Unapologetically Mom

Unpolished Parenting from a Straightforward Mom

4 Reasons to Teach Cursive When We're Surrounded by Computers

 

Whether or not children should be taught to write in cursive has become a hot debate topic in the last several years. Public schools have primarily done away with teaching it, as well as many private schools.  So why are so many parents pushing this issue in today’s world of computers and smartphones?

When I first began homeschooling my daughter in kindergarten, I knew I was NOT going to teach her cursive.  The curriculum I ordered was written with the assumption that you would teach cursive first. If you wanted manuscript writing work, you would have to order it separate from the basic curriculum.  I ordered it.  We live in the computer age and I type everything anyway.  I figured she should need typing lessons before we would ever consider something as useless as cursive.

Halfway through the year, though, my daughter asked if she could try writing the letters that she saw in my teacher’s manual.  That really shocked me.  Handwriting practice was one of her most frustrating tasks.  She would cry, fight, or argue every time I handed her a worksheet to complete.  Then suddenly she showed an interest in writing!  Well, I wasn’t about to argue with that.   So I searched the internet for cursive worksheets and came across some that worked for her.  I started giving them to her the next day and the results were immediate.  We went from constant complaining to her carefully practicing the letters.

I won’t mislead you: there were still days when we had to fight to get through handwriting, but no more than any other subject.  My daughter’s handwriting improved much faster after that.  I was shocked that just changing the type of letter she was copying would make such a difference in both her writing skill and her ability to focus on the task.  So I began to do a bit of research into cursive writing and was impressed by what I found.  

 

There are so many positive reasons to learn cursive.  Here are four reasons I decided to continue teaching cursive.

 

1.  When you write things down, you are more likely to remember them.  I remember my mom telling me this so many times as a child.  I thought she was just nagging, but, as usual, she was right.  Cursive or a combination of cursive and print makes for smoother, and thus faster writing, so taking notes and completing work can be done faster and more easily committed to memory.

We really saw the effect of this earlier this year.  After trying many ways to convince my daughter that she does need to know how to spell, I decided to try letting her practice her spelling words using an online video game service.  When I added the games to her normal spelling work, her grades improved and she seemed to have an easier time learning her words.  So I decided to just make her write her spelling words once and the rest of her practice could be in video game form.

Much to my surprise, her grades started to decline.  She would become frustrated and had more trouble remembering what had studied.  After a few lower test scores, I told her that we would try writing the words every day and just use the games as extra practice.  Wanting to see her scores improve, she agreed and the very first week, her spelling test was almost perfect.  She was so pleased with the result that she no longer argues the value of writing things down.

Science has proven that notes taken by hand as opposed to being typed are better remembered.  In three studies done by Mueller and Oppenheimer, they found that students who took notes by hand performed better when answering conceptual questions than those who took notes on a laptop because they were able to process the information and rewrite it in their own words.

2.  I want my children to be able to read cursive.  From old letters to historical documents, being able to read what has been written in the past is very important.  One person made the point to me that we don’t need to worry about reading cursive on old documents because it is all on the internet.  I do wonder, though, if anyone would notice any changes made to those documents online.  If all we have is the transcribed information on a platform that can be edited at will, should we give up the ability to examine that information for ourselves in its original form?  

We could say the same about the study of Latin or Hebrew or Greek.  Why should anyone bother learning an antiquated language when we can just read what someone else put on the internet.  And yet we still have scholars who spend their energy learning these languages so that we can have accurate translations of history.

3.  Cursive is a form of art. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no calligrapher and I don’t teach the really frilly cursive.  I have
noticed, though, as my daughter matures, the simple cursive that I taught her matures as well and is developing into her own unique hand.  I still encourage handwriting practice, but she has been writing long enough that I don’t enforce it regularly.  From time to time she will add an extra curl to a letter or extend the tail at the end of a word more dramatically.  She feels proud when she does it, and I try to compliment her whenever I see it.  

I have heard it argued that most adults don’t use the cursive they learned as children, so why should we bother teaching it to our own?  Truthfully, many adults don’t use either print or cursive alone.  Many, including myself, use a mixed style of letters that make for smoother and faster writing.  Teaching how letters can be connected smoothly makes for easier note taking, and allows each person to develop their own personal script.

4.  Writing in cursive utilizes a different part of the brain than manuscript writing.  It has even been found that people who suffer a brain injury can forget one type of writing but will still remember the other.  And though I don’t think we should teach it in a case of future brain damage, it is good to use more areas of the brain while learning.  This is the same reason that different methods for solving a math problem are introduced; the reason that we ask children to not only write spelling words but say them and practice them in games.  The more ways we use our senses to learn, the better our minds will retain the information.

 

As parents, we are charged with providing our children the best education possible.  Whether we homeschool, send our children to public schools, or private schools, we should consider the many benefits of teaching cursive.  We shouldn’t try to phase it out as an antiquated form of writing, but encourage our children to study it as a tool for learning, an art form, and a window into our history.

 

Leave me a comment below and let me know your thoughts.  Do you encourage cursive writing or should it be phased out in favor of the keyboard?




