Handwriting

Callirobics

Book cover: 'Callirobics'
Author(s):
Liora Laufer
Copyright:
2002
Publisher:
Callirobics
Binding:
Softcover
Number of pages:
45 pages
Subject(s):
Handwriting
Grade / Age level:
Elementary
Resource Type:
Audio
Review:

Callirobics will significantly and quickly improve your child's penmanship, even though he'll never form a single letter while using it. If your child has difficulty with consistency in formation, slant, and spacing, thinks he "just can't do it", has a bad attitude toward penmanship, or simply benefits from auditory and kinesthetic modes of learning, this may help.

The name, "Callirobics", refers to calligraphy and aerobics; these are exercises (though not very oxygen intensive, thankfully!) for the hand and brain, set to music. The program is an adjunct to any manuscript or cursive program that you are using, not a replacement for it. Its goals are to improve "eye-hand coordination, fine motors skills, self-esteem, and handwriting". Don't let the inclusion of self-esteem put you off; this program delivers what it promises, and the self-esteem is a natural result of accomplishment.

Callirobics was recommended by St. Thomas Aquinas Academy for my 6th grade daughter, but I decided to use it for my 8th grade daughter and myself as well. Within the first month of using the program for about 10 minutes a day, as instructed, I could see significant improvement. The endings of words started tending up instead of down; letters were better formed and more evenly spaced; there was a great improvement in slant and smoothness. Callirobics is rapidly and almost effortlessly effective.

A nice fringe benefit was that we began associating penmanship with joyfulness, since the combination of Liora's appealing accent (she introduces each exercise) and the engaging instrumental music create a pleasant mood. The children enjoy it so much that they ask to do Callirobics every day.

As effective as it is, Callirobics might not appeal to you initially if you're accustomed to more serious, formal approaches to schoolwork. The program has light-hearted illustrations and exercise titles ("Curly Head", "Lucky Clovers"). Also, the affirmations for students to write after each exercise may strike you as too full of phony self-esteem or humanist sentiments ("I make my life safe and happy", or "I am a beautiful person"), though some are not so bad ("I focus my attention on the task at hand"). The fix for that is to have your children write other sentences, such as "I'm thankful for the gifts God gives me", or to skip the affirmations altogether. The program will work just fine without them.

There are five levels: Beginning, Ages 4 - 7, 7 - 14, Advanced, and Adult, with different patterns and music for each. We are using the program for Ages 7 - 14, geared to cursive writing. The teacher's manual states that you need a Callirobics notepad; however, I called the 800 number and was told by Liora, who answered the phone, that any paper the student would normally use is appropriate.

For all those whose penmanship needs some shaping up, Callirobics may be just the right exercise program.

Additional notes:
Binding details: softcover-stapled; plus CD or audio tape
Non-consumable
Reviewed By:
Mary-Eileen Swart
Review Date:
10-11-03
Available From:
Callirobics

Copybook: First Year

Book cover: 'Copybook: First Year'
Author(s):
Leigh and Cheryl Lowe
Copyright:
2005
Publisher:
Memoria Press
Binding:
Softcover
Number of pages:
96 pages
Subject(s):
Handwriting
Grade / Age level:
Grades K-2
Review:

Memoria Press' new copybooks provide a brilliantly simple combination of handwriting practice and memory work (simple Bible verses and classic poems from authors such as Robert Louis Stevenson). The child first practices simple letters before getting into Bible passages and poetry. These lessons also include space for illustrating the verse (great for reading comprehension!). Bible passages are taken from the King James Version of the Bible. Though the King James Bible does not suffice for Catholic religious instruction, it is rightly valued for its literary qualities and contributions to the English language. The Bible passages selected, which include passages important to Catholics like "I am the Bread of Life," are completely unobjectionable.

Reviewed By:
Alicia Van Hecke
Review Date:
6-21-06
Available From:
Memoria Press

Cursive Connections: A Traditional Style

Author(s):
Kathy Libby
Copyright:
1998
Publisher:
KEL Publications
Binding:
Softcover
Number of pages:
80 pages
Subject(s):
Handwriting
Grade / Age level:
Elementary
Review:

Cursive Connections is a very simple and straightforward program for beginning cursive writing. The author considers the text appropriate for a mature 2nd grader or a 3rd grader. Permission is given for photocopying the materials for use within your own family.

