Handwriting Help! How to Transition to Writing Smaller with Proper Spacing

From Our House to Yours

How to Transition Children to Writing Smaller with Proper Spacing

Heart of Dakota plans for children to incrementally improve their handwriting. Children begin with a formal handwriting book and with short early writing practice in Storytime in Little Hearts for His Glory. Next, they move to copywork of the Bible verse and classical poetry in Beyond. Then, they add notebooking for history and science in Bigger Hearts. They also begin to use wide-lined notebook paper for dictation and grammar. With each of our sons, I found it helpful to teach them how to transition to writing smaller with proper spacing. As I happened to take pictures of Riley’s handwriting progression, I’ll share his handwriting transition in this blog post.

A Jumble of Lines

When Riley began writing, he looked at the lines like they were all just one big jumble of lines. I helped him by hi-lighting the top and bottom of the lines yellow. I told him these lines were like “stop signs,” and he had to put on the brakes when he got to them. I’d sit by him and make ‘putting on the brakes noises’ as he neared the lines like, “Errrrrrrrr – stop!”  He’d laugh and stop. We talked about the dotted line being a stopping place as well. He had trouble remembering spaces too, so we colored those with pink hi-lighting. I told him he had to put a finger’s width between letters (when copying single letters) and between words when he started writing sentences. Eventually, he just needed the pink spacing. Here are some pictures of the hi-lighting that helped Riley so much:

 

A Transition to Handwritten Lines Without Dotted Lines

After awhile, like when he began the copywork of the Bible verse or the poem in Beyond, we actually used blank copy paper or a blank index card. I drew lines with a ruler quite far apart. I did this because it was actually too time consuming for him at that point to use handwriting paper with the dotted line. It took him forever, and he was ready to write smaller, but not yet able to write on wide-lined notebook paper. At this point, his writing looked like this:

A Transition to Wide-Lined Notebook Paper

After that, Riley made the transition to wide-lined notebook paper. It helped for me to write the beginning word of each line for the poem. This helped him see the size of the writing I wanted him to try to mimic. I also had Riley skip lines, as this spacing makes it easier to write, to fix errors, and to read aloud. Below, you can see his Unit 15 Beyond Little Heart’s poetry copywork of “The Cow.” Then, underneath you can see his transition to writing on wide-lined notebook paper more on his own in Unit 30 Beyond Little Heart’s poetry “Written in March.”

The Transition to Writing Well Both in Blank Spaces and on Wide-Lined Notebook Paper

With these few handwriting helps, Riley was able to transition into writing  well both in blank spaces and on wide-lined notebook paper. Below, you can see a sample of the wide-lined composition notebook he used for his dictation. You can also see how I still began Bigger Hearts first notebooking page by drawing lines for him. I did this so he could visualize the overall notebook assignment, as well as set aside space for his drawing portion of the assignment.  This was prior to Carrie creating new and lovely notebooking pages, but this tip can still work as a transition to writing within the defined space of the new notebook’s boxes.

 

In Closing

In closing, it really is amazing how children’s writing continues to improve over time with some guidance. I agree that letter formation is first and foremost, but once they have that down, the steps above helped all of our sons become neat, confident writers – with some patience on my end (not always a natural virtue of mine). I hope this helps as you assist your child in making the transition to writing smaller with proper spacing!

In Christ,
Julie

 

 

How can I help my daughter improve her illegible handwriting?

Dear Carrie

How can I help my daughter improve her illegible handwriting?

We are finishing Heart of Dakota’s Preparing Hearts for His Glory now. My daughter’s handwriting is horrible. She does not care about how it looks. Seriously, she writes so badly that you can’t read 1/3 of what she writes. Doing cursive on unlined paper is hard for her. Even doing the notebook pages on lined paper in the manual, it looks disgusting. I need something to get her to write neater. I’m thinking of getting another handwriting workbook for her to do over the summer. I guess I am just frustrated with her. How can I help my daughter improve her illegible handwriting?

Sincerely,

“Ms. Please Help My Daughter Improve Her Illegible Handwriting”

Dear “Ms. Please Help My Daughter Improve Her Illegible Handwriting,”

Your question struck a chord with me. So many kiddos struggle with exactly what you are mentioning with your own daughter. All kiddos have their weak areas. It is sounding like your little honey’s weak area is handwriting. One thing to ponder is that Charlotte Mason would say that neat handwriting is a habit, which needs to be worked on as all habits are, carefully and consistently one step at a time. With most kiddos who have poor handwriting, it’s important to note that as the volume of writing increases, handwriting that used to be passable at best become illegible at worst.

It will be most important to address her handwriting habits.

While it is a good idea to work on handwriting in short time increments over the summer, it will be more important to address the habits she’s formed with her handwriting during the school year. Likely, you should see some improvement in this area in the summer simply because it is one of the few or only subjects your child is working on, and she is probably doing very little work requiring handwriting during the rest of her day. However, during the school year it’s important to really weigh how poor the handwriting is and whether it is bordering or moving toward the illegible.

