The Weekly Sam: The Benefits of Cursive Writing by Sam Blumenfeld


The teaching of handwriting has a low priority among educators these days. They believe
that handwriting is passe and that in the future everyone will be using word processors to
do their writing. But have you noticed how easy it is to make errors when writing an email?
Parents can be quite confused by the subject of handwriting. So whenever I lecture at a
homeschool convention, I always ask by a show of hands if parents think
that handwriting should be  taught. Usually the response is unanimously positive.
So you agree that teaching your child to write is an important part of your homeschooIing
curriculum.  The next question I raise is: If you believe that handwriting should be formally
taught. do you believe that your child should be taught manuscript- also known as ‘ball and-stick’
– first or cursive first?- Most parents assume that ball-and-stick should precede
cursive, because that’s the way they were taught in school. Besides, it is supposed to be
easier that way.

But then I tell them that when I was in primary school in the 1930s, like their grandparents,
we were all taught cursive handwriting, or what was then known as “penmanship,” using
pens dipped in real ink. That was before ballpoint pens were invented. We were actually
taught in the first grade that there was a correct way to hold a pen so that we would be
able write with ease and facility without tiring. Thus, in those ancient days, an important
part of the primary curriculum was the development of good handwriting, and we were
given plenty of time to make that possible.

This surprises most parents who assume that print script always preceded cursive writing.
But when I tell them otherwise, I then have to explain why cursive should precede print
script and not vice versa.

If you teach a child to print for the first two years, that child develops writing habits that will
become permanent. Thus when you try to get your child to switch to cursive in the third
grade, you will find resistance to learning a whole new way of writing. That child may
rontinue to print for the rest of his or her life. Some children develop a hybrid handwriting
consisting of a mixture of both print and cursive. That seems to have become the dominant
form of writing in America. And there are those children who develop a good cursive
handwrtting because they’ve always wanted to and practiced it secretly on the side.
Thus, experience dearly indicates that if you teach ball-and-stick first, your child may never
develop a decent cursive handwriting, while if you teach cursive first, your child can always
learn to print very nicely later on. In other words, cursive first and print later makes good
developmental sense.

An important and frequently overlooked benefit is that cursive helps a child learn to read.
With ball-and-stick it is very easy to confuse b’s and d’s. But with cursive, a b starts like an
I, and a d starts like an a. The distinction that children make in writing the letters in cursive
carries over to the reading process. In addition, in writing print script,. the letter ‘S’ may be all
over the page, sometimes written from left to right and from right to left. In cursive, where
all of the letters connect. the child learns displine. This helps in learning to
spell, for how the letters join with one another creates habits of hand movement that
automatically aid the spelling process.

Of course, your child should also be taught to print. That can easily be done after your child
has developed a good cursive handwriting. Another important benefit of cursive first is if
your child is left-handed. A right-handed individual tilts the paper counter-clockwise in order
to give one’s handwriting the proper slant. With the left-handed child, the paper must be
tilted in an extreme clockwise position so that the child can write from the bottom up. If the
paper is not tilted cIockwise, the left-handed child may want to use the hook. form of
writing. This usually happens when the child is taught ball-and-stick first with the paper in a
straight up position.

If you consider good handwriting or fine penmanship a desired outcome of your home
teaching, then you must teach cursive first. There are a number of good cursive programs
available on the market. The Abeka program from Pensacrna Christian College is probably
one of the best  available..

I am often asked if Italic is a good way of teaching a child to write. Italic script is more in
the dass of calligraphy than handwriting, and therefore takes longer to learn and requires
more skill than a standard cursive handwriting. So, simply learn this simple principle:
cursive first. print later.

Here is a link to the original article in PDF format:


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