Archives: homeschooling

How Handwriting Attitudes Have Changed

Months ago, I reconnected with my high school tennis coach and Civics teacher on Facebook. As we swapped stories he commented that when each former student’s name popped up, he would immediately remember his or her handwriting. Although he has taught hundreds of kids what he remembers most is their handwriting: the slant, the loopy loops, or the indescribable scrawls.

Surprised, I began thinking about folks I haven’t seen in years and I, too, could remember their handwriting style if I had seen it regularly.

I got to thinking about that when I saw the prediction that 2011 babies won’t know how to write in cursive, or any type of handwriting, because they will exclusively use keyboards.

Normally, I would have pooh-pooh’ed that idea until I read a memo from Indiana‘s Department of Education alerting local schools that they don’t need to order any more cursive workbooks because, to (wildly) paraphrase, cursive ain’t on the test. (But, keyboarding is.)

Adopting a New Style

Penmanship was for hundreds of years, I written symbol of one’s education and status. To have a “good hand” was an important social skill, much like knowing the right dance steps.

In fact, in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries learning to write in a particular style was a way to improve yourself and to identify your social standing in the community. A clerk or scribe would write in one way, while a gentleman would write in another, and women in another style altogether.

Derbyshire handwritten cookbook, 1743

Not that everyone had good handwriting. Historians can’t make out many words in lots of journals, diaries or common household documents because the handwriting is illegible, especially for those people who were not writing for an audience nor worried about their letters being evaluated by others.

(Plus spelling was a freelance effort. I’m always reminded of how Edward was embarrassed of Lucy Steele’s letters in Sense and Sensibility.)

Around the turn of the 20th century, top American thinkers and educators started experimenting with the progressive movement and wanted to eliminate class distinctions, so handwriting instruction changed as well. Schools began teaching an uniform style of penmanship called the Palmer method, after A.N. Palmer.

Soon, the Palmer method – with its neat loops and even, but plain, strokes – became the most popular handwriting in the United States.  Although it was simple when compared to the fancier script of the the early 19th century, the handwriting was faster to write and easier to read.

In fact, today as family members begin to re-read letters sent home many years ago from their World War II soldier, they often comment that regardless of the soldier’s level of stress in combat, his handwriting is remarkably read-able thanks to the the Palmer method.

Time marched on, and in the 1960s and 1970s, educators thought the Palmer handwriting was too rigid, so American schoolchildren were given less instruction in handwriting and more freedom to “develop” their own style.

As fewer teachers were trained to teach handwriting, penmanship took up less time in the classroom. Then, as the 21st century approached, and standardized testing and computer keyboards took center stage, handwriting has become a hit and miss skill.

Some schools stress it, while others don’t bother after a child has learned to print.

Still Bias?

Although schools haven’t emphasized handwriting or penmanship in decades, there still lingers a bias against poor, sloppy handwriting among teachers, parents, and adults which students – with little penmanship training – have had to contend with when writing essays or answering questions on tests.

Over the years, research has shown that papers with better handwriting consistently received higher scores than those with poor handwriting.

Getting to Know You

Whether neat or messy, most folks do feel handwriting is still the most personal form of communication. Etiquette experts continue to recommend a handwritten thank you note or letter for wedding and graduation gifts, and many human resource managers say that a handwritten thank you note after a job interview makes a bigger – and better- impression than an equally gracious email.

What about you? Do you like a handwritten letter? 


Do you think you know someone better after seeing his or her handwriting?


Photo credits: Culture 24: “Derbyshire Record Office Given 18th Century Cook Book” , Palmer Method of Business Writing, A.N. Palmer, and personal images.


3 Lessons Learned at College Orientation for Parents

First, did you even know that parents have college orientations?

We didn’t. When our daughter informed us that her 3 day college orientation included us our response was “Uh-Uhn”.

“Are you sure?” I asked my daughter three or four hundred times. “They really expect us to come too?”

Now, mind you, it’s not that we didn’t want to tag-along or that we weren’t interested – I mean we home schooled her so yep we were used to be involved but – really? Parents at college orientation?

Obviously our college experiences and our daughter’s experience was not going to be the same.

And not only did her University want us at the conference, not only did they expect us at the conference, they had a Helicopter Parents’ Conference Track set up for us.

So, we went (back) to college orientation.

Yes Sir, that’s my Baby. No Sir, We get Bippy.

In the wooing stage, the colleges encouraged us to fill out the FASFA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) so  we can pour out our financial souls and let a government agency tell us how much moo-la they think our family should chunk in for college. Whatever that score was  would determine the kiddo’s student grants, work study and loans.

However once the University locked us into the money machine, they explained the fine print. Yes, you’re forking over the money, but – here they lowered the boom -you have no access to your child’s official records.

None. Nothing. Zero.

And we’ll hang up on you if you call us.

They get away with this madness under something called FERPA – which sounds cuddly and sweet – but FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy) means they tell you zippo about your child’s grades or finances unless the child signs a consent form. You learn nada until Junior gives you the nod.

Hrmp! We really weren’t that curious until we were told we couldn’t get at the information. Plus it didn’t help that the University repeatedly said, “No matter how much financial trouble your child may be in. Don’t call us unless your student has signed the form.”

So, in other words, FERPA means WEML (What Ever Major Loser).

Baby Got Back! (And Cankles too.)

Many of the parent workshops described how to handle the homesick phone call, how to encourage the lonely student, and how to guide the wayward kid.

And one prepared us for the new, not-so-improved, SuperSized Freshman.


‘Cuz its not the Freshmen Fifteen anymore. It’s the Freshmen Fifty.

As in 50 pounds.

All-you-can-eat campus cafeterias, late night runs to grab tacos, and dorm pizza deliveries just crank open the door to binge eating. Apparently college freshmen are packing in the food and putting on the pounds. More so than we even did, you know, back in the day.

So what’s their advice?

Encourage your freshmen to take Physiology (fancy for P.E.) the first semester – while the gym shorts still fit.

Green Acres is the place to be, Real Livin’ is a really real privy

Be Green. Stay Green. Talk Green. Go Green.

Green is the unofficial mantra around the campus.

It’s on the slide show as you wait for a workshop to begin. It’s on the brochure you are handed in the recycled bags so you can carry all the recycled brochures. The message is everywhere.

Not a problem.

Except when Being Green goes to the bathroom.

You see, we stayed in a charming Bed & Breakfast that was one block from campus, had loads of local history, and was a beautiful home. This B&B prided itself on being “as one” with the college and so it was proudly Green.

We had reminders about hanging our towels instead of having them washed each night. We had loofahs instead of washcloths. And we had bins to recycle our plastic water bottles and aluminum cans. Sweet, charming, peaceful.

Wait. Did I say peaceful? Nope. Not peaceful because this Go Green B&B had a Low Flush Toilet in our attached bathroom.

Would you like to guess how long it takes for a Low Flush Toilet to fill its tank? 10 minutes? Nope. 15 minutes? Nah! 20 minutes??? Getting closer.

It takes 40 minutes! F-O-R-T-Y minutes to re-fill the water tank on one of those suckers.

And since there was this. . . .

. . . there was plenty of opportunity to listen to the tank fill up. Plenty.

Believe me. Two women can have that thing running 24/7.

Fur-get it.

I think Green should stay out of the bathroom.


Anyone else get an education at College Orientation? Are you surprised at anything we learned? C’mon spill.