Should my son do copywork or handwriting?

Dear Carrie

Should my son do copywork or handwriting?

I’m using Heart of Dakota’s Beyond Little Hearts for His Glory with my 7 year-old this year. His fine motor skills are slow-coming. His hand tires easily when cutting, writing, and coloring. At the end of Little Hearts for His Glory, his writing had improved a lot. However, he still struggled with the correct formation of some of his letters. He wasn’t forming all his letter correctly. I was reading a different Heart of Dakota message board thread about handwriting in kindergarten. Julie had written, “…having the strokes progressively taught goes a long way for teaching children proper manuscript. Since writing progressively moves front and center for the subsequent years of learning, one year at least of formal manuscript instruction makes more of an easy go of it for years to come.”

I’m wondering if I should just go with the copywork in Beyond Little Hearts? Or, should I use another handwriting book (like A Reason For Handwriting A) to review how to form letters and slowly ease into copywork? One of my biggest fears in homeschooling is that I will miss something, or not realize something to be important/need corrected or focused on…especially in these early years. Any thoughts? Thanks!


“Ms. Please Help My Son Improve His Handwriting”

Dear “Ms. Please Help My Son Improve His Handwriting,”

From what you’ve shared about your little honey, I would lean toward doing A Reason for Handwriting A with Beyond. Simply skip the reviews (the first 30 lessons) of all of the letters given in the beginning of the book and jump right in with the daily lessons on copying words instead. Do it daily 4-5 days a week, and you will finish about 9-12 weeks earlier than you finish Beyond. For at least the last 12-15 weeks be sure to do the poetry copywork as well in preparation for Bigger Hearts. Your sweetie will also be doing copywork of sentences in spelling in Beyond each week, along with writing spelling words daily. There is some copywork in the grammar lessons once weekly as well.

We did this handwriting path with my 3rd son back in Beyond, and he really made great gains. We finished Beyond the beginning of the next school year and then moved into Bigger Hearts. By then, he was ready to ease into more writing. Some little guys just need more time to grow in their motor skills.


Do you have a child who needs to transition to smaller handwriting?

Teaching Tip

Do you have a child who needs to transition to smaller handwriting?

My tip today deals with kiddos who are maturing manuscript or cursive sentence writers. A good handwriting goal for students in grades 2-4 is to work toward writing smaller as they write on paper.

How can you encourage your child to write smaller on lined paper?

There are a few easy ways to encourage your child in the transition to smaller handwriting. One easy way is to have your child switch from special handwriting paper with big lines to regular, wide-lined notebook paper. To aid your child in copying on wide-lined paper, draw a light dotted pencil line in the middle of each wide line. The dotted line will give your child a midpoint guide on each line for lower case letters. This simple change will help your child automatically begin to shrink his/her writing to fit in the space

How can you help your child transition to writing smaller on blank paper?

In Bigger Hearts, Preparing Hearts, and Creation to Christ children are transitioning to writing on blank paper or in blank boxes in a student notebook. You can help shrink your child’s writing by drawing 1/2″ lines in pencil in the assigned blank areas of the page. This will guide your child to write smaller to stay within the lines.

After smaller handwriting has become a habit, your child will no longer need guide lines.

Once writing smaller has become a habit for your child, you can eventually stop including guide lines. Urging your child toward smaller handwriting is easy to do with these simple tips! Give these tips a try and see what you think!


Should my children do poetry copywork if they are doing Cheerful Cursive?

Dear Carrie

If my children are doing Cheerful Cursive in Bigger Hearts, should I still have them do the poetry copywork?

We are starting Heart of Dakota‘s Bigger Hearts for His Glory on Monday. I wasn’t sure if I should have my kids do both the Cheerful Cursive and the Charlotte Mason copywork in the Poetry section. Even though we are starting cursive, their printing could still use some work. Should I do both? Or, is there enough other writing that they will still get enough printing practice? Thanks in advance for your help, and we can’t wait to start!


“Ms. Not Sure If My Children Should Do Copywork and Cursive”

Dear “Ms. Not Sure If My Children Should Do Poetry Copywork and Cursive,”

The choice of whether to do the poetry copywork in Bigger Hearts works well either way, as the poetry copywork is an optional choice if you’re currently doing Cheerful Cursive or Italic D. When we did Bigger Hearts with my second son, we did the poetry copywork in manuscript along with doing Cheerful Cursive. However, that particular son of mine loves to write. There is plenty of writing/copywork within Bigger Hearts, so if you have a child who does not love to write or is easily tired by too much writing, I wouldn’t do the poetry copywork. Instead, I would work toward fully doing the other assigned copywork in history and science and vocabulary.

What We Decided to Do with My Third Son’s Poetry Copywork and Cursive in Bigger Hearts

When my third son did Bigger Hearts for His Glory, I decided to do the poetry copywork in manuscript but wait on Cheerful Cursive. He just was not nearly ready for cursive. I based this decision on him having had some struggles with handwriting due to having surgery on the tips of his fingers on his left hand, as well as on us having to make him be a “righty” when he was obviously a “lefty”). Anyway, we added cursive for him the next homeschool year, when we came back to finish the rest of Bigger Hearts (at which point we decided not to continue with the optional poetry copywork in manuscript).

What We Decided to Do with My Fourth Son’s Poetry Copywork and Cursive in Bigger Hearts

When my fourth son did Bigger Hearts for His Glory, I chose a pace of half-speed with him. As I wanted him to continue practicing his printing but also begin learning cursive, I had him do both the poetry copywork and Cheerful Cursive. So, one day he did the poetry copywork, and the next day he did Cheerful Cursive. This way, I had him strengthening his fine motor skills by writing every day. So, there are many options to choose from, and I would choose which is best for each of your children doing Bigger Hearts based on their individual needs.



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,



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?


“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.