Monday, May 19, 2014

Homeschool Review: Cursive First

Cursive First: An Introduction to Cursive Penmanship
by Elizabeth Fitz-Gerald

We've been using Cursive First for two years now. I used it with First Son starting in third grade when he was ready to learn cursive and First Daughter began writing in cursive right from the beginning in kindergarten.

There are a lot of places online you can read about why teaching cursive first (before print writing) is better for children. Many sites claim educational benefits but there are also many schools that neglect to teach cursive at all anymore, so I think it's hard to really know the benefits or disadvantages (if any) of teaching cursive or teaching cursive before printing. I teach cursive because it's easier physically for children to write in cursive than to print, so their little hands don't get as tired. It's also easier to learn similar letters like b and d and p and q because they are written very differently in cursive. Plus, it makes your thank you notes much more beautiful.

The Teacher's Manual for Cursive First has lots of wonderful information for anyone hoping to teach someone else how to write. There are detailed instructions and lesson plans for the early lessons, when a child should be writing in the air or in a salt box, and later as writing with a pencil is introduced. The practice sheets are very basic, but that's all you really need. They are each only a half sheet of paper, which fits nicely with Charlotte Mason's methods looking for fewer letters but all of high quality. I was disappointed that some of them looked like they'd be photocopied quite a few times, but they are still functional and it's an inexpensive non-consumable resource. I also purchased the phonogram cards; it was really nice to have some in cursive.

In kindergarten and first grade, we work on one letter a day, or a single half-sheet of review. I generally ask for three perfect letters. My son, in third and fourth grades, did two practice sheets a day, but still just three perfect letters on each one. We just worked through all of the practice sheets in order. First Son has pretty much mastered the letters. He'll continue his practice during copywork and dictation next year unless I noticed particular problems. First Daughter will continue using the Cursive First practice sheets next year in second grade. Second Daughter will be just beginning!

I think the practice sheets would work far better as an e-book. It's great that they are non-consumable, but it was a little exhausting to run to the printer and copy out whatever pages we needed. I finally took an hour or so and scanned all of them into a PDF so I can print just the pages we need. I also made a full page each of the difference clock faces and the house because it just seemed easier to me that way.

At the beginning of last year, I printed whole books of the pages for First Son and First Daughter and put them in a binder. I mark the pages I want them to work on each day and when they reached the end of the book, I started them over at the beginning. Because they only wrote three or four letters each day, there was plenty of room on the practice sheets for a second or third round. Next year, when Second Daughter will be in kindergarten, I won't give her a whole book at first. Even when she starts with pencil and paper, I'll just introduce the half sheets to avoid overwhelming her.

Overall, this is a good resource for teaching cursive at any age and is reasonably priced for a family.

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