September 2nd, 2011 by

My take on Handwriting Without Tears

Let me preface this by saying we’ve been using the program for a grand total of two days now, so I am subject to change my mind on this at a later time. But I don’t think I will: everything I’ve seen thus far with our new Handwriting Without Tears workbooks has me excited. I did some research over the summer (but mostly I lounged around the house in the a/c), and I knew this particular line of books existed, but I had never paid much attention. Everything I’d heard from friends touted its greatness, but I personally like to see and feel my books in a store before making a purchase, so if Wal-Mart or Books A Million didn’t carry it, I didn’t own it.

I was thoroughly impressed with the HWT website; they seem to have included just about everything: samples, PDFs of actual pages, research, lots of reasons to use their curriculum because of their unique approach, and even access to free online tools. If nothing else, they have a slick marketing team. I bit the bullet and purchased two of the Printing Power workbooks suggested for grade 2 and one copy of Letters and Numbers for Me suggested for the kindergarten set. My older kids need serious work on their neatness skills, especially Alexei, and HWT’s 3rd grade book is in cursive; I chose the print version to get back to the basics, and since the HWT approach uses an entirely different line setup than they’re used to. I was extremely pleased that the Printing Power books do not state a grade level anywhere on them; no 5th grader wants to think he’s working in a 2nd grade book.

The books themselves are very clean and uncluttered. The pages have simple, attractive black and white illustrations, and the Printing Power books work in a lot of practical grammar without being obvious about it. There are even games and puzzles within the book, not something you typically find in a handwriting series. Alexei absolutely despises handwriting practice and has always put forth as little effort as humanly possible into it, but this book even has him making an attempt at neatness. There is hope for him yet! The price is also very reasonable, it does run higher than the handwriting books readily available at the store, but at $7.50 each it feels like a worthwhile splurge.

The kindergarten book Letters and Numbers for Me has a really unique approach to learning the formation of letters with a method they label, “Wet, dry, try.” On the advice of another homeschool friend (hi Tami!), we went ahead and purchased the small slate board, and it is a great size for little hands. In addition to writing the letters in the book, children are encouraged to trace a chalked letter on their board (written first by the adult) with a small wet sponge or towel. Then they trace the wet line with a dry towel. Finally, they trace the dried outline of the letter with a piece of chalk. For something so seemingly simple, this is a pretty amazing approach to building confidence in a beginning writer. Coral tried the “wet, dry, try” method for the first time today and was smitten.

My only real complaint is that it’s a little tricky trying to introduce this concept of line spacing that HWT utilizes. I think it will be a real asset for Coral, who will know this method from the get-go, but for Alexei and Ibis who have used the traditional three-lined handwriting paper or regular notebook paper for several years, this may take awhile to grow accustomed to. Ibis especially seems to think that she needs to write between the sets of guidelines in her new science journal. I’m sure this is something that will be mastered over time.

Two days and nary a tear shed over handwriting – if you’ve ever had a reluctant writer you know this in itself is an accomplishment!

And yes, in this house toddlers in pajamas routinely plot sneak attacks to try to sit on the dog. And the dog wised up long ago. But that doesn’t stop him from trying.

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