You probably know that I interpret Charlotte Mason's words with much grace. I take into account cultural differences, what materials were available in her day, and how God personally convicts me in different areas. Handwriting is an area that has changed immensely in 100 years. Not only are its purposes very different, the means in which we can practice handwriting have greatly improved. Move over, chalk and slate, hello, printable pages!
Over the past 6 weeks, I've been going over Charlotte Mason's recommendations in Home Education. I am only discussing recommendations in this volume, although she does have many more recommendations in her other volumes, in PNEU schedules, journal articles, etc. You can find the rest of the posts in this series here.
In Home Education, Charlotte Mason described how to teach handwriting. I'll explain her recommendations, and also share how I'm choosing to approach this area.
"First, let the child accomplish something perfectly in every lesson--a stroke, a pothook, a letter. Let the writing lesson be short; it should not last more than five or ten minutes. Ease in writing comes by practice; but that must be secured later. In the meantime, the thing to be avoided is the habit of careless work --humpy m's, angular o's." Home Education, pages 233-234
In this volume, Charlotte Mason recommended practicing letters on a blackboard. First, the child practices printing letters in isolation- capitals first, then lower case letters. The letters should be formed beautifully before moving on. Next, the child begins practicing groups of letters to form simple words. She gives the examples of "man" and "aunt."
But, Charlotte Mason also recommended a handwriting book, called A New Handwriting. This handwriting was beautiful and necessary "for the distinctly commonplace writing taught from existing copy-books, however painstaking and legible, cannot but have a rather vulgarising effect both on the writer and the reader of such manuscript." Home Education, page 236
She recommended having the child copy the plates on their chalkboard, then with paper and pencil, and finally, with pen and ink. I wonder, though, if she had been presented with today's technology of one-time-use books, like we have today, if a handwriting book would have been acceptable to her? I imagine it would!
A Note on Copywork
Copywork, or transcription, is often described as the only handwriting practice that children need. While this might be a recommendation in her later works, in Home Education, Charlotte Mason said that transcription (writing a passage out beautifully) should begin at ages seven or eight.
"The earliest practice in writing proper for children of seven or eight should be, not letter writing or dictation, but transcription, slow and beautiful work, for which the New Handwriting is to be preferred, though perhaps some of the more ornate characters may be omitted with advantage." Home Education, page 238
Home Education Curriculum: Handwriting
I agonized over several handwriting books before making my choice. Finally, I chose The Good and The Beautiful Handwriting books, levels 1 and 2. I like how the exercises aren't extremely monotonous, that there are pictures to color to help develop muscles necessary for handwriting, and, as Miss H begins to write words and phrases, they are meaningful (often Bible verses.)
I also considered Handwriting without Tears (affiliate link) as I had experience with it as a teacher, but I ultimately decided that the latter curriculum was, well, more beautiful.
Finding handwriting worksheets online is also an option. If you feel adventurous, you can even create your own handwriting worksheets!