Handwriting – A Creative Art

Is handwriting a thing of the past?

My sweet first-grader (who wants to be an artist one day) has the sloppiest handwriting.  At first, I thought that it was just a she’s-learning-to-write thing,  but the more I watch her, the worse her handwriting is.  She just wants to get the assignment done as quickly as possible, but the problem is that her letters are taking on a life of their own that make them unrecognizable.  For example, her Y’s look like X’s.  Which can be very confusing and problematic depending on the word that she is trying to write.

I also found out, that my older niece can’t read cursive.  (She was aged about 10 at the time of my discovery).  So I began to wonder, what kind of education my daughter was getting in which she comes home worrying about the green movement, but has no practice in forming letters.  Where are the hours and hours of school work in which my daughter has to painstakingly form each letter on the three lines (dotted line in the center)?  Why in the world is she holding her pencil that way?  Why can’t my niece read cursive?

I mean, yes, we’re in a computer world, but let’s just say they get trapped on a desert island one day.  How will they write the message in  a bottle if they can’t form the letters?  I’m being so extreme I know, but there are several practical things for which handwriting is necessary.

And so, I decided to become my daughter’s handwriting coach.  We’ve been fighting about the correct way to hold the pencil since pre-k.

I'm such a drill sergeant, but look at those lovely letters!

Now, I would add more fighting to the mix, by insisting that she do the letter forming practice.  To make the deal sweet, I promised her two things –  1) an art set that she’d been begging me for, 2) and that I would teach her how to do cursive when she mastered the ball-and-stick letters.  Off we went to Wally-world and we got the special paper.

Amazingly enough, she loves it.  (Whew!)  She’s enjoying learning how to be precise and how to control her pencil.  Another benefit is that she gets a feeling of accomplishment and pride in her work (not to mention extra one-on-one time with her handwriting coach 🙂 ).  I can’t imagine how learning basic skills could be a bad thing.  Perhaps our story is different from most and we were just hit and miss with her teachers (each thinking someone else had done the teaching).  I hope that this is the case and that most of the students are learning pencil holding,  handwriting, and cursive.

Meanwhile, on an adult level, I began to think about my own handwriting, and how I am sometimes lazy with it.  I have been reading a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by artist and teacher Betty Edwards, who coincidentally has a section on this subject entitled, Is Beautiful Handwriting a Lost Art? in which she gives different

Calligrapher Painting on a Scroll

exercises for improving our hand.  She writes a quote from William Reed, Japanese calligraphy expert.  He says that personality can be developed  and strengthened by Ki (Japanese calligraphy) practice, and goes on to say something that has been haunting me lately –

“On the other hand, careless calligraphy is also a form of practice, reinforcing bad habits and stunting the growth of the personality.”

Wow, it makes me really ponder the importance of practice.  Yes it can seem monotonous, but so can too much entertainment.  For example, I was playing fruit ninja on my iPhone the other day and I got really bored – (wow I can cut virtual fruit!)  And yet, when I spent time practicing my handwriting on the paper that I bought for my daughter, even now (at age thirty-something), I felt in myself that same surge of pride and accomplishment that I saw in her face.  

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