Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Written on Paper - Book of Me

We practiced form by making capital-sized, continuous ovals across the width of the paper, first in a clockwise direction, then counter-clockwise.  We were not to raise our
pencils as we formed those as-perfect-as-possible ovals.  We practiced lower case ovals in a similar manner.  Then each letter had its turn for practice, each repeated across the page, each separately formed.  I competed with myself each time we practiced handwriting, hoping to improve each letter and make it look just like the example.

None of my grade school papers survive.  The only evidence of my early handwriting abilities is this Elementary Certificate from The Peterson System of Directed Handwriting.  My mother loved saving certificates, bless her heart.   

During my senior year of college while working on a B.S. in Education, I was required to take a handwriting test.  I was shocked to learn that I'd failed.  At left is handwriting of about the same time.  You can see that my letters wouldn't have matched the standard:  the tall letters and capitals were too short.  I thought the writing was fine then but looking at it more objectively now I can see why it failed.

These days my handwriting is usually a combination of writing and printing, especially if I'm in a hurry or making a note just for me.   I can write more attractively and usually do when sending a note or letter with a greeting card, but most of my writing consists of notes to myself so I write for speed and ease.  I find it takes more effort and some extra time to write beautifully. 

One recurring thought as I was compiling this post was this:  if I had been a census taker I would have printed everything and all words would have been legible.  At least I like to think that's what I would have done.  But maybe I would have just put the information down as quickly as possible.

A year ago I shared a post showing signatures of some of my literate ancestors and x's of some of my illiterate ancestors.  Times have changed since the mid-1800s when many of my ancestors were illiterate.

Times are changing again.  I have heard the rumor that handwriting is currently not being taught to public school children.  I was discussing this with an acquaintance and he commented that there wasn't really a need for children to learn to write since most everything was typed.  I objected and he asked me why children should learn handwriting.  I told him my thoughts:
  • Learning to control a pencil and form letters helps improve manual dexterity and fine motor skills.  
  • It teaches patience and the success that comes after effort.
  • Learning to write and read handwriting will allow children to read writing written decades ago, such as handwritten family history documents (which turned out to be an important point for him).
  • Those who know how to write will be able to sign their names.
Another thought came to mind later:  I think being able to write by holding a pen or pencil in hand and manipulating it to form letters into words written on paper is half the requirement of being literate.  I don't think it's enough to be able to type letters and words on a computer.  (But then I'm a little -- okay, maybe a lot -- old-fashioned.)

Perhaps handwriting is outmoded and an anachronism but I don't want to believe it and I hope it's not true.

This is another post in The Book of Me series, created by Julie Goucher of Anglers Rest.  Thank you, Julie.


© 2014 Copyright by Nancy Messier. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

  1. I remember LOVING when it was time to practice cursive writing. I have several examples of my handwriting from 4th grade -- it was beautiful. I had good handwriting until college when I had to take notes furiously. Now that I mostly type, I can barely read what I write. HA. As for being able to sign our name, goodness -- we're now allowed to use our finger to sign electronically so usually the result doesn't look like my "real" signature. That aside, the main concern among genealogists is that one day people won't be able to read old documents or even what WE have written. That's scary.


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