As a member of the Old Schoolhouse Crew, I was asked to review a handwriting program for Peterson Directed Handwriting this month. The adventure started with an online meeting with creator, Rand Nelson, and I must say, I was impressed from that first meeting how passionate he is about this program, and how committed the company is to helping it's customers and making sure you get all of the support needed to make the program work.
For example, several of us at that first meeting had students that were left handed, and Rand offered to have an extra meeting, just to give some tips and hints to help our lefties succeed. We were given copies of their e-books for printing instruction, and asked to try it out and give an honest review.
The program is based, at least in part, on scientific principles of muscle memory. By using both large and small muscle groups to learn the starting point, direction and end-point of the strokes required to make each letter, those movements get recorded in their muscle memory.
There are 4 steps to each lesson:
1. Illustrate and Describe
2. Write in the Air and Say
3. Finger Trace and Say
4. Write and Say
Each letter and number (I chose to focus on numbers for our trial) is broken down into strokes, and each type of stroke is given a name. For instance (try to visualize this), a 2 is chanted as "Roll, Slant, Slide."
They also put focus on rhythm, which helps improve fluency. This online presentation describes the program better than I have, complete with the scientific principles behind the method.
The online store is here, so you can see all of the products they offer. There are programs for Kindergarten, on up, both print and cursive. They also offer special triangular pencils and pencil grippers to help your students hold their writing utensil properly, alphabet charts and more. Their Homeschool Complete Kit for Pre-K and K sells for $44.50, but there's a basic kit for $20.80 also. In fact, there are so many different options,it's worth clicking around to see what they have to offer and what may be right for your students. The e-books that I reviewed are available to peruse here, and you can purchase a license for $19.95 each. The benefit of the e-books, of course, is the ability to use the practice sheets over and over. (The negative to that, of course, is LOTS of printing!)
Can I be brutally honest here? I didn't WANT to like this program. Just bein' real. The programs my children have used in the past gave me at least a few minutes of the school day that I didn't have to guide them... it was just the children and their workbooks. (Does that sound horrible? Much of what we do is accomplished together, so these breaks were a nice interlude in our busy days. Time for me to start lunch or oh, I don't know... blog?) So a program so involved, that required me to lead them through the formation of these muscle memories didn't sound like what I wanted to add to this school year, what with trying to get things rolling with our new children, giving them a solid, peaceful start to their homeschool career. (I've got a 4th, 3rd, 2nd and 1st grader this year.) But the truth is, their handwriting wasn't improving much with the old workbooks. And in just a few lessons, I'm already seeing real improvement in their number formation. Hallie had about 5 digits backwards in her pre-test... and got them ALL the right direction when I re-tested tonight. And that's amazing if you ask me.
I also expected my children to balk at the idea of tracing the letters in the air and chanting the movements. I actually though they'd miss their workbooks. Silly Mama.
Tonight I kept them up WAY too late to finish up what we'd been working on, so I could give a complete review, so there was some whining, some frustration, even a few tears when THEY didn't think they were doing it "perfect" (**I** thought they were all doing GREAT, but it was their tiredness talking. And how in the world did I end up with FOUR perfectionists?) But even through their exhaustion, they voted unanimously that this program was fun and preferred it to the workbooks.
"Even if I MAKE you do the finger tracing in the air and MAKE you say the words?"
And they all nodded vigorously.
Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review. I have not been compensated in any other way.