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.