Teaching Handwriting the Charlotte Mason Way

In today’s blog post and video, we’re discussing how Charlotte Mason recommends we teach handwriting. She also refers to handwriting as transcription, and we call it copywork in today’s modern world; they’re one and the same. I’ll share my favorite handwriting program for copywork and transcription, the method behind the program, a few examples of me troubleshooting our lessons and some real-life examples of my student’s work. Keep reading to see how to teach handwriting the Charlotte Mason way.

The latest on Youtube:

How did Charlotte Mason Teach Handwriting?

Charlotte Mason’s approach to writing is very similar to her philosophy in all other subjects. Slow, methodical and habitual effort. She recommends you start with simple strokes before even teaching the formation of a letter, let alone a word! In her book Home Education, she writes, Let the stroke be learned first; then the pothook; then the letters of which the pothook is an element – n, m, v, w, r, h, p, y; then o, and letters of which the curve is an element – a, c, g, e, x, s, q; then looped and irregular letters…One letter should be perfectly formed in a day and the next day…” (p 234).

She also recommends that lessons remain very short as to not fatigue the child. “Let the writing lesson be short; it should not last more than five or ten minutes. Ease in writing comes by practice…” (p 233). You can usually tell when your student begins to lose interest or get frustrated; try to read the child, and stop before that point hits.

Mason also recommended teaching Italics to children, as it very naturally progresses into learning how to write in cursive in the later years. I recommend my favorite Mason-inspired copywork program below.

Handwriting Lessons in Our Home

We do handwriting (also called copywork) every day in our home. We spend about five minutes on a copywork lesson, but when we first started, the lessons were VERY short. Sometimes only a minute long. Remember, Mason recommends we stick with short lessons and expect “perfect” work for that very short time. As your student gets older, you can expect more from them as far as lesson length. If you’re interested in what program we use, read on!

My favorite Handwriting/Copywork Program

We’ve used the Italics – Beautiful Handwriting for Children program by Penny Gardner from the beginning. We are finishing up our second year with it, and I’m eager to move onto year three, as it will help my daughter learn cursive!

Penny Gardner, the creator, extensively outlines the developmental schedule for teaching italics, and then eventually cursive. I’ll go through it briefly below, but check out her program here for more info.

Developmental Schedule for Teaching Handwriting

Handwriting really starts in baby/toddlerhood. 

So you definitely to focus on the following before thinking about teaching handwriting. In ages 0-5, you’ll want to focus on the following in this order:

01. Gross Motor skills

02. Fine motor skills

03. Letter formation w/o writing tool (tracing letters in air)

Grades K-1: in these grades, you’ll focus on the following in this order:

01. Lowercase formation

02. Capitals formation

03. Writing words

04. Copywork from Model (aka, parent or writing program writes it for them to copy)

Grade 2-3

01. Copywork from typeset (copying from a book without a model from a parent)

02. Lowercase cursive alphabet

Grades 3-4

03. Uppercase cursive alphabet

04. Connect and join letters in cursive

Grades 4-6 (depending on readiness)

01. Copywork from typeset (book) in cursive

Other Helpful Handwriting Tips

  • Remember to keep lessons short! 3-5 minute lessons tops – It’s better to watch closely than start to form bad habits that have to be reversed later on!
  • Glitter glue makes a great tool for cost-effective raised letters. This is great for tracing for young kids who aren’t ready to start handwriting yet.

Closing Thoughts

Hopefully this post and video on how to teach handwriting the Charlotte Mason way was helpful to you and your family! Remember that it’s never too late to switch over to Charlotte Mason’s method. It may take a bit more practice and work if you haven’t started from the beginning using her philosophy, but it is absolutely possible. As always, if you have any questions, please ask below and I’ll do my best to answer. Happy Teaching!

Thank you so much for reading!

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