The text is strictly black and white with no distracting illustrations. (These details are a matter of personal preference - I prefer this simpler style and others would rather have more colorful texts.) This text would be easy to use in a homeschooling situation because of the introductory information is rather complete: "the purpose of these materials", "who uses these materials", "practice methods", "expectations of the child", "correct paper position", etc. Different sorts of cursive strokes are explained as well as several examples of poorly done letters alongside "better" and "best" examples.

Individual cursive letters are given quite a bit of practice space on their own, and then practiced alongside other individual letters (particularly those which are more difficult to connect). As more and more letters are introduced, the practice begins to include short words and some phrases. After all of the lower-case cursive letters are introduced, the text moves along to Upper Case. "When should a capital letter connect to the next letter?" and when it should be left alone is also clearly explained.

This is in no way a "religious" text. However, the words God, and many Christian names (such as Xavier) are included in the word practice pages. Also, there is absolutely no offensive or "politically correct" content.

Additional notes:
Binding details: softcover workbook
Reviewed By:
Alicia Van Hecke
Review Date:
1999
Available From:
Michael Olaf

Handwriting 5 for Young Catholics

Copyright:
2003
Publisher:
Seton Educational Media
Binding:
Softcover
Number of pages:
249 pages
Subject(s):
Handwriting
Grade / Age level:
Fifth Grade
Review:

Recently revised by the Seton staff, this 5th grade handwriting worktext has already become a favorite in our homeschool. The book begins with a review of both capital and lower-case letters in a traditional cursive font, then continues with a state-by-state journey across America. Using a copywork style of presentation, the text includes a blend of American history, US geography, and the study of famous Americans and holy persons and places. Each model line of text is immediately followed by a blank line on which the text is to be written. This eliminates the problem of being unable to spell unfamiliar words and names, which is required in order to write in cursive fluently. The font is a comfortable size for any later elementary student, and the middle guide line has been eliminated to make the transition to ordinary notebook paper easier. The thick book opens almost flat to allow a student to do his or her best work, and high-quality, smooth paper makes writing a pleasure.

I am not a handwriting purist, intent on perfecting a particular font style, but I do insist that my students learn to write in cursive. Because even the new SAT requires the student to submit an essay in his or her own hand, using a simple, clear style has gained additional importance. The Seton handwriting text series use a pleasant, traditional cursive handwriting style which is easy to read and quick to write. This 5th grade level worktext makes learning to write in cursive an enjoyable task by copying interesting passages alongside lovely full-color illustrations.

Perspective:
Catholic
Reviewed By:
Susan Kalis
Review Date:
10-3-2007

Holy Papers

Book cover: 'Holy Papers'
Copyright:
1997
Publisher:
Catholic Heritage Curricula
Binding:
Other
Number of pages:
80 pages
Subject(s):
Handwriting
Grade / Age level:
Elementary
Review:

This booklet provides thirty-three pages of lined paper with beautiful Catholic pen and ink illustrations. The pages are intended for handwriting practice and may be photocopied for use within your own family. Following the lined pages are approximately forty pages of beautiful religious quotes - printed in both script and cursive - for practicing handwriting. Quotes are organized according to themes such as Adoration, Conscience, Eucharist and Obedience.

Perspective:
Catholic
Additional notes:
Binding details: paper pad binding
Reviewed By:
Alicia Van Hecke
Review Date:
2-3-01

Little Folk's Letter Practice

Book cover: 'Little Folk's Letter Practice'
Author(s):
Nancy Nicholson
Copyright:
1997
Publisher:
Catholic Heritage Curricula
Binding:
Softcover
Number of pages:
62 pages
Subject(s):
Handwriting
Grade / Age level:
Preschool
Review:

We reviewed Little Folks' Letter Practice. We found this to be very simple. For our child this was too easy for K level. It is basically for the Pre-K level. It has pages that are of coloring book quality. We photo copied the pages to make them easier to write on with a pencil. The letters of the alphabet are one to a page with a trace and write page following each letter. The pictures with each letter try to complement our faith. The introduction offers creative advice for the use of the book. The last 5 pages of the book encourage the child to sound out words. There are four or five possible words in a column. A blank has been left in front of each word, such as 'an'. Pictures to the possible word are in the right hand column to assist the child in the discovery of the word. The child will need to sound out the word in the column look at the pictures such as 'man' and write the consonant. There are no difficult words to sound out. All words are only three letters such as 'man', 'cat', 'mop', etc. This is a nice book for becoming familiar with the alphabet.

