Monday, April 09, 2007

Do we still need handwriting?

Nikki's got me thinking :-)

I posted this comment here:

As regards the development of handwriting: do we still need this?

I won't be sitting Lyddie down and insisting she produces writing ever, so the writing she does will only be that which she wants to do - at the moment this consists of signing cards, (as Em said re: her girls,) labelling pictures and adding to shopping lists etc.

I wonder if this will ever develop
[of its own accord] into scripted narrative, in our keyboard age? Tom, Ali and Zara express themselves in text extensively, but all via computer keyboard. They all can produce legible handwriting, but it certainly isn't something they practice.

I myself still do pages of handwriting most days in my diary, but I think this is through force of habit more than anything - if I was 20 years younger I've no doubt I'd be doing it on computer.

Reliance on machines for writing does make me feel concerned about us developing too much dependence on such things, but having said that I think the handwriting ability comes back very quickly after a short amount of practice, so I'm not too worried. I think if Tom, Ali and Zara were suddenly deprived of their computers they'd be handwriting very well within a few days.

And it should have been a blog post really, because I'd love to know what other people think about this. Do we still need handwriting?


Anonymous Clare said...

I often think about this. Work books tell you to only teach your child lower case, and to only teach them in a certain order. Surely the purpose of writing is to get a message across to someone (or to yourself, if it's lists or a diary you're writing) so therefore, unless you want your handwriting to look nice, so long as it's legible that's all that counts. You only need to learn the letters that are important to you, and you can learn them in the way you find it easiest to write them. As you get more practiced you'll find ways of doing them better, and will end up learning most letters as you'll want to write more and more words that need more and more different letters.

I taught myself to type, then got fed up of it taking ages and took it upon myself to be taught (by a cd-rom) to touch-type. Why wouldn't it be any different for handwriting? You get fed up of it looking messy (or you don't) so you learn to do it neater...we can always upgrade our skills when we feel the need to.

Does any of that make sense?

2:23 pm, April 09, 2007  
Blogger Lindsey said...

I absolutely love the way elderly people write. To me such beautiful writing is an art form. It is no different to drawing pictures to me, but when forced it looses its charm. Beautiful writing produced just for the sake of it and the enjoyment of it is great, but as a whole, there's not much use for it in this day and age I guess. Caligraphy can look fab, and writing with pen and ink the old fashioned way can be fun. I think being forced to write neatly and joined up is only useful if it is fun - not everyone enjoys it, just like not everyone enjoys drawing. I know my own writing is a complete mess since I left school i.e. started using a computer to write lol. It started off looking quite nice as a child, then high school became a time of writing out pages and pages of meaningless drivel copied from books and the blackboard, so it started to become rushed. I love letters from my gran though. She takes great time and care and her letters have a certain charm to them. I guess the pursuit of beautiful handwriting needs to be because it is wanted and not because it is expected. And besides, we wouldn't be able to have fun with handwriting analysis if no one did it any more pmsl.

2:24 pm, April 09, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

LOL, good point about the handwriting analysis!

Yes I think you both confirm my thinking generally on this.

Are older schoolchildren still expected to write their essays by hand? If not, I wonder at what age they're allowed to stop doing so.

We know a schoolboy who pastes all his essays from googled texts and says everyone he knows at school does the same, so I guess they must be allowed to submit printed essays.

3:47 pm, April 09, 2007  
Blogger Tim said...

I do think it would be a shame if, when the seas rise and the nuclear power stations flood, there is no-one able to write it all down for posterity. Still, I suppose the answer is to upend a line of BMWs and chisel the story into them. Of course, PCs will probably come fitted with USB6 wind turbines by then.

3:52 pm, April 09, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...


So my question should really have been about hand-chiseling..


4:06 pm, April 09, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

My older 5 can write with lovely handwritng. S has not been in a school since sher was 7 but taught herself, as when she came up she was not even doing cursive. With the boys I skipped the print stage as I believe it is hard to move onto cursive and many adults write with a messy mixture of cursive and print as a result of learning print first. Dh has dysgraphia but can cursively write as an art form. He has no interest in it to convey information and will only use a computer to type "important" things. Neither of the boys will copy write. They see it as a pointless exercise. However the older ones did it in school.

I never write - not ever. I have not written a single thing since I was about 18, apart from cards. I have A level English Lit and Language and wrote all the time at school but found it pointless on leaving. I will even type labels for envelopes. I think the advent of email has been the death knell of snail mail and therefore writing is a dying art and pretty much surplus to requirement- certainly not as important as the school system makes out anyway.

