So, I’ve mentioned once before that my school system uses Handwriting without Tears to teach handwriting. My teacher gave me her teacher’s guide at the beginning of the year, but I haven’t had much time to look through it.
My school finally got the student workbooks this month, so my teacher started teaching it one Wednesday that I was there.
And I have to say, I’m horrified.
All the reasons to not buy and implement a system like this are there: it’s expensive (a $6 workbook for every student in grades K-2 plus a $6 teacher’s guide for each teacher and whatever other materials they purchased), it’s vocabulary-heavy, and it takes just as much time (if not more) to teach them how to use the method as it does to just teach them how to write.
Plus, it’s everything I hate… cutesy phrases that only vaguely relate to their purpose, lack of meaning, and boring repetition.
I remember learning how to write in elementary school… I hated it. “Write the letter p exactly this way 10 times. Now do it again. And again. Oh, no! you didn’t bring the tail all the way down to the line (that won’t appear on any actual paper you’ll ever use for anything other than handwriting practice)! Start over!” It’s ridiculous and impractical – and kids hate it.
I realize that being able to write legibly and consistently is important, I do… but can’t we, after decades of doing it the boring way, figure out a better way to teach it? I know you have to practice, by why can’t you practice using words and situations (and paper!) that the kids will actually use? Why can’t you just model the correct way and tell them you want them to write the letters the way they appear on their nametags or on the wall or wherever you might have the alphabet hanging in your room?
And, honestly, do we need to confuse them any further with the “magic c,” “frog jump capitals,” and “up, up like a helicopter, slide down, bump”? I mean, seriously – what the fuck does all that even mean? I remember, when I was learning how to write in cursive, my teacher kept telling me a cursive “r” was supposed to look like a chair, and I kept fucking it up. I just didn’t understand how what she drew looked anything like a chair, so I tried to draw mine like a chair instead of like hers, and she kept telling me it was wrong, and I still have trouble writing the cursive “r”. All because my teacher was so concerned about the vocabulary used in whatever system my school adopted to teach cursive that she didn’t notice that it wasn’t working.
I feel sorry for any kids who come in new in the second grade that aren’t familiar with Handwriting Without Tears. They’ll be lost and confused and frustrated. The funny part – the teacher’s guide actually states (on page 23 for those following along), “…there is no strange jargon or indecipherable terminology.” HA!
Ha ha ha! Ha HA ha HA! HA!!!
I don’t know if they’re fooling themselves, but they certainly haven’t fooled me – this system is so FULL of strange jargon that you spend half the time teaching them what it means to “frog jump up” and what the fuck a “magic c” is. I tried explaining this system to some of my adult friends (both education majors and not) and they were perplexed.
I don’t know of any “standardized” alternative to the program, myself, but I’d rather just teach them how to write my own way than use this… though, I’m sure there is something better out there. Any ideas?