If her handwriting is illegible, I would have her do less, better.

If her handwriting truly is illegible, I would begin first by cutting back the amount she is writing (meaning you would neatly write the beginning part of the assignment for her), and then she would finish the last portion neatly. Charlotte Mason would say that a little done neatly is better than volumes done carelessly. Whatever is not done neatly would need to be redone. When a child isn’t writing as much, it is easier to have him or her redo what is done carelessly. Then, the habit of doing written work carefully can truly be honed.

Retraining of this habit will help her handwriting improve.

As your daughter improves in this area, she could take over more and more of the handwriting assignments herself. While this likely will feel like a backward step, it honestly is the retraining of a bad habit that has been allowed to form. I know this because I had it with my own son, prior to reading more deeply about Charlotte Mason. I did not go as far back as expecting perfection from him (and had I been more willing to devote more time to the retraining of this habit I should have), but I did lessen the amount he wrote and did require him to redo as needed. This helped my son immensely, and his quality finally improved.

Writing in a workbook is a crutch that doesn’t improve daily writing.

Honestly, continuing to write in a workbook is a crutch that will not improve written work in the day-to-day writing. Kiddos can perform it on the workbook page, and then continue their messy habits in all of their other written work. These are just my thoughts, after years of using workbooks for handwriting with my son and seeing little improvement.

Diligently working on handwriting overall as a habit in all areas of written work bit by bit makes the most impact.

Diligently working on handwriting overall as a habit in all areas of written work bit by bit made the most difference at our house. Also, if you feel that your child functions better with lines, you can easily assign your child to write on lined paper for the notebooking assignments. Then, she can cut that portion out and glue it on her notebook page. We did this in my public school teaching days all of the time. It makes each notebooking page customizable to fit exactly what the assignment requires.

Blessings,
Carrie

Is something wrong with my son’s handwriting, or is this normal?

Dear Carrie

Question:  Is something wrong with my son’s handwriting/penmanship, or is this normal?

My 6 ½ year old son is doing A Reason for Handwriting A with LHFHG (1st grade) with Heart of Dakota. He is loving it!  His penmanship is pretty good. We got him a “claw” to help with his pencil grip. It still seems like he is holding the pencil a little tight, though. I am trying to turn his paper a little more each day (to match his arm).  But, I don’t know that I am actually achieving anything. It seems like his body & arm just move further around.

His grip is a little tight, and his hand hurts sometimes.

All that to say, that he doesn’t like handwriting. He will do the work, but he says it hurts his hand. I’ve limited his writing as long has he tries to do his best. Is his hand hurting normal? Does he just need to build up stamina? He doesn’t crook his wrist particularly, but it does seem like he likes to write with his wrist turned up on the side. When I write, my wrist is more flat down on the paper with my fingers out in front.

I’m not sure if there is something actually wrong or not!

I’m not sure where to go from here. I want to do something about it if there is something actually wrong, but I’m not sure that there is. He is going to need writing stamina if he is going to do dictations in a couple of years, right? So, does this mean I should take him to an occupational therapist? Please help! Thanks in advance!

Sincerely,

“Please Tell Me If My Son’s Handwriting Is a Problem or Not”

Dear “Please Tell Me If My Son’s Handwriting Is a Problem or Not,”

Answer:  At age 6, it is not uncommon to have a pretty tight grip on the pencil and to have an incorrect grip. Honestly, in my years of teaching (by the time the kiddos reached third grade) at last half of the class had an incorrect grip. In fact, I have an incorrect grip myself, yet my penmanship was and is always fine. If you poll those at your own house to see who holds his/her pencil correctly, you will likely see about the same ratio as what I saw each each year in my classroom!

Here are a few thoughts that may help!

I share this to let you know that you are very blessed to have a child whose penmanship is as good as your little honey’s writing looks. (Thanks for the picture!) From my perspective, I would definitely get rid of the claw, as it can be tiring and confining to kiddos when they write. Next, I would simply work toward having your son try to point the top of his pencil eraser toward his body, rather than away from his body as he writes. He can achieve this by drawing his elbow toward his body, which will tilt the pencil toward him a bit more. This will encourage a more traditional hold. I wouldn’t focus on the grip continually though, but rather praise his writing, giving gentle hints to pull in his elbow just a bit toward his side as he writes.

Your son’s handwriting development is normal!

Good news – your son’s handwriting is progressing just as it should! So when he writes, just make sure not to get him thinking that he has a problem area here. When he is building stamina in writing, this is all just a normal part of the writing process. His handwriting is beautiful! Keep up the good work of teaching your son to write!

Blessings,

Carrie

P.S. For pictures showing writing progression, click here!