4:45 pm, April 09, 2007  
Blogger Mieke said...

I have mixed feelings about this, but - coming from a Steiner influenced background - I have always encouraged (but definitely not forced;) the children to handwrite. Writing to me is not only a way to communicate messages, but also yet another form of expressing yourself, your Self. As art is.
I have observed the writing process in my three and - typical - they have all done it differently, but their individual ways reflected very much their personalities. At least, that's how I see it.
But there's also the other side to it. If having to handwrite gets in the way of expressing your thoughts (as it does with me, because of my rheumatism it's sometimes really hard to even hold a pen.., or with my son, because writing to him takes genuine effort) than it's not important how the writing is done, by hand or by typing, as long as it's legible enough to get the message across.

5:21 pm, April 09, 2007  
Blogger dottyspots said...

I see handwriting as a potential art-form and indeed, think there's nothing better than receiving an actual handwritten letter (apart from the fact that I then feel obliged to handwrite a reply...)

However, as long as it's legible, then surely the point of writing has been met.

Dh purposefully made his handwriting a scrawl to 'hide' his lack of confidence re. spelling and I found out recently that his mother did the same.

Again, mine were a bit late on the writing front, although my elder son was writing a while before he really wanted to read - for my younger son it sort of happened at the same time, but his reading overtook it and he's far more confident reading than he is writing (but I think this has more to do with motorskills).

In today's computer-age, the ability to use a keyboard is a great boon. I also taught myself to touch-type to overcome my frustration at not being able to express myself online as fast as I wanted to (not much patience here).

What really frustrates me of late is the local HE 'advisor', who seems to have a *thing* for handwriting.

Not a problem here as he's never been presented with any examples of my children's writing (although, I have to say that R's handwriting is very neat and precise anyway), but I've heard a number of rather depressing stories from local HE-ing families where their children's writing has been criticised (and indeed a child to whom it was suggested that they use more colours in their drawing - I kid you not!)

Still he doesn't appear to understand why some local families are not comfortable in showing him examples of writing (not that they're under any legal obligation to), even though said families are not against the idea on the whole, more that they are uncomfortable (or downright disagree) with his approach having seen any examples.

5:36 pm, April 09, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Ew Nikki - would that be Mr I then? :-(

I agree Mieke, getting the message across has to be the key thing.

Ruth, none of my older three have taken the kind of interest in handwriting that your S has! I kind of wished they would, but no. They're creative and expressive in different ways. Lyddie might be different though - she does seem to be more of a paper-oriented type person so far. And the baby might be different again. Exciting to wait and see!

I seem to express myself differently on screen and on paper. I often wonder if the two activities use different parts of our brains. I certainly can't take in info from a screen as well as I can from paper. Perhaps it's my age! ;-)

6:44 pm, April 09, 2007  
Blogger dottyspots said...

Yes, it is Mr I.

I struggle a bit with reading screens too - I much prefer a book, or sheets of paper to read (if it's anything of any length).

7:46 pm, April 09, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

"Yes, it is Mr I."

Gah, do you think he knows TM? TM does come from Sheffield. Makes you wonder..

7:58 pm, April 09, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Oh wait, you're not Sheffield are you? Not far away though?

7:58 pm, April 09, 2007  
Blogger dottyspots said...

No, not Sheffield, but certainly not far away - it wouldn't surprise me if they knew each other.

It's a pity really as I would much prefer to have a positive relationship with the local authority (as we're known to them) and really there shouldn't be any reason why this isn't the case, after all, I understand their need to be satisfied that an education is taking place (etc.) I've never argued *that*, rather I've been rather bemused that they should think that a suitable (etc) education was not being experienced by my children and annoyed that it was inferred that a report didn't prove anything and that I could be making it all up (because naturally I have nothing better to do with my time than enter into some 18months of written discussion over the duties of the local authority...)

The local representative of the LA (to HE-ers atleast) has a rather different interpretation to the law than I do and insists that he is right and I (and EO as a whole) are wrong :0( What's more I've been accused of being obstructive etc. a pity I don't have that in writing (in fact, I repeatedly requested that as it was clear that he thought I was lying, would he be so good as to put that in writing - unsurprisingly this was never done, although it was very much inferred).