Perspective:
Catholic
Additional notes:
Binding details: softcover-stapled
Reviewed By:
M.Z.
Review Date:
1999

Peterson Directed Handwriting

Grade 1 Complete Kit
Author(s):
Rand H. Nelson
Publisher:
Peterson Directed Handwriting
Binding:
Softcover
Subject(s):
Handwriting
Grade / Age level:
Preschool
Elementary
Grades 6-8
Review:

I noticed pretty early on that my boys did not have the same facility with writing as I myself had had as a child. All of them have learned to read long before they could write anything legible. And even when they learned to write, their handwriting left much to be desired. I tried various programs, and even made extra worksheets on the computer, but nothing really seemed to help much. Friends advised me – some said to make them practice more; others said to just wait for them get older. But as they got older, their writing got faster – but worse. I despaired of their ever developing fluency.

Then a friend (a mother of boys!) introduced me to the Peterson Directed Handwriting program. Of course I wondered why this program would work where those others had failed. There’s a lot more information on their website but here are some basic differences between a typical handwriting program and the Peterson program.

  • Nearly all handwriting programs are based on a visual-feedback approach. In other words, the child sees the model, tries to copy it, sees the difference and attempts to correct it. This has two inherent problems:
    1. Constant correction results in stopping and restarting at random places, preventing the development of a smooth writing stroke.
    2. Like copying a drawing, it is by its nature brain-resource intensive.

    Peterson is based on training the muscles, freeing up the brain to focus on the content, spelling, etc.

  • While other programs are for the most part simply given to the child, Peterson requires active teaching. Don’t worry – this only takes 5-10 minutes per day and it’s all spelled out for you in the teacher’s guide.
  • Peterson also places significant emphasis on the surrounding mechanics, such as pencil holding (they carry special pencils and grippers to help with this), paper positioning, and proper posture.
  • It uses rhythmic movement and large muscle movement to help train fluent motions.
  • Finally, it is non-consumable.

If your child is writing easily and beautifully (and yes, I have seen this in some children) then you don’t need this program. However, if your child displays one or more of the following behaviors, it is a clue that this program may help:

  • letterform reversals (confusing b and d, for example)
  • stroke reversals – letters that look correct but are formed in the wrong direction
  • incorrect or inconsistent stroke patterns
  • excessive pressure of pencil on paper
  • neat handwriting if given LOTS of time, but legibility problems under time pressure
  • handwriting deteriorates over time

The way the program works is by breaking down each letter and number into a series of strokes, for both print and cursive letters. After teaching the basic strokes, the letters are taught in groups based on their form, i.e. the strokes of which they are composed. A typical lesson involves a large model on the chalkboard with the teacher naming the strokes and identifying the start and stop points. The students then “air write” the form by pretending to trace the model while chanting the stroke names. This is followed by finger-tracing the letter in the student book, and only then attempting to make the letter on paper. Eyes closed practice is encouraged, and it helps if the student can use the chalkboard for practice as well.

I won’t say my boys are writing spectacularly, but the older (now 12) can write legible pieces in reasonable timeframes.

Peterson Directed Handwriting is available in Homeschool Kits in five levels, covering grades Preschool/K through 8. They also offer two Adult Self-Improvement levels, the first of which is excellent for as-needed refreshers in middle or high school.

