Montessori Elementary Homeschool Blog - with documentation of our infant Montessori, toddler Montessori, and primary Montessori experiences; as well as preparation for the upcoming adolescent Montessori homeschool years.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Further thoughts on Cursive

I've been asked about cursive in many places of late. While I have upcoming Montessori Nuggets on the topic, I thought I would share some of my own personal thoughts here. Yes, you may translate that phrase as "soap box." I won't judge your choices if you won't judge mine. I just ask that you hear me out. :)

My son just turned 8. In a regular school, he would be entering 3rd grade this coming fall. In our area, 2nd graders in their 2nd semester start learning cursive. It is a big milestone for the children.

The teachers also complain that academic work in other areas drops. Drastically.

Some random thoughts - in no particular order - hence random:

  • my son has been writing in cursive since age 4; yes we had some print experiences in there too (see Adventures in Writing)
  • by 5 1/2 he could write anything in cursive; he just didn't; I continued to state "I'd prefer cursive and soon it will be a requirement" - one day he just started doing it - and has never gone back. 
  • In January of last year, the 2nd graders (a year older than my son) in his atrium class were just starting cursive and writing on the chalkboard in the atrium. They were still learning and the results were interesting and quite beautiful, if not entirely legible. I loved their enthusiasm! However, all the children were just amazed that my son could already write so well, without thinking about it. He just shrugged his shoulders and said, "I learned when I was ready." (can't improve on that answer!)
  • During that time of learning to write, he was in the strongest part of the sensitive period for language. While we were towards the end of the part when re-focusing on the cursive, we were still able to utilize it. 
  • Older children just don't have that sensitive period. 
  • Maria Montessori worried about teaching the children print (she'd taught them cursive first). Then they started reading Gothic words on the calendar. They taught themselves print
  • If she stopped worrying, why should I worry?
  • Since children are in a sensitive period, their interest and focus is right there; they learn easily in a form of writing that comes naturally anyway (curved lines allowing a variation of creation, versus straight lines being a standard of perfection that is hard to achieve). 
  • Again, they learn easily - thus it doesn't take away from their other learning. 
  • But in 2nd grade, it DOES take away from their other learning - because they have to consciously RE-learn everything know, RE-learn a natural instinct that was trained OUT of them in kindergarten and 1st grade (and preschool if they went). 
  • Print is everywhere - but that does not mean I need to dumb down my handwriting for my child. I do NOT dumb down my vocabulary - why would I dumb down the handwriting? 
  • Print is everywhere - more so than in Montessori's time - and the children figured it out all on their own then. Since my son was writing in capital block letters at 3 1/2 (noone taught him, except perhaps the keys on that laptop that Grandma gave him ;) ), it would seem that print is prevalent enough to be learned by anyone at any time. Why spend time teaching it? Time that is best served elsewhere? Like making cookies with my son. 
  • we have to print on forms. Ok. Fine. But we don't fill out forms all day every day. We DO write grocery and to-do lists, letters to friends (e-mails aren't even printed - they're TYPED), thank you cards, all the copy-work my son does, etc. 

And this list doesn't touch the practical reasons of cursive such as assistance with dyslexia, spacing of words, understanding of concepts of words (a word is connected as a single unit), etc. This list only touches on some of the thoughts running through my mind for OUR situation. 

Is it the end of the world if your child learned print first? No! 

But how much more wonderful use of their time to teach cursive first and not bother to teach print at all (since it just comes). 

Ok. So I know at least one reader of this blog will be thinking "why should we *teach* cursive at all if print is so much easier?"
  • cursive is for writing; print is for reading (we type print for books and computers; original printing press wasn't for handwritten books)
  • cursive is actually EASIER at the primary age compared to print because children naturally curve their lines. Straight lines are perfection; variations on a curved line become an art form.
  • Cursive is an art form. It is beauty. It is individual. It is expressive. 
  • Print is actually harder to teach at the primary age, dyslexia or not. 
  • Kids with dyslexia NEED cursive writing to help with the orientation of letters, groupings of words, and general confidence building. 

I hope this information helps! Or at least provides food for thought!

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