It's not for the lack of trying to be reasonable, I have, even repeatedly agreeing with him on a number of points, but he seems set on viewing me as anarchic and EO as encouraging HE-ers to 'flout' the law, which is rather amusing really considering that I am not against families offering up examples of 'work' should they so choose to, or have home visits, or anything else in fact, I'm only trying to support the rights of my own and other families under law to take an alternative view in supporting the local authority to 'be satisfied'. I can only imagine what he would make of Ahed etc. :0)

8:17 pm, April 09, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Hmmmmm. They're just not listening are they, the Mr Is and TMs :-(

Some people seem to find it impossible to shift their stance once they've taken one up in an argument, don't they? No matter how much appeasing you do.

Is Mr I a retired teacher then, like TM?

I wonder if there's any mileage in the point that it puts our children off learning, to be inspected in that way? There are surely enough of us to testify to that.

8:25 pm, April 09, 2007  
Blogger Maria said...

When my daughter was 6, I was criticised by an ancient inspector (probably related to Mr I) because she could not write joined up at that age!! This is true!! Since then, she's been put off writing....she just rushes everything because now she thinks that she's not good enough. And honestly, I could kill the bloke for saying such a thing in front of her . She mixes upper and lower case and so I wish she'd never seen a capital letter!!! He failed our provision because of this non-joined up mullarcky and because he just could not see how autonomous learning can work.

Now, she is a little older and he is out of our face. I haven't pushed her in any way to write. She's starting to produce little stories and her writing is, when she forgets the inspector's comments, really lovely...very neat.

If they'd just leave the kids to it.......

I didn't push her with reading either and now she reads way beyond her years.

And she's a whizz on the computer...all self-taught. I don't like the text/msn type talk, though. Bad grounding for spelling.

8:36 pm, April 09, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Hi Maria. Ugh, that's horrible :-(

Maybe that's something we could do for the DfES consultation sham thing - compile all the accounts of how our children's education has been damaged by inspections?

I've got one: our first inspector asked Tom to read aloud, checked his writing and picked holes in both his reading and his spelling. He hadn't even bothered to read in the file that Tom is severely dyslexic and should never have been asked to demonstrate either, let alone criticised for it. When I pointed it out he didn't even have the grace to apologise.

8:43 pm, April 09, 2007  
Blogger dottyspots said...

It's stories such as these that make me feel really sad.

And yes, Mr I is a retired headmaster and (if I remember correctly) used to work for Ofsted (might be wrong on the last point). He was the headmaster at a school attended by one of the local HE-ing parents.

9:41 pm, April 09, 2007  
Blogger Ruth said...

I had the same Maria. My youngest sons who were 6 then, and are autistic, did not write joined up and it incensed the inspector so much we got threats of an issue of a SAO. I happen to know the only reason commonsense prevailed was the intervention of another LA! Pity she didn't keep quiet cos B refused to write anything for a further year and a bit cos of her rudeness. I don't read as well on screen either Gill. I prefer a good book. RE S -it was just her but she still types letters e.t.c for speed lol. I was just surprised how beatiful her handwriting is with no intervention on my part

9:41 pm, April 09, 2007  
Blogger Rosie said...

nHi Gill. I only just read earlier post- fascinating stuff- I suppose I'm just playing it by ear with the writing. Fergus has just started to copy random words down and ask me to read them, totally of his own accord. he does read the odd word, too, so I suppose he is learning both at the same time. He has been able to write his name since age 3 but not much more.
I think Waldorf is a method of formal teaching, which I don't have the intention of doing, as autonomous seems to work so much better for us now. Having said that, I have taken on board some of the insights of Steiner, such as not actively encouraging literacy until age 6-7. There are so many more important things for them to develop before this age. I think the writing before reading goes with the theory that young children like to be actively "doing" and it is more physical. I'm quite into the idea of using our bodies expressively in art, etc.
Fergus does spend quite a bit of time on the computer but finds it easier to handwrite. Handwriting seems to happen quite a lot as part of games, etc. There is always paper and pens around and its nice that they doodle, draw and write in such a relaxed way.
I think Freddie, Like Joy will be writing younger than Fergus, but I dont think it matters at all as long as they are doing it their own pace. Joy had no formal teaching to read and write till she was 5 and then picked it up in 6 months. Freddie is doing "emergent writing" which is supposed to "ok" from a waldorf poit of view, being about imitation and a preparation for writing. Some people would take this as a cue to start teaching it, but, as I said, I'm not going there! (hides behind table).
As an aside, I just noticed Freddie doing a a sum at teatime without thinking. "There's 3 left, here you go, now there's 2". When joy asked what was left if she took another away he said "crusts".

