Friday, October 21, 2011

Perfection in Letter Formation

Of the further stages, little need be said. Secure that the child begins by making perfect letters and is never allowed to make faulty ones, and the rest he will do for himself; as for 'a good hand,' do not hurry him; his 'handwriting' will come by-and-by out of the character that is in him; but, as a child, he cannot be said, strictly speaking, to have character. CM Vol 1 p 234

Do some of CM's methods stress you out? Especially when she uses words like "perfect"? Let me tell you, when I see the work I do, much less that of my young children, I find so many faults that I would hyperventilate if "perfect" were the only work accepted.

And yet perseverence and striving and high, yet gracious, expectations are very good virtues to practice when teaching children.

My first-born has borne the brunt of much experimenting. When she was young (probably too young), I set before her a Wal-Mart tablet with the lower and upper case alphabet and little arrows showing which direction to write them. I let her have at it, not even thinking to sit next to her to make sure she formed the letters correctly. After seeing her work, I simply thought she'd outgrow the slipshod work. Unfortunately her printing has only improved slightly and a lot of remedial work has been tried. Fortunately she has eagerly taken to cursive and typing, and with the expectation of best work and correct formation every time (or as often as I catch it), her cursive is a vast improvement over her printing.

Second child has had it better because he's been taught with me sitting beside him from the beginning. Even with keen eyes he somehow started forming his o's beginning at the bottom instead of the top! And so we erase and redo, or better yet, I stop him and remind him, "Start your o at the top." A good practice we sometimes do is for me to show him how to form each letter he'll be working on that day by writing the word or phrase while he watches. Then he can write with a fresh reminder on his brain.

Third child is spending this year tracing a letter on some alphabet cards we have, drawing it in the air, and then drawing it in a pan of grits (we had a bunch of grits on hand :-). We'll move on to forming with Handwriting w/o Tears wood pieces (actually thick poster board ~ much cheaper) and writing the letter on the chalk board. Then we'll finally move to writing on paper.

And fourth child walks around babbling. He babbles "perfectly" though!

So while I wouldn't say we have perfected "perfect letter formation", I would say we're much better at persevering in redoing letters until they are correctly formed to best effort. And this should lead to clean, nice looking handwriting with a little unique character thrown in as the children grow up.


Natalie said...

Great idea to make your own letters out of cardboard!

phillipsgirl said...

Handwriting w/o Tears had the patterns in their teachers book, so we could make out own and not have to buy their wood pieces. They cover all the capital letters except J, I think, but not the lower case letters, so it's somewhat helpful.

Clara @A Slice of Homeschool Pie said...

I am teaching my 5-year-old printing and he loves practicing his letters by writing them in pudding.

I never could make my eldest son rewrite everything if it wasn't done as neatly as possible (which I know according to my research is suggested). He hated writing to begin with, and I always felt that if I made him redo his work, we would never move forward with his writing. I have to say that when he concentrates and doesn't rush through his writing, his printing is good, but not even close to perfect. :-)

Clara said...

By the way, I found you through the Charlotte Mason Carnival Blog. :-)

phillipsgirl said...

Hi Clara! Nice to read your post also!

Dawn said...

Found you through the CM carnival. Great post.

Nancy said...

So fun to read of your family's journey with letter writing. Miss Mason was fully aware of the habits being formed during these lessons, as it would, of course, relate to everything else down the road.

Admiration, Hope and Love,


Sarah said...

It is affirming to read about your experience in this. I was just thinking about this issue the other day as I watched the boys writing. I have three boys who are all at the same stage of writing. They all began together from the beginning. I was very busy that first year peeking over their shoulders watching handwriting and seeing that it was perfect as CM said. Cool thing is that she is satisfied with once you get it right you may stop. This was a huge incentive for my boys. I missed a few things that first year due to having all three working at once, and the habits they formed are hard to correct Later. They got used to doing things the way they like it. But conitnued vigilance is paying off and I can see they are still moldable. So we keep on perfecting our letters along the way too. My handwriting is improving as well :)
Thanks for sharing.