An Introvert's Guide to Parenting an Extrovert


Introverts Guide

Too many mothers secretly feel ashamed when they look at their children and instead of feeling joy, they just feel smothered.  Being an introverted parent can be tough, especially if you don’t take the time to recharge mentally because of the guilt you feel.  Well, I’m here to tell you: it’s okay to want to be away from your children occasionally.  There is nothing wrong with you, and you are not a bad mother for needing your own time.

A distinct childhood memory always comes to mind when I start to feel overwhelmed.  My little brother and I were playing and having a blast, and yeah... we were probably terrorizing my mother.  But then we couldn’t find her.  I remember looking everywhere, my Dad telling us to leave her alone, until I finally found her huddled on her closet floor, crying.  When I asked her what she was doing, she told me that she needed time alone to pray.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not sharing this to say anything against my Mom.  She was and still is amazing, and there are few women who are as strong and wise.  She was a strong mother who had a moment of overwhelming frustration, and did the only thing she could to deal with it at the time, she let our dad watch us and found the only peaceful spot in the house.  As a child, I didn’t understand.  Why was she crying? Why was she hiding?  

 

crying woman Now that I am the mother and have my own rambunctious daughter, I often feel overwhelmed.  My oldest child is an extrovert to the extreme, and the stress it causes this introverted mama can be staggering.  There have been days where I want to do nothing more than hide in my own closet and have a good cry.  I feel so conscious-stricken when I want to get away from my own child.  I sometimes wonder, did my mom feel this way?  Did she feel that she would be                                                                                                   a bad mother if she wasn’t giving us her everything, at                                                                                                     every moment?  

I hope someone was there to tell her that it was okay.  I hope someone let her know that taking time for yourself doesn’t mean you are taking away from your children.  I hope someone hugged her and encouraged her the way she has comforted me when I felt like a failure over the last few years.

 

There are things that the introverted parent can do to help mold a more peaceful home, and hopefully relieve some of the stress that comes with having an extroverted child.  

First, please realize that it’s perfectly fine to let your child play on their own, and once they’re old enough, be alone.  Now, you shouldn’t expect them to stay silent during that time; singing, telling themselves a story, or just playing with toys are all things they can do alone or with siblings.  These little breaks can give you a moment to breathe, fix a cup of tea (and maybe drink it), or just zone out for a few minutes.

Alternately, you can establish a “quiet time” routine at home.  Too often we try to fill our children’s days with activities, games, and noisy toys.  While all these things are good and can be enjoyable, they can become an almost physical atmosphere of noise. Having a short time each day where those toys are put away or turned off can be just the relief you need to get through the rest of the day. For my family, this time currently falls during the baby’s nap time, but just find any time that works in your home.

 

calendarNext, look over your calendar and examine the commitments that you’ve made.  As mothers, we can often find ourselves volunteering for everything.  Angel costumes for the church pageant?  No problem. PTA, playdates, homeschool group planning committee, women's meeting at church, block party organizer... we never stop!  It may be time to cut back on your responsibilities.  I’m not saying that you should take the ax to your whole schedule and lock yourself in the house.  But decide what is a real priority to you and what someone else could do.  

One thing I do when I need some time alone is ask my husband to take our oldest daughter to her Girl Scout meeting.  I love being involved with her troop and sharing that experience with her, but I’ve found that using those few hours to recharge can make all the difference in my mood and attitude for the next few days.

One common mistake for introverts is when we try to change our little extroverts.  I know I’ve heard myself say, “can’t you just sit quietly”, “you don’t have to tell me every detail”, “I saw it, I don’t need you to explain it to me”.  Not my most shining of motherly moments.  We need to understand that sitting quietly is unlikely to happen.  Forcing a child to be completely silent or still will probably result in groaning, whining, and crying fits of frustration.  That is about as far from the desired result as possible.  So be careful not to stress silence and think of quiet time as just the time for calm.  

Even now, while I write this during our “quiet time”, I’m being asked how disco balls make things shiny and why are they on a string and how strong is that string?  I just keep reminding my daughter that it’s quiet time, and mommy is working, so she will have to ask me those questions later.

 

handsFor mothers with infants, I want to make a special point.  Babies are demanding to anyone, introvert or not.  During the early months, where sleep is something we rarely participate in, finding time alone to refresh ourselves is almost impossible.  This is a time when the guilt of wanting a break from your baby can really crash down on you.  You have this helpless creature, and you are her main source of food, comfort, hygiene, and even gas relief, and you wonder if you’re strong enough for this.  And some moments, you’re not.  And that is okay.

Please, don’t be afraid to put your baby down, pass them off to a spouse, grandma, or trusted friend.  When your mind feels like it is going to shatter, you won't be able to give your all to your little one. There is no shame is letting your little one cry in someone else’s arms for a while. Grab a shower, nap, read a chapter of that book you keep telling yourself you’ll get to, whatever will relax you.  And when you come back, you will feel refreshed and your baby will be better off for it.

If you find that your anxiety doesn’t ease, and you think things should be getting better, talk to your doctor about your feelings.  Your doctor may be able to offer advice or refer you to a counselor for postpartum anxiety.

