By Courtney Sanford, Classical Conversations
Part of the challenge of Christian homeschooling is to avoid recreating for our children in our homes the same education we received ourselves in a public school. If we want to see a different outcome–students with a Biblical worldview, a love of the Lord and a true understanding of who they are in Christ–we need to think outside the box, or in this case, outside the schoolhouse walls.
Cursive writing has more value than you think
Public schools are dropping art programs and cursive writing, claiming they just do not have the time or money for these “non-essentials.” We might see this as a good excuse for us to drop these studies, too. However, cursive art and writing may have more value than you think. They can give children a chance to realize that they are unique. They have unique handwriting and they are capable of creating beautiful things. If we encourage students to pursue cursive and drawing, then we demonstrate that we value beauty, goodness, and truth; we teach them that they are uniquely created creatures, loved by a personal God. Psalm 139:13-14 says,
“For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; (NIV)
The word wonderfully in original Hebrew translates as unique, set apart, or uniquely marvelous. We can communicate to our students that they are uniquely marvelous by teaching and encouraging art and cursive writing.
Other benefits to teaching cursive writing
There are other benefits to teaching cursive writing. Research suggests that cursive more effectively develops manual skill and dexterity. Cursive aids students who might have dyslexia and dysgraphia because the letters are more unique and connected and therefore harder to reverse. Writing teachers are beginning to think that writing in cursive encourages the student to be more artistic in their compositions. If they learn to write well in cursive, they will write faster, which allows for easier note taking in college. Several graduates have shared that they would have never made it through college if they hadn’t been able to take notes in cursive quickly. And a final consideration, historical documents were for many years recorded in cursive. If we raise a generation who cannot read the Constitution because it is written in cursive, they will be at the mercy of “translators” to tell them what it says or doesn’t say. You want your children to be able to read historical documents whether they are in a glass case of the Smithsonian or in your own attic in your grandmother’s handwriting. It is a link to the past that we do not want to cut off.
Learning to draw will help your child develop their fine motor skills, learn to sit still and concentrate, and to help them develop “visual literacy”–enough art vocabulary to appreciate art and understand visual elements they encounter as consumers or perhaps as entrepreneurs who will be choosing logos and making marketing decisions.
Art and cursive need not be an additional burden on the home school parent, though. They can be incorporated into your current subjects and doing so will most likely create more enthusiasm for the subject. I have worked with Leigh Bortins of Classical Conversations to develop a new series of student books called, PreScripts. Pre– meaning “before”, and Scripts meaning “writing.” These are copybooks in which the student learns cursive through tracing and imitating but what is different is that the students copy sentences important to their study of history, valuable Proverbs and other scripture. In the art lessons which accompany the handwriting, students draw compositions related to the history sentence. For example, the students write about King John signing the Magna Carta, then look at a drawing from a famous piece of artwork of the event and read about how the artist achieved a sense of depth by the use of scale. The student is asked to draw the scene himself and try to create depth through scale. The drawings correlate to the Acts and Facts of History Timeline Cards also available from Classical Conversations. Students enjoy the books and can do the lessons independently. It only takes about ten minutes a day, and the students enjoy the work!
We currently offer four books in four levels. The first level teaches letter formation, and simple drawing and the children color a drawing from a historical event. The second book focuses on practicing words and copying short sentences from Proverbs and the book of James and the students learn to draw simple animals and familiar objects. The third book has students writing longer sentences about history, learning art vocabulary, and drawing a composition. The fourth level has students copy stirring passages from American documents from Christopher Columbus to Sojourner Truth and Ronald Reagan. Art lessons in this fourth book teach the students to illuminate their passages with decorative letters as many historical documents were. Students can begin any book at any age depending on what level feels comfortable to them or what subject relates to their other studies. Whichever book you chose, you’ll be offering your student the opportunity to develop beautiful cursive writing and drawing skills that celebrate their wonderful uniqueness!
Win your choice of PreScripts Books from Classical Conversations!
Courtney Sanford began homeschooling with Classical Conversations in August of 2005. By 2007, she was a trained tutor and also contributing to Classical Conversations as a graphic designer and writer. She graduated from NC State University with a degree in Graphic Design, and did an additional two years of study in English at UNC-Chapel Hill. She worked as a graphic designer and writer for the North Carolina Blumenthal Performing Arts Center in Charlotte, NC and as an art teacher for the Bemis School of Art in Colorado Springs, CO. She enjoys learning along with her children and bringing art and design into the other subjects.