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?