Ask the readers: Handwriting – Print or Cursive First?

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I’ve seen some discussion about teaching cursive first versus teaching manuscript first.  I’ve read a few articles about it, spent time watching my daughter struggle with manuscript and I’m still just not sure.  So I thought, “Why not ask the experienced homeschoolers, teachers and friends what they thought.”

Here is the article from Logic of English that really got my attention (thanks Sarah Mae for sharing it).  It made me reconsider teaching manuscript first:

Beginning With Cursive Handwriting

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When I read the above article below, a few points that really stood out to me:

  • All the lowercase letters begin in one place, on the baseline.
  • By lifting the pencil between words, the beginning and ending of words is emphasized
  • It is difficult to reverse b’s and d’s in cursive.
  • Lowercase print (manuscript) letters begin in 7 different places
  • In printing (manuscript) too much space is placed between letter and too little space is placed between words


First a little background:

I personally think handwriting is very important.  When I was in first grade I was left handed. I was struggling with my penmanship (isn’t every 1st grader?!?)  so the teacher switched my writing hand *gasp* I know!! Looking back I can’t believe they still did this! I am now right handed.

Even thought they switched my handwriting I still struggled through elementary school with