Posted by: angiefm | April 7, 2009


Someone just asked me for my experience on teaching handwriting and after I responded I thought … hmmmm … I should just blog about it!  So here goes …

Alethea was taught letter-formation when she was in school.  Problem with being in a class of 16 when you learn to write is that no one really watches how you are forming your letters.  As long as the end product is correct, no one can tell how you made it look that way!  So when we pulled her out of school at just past 4 years, there was a lot of re-training to do in this department.

Handwriting Without Tears (

The first “product” we used was Handwriting Without Tears.  This was an add-on to our Sonlight purchase.  I liked it for its simplicity and it really was “without tears”.  The progression through the letters was very systematic.  They start with uppercase (capital) letters because these are all of the same height and are therefore easier to learn.  Then move on to lowercase letters, but starting with the ones which look like the uppercase ones (C, O, S, V, W, etc).  Then they teach the rest of the lowercase letters in “families” like the “magic C” letters which start like a “c” (a, d, g), the “dive down” letters which as the name suggests starts with a line down (p, r, n, m, h, b).  We used the chalk board which was a suggested resource and Alethea really enjoyed using it. 

HWT was also great for helping Alethea with her reversals, including numbers like 2 and 3. 

BUT … I did not like the way the letters looked.  Almost every letter and number started and ended on a line, which made for really strange-looking handwriting.  Most other handwriting fonts advocate starting at “2 o’clock”, which results in a rounder looking letter. 

A Reason for Handwriting

Reason for Handwriting - Manuscript A: Manuscript Student Workbook

So once Alethea was finished learning all the letters and numbers using HWT and was ready to write sentences, we switched to A Reason for Handwriting.  She started at Level A and had to re-learn some parts of writing, learning to start her letters at 2 o’clock instead of on the line. 

Timothy started late with handwriting.  He was reading by 4, but did not start writing till he was almost 5!  By then we had a couple of years of experience under our belt and did not feel any pressure/urgency to get him started.  😀  He had no inclination, poor pen control so we felt there was no point rushing into it.  It would have just been counter-productive.

When we did start, I continued using the principles/formula behind the HWT programme to teach him, but no longer used their workbooks.  Also, because he was already very familiar with how the letters looked since he was already reading, there was no need to start with the uppercase letters, which if you think about it, is a bit strange given that we see/use/read/write many more lowercase than uppercase letters. 

We used Level K of The A Reason For Handwriting programme, which is basically just lined paper, so not that “worth it” if you ask me 🙂 but which made it much easier for me to assign work since all I needed to do was simply to tear out the next sheet each day for him to do! 

Explode the Code

Explode the Code 1 Nathalie showed an interest in writing much earlier.  When she was 3, we started using the Explode the Code programme to teach her to read.  We did this primarily because The Home Library was selling Explode the Code but we had not yet “test driven” it!  😀  So she was our guinea pig.  Since the programme also taught handwriting, we just used it for both reading and writing.  And her letters are coming along nicely, thank you.  🙂 

Now at 4 and 3 months, she is a very motivated writer and writes on her own every day.  I had earlier blogged about her writing “wus the wos a dog” for “once there was a dog”, and last week she wrote “wut dus a jraf et” for “what does a giraffe eat?”  Very amusing, this child.  🙂

Prepared Copywork

Last year, I stopped using all programmes with the two older ones and prepared my own copywork selections.  For each school week, I picked one Bible verse, one poem, one famous saying or idiom and one extract from a book we have enjoyed, and Alethea and Timothy copied from my selections onto lined paper. 

Since Tim was starting out with rather BIG handwriting, I printed out my own lines which I made using Microsoft Word and reduced the width of the lines progressively to force his letters to get smaller.  Alethea did her copywork into an exercise book we bought from Popular Bookshop.  Not the ones with the boring brown cover, since those SO remind me of my school days!  Ha ha ha.  Ours has a green cover.  Tim started copying into the same type of exercise book this year.

If someone can help me figure out how to post a pdf file on this WordPress blog site so that our readers can download it and use, I would be more than happy to post a sample of our copywork selections.  😀

Italics: Beautiful Handwriting for Children (

Recently Alethea expressed an interest in learning cursive writing.  I had heard a lot about Penny Gardner’s Italics programme since she is a proponent of the Charlotte Mason philosophy and I’m an avid follower 🙂 and thought we would give it a shot.  I ordered it online at her website (it is an 8 US dollar ebook which you can reproduce for your family’s use, so a steal if you have multiple children!) and only yesterday printed it out and bound it for Alethea to start using when Baby #4 arrives next month. 

[Note to self: I really should blog about all the things I have lined up for the children to do when baby comes.  Next blog perhaps … ]

If you would like to see what this programme looks like, check out the following videos in which Penny Gardner actually teaches through the book lesson by lesson!  I have picked one video for basic and one for cursive writing.

Online Resources

There are many online resources for handwriting.  Here are some to look up: – Donna Young is the “queen” of homeschooling forms so you’ll find lots more on this site. – This site also has worksheets for alphabets, common words, numbers etc. – This one’s a really cool site where you can type in the words you want your child to write and it will generate a worksheet for you!

Happy Writing!



  1. Hello from Pakistan!

    Guess what? I am trying out Penny Gardner’s Italics, Beautiful Handwriting for Children too! I am hoping this, coupled with the First Language Lessons I got from you will help Ms M 🙂

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