Why I’m Teaching My Kid Cursive
BY ANDREA MULDER-SLATER
PHOTO BY @earthplate67/Twenty20
Aug 30, 2017
A few summers ago, my 90-year-old neighbour was over for a visit when she spotted a list I had left on the table. “You are far less reserved than you appear,” she said. “I can see it in your handwriting.”
I later discovered my friend was an amateur graphologist. A combination of art and science, graphology involves evaluating handwriting to determine personality characteristics. Handwriting is personal and like your fingerprint or your laugh, it belongs to you and only you.
Prior to that day, I hadn’t given my penmanship much thought. I learned cursive in school and reverted back to printing as a teen after a teacher told me he couldn’t read my notes. Today I use a combination of both.
But many schools across the country have phased out cursive and made space for computer studies. Like it or not, cursive is going the way of the ditto machine. (And if you’re old enough to appreciate that reference, you might feel nostalgic about the loss.)
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One thing’s for sure, people are passionate about the subject. Some of my friends would rather eat nails than see it removed from the curriculum, while others think handwriting is as useful as communicating with hieroglyphics.
I’m actually a big fan of technology. I mean, sure, I still own an Underwood typewriter, but I also make my living online and have a decent amount of coding knowledge. Still, I have a hard time believing we should abandon traditional skills as we move forward. I think it’s a little embarrassing that there are young adults who are skilled at selfies, yet don’t know how to darn a sock, read an analog clock, or bind a book.
I don’t want my daughter to grow up wearing her ignorance as a badge, so I decided to teach her how to make big loopy letters with a pencil.
But I almost abandoned my plan.
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From the start, my girl struggled with printing. The pain was palpable as she sighed, yawned, and groaned while working her way through just a few small words. When she turned seven, I introduced her to cursive anyway because, quite frankly, we had nowhere to go but up. Remarkably, it was a success.
She took to handwriting immediately, as the fatigue and discomfort she had been feeling, disappeared — almost as though a switch in her brain went “click”. Now she moves freely between cursive writing and printing, often choosing the latter.
My kid is a mover who skips and bounces. I realized that printing made her feel like there were shackles on her wrists, which makes sense. Printing is measured, like shuffling or marching, while cursive is fluid, like dancing.
Every child is different, but maybe some struggling kids are missing out as we carelessly toss cursive in the trash? Studies have shown children with dysgraphia, dyslexia, and motor-control difficulties benefit from learning cursive. In part, this is because it’s harder to reverse your letters when they are joined together.
Alternatively, there are those who strongly believe that teaching cursive is archaic and doesn’t prepare kids for the workplace.
The truth is, no one knows what the future will bring. Will kids need to learn addition when they have calculators? Should we worry about spelling when we have autocorrect? Are pens or keyboards necessary when we can talk to our tablets?
I think what it boils down to is connection.
With cursive, letters are connected to one another, yes. But we also connect with each other more through written correspondence instead of emails. Our brains connect better to material when we take written, rather than typed, notes.
The world is moving forward. But if charging ahead means distancing ourselves from what makes us human, I want to relocate. As for my daughter, she feels as though she’s privy to a secret code — one that may or may not be decipherable to others once she grows up.