Tuesday, June 19, 2007

"New" Handwriting Programs

My first narration of a breakout session from the conference will take another day or two, so I will share something interesting I read today on the Ambleside Online email list.

When I first began homeschooling, an occupational therapist, Nancy Kashman, gave me a copy of Handwriting without Tears, which turned out to be a great handwriting program for Pamela. Jan Olsen, also an occupational therapist and handwriting specialist, developed this style to allow children with fine motor delays to write with simpler letters and strokes. We were discussing this "new" handwriting program in our day, when a listmate recalled to our mind that Charlotte had discussed a "new" handwriting program in her day:
A 'New Handwriting.'--Some years ago I heard of a lady who was elaborating, by means of the study of old Italian and other manuscripts, a 'system of beautiful handwriting' which could be taught to children. I waited patiently, though not without some urgency, for the production of this new kind of 'copy-book.' The need for such an effort was very great, for the distinctly commonplace writing taught from existing copy-books, however painstaking and legible, cannot but have a rather vulgarising effect both on the writer and the reader of such manuscript. At last the lady, Mrs Robert Bridges, has succeeded in her tedious and difficult undertaking, and this book for teachers will enable them to teach their pupils a style of writing which is pleasant to acquire because it is beautiful to behold. It is surprising how quickly young children, even those already confirmed in 'ugly' writing, take to this 'new handwriting.'" (pages 235-236 of Volume 1)
The parallels between a "new" handwriting program in our day to that of Charlotte's day are just amazing:
* Both have vertical lines.
* Both teach letters in an order based upon the strokes needed.
* Both start with what they considered to be the simplest strokes first.
* Both reduced the number of ornamental flourishes a letter had in comparison to other styles of the day.

Moreover, on pages 233 through 235 of Volume 1, Charlotte herself gave tips for teaching handwriting very similar to those used by Jan Olsen in her program, backed by modern research!
* "Let the writing lesson be short; it should not last more than five or ten minutes."
* "First, let him print the simplest of the capital letters with single curves and straight lines."
* "When he can make the capitals and large letters, with some firmness and decision, he might go on to the smaller letters––'printed' as in the type we call 'italics,' only upright,––as simple as possible, and large."
* "By-and-by copies, three or four of the letters they have learned grouped into a word––'man,' 'aunt'."
* "At this stage the chalk and blackboard are better than pen and paper."
* "Set good copies before him, and see that he imitates his model dutifully."
* "Do not hurry the child into 'small hand'; it is unnecessary that he should labour much over what is called 'large hand,' but 'text-hand,' the medium size, should be continued until he makes the letters with ease."

Compare Charlotte's advice to what Jan Olsen describes as advantages to her program and you will conclude what wonderful powers of observation Charlotte had: workbook design, teaching strategies, teaching method, time management, and research.


Niffercoo said...

That's absolutely amazing! Reading CMs comments about the 'new' handwriting program, it really does sound like she's talking about HWT! :)

I am still very sold on HWT, for any child. I'm taking Reece formall into writing this summer, taking her to writing on lines for the first time. It's amazing how nicely she is transitioning from the slate and chalk to the gray blocks in the workbook! It really works!

Charlotte Mason was ahead of her time! It's a shame that modern-day educators in training aren't taught anything about her. I know I didn't even hear her name until I became a homeschooler, and I took 3 courses in college on the history of education!


The Glasers said...

I think she was a very observant person and willing to try different ideas until she hit something the worked well for many children. I used HWT for both of my children (print and cursive) and would not change that decision!

The good news is that private schools are starting to incorporate her methods and a good number of attendees at the conference were teachers. How wonderful it would be if her philosophy began seeping into public schools, too!

I googled "Charlotte Mason" and "private school" and here is smattering of schools influenced by her philosophy:
Agape Corner Boarding School
Ambleside Schools International
Ambleside School of Fredericksburg
Ambleside of Ocala
Arborbrook Christian Academy
Cambridge School Chicago
ChildLight Schools
Crosspointe Christian Academy
Crossroads Christian School
Perimeter Christian School
East Cobb Christian School
Intown Community School
Oakbrook Preparatory School
Parkview Christian School
Perimeter School
Red Mountain Community School
Redeemer School
The Village School

Sonya said...

There is also Plumfield Academy, which I learned about recently.

KateGladstone said...

As a handwriting instruction/remediation specialist, I would like to make you aware of several modern-day programs that come even closer to Charlotte Mason's suggestions than the program you mentioned.

Please have a look at the following programs:

Briem Writing -- free on-line course at http://tinyurl.com/BriemCourse
and also the downloadable practice set at http://tinyurl.com/BriemPractice
(downloads as a ZIP file that you click to open)

Getty-Dubay Writing --
www.cep.pdx.edu/hdc07samplepages.shtml - click the sample-pages starting with those for "Book A"

Barchowsky Fluent Handwriting -- http://www.BFHhandwriting.com

Left Hand Writing Skills (designed specially for left-handers) -- link on the lefty resources page at http://www.HandwritingRepair.info/LeftyLinks.html

and other handwriting resources listed throughout http://www.HandwritingThatWorks.com

After you see these, tell me what you think!

Kate Gladstone
self-remediated FORMER rotten handwriter -- now handwriting instruction/remediation specialist

KateGladstone said...

To see for yourself the handwriting program that Charlotte Mason talked about, you can look at sample pages at
and then download the entire book at http://www.destinationhome.net/Mrs__Bridges_Handwriting.pdf

It looks a lot simpler than HWTears cursive.

KateGladstone said...

Somehow, the links I gave you (for the handwriting book that Charlotte Mason recommended) both got chopped to pieces halfway through.

To enable all interested people to see for themselves (and use, if they like) the handwriting book that Charlotte Mason recommended, you can find the same material at two other links:

/1/ Material quoted from/about the book (including some sample pages) --

/2/ The book itself (downloads as a PDF) --