11:33 pm, April 09, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

"And yes, Mr I is a retired headmaster.."

Oh no, so he got to exercise his prejuduces and bombast against thousands of children? He's living proof that the school system is beyond hope.

"B refused to write anything for a further year"

Yes Tom's confidence took a big knock as well. Surely it's a good argument for saying "This is why we don't want visits, inspections and showing work. It's not because we're not doing anything or because we might not be doing enough - it's because your presence is immensely damaging to our children's education."

"I just noticed Freddie doing a a sum at teatime without thinking. "There's 3 left, here you go, now there's 2". When joy asked what was left if she took another away he said "crusts"."

LOL! Yes we've had some bits of natural maths going on - not as much as literacy though. Last night Lyddie was playing with toys and chatting away to herself, but every few words she'd pick one to spell out loud, just trying to work out the letter sounds in it. She had no idea I was listening, but it's obvious that her brain is working on this pretty much full time ATM.

6:51 am, April 10, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

I must add that T, A & Z were all in school at her age, and I never heard any of them doing anything like this.

7:18 am, April 10, 2007  
Blogger Baz said...

When I was at primary school we had several hours a week dedicated to handwriting, and the class was undertaken by the headmaster of all people. This may come as a shock but he was a brilliant guy who always had time for the kids he taught and would spend hours telling us stories, sitting with individual class members to help them and generally made the whole thing fun.

Moving on a few years, when I started in employment my first boss had been in the Civil Engineering business for nearly 40 years. He insisted that all his staff be able to legibly write on drawings with technical ink pens - which is no mean feat I can tell you - and as such part of my training was to do at least two hours a week writing practice.

I guess where I'm going with this lengthy comment is that writing is essential for two reasons - the first one being that its proved itself to be a damn site more permanent than binary code stored on an easily corruptable magnetic disk, and the second because its an art form in it own right. (I used to be big on the whole calligraphy thing)

I guess in real terms writing essentially just needs to be legible, but it would be a shame if humanities future is just mapped out in Arial 10pt or the dreaded Times New Roman 12pt. I certainly hope to be able to pass my skills on to anyone who asks :)

8:38 am, April 10, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Oh I kind of like Times New Roman! ;-)

Do people still produce technical drawings by hand then, Baz? I thought those days would be long gone, I must admit.

9:22 am, April 10, 2007  
Blogger Louise said...

I typed a long comment and it didn't appear so it must be out in the ether somewhere!!
My kids can write when they want to but don't produce any written work. In this day and age the medium used to express oneself is usually text/e-mail and this is the one I mostly use now apart from shopping lists.
We have to adapt and move with the times. As you say if text/e-mail was taken away then yes we would revert to writing again.
What do you write in a diary Gill? Is it a home-ed one or a political thought one? I contemplated doing one but worried re-reading it might make me depressed!!

7:51 pm, April 10, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Sorry Lou, I missed this comment.

My diaries are just ongoing working documents, really. Thoughts, financial records and planning, I Ching readings, (Got 15 years' worth of those, with circumstances, questions and results - might make a good book sometime!) scribbled notes from Lyddie, lists of things to do and things to buy... everything, really!

They're very useful because every entry is dated and often timed too, so I use them for reference a lot - for e.g. BT was trying to tell me yesterday I hadn't set up a direct debit payment with them. Well I had the date, time and notes from the call I'd made when I did set it up all in my diary, so I could confidently assert that they were wrong.

I don't use pre-printed diaries because I tend to run out of space in those and find them too structured. I just buy A4 lined pads - usually hard-backed, ring-bound ones, and write in those. I've got diaries like this going back to the time when I was about 10 years old.

It'll make a lot of boring reading for someone, one day ;-)

11:22 am, April 12, 2007  
Blogger Louise said...

Ah yes Gill, I could keep diaries like that and I actually think they would make better reading than depressing thoughts. Do you just do it in the evening or as you go along? Do your kids keep a diary?

2:04 pm, April 12, 2007  
Blogger Gill said...

Just as I go along Lou. Some days it gets used more than others. As regards the kids - I think Tom keeps a similar kind of life-log on his computer, and Ali is a diary-keeper. Only Zar (of the older ones) appears not to be, so far.

2:17 pm, April 12, 2007  

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