Thursday, June 7, 2018

Improving Cursive Handwriting with New American Cursive from Memoria Press {A TOS Review}

These days I keep seeing the debate regarding whether teaching cursive to children is necessary. Let's just say, I am on the pro-cursive side. There are so many benefits for children in learning cursive. I mean, I remember learning cursive in elementary school. Back then we were taught it, we practiced it, and we were required to continue using cursive in our writing. Fast forward many years to when my older children went to public school. I think they were briefly taught cursive, but it was treated as a throwaway skill. They learned it, but weren't required to use it. I want more than that for my younger children, the ones who we are homeschooling. The problem is, I haven't been as consistent as I should have been. I figured it was about time I rectified that oversight. New dilemma. Finding a program for Amelia who is in fourth grade. She sort of knew how to form the letters, as we've practiced sporadically in the past. So, she didn't need to start from the beginning. Thankfully we were given the opportunity to review New American Cursive 2 (Scripture) from Memoria Press, thanks to the Homeschool Review Crew.

Now, we've reviewed several products from Memoria Press in the past, all of which we have really liked. So, I jumped at the chance to try out their cursive program.  When I was researching the program, I was intrigued by the fact that there were simplified letter forms that eliminated unnecessary strokes, which I felt would be really helpful for Amelia. Here's a look at what the New American Cursive alphabet looks like, found at the beginning of the book.

I couldn't wait for Amelia to get started.

New American Cursive 2 is a 144-page spiral-bound workbook that contains 125 instructional exercises. This softcover book is perfect for both left handed and right handed children as the binding is at the top of the book, and, after the introduction section, the upper pages are flipped so the binding will always be at the top when the child is working. We've worked with books that are horizontally bound, but not flipped, and let's just say, that is very uncomfortable and inconvenient.

The book begins with an introduction, followed by the Table of Contents and the seven-page Teacher Guide. The child is then shown a chart of all the letters in both lower and upper case, plus the numbers, with line and number guides showing proper letter formation. As a review the child is then to write all the letters and numbers. After a note from "Your Pencil Friend" the actual lessons begin with an About Me page the child is to complete in cursive. 

The first twelve lessons have the child practicing the letters while instructing them in correct pencil holding, paper placement, and posture. There is even a letter from the author which the children are asked to read to see if they can read cursive. They are to circle the words they can't read. Amelia only had three words she needed to circle, and I think that was because she didn't know what the words were, so she would have been confused if they were in print as well. 

After practicing individual letters the lessons move on to teaching about the different kind of connections. I have to say, I love that Mr. Meerkat demonstrates these connections. This is the first time I have heard this way of describing them, but I really think they are appropriate. There are smiles, grins, and jumps. 

After an evaluation page where the child is to copy a paragraph about letter connections, the Alphabet Review lessons begin. The next 32 lessons help a child review each letter and learn how to connect them to other letters in words. Because children are already able to write each of the letters, words can use all the letters of the alphabet. The way these lessons are arranged is that a child focuses on two letters at a time, working in alphabetical order. There are two lessons for each pair. The first lesson has the child practice both upper and lower case versions of the letter, and then gives them several words that start with that letter for practice. They get to trace the dotted letters first, and then there are blank spaces for them to work freehand.

The next lesson provides a list of words at the top of the page which the children are to write freehand in the provided lines.

 The bottom of the page demonstrates how both letters are to connect to all the other letters of the alphabet. Which I think is a huge benefit. 

After every several lessons there will be a "Fun Page" included where the child can practice creative writing while using cursive. They have the opportunity to write about family, their favorite state, their favorite city, a best friend, and a chore. There is also room on these pages for them to illustrate their composition. 

About half way through the lessons, starting with letters O and P, the child will be required to write with fewer guidelines on the practice pages. As you can see, the top and bottom lines are gone, but there is still a baseline and a dashed line for guidance. The first page of each letter pair's lesson will still be written on the lines with more guidelines.

After the alphabet review pages there are many more lessons for practicing cursive writing with an emphasis on writing attractively and legibly, making sure both letter formation and slant are consistent. Children will practice writing with and without guidelines, and will practice writing letters smaller. They will continue with both free writing, copywork (such as quotes and Scripture), and dictation. Part of their free writing will be guided by the previous lesson's Bible verse. There are even lessons in writing addresses and thank you notes.Toward the end of the book children will be writing completely without guidelines.

The workbook concludes with some reproducible resources for the parent. There is a Handwriting Evaluation Checklist, journal pages, and lined paper with various sized lines and guidelines.

Amelia has been working her way through the lessons. Some days she works on just one lesson, other times she works on two or three, though at different times of the day. And other days she doesn't work on cursive at all, like when we had a week off of school. She is about halfway through the alphabet review lessons, and will continue on through the remainder of the book at this pace. Each lesson has just the right amount of work for a sitting, in my opinion. She does complain about being shaky when trying to write in cursive, so I don't require more than a lesson's worth of work at a sitting. 

She was so excited to get started when we first received the workbook.

As she worked her way through the book, I could definitely see improvement when it came to neatness and formation, though she does still struggle with the slanting of her letters.

I love that she surprised me on Memorial Day by writing her copywork of The Pledge of Allegiance in cursive.

At one point I thought it was important to teach cursive letters with the first stroke which would help them learn to join the letters together. Now I can see that that added stroke is not necessary for learning the letters, and can actually be a hindrance, especially for beginners. The formation of the New American Cursive letters is simple enough for children to learn, though I am a bit confused as to why the "F," "T," and the "Z" look so much like print letters. It almost seems to me that you would lose a bit of the flow of cursive by making such angular letters when everything else has a curve to it. I admit, I will probably have Amelia use the more traditional cursive formations for those letters.

I really appreciate the way this program slowly works on taking the guidelines away and working on a child making their letters smaller. There is a consistent emphasis on neatness and correct posture. And I love that Amelia will be working on Bible verses, not just writing them, but really trying to internalize them. 

All in all, I think this is a wonderful workbook, and Amelia says it is easier than any other cursive book she has tried. It is also a part of a full cursive program. 

Memoria Press's New American Cursive  program is designed for children in first through fourth grade. There are three different levels. We skipped Level 1 of course, though some of my Crew mates did review it with their children. There are two different Level 2 books. We reviewed the one with famous character-building quotes and Scripture verses, but there is also one with quotes by famous Americans. Level 3 also has two different versions, one with Scripture and one with other famous quotes. Manners are also included. Additionally, there is StartWrite software for creating worksheets tailored to your child.

As I mentioned above, we have reviewed different products from Memoria Press in the past. They have products available in many different subjects, all focused on a Classical Christian Education. During this review period, the Crew Mates who didn't review cursive may have reviewed Traditional Logic or Classical Composition. 

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New American Cursive & Traditional Logic {Memoria Press Reviews}
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1 comment:

  1. I really love this. I think it's so important for children to learn cursive. I do agree with you on the F, T, and Z. I don't understand why they're printed letters.


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