Additional notes:
Most of the booklets are stapled softcover, with the exception of the Preschool / Kindergarten ABC - 123 book, which is spiralbound.
Reviewed By:
Suchi Myjak
Review Date:
1-21-2008

Startwrite Handwriting Software: The Handwriting Worksheet Wizard

Book cover: 'Startwrite Handwriting Software: The Handwriting Worksheet Wizard'
Copyright:
1998
Publisher:
Idea Maker
Binding:
Other
Number of pages:
0 pages
Subject(s):
Handwriting
Grade / Age level:
Elementary
Review:

System Requirements: 16 MB Ram, 20 MB Hard Disk

This is an elegantly simple computer program that resides on your hard drive just like an ordinary word processor. It allows parents and teachers to print out handwriting pages in a variety of handwriting styles, sizes and fonts. Some of your options include:

  • a center dotted line
  • solid text, dotted text, dashed text or text with arrows showing the proper writing direction
  • how dark you want the writing printed
  • a variety of fonts including standard print, italic and cursive
  • Landscape or Portrait orientation
  • how large you want the text to be

We've found this to be a really wonderful resource - particularly for our more reluctant writers. This software has enabled me to type in material from other subjects for handwriting practice (like Catechism or Geography). I love being able to save worksheets for extra practice or to use later on for younger siblings. I can also take the same text and print it out in different sizes for each child. It's quite easy to add pictures for embellishment or for the children to color (you can find lots of pictures on the Internet for these purposes). My children have enjoyed making up worksheets for each other as well.

Please note that the user agreement allows for use on just one computer. They do offer package deals for multiple computers. You can see more about this product at http://www.startwrite.com

Additional notes:
Binding details: CD ROM for Windows 95 & above
Reviewed By:
Alicia Van Hecke
Review Date:
11-8-04
Available From:
Rainbow Resource Center

Catholic Heritage Handwriting: Level 2

Author(s):
Nancy Nicholson
Publisher:
AMDG For Little Folks
Series:
Catholic Heritage Handwriting
Volume # or Level:
2
Binding:
Spiralbound
Subject(s):
Handwriting
Grade / Age level:
Second Grade
Resource Type:
Workbook
Review:

It’s often the little things that make a resource stand out from the myriad of great products out there. Maybe it’s color pictures instead of black and white; or maybe it’s the typeface used; or maybe it’s the weight of the paper.

There are many reasons why I like the Catholic Heritage Handwriting series more than the many other options available for practicing writing, spelling, even grammar and punctuation. For this review, I’ll be referring to Level 2 (about a 6 or 7 year old level – basically 2nd grade).

With the revised handwriting series written by Nancy Nicholson, a big plus is the spiral at the top. I’m left-handed, my husband is left-handed and two of my children are left-handed. The one who will be using the Catholic Heritage Handwriting Series – Level 2: Finding the Way is one of my lefties. Being a boy, he already has to work so hard on his manual dexterity without also having the encumbrance of the spiral always in his way! Believe me, it makes for stress that can be easily avoided by placing the spiral at the top. THANK you, Nancy Nicholson!

The organization of this handwriting series is great for a multi-aged home learning family. Each lesson is titled with the week and the lesson number – making it extremely easy to schedule the handwriting practice into a four-times-a-week time slot. Additionally, the lessons are short – maybe taking a total of 15-20 minutes (which is about the concentration span of a very active 6 or 7 year old).

I like too that Nicholson has woven in Catholicism in the practice sentences and phrases. If this book was used during First Sacraments preparation, the words could be incorporated into spelling practice while the phrases could be memorized for recitation practice.

Another cool thing is the subtle shrinking of the lines as the student progresses, from 3/4-inch uppercase to 1/2-inch uppercase!

The lessons build bit by bit until, by the end of the year, the student will be copying out full prayers, poems and thoughts. These are all geared toward receiving the sacraments of Reconciliation and First Communion; however, even if your student is not yet ready to receive (or has already started receiving), these sentiments are still worthwhile for learning.

The one down side is that for these longer copywork exercises, the author turned the page to allow more writing space. I’m sure though, that by the time my son gets to those longer lessons, he’ll be confident enough and his manual dexterity will have improved enough to avoid the despair the spiral unnecessarily engenders.

Perspective:
Catholic
Reviewed By:
Mary C. Gildersleeve
Review Date:
6-22-2009
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