Is looking at your son’s homework making you dizzy? Are you trying to detect how a second grader, in the spring, still isn’t spacing his words correctly? Are you wondering why your child’s teacher keeps marking things wrong when your child swears they’re right?
Chances are pretty good that the problem is handwriting. With computers taking over so much of education, handwriting is taking a backseat, often far, far back on the big yellow school bus. In fact, in 2011, Slatest reported that Indiana became the first state to drop the cursive writing requirement. Other states, including Hawaii followed suit. How many other states will also remove the requirement for students to learn cursive? That’s unknown. But with Common Core standards taking over adopted public school curricula, teachers are finding less time and space in their day to teach basic handwriting skills.
Which leaves some students, and their parents, in a scribble. Without an emphasis on somewhat neat handwriting, students aren’t being taught to take pride in the work they show. Today, as my son completed a school project, we discussed taking pride in work and making a poster attractive (as well as legible.) “It’s not just there for you to read,” I explained. “It’s there for your friends and teachers to read. If it’s messy, what does that say about you?”
My son is in third grade. He’s a strong student and enjoys focusing on reading, writing, science and social studies. He has state tests next week and, midway through the school year, it was announced that they would not be offered on the computer as the state was not ready to implement the keyboard test.
Uh-oh, I thought. How will the test reader, who doesn’t know him, decipher his chicken scratch on his essays?
I asked his teacher for advice–how is the school helping kids to improve their handwriting and writing skills? And how can I work with the school to help in this area?
Well… they aren’t. Not really. Each child has a handwriting book, but it’s rarely used. At the same time I learned this, my son admitted to me that not only can he not write cursive, but he has a hard time reading cursive. It takes him longer to decipher, especially when it’s not perfectly written.
That made sense. He never actually learned to write in cursive, not really. Not on a regular basis that’s integrated into his daily expectations. So how should he be expected to read quick cursive?
I spend the majority of my working hours running my fingers along a keyboard. My handwriting’s importance has waned in favor of faster keyboarding skills because I use the keyboard far more than the pencil. But I took note, today, how often I still pick up a pen or pencil. I write babysitter instructions, grocery lists, things to do lists, phone messages, my daily work-related goals … and all of these lists usually need to be read by someone else. Most of my notes are written in a mix of cursive and script that has become my “signature style.”
Where would I be if my schools didn’t stress the importance of handwriting skills? Where will our kids be in 10 years? Sure, there will always be the children who see handwriting as an art, but if we stress that everyone will use the keyboard, will the majority of our children and grandchildren know how to read our cursive? Will they respond to our handwritten notes?
Should keyboarding push cursive out of the curriculum? The Common Core Standards don’t list handwriting (cursive or print) at all, however they do state that in grades K and 1 basic legible print should be expected. But after that? It’s up to the state or the school system’s adoption and adaptation of the standards to determine handwriting expectations. Universal Publishing tells us that Massachusetts includes cursive in their standards and lists legible handwriting as a requirement in fourth grade. California includes manuscript in second grade and the teaching of cursive in grades three and four.
What do you think? Should legible, clear handwriting be an expectation for Generation Z (or M or M2) or can that be tossed out with Home Ec and Industrial Arts?