View Full Version : Weekly Poll: Is handwriting still a necessary skill to teach?

02-08-2012, 05:10 PM
There was recently a whole educational summit called "Handwriting in the 21st century" (http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/01/25/18handwriting_ep.h31.html?tkn=XNQF1Cz9aAbIP6PPjmsP 5%2Fg6RPoura%2BBuUzi&intc=es) sponsored by the American Association of School Administrators which debated the ins and outs of whether we should still be teaching school children handwriting as an official subject.

I think it's an interesting debate, and is probably just as confusing for homeschooling parents as it is for school teachers. If my teen boys were just starting kindergarten this year, I would have to think long and hard about whether handwriting would be an official part of their curriculum.

This subject has created some great conversation in my house this week, anyway, between my hubby and myself. I am usually the forward-thinker. I don't usually have trouble letting go of "old ways" of doing things, so leaving handwriting to the history books wouldn't be difficult at all for me. Other than occasionally journaling for "nostalgia" sake, I realize that I rarely pick up a pen or pencil. My grocery list is on my smart-phone, I don't write checks, and I usually sign documents electronically. The only time I fill out forms manually is when at a doctor's office that doesn't offer online check-in, and I'll admit I find it to be a nuisance. I also don't buy into the fact that handwriting is the only way to teach fine motor skills to youngsters, or even that it creates necessary brain pathways. I feel like there are perfectly good skill-building alternates to handwriting.

My Luddite husband, on the other hand, has his own arguments for why handwriting instruction should continue. For one thing, he's pretty convinced that at some point in the near future we will have a catastrophic event significant enough to disrupt electricity for a time, and he says that we will need a back-up form of communication. I hadn't really thought of that, so I think I could go along with teaching handwriting as supplementary skill -- with minimal instruction and no focus on "neatness" or "angling" or "style." Even so, I have a feeling I would probably teach keyboarding first and THEN handwriting. Or maybe combine the two, like you can do with Spelling City's printable handwriting worksheets (http://www.spellingcity.com/handwriting.html).

It will be interesting to see what your thoughts are on the handwriting debate...

02-08-2012, 07:49 PM
As important as any other, but only until about 4th grade. I think writing legibly is still a needed skill. Also, and perhaps more to the point, kids' brains need to write, not type when they're really young, and they also need those small motor skills, which are connected to a surprising array of other skills. We will undoubted write (instead of type) less in the coming years, but I think handwriting still has a place.

02-08-2012, 08:16 PM
Definitely as important as any other.

I'll give you a few small for-instances. I love to write, I think of lots of ideas while driving and musing. I keep a journal in my purse to jot that stuff down.

I took my kids on a fieldtrip to talk about ecosystems, habitats, and different conditions/flora/fauna in different locations. Each of us had a 'field journal', a pencil, and some scotch tape to collect specimens. Sure, we could have taken pics with the cell or carried whatever those mini-computers are called, but the hands-on aspect was pretty important to me.

I tend to think handwriting (and the ability to control a pencil very precisely) is very important to creating art/drawing/painting. I think 'cursive' is vitally important to read our founding documents in their original forms.

I won't stop teaching my kids to cook just because they can buy prepackaged meals at the grocery store or go to a restaurant. I won't stop exposing them to polite in-line manners at the check-out just because they can order everything imaginable online. I will continue to teach handwriting no matter who says it isn't important anymore :)

02-08-2012, 08:56 PM
I think neat, legible handwriting is an important skill. I don't need beautiful calligraphy, but I want to be able to read it! The aspect I have let go of is proper grip. Neither of my kids hold a pencil correctly, but I don't mind as long as their writing is good and it's comfortable for them. I will definitely teach them to touch type when they're older (watching my husband "hunt and peck" drives me nuts!) because I expect that the bulk of writing will by done that way by the time they're adults.

02-08-2012, 09:30 PM
I like to see pretty handwriting, I'll admit. I want the kids to be able to take (and later, read) notes by hand in a classroom situation, should the need arise. I can also think of many scenarios where handwriting will be useful, even when our kids are adults. BUT what writing they do will probably be more for themselves than for others. I am teaching writing (and even cursive, though that was DS' choice... DD seems set to follow in his footsteps), but as the kids get older, how much they do of it will probably be up to them. We shall see.

02-09-2012, 12:38 AM
Okay I'm confused... I clicked I didn't think it's important because I assumed you were talking about cursive writing. Handwriting in general? Like basic writing skills? Then absolutely! I am a sloppy writer and it bothers me a lot. I tend to type when I can simply because I write like a kid and it's embarrassing. Well that and I can't spell.

Now cursive writing, which I've read is on the way out or has already been removed from many schools, I don't think is necessary. That being said, my dd begged to learn to write cursive and I started teaching her (and myself) cursive after the holidays. She is a lefty and her handwriting is not very nice either. So if she's interested in it, I'm going to teach her with the hope that she becomes a neater writer then her mother.

And OP, I totally agree with your husband. I do think that people who are too reliant on technology are going to be sucking it when the solar flares hit or whatever and we can't type everything anymore. I do a ton electronically, but I don't think a day goes by when I don't write something, even if it's just to jot something down.

02-09-2012, 06:08 AM
I ticked just as important as other subjects because dh owned his own buisness for a while and I did the paperwork if I couldn't read his writing we were in trouble, not to mention decifer his spelling which is far worse than mine.
He didn't carry a computer as a tradie and issued handwritten reciepts to customers and before he had his own buisness he worked for another local tradie who also had handwritten records and reciepts.
He now works for a multi milliondollar company as a tradie but in management and even they still do it the old fashioned way although they are now looking to go digital but they still haven't got computers in vehicles. Although he does all the quoting on the computer. He has mentioned on several occations that he feels for the office girl who has to decifer running day sheets and time sheets. Even in such a large company they still do handwritten reciepts.