 

Needing time away from your children does not make you a bad parent.  You need that time to relax and gather yourself mentally.  As mother’s, we are depended on so much.  It’s our job to anticipate each person’s needs and wants.  It’s easy to get caught up in trying to push through the day.  But if each day ends with you fighting tears, desperately wishing for that closet floor, then it is for you and your family’s best interest that you take those moments to recharge.

So take that hour, let Dad do bath and bedtime with the children tonight. Heat up that tea for the 8th time or even splurge for a fresh cup and actually drink it! Recharge your mind so you will be ready to jump into whatever tomorrow has in store.


Leave a comment and let me know what recharges you when life is stressful.  I would love to hear what works for you!

10 Tips to Encourage Your Reluctant Reader to Read for Fun

 

Few things are more frustrating for parents than trying to encourage their children to read when when they show little interest. Watching a movie or playing a video game is often a much more appealing form of entertainment.  Educators and parents alike know that children with good reading habits often do better in school and as adults.  But in a world full of digital media at their fingertips, what can we as parents do to develop our kids into willing readers?

As a person who loves to read, I always imagined that my daughter would automatically love books and reading as much as I do.  I envisioned us curled up on the couch together, wrapped up in fuzzy afghans, engrossed in our own books just like I did with my mom.  But that didn’t happen.  My daughter doesn’t mind a good story, but getting her to take the time to sit through more than half a page was a constant battle.  She would read whatever she had to for school, but reading for fun, as she would say, just isn’t her thing.

Though sometimes I feel discouraged in my crusade for a willing, even excited reader, I refuse to throw in the towel.  It’s all worth it, though, for the few times I hear, “just one more page, Mom.”

Here are 10 helpful tips to encourage your child to read for fun:

 

  1. Choose a book in which the topic or story particularly interests your child, even if it seems silly or mind-numbing to you.  If she has a favorite tv show, perhaps a comic or novel based on the show would grab their interest.
  2. Choose a book to read together.  This could be a chapter book, or just a story.  Read to them, or takes turns reading with them.  Give a shot at making voices for the characters and don’t be afraid to really read with expression.  Even if you feel silly, if your children enjoys the experience, they are more likely to be happy repeating it.
  3. Listen to an audio-book.  Encourage your child to follow along in their own copy with the narrator, or even just put the book on while she is doing chores or during quiet time.  There are many websites you can download audio-books from, but I suggest checking out your local library.  Many libraries have a good collection of books on CD, or even free downloadable audio-books on their websites.
  4. Let your kids see YOU read.  This is one of the most crucial points I can stress. Children learn by example, and if you don’t have time to crack open a book, why should they?
  5. Determine a set amount of time for reading each day.  Start with an amount of time you know will work for your child; 5 minutes every day or 10 minutes every other day.  Start with something short and adjust to what works best for your child.  Eventually a 20 minute reading time will fly by.
  6. Take regular trips to your local library.  Encourage your kids to talk to the librarians and tell them about what they want to read.  The librarian may know just where to direct you to find something that will grab their interest.  You can also browse the library online and reserve a book.  Just as exciting as getting a package in the mail, picking up that book they have been anticipating is not just a good excuse to go to the library, but it can make the trip something to really look forward to.
  7. Have a movie night! Wait, a movie? You’re trying to get them to read not watch more TV.  But hear me out.  Schedule a movie night based on the book they are reading.  Once they finish the book, watching the movie together is a fun way to wrap up their experience.  Make a night of it, popcorn and all.  And when the movie is over (if they can wait that long), talk about the differences between the book and the movie, and which version was more enjoyable.
  8. Read more than one book at a time.  It’s okay to let them read one book as schoolwork, another during their quiet reading time, and another as a family read-aloud or audio-book.  More stories are just more fuel for the imagination and will spark their interest in finishing each story.
  9. Offer a long term incentive.  Many schools participate in the Book It! Program, which offers prizes for a certain amount of books read.  This is a great way to encourage a bit of extra reading.  Book It! has a program for homeschooling families as well.  An alternative option is to have a reading log to keep track of each    book they have completed.  When the log is full, or when your child reaches a certain number of books read, they earn a prize.  Offer different options such as going out for pizza or to the arcade, skating, or bowling; as long as they feel it is worth the time they have invested in it, a bit of bribery motivation goes a long way.
  10. Encourage your child to read to someone who cannot.  This could be a younger sibling, an elderly person, or even a calm family pet. Some children just need someone who will listen to them without commenting when they mispronounce a word or talk over them if they stutter.  This is a great way to build their confidence in reading.

 

It goes without saying, of course, that along with these suggestions, we as parents need to make sure to praise our kid’s accomplishments.  If your son can only sit still for five minutes to read, let him know you appreciate his efforts.  We don’t have to rain candy and presents on our kids for every little thing, but when a goal, even a small one, is achieved, make sure to acknowledge it.

We all want our children to be well-developed readers who grow to be well-read adults. Whether your goal is to curl up on the couch together with your books, or just the knowledge that their mind is growing as strong as their body, I know with a bit of diligence you will reach your goal.  

What are some tricks that you have used to encourage reading in your home?