Michael is starting to write. However his grip is awkward and he draws his letters rather than writing them using a consistent sequence of lines and curves. I've been wanting to do some homeschooling, so I chose a handwriting program as one of the first curriculum programs to try with the children.
I chose Handwriting Without Tears (HWT) for our handwriting curriculum. It isn't the prettiest printing style out of the many options for handwriting styles. I chose it because I like how it is taught. The program was developed by occupational therapists. It teaches uppercase letters first because they are develpmentally easier for young children to write. All of the uppercase letters can be written by writing big lines, little lines, big curves, and little curves.
The program is well structured. Rather than teaching the letters in alphabetical order, the letters are grouped by the way they are written. The first 8 letters taught are F, E, D, P, B, R, N, and M. They are called "frog jump" letters because your pencil has to hop back to the starting corner after making the first big line. After learning those letters children learn the other uppercase letters that start in the upper left corner. Finally they are taught the letters that start in the upper center spot. After learning all the uppercase letters, the first lowercase letters learned are the ones that are exactly the same as their capitals, just smaller.
I also liked the way that they begin teaching letters without using a writing implement at all. They start with blocks (big line, little line, big curve, little curve) and play dough (roll the shapes and combine to form letters). The wet-dry-try method on a small chalkboard is brilliant because the child must develop a tripod grip in order to do it and they think it is so much fun. In the wet-dry-try method you write the letter in chalk on the chalkboard first. They take a tiny sponge and trace over your letter mimicing the strokes necessary to write the letter. Then they take a tiny ball of paper towel and trace the (now wet) letter a second time drying it in the process. Once dry, you can still see where the letter used to be on the slate. For the last step they try writing the letter themselves on the slate with a small piece of chalk. By the time they are done, they've observed once, and "written" the letter three times. My children often continue the cycle wetting again with the sponge, drying again with the paper towel, and writing again with the chalk at least 2-3 more times before becoming bored.
The teacher's manual for the Kindergarten level is wonderful. It educates you about the handwriting process. It talks about readiness and gives examples of many fun activities you can do with pre-writers to develop readiness skills. It describes multi-sensory ways to teach handwriting (music, movement, blocks, wet-dry-try, door tracing, imaginary writing, magnet board, roll-a-dough/sensory tray). It covers posture, paper, and pencil skills. All of that is covered before it starts on the actual lessons covered in the kindergarten curriculum. In the back of the manual there are tips for addressing issues with handedness, pencil grip, and pencil pressure.
I ordered the teacher's manual, student workbook, roll-a-dough tray, magnet board, slate, chalk, and sponges. I haven't touched the student workbook yet. . My children are little (3 and 4 years). They still need to develop some fine motor readiness skills before working with writing. I read through the entire teacher's manual. I intend to go through all of the "frog jump" capital letters just using the manipulatives first before having them use pencil/crayon/paper. So far we've done E, F, and D. The children love the wet-dry-try on the slate, the roll-a-dough tray (which I use by finger tracing with salt), and the magnet board. I use the slate for every lesson and switch between the magnet board and tray. One child uses the slate while the other uses the tray/magnet board and then they switch. I wish I had bought two slates.
Once the tripod grip is more natural and they're completely comfortable with the frog jump letters I'm going to try having them write the letters using tiny pieces of crayon on construction paper rectangles I cut to fit the sensory tray. Then I'll switch to a piece of regular paper with 6 rectangles on it. Then I may pull out the student workbook and start having them do the workbook pages.
I made a progress / reinforcement chart for the kids because they love putting stickers on a chart, and they like seeing how much progress they've made over time. Feel free to download it and use it with your own children/students if you happen to be using the Handwriting With Tears Kindergarten program yourself.
Each "lesson" only takes us 10 minutes although I allow the children to continue to play with the manipulatives as long as they like. The more they "play", the more they develop those fine motor pre-writing skills. I couldn't be happier with the program and with our first foray into homeschooling.