting down and typing, the harder I have to work on my handwritten word. I discover my handwriting has suffered from my lack of using it on a daily basis. Sure I still write notes, and track appointments on my calendar, but it would be nice if they didn’t look like chicken scratch.

We know the obvious, our children are going to need to learn to sign their names. Did you ever stop to think though the amount of muscles used in getting those names, words, letters from the brain to the hand, then onto the paper? Ponder this, what is dexterity? We use dexterity every time we even sit and type on the computer, draw a picture, cook, bake, sew, well one of the nice things about penmanship is it builds dexterity. It makes us slow down and think about how we are using our fingers, moving those hands, in order to get the written word out on paper. It takes dexterity to do anything involving the hands. We applaud our children when they build with toothpicks, popsicle sticks, play musical instruments, draw beautiful pieces of art, and even are good in sports. It takes good dexterity to do all these things, why not help build this through good penmanship?

Working on and developing good penmanship skills also exercises our brain’s ability to think, creativity, process, and to just slow down. When we can teach our brains to just slow down and consider what we are writing, we are developing the skills needed to sit down and truly enjoy a good book. I remember when the world evolved around being the fastest reader one could be. I often wonder how much of the book truly was overlooked just to be the first one to finish it. Most of those read fast lessons involved training the brain to overlook little words, the one’s they said were not essential, the ones that are needed in good grammar. Get the picture? We want our children or hope our children will use good grammar but we are robbing them of the valuable art of practicing it, thinking about it, and developing it when we do not tone in on penmanship.

We love it when our children can draw great works of art, well the strokes that go into those great works of art are the same strokes that go into good penmanship. We want them to be proud of their artistic abilities, so why now want them to be proud of using these same skills for writing?

I could go on and on but rather then bore you, I will leave you with one last challenge, get out there and pay attention to some of the writings in the blog world especially of the younger generation. Read carefully, look at their use of grammar, or lack of, spelling errors, even with spell check, and just the over all thought process that they put into writing. Think about how the computer age is truly changing the English language, well all the languages, then come back and tell me, do you think a lesson or two in good penmanship will help or hurt your child? Is penmanship a lost art, or something that we truly should be focusing on?

(Some of the youth I am discovering this is come from both homeschoolers and public schooled, I am not being partial in my opinion towards either group.)

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  1. This is one I've gone back and forth on. I think eventually writing by hand will become obsolete, it's nearly there now. And, I do think certain aspects of writing will be lost with it. I also think certain things will be gained with it, so I view it as a neutral change, neither good nor bad. However, after watching my 13, soon to be 14, year old struggling to fill out a form, this summer, I decided we will spend more time on all of our presentation skills, this fall, including penmanship. They might not need to use it often, but when they do need it, it would be nice to be able to use it well.

  2. My best friend is a college professor and she would certainly aggree with you about the lack of grammar skills in students entering college. I would also agree with you that penmanship and learning the language (grammar, as you say) go hand-in-hand. Copywork is the best tool, I have found, for teaching both penmanship and grammar. I think that it is a needed skill, despite its decline in use.

  3. I agree with you 100%. It shocks me sometimes what people think is good grammar, not that mine is all that stellar, but if I can see there are grammar errors then you obviously have not learned.

  4. It's a very thought out post. My very computer savvy mom friend and myself had a lot of heated debates about this very topic. I do believe that fast typing will be more important than beautiful handwriting in the future. To me writing by hand is a very mechanical skill involving muscle coordination. It's sad when kids start hating school or at least start hating everything related to writing simply because their muscles are not ready to perform. Wouldn't it be better to teach those late bloomers to type first and to introduce handwriting later when they are ready?

  5. I taught 8th grade English for a while and the one thing that drove me crazy was the students who used text lingo in their assignments - using the number 2 for the word to, etc. I think handwriting is important; we may use computers more often, but there will always be a need to write on occasion and doing it well is important. I feel the same way about spelling. One of my friends (a law school professor) is a terrible speller and when there is no spell check, she is always embarrassed by it. I agree about grammar too - unfortunately, it is not taught much in schools these days. There is this school of thought that it is more important for kids to be creative and write freely than for them to spell correctly and use correct grammar - can you see the steam coming out of my ears right now?

  6. I'm not going to stop at teaching handwriting. I'm also going to teach calligraphy and different font styles. Copying poetry through beautiful penmanship can build character and discipline. Of course typing on computers will be taught as well. Why one over another if you can do both!

  7. We do "copywork" in our homeschool nearly every day. My daughter has beautiful handwriting, and loves writing letters and we do handwritten thank you cards for gifts, too. I guess I'm old fashioned in that regard, but I just don't think an email, text, or facebook message is the same!

  8. Great post! While typing skills are becoming just as important, if not more important that good handwriting, handwriting is still a valuable skill.