So yep you still need handwriting lessons as long as I can read it I'm happy.

02-09-2012, 09:45 AM
I'm torn, my ds9 has dyslexia & dysgraphia and his hand writing is awful. I started with a plan to teach him handwriting because I'm rather proud of my own handwriting. I've had to take a good look at what the function of handwriting is for my son and what he has to know. At this point I'm looking at just teaching him to print capitol letters and move on the keyboarding skills.


02-09-2012, 10:27 AM
I have an 8 year old who I just pulled from PS for a variety of reasons. One thing that we are definitely doing is handwriting. He has an awkward grip, forms his letters very oddly, and looks uncomfortable with his posture. All this, plus some mild dyslexia led to completely unreadable work. In just a few days working on his grip and posture, his handwriting has improved. These are things he never learned at school and with him in school all day, our after school time focused on reading - another weakness. After all, there's no handwriting on standardized tests, like there is with reading, so it just isn't important, even if no one can read what he wrote. (OK, that's my sarcastic rant about standardized tests for the day - or at least this morning.) His younger brother has some of the same bad handwriting habits and while he's still in kindergarden at PS, I think I'll teach him too.

02-09-2012, 10:35 AM
As important as any other, but only until about 4th grade. I think writing legibly is still a needed skill. Also, and perhaps more to the point, kids' brains need to write, not type when they're really young, and they also need those small motor skills, which are connected to a surprising array of other skills. We will undoubted write (instead of type) less in the coming years, but I think handwriting still has a place.

I agree with Farrar. My son definitely loves the computer and I will teach him keyboarding but I don't want him to do everything on the computer. I think he needs time utilizing other skills, other ways of doing things. I think it's important that he at least has legible handwriting and can read cursive. I'm not going to worry about perfect form, slant and all that just legibility.

02-09-2012, 12:30 PM
Traditionally, handwriting was one of the fundamental ways that we presented ourselves. However, most communication these days is electronic. This rationale for beautiful handwriting is long gone. As a hobby, it would be nice to write nicely but it's no longer a foundation skill that everyone needs.

But, I am a believer in the argument for handwriting for the fine muscle control development both for brain training and future artistic and other skills. I'm not sure how much handwriting training is required before there are diminishing returns here. And handwriting helps kids focus on the shape of the letters which feels to me linked to their learning them. Also, paper and pencil remain more convenient in many cases than anything digital although the prognosis is that digital gets more convenient every day.

As for Kerry's husband's concern for a post-apocalyptic time, I'd think there might be more urgent skills to think about such as growing food, medicine, etc. I'd probably say that primitive writing skills are ample but there might be a need to know morse code or smoke signals in that scenario.

In short, I'd be de-emphasizing them but am not ready to say forget it. I like that they are researching it.

02-09-2012, 02:38 PM
By handwriting do you mean cursive writing or just any hand written communication?

I think children should be taught how to print/do manuscript writing at least. They should be able to pick up a pen and a paper and write a words that people can read.
I think children should probably be taught to recognize cursive and be able to read it even if they do not use it.
Most people I know have cursive handwriting that is incredibly hard to read and is actually an obstacle to communication. I think the emphasis should be on teaching children to write legibly.
I'm not sure if I would say handwriting is less important to teach than other subjects. It isn't something I feel needs to be taught daily for years though.

02-09-2012, 04:05 PM
Wow, I guess I'm behind the times. I can see questioning cursive, but handwriting in general? Among, many other reasons, I think it's important for my kids to be able to read their birthday cards from grandma. ;-)

02-09-2012, 04:11 PM
I voted that it's as important as other subjects. With DD (K) I can see how her interest in writing correlates to her understanding of print, that all those letters can be used to tell the world her ideas. She writes all the time (even if it may look like gibberish or these days, starting to be spelled phonetically). She writes on scraps of paper, she makes her own little books, and she even writes in chalk on our porch (more often than not to proclaim her love of her grandparents, bff, or our dog, Sadie). Now that she is learning about writing in school, I can see how it helps her decipher all those letters in a way that I don't think she could with typing. She can feel the letters.

To me typing and digital communication is more of a convenience.

02-09-2012, 04:36 PM
I voted "as important." I can't articulate why, but it's important to me that Zack have legible cursive handwriting. When the zombie apocalypse comes and we can't use computers or smart phones, handwriting will be an important skill.

02-09-2012, 09:45 PM
I used to care more about it, but it was too much of a struggle, so I let go.
I still remind him to TRY to write neatly.

03-20-2012, 11:49 PM
As the wife of someone with illegible printing, I can tell you that handwriting is an important skill. My husband has taken messages that I can't read - and then he can't read them either, and the message remains a mystery.
I'm not sure about cursive though. I read a lot of handwritten notes throughout the day, shopping list, messages taken by co-workers, etc. so I don't think we can get by with only typing. However, I never see anyone write in cursive. Except me, of course - I now use it all the time bc when my son asked me about it I realized I hadn't used it in over a decade and I couldn't remember how to do it - so now I practice.

I said it was less important than other subjects, but we spend more time on it than we do other subjects because it is his weak point. We also do plenty of cursive, partly bc he showed an interest, and partly just to add variety. We also do mazes - anything that counts as pencil control.

03-30-2012, 08:44 PM
I think it's important to be fluent in cursive writing, but I wouldn't be a stickler on beauty or that certain smoothness that is difficult for some of us. I just want them to be able to read and write cursive text. As an artist, I have this hunch that it's important to bring in cursive writing if only for the aesthetics.