Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Gift of Cursive Handwriting

The Gift of Cursive Handwriting
   My high school English teacher impressed the value of keeping a journal.   I didn’t enjoy it then.  It seemed tedious trying to think up topics to write about on a daily basis.  Forty-five years later, I still have that journal.  And lots of others I have penned over the years. 
   Thirteen years ago I took a course from Vimala Rodgers who taught me how to use handwriting as a tool.  I learned firsthand through daily handwriting practice just how transformational this technology is.  Through taking on two or three Alphabet Letters at a time, writing them daily for forty day cycles, subtle shifts in my approach to life became the corroborating evidence that handwriting truly does reflect the way we think and vice versa.  Where there were problems, I began to see solutions.  Discouragement lost to acknowledging my own personal choices.  I was empowered to find resolve.  What was changing were my attitudes, and that made all the difference.  
   Later I learned from mentoring others and was amazed at the strides they made in their own lives after taking on a couple 40-day cycles with selected letters for their own particular situations.  
   We all view the world through filters.  Our worldview is seen through a lens tinted with our opinions, judgments, values.  And we’ve acquired these “tints” imperceptibly over time.  Little things said when we were a child.  The adopted views of well-meaning parents, teachers, friends.  Our own misunderstandings.  Our own experiences — both positive and negative, play into the field of our unfiltered perceptions.  Seamlessly these opinions about ourselves and about life are woven into the fabric of our thinking.  We tend to approach life with a bias.  Our beliefs lead the way.  What if we could capture the capacity to think in terms of what’s possible?  Replacing ‘can’t’ with ‘how?‘  Rather than ‘won’t work,’ think ‘modify.’  
   The gift of the Vimala Handwriting System™ is that we can utilize cursive handwriting as a transformational tool for personal growth.  We can practice letters that support our thinking patterns and the way we interact in all areas of our life.    This begs the question, “Why aren’t children taught healthy handwriting habits in school?”  It would be such a gift to teach and to learn a handwriting system that promotes innovative thinking and self-esteem from an early age.
   The greatest gift anyone can give a child is to teach him or her how to read and write.  These are two sides of one skill set, integrally woven together.  Together they are foundational, not just to literacy, more importantly to self-worth and self-determination.  
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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cursive handwriting — the big controversy

Cursive handwriting — the big controversy
   There is much discussion today about the value of learning and practicing cursive handwriting, or, rather, the lack thereof.  In a technological age, it seems we have forgotten the amazing gift writing is!  Small motor skills, the hand-brain connection, literacy and an aid to spelling correctly ... the benefits are immeasurable.  How can anyone consider it passé ?  From notes to myself to shopping lists ... I use handwriting everyday. 
   People argue that it’s tedious, and keyboarding skills replace the usefulness of cursive.  Often the same ones who argue that the calculator replaces the need to do sums by hand, and yet I am always reminded of the times I’ve been turned away from stores whose power outage rendered their computerized cash registers inoperable.  The clerks in these cases could not even figure tax due with their handheld calculators.  Maybe knowing the process is worth the tedium and trouble.  No less for writing cursive.
   Whenever we try something new, there will be some degree of awkwardness or difficulty.  Moreover, anything we don’t do consistently, we tend to lose some degree of our competency in doing easily.  There is a time honored truism, “The only difference between you and a Master is practice.”
   Cursive writing need not be tedious.  It can be both enjoyable and rewarding.  In fact, prior to the 1940-s and 50’s children learned cursive first!  A little practice every day.  Manuscript or print was imposed on children when the powers-that-be decided that because it resembles the fonts used in books and other literature, it would coordinate with children’s reading skills.  There were no studies or research done to prove this was a better way to learn.  It was simply reasoned and imposed.  In hindsight, recent studies now show just the opposite is true, cursive is the most supportive form of writing, enhancing all learning skills.  In fact, many high school kids who have been taught to print cannot read cursive!  Yet, those who learn cursive first have no difficulty reading print or fonts in books and literature.  
   Learning to write is one of the most important skills anyone can master.  It takes patience and practice.  “By the yard it’s hard, but inch by inch, it’s a cinch.”  An adage that says it all when it comes to acquiring new skills.  Handwriting should be fun.  Play music.  Relax.  And, practice.  Practice daily — just ten to fifteen minutes a day for young children.  The idea is not about perfect penmanship, rather it’s training the small motor muscles to direct the pen to form the letter shapes and coordinate the eye with spatial concepts.  Cursive flows with its ovals and curves.  Over, under and up and down strokes that easily join letters that form words (and ideas!).  Manuscript (print writing) is much stiffer with lines and circle shapes that must be made with starts and stops.
   Take the test yourself.  In a quiet space, with full attention, print out a couple sentences.  Next, write out a couple more in cursive.  Handwriting is visceral — you can “feel” a difference.  Printing is much more angular and mechanical.  Cursive flows.  Studies show that it engages the creative centers in our brains.  Be patient.  Get in touch with the flow ... not with your judgment about what it looks like.  Simply put your pen to paper and write a few spontaneous lines.  It isn’t about perfection, it’s about the process.   
   There are many clinical studies that show the benefits of cursive writing.  You can find links to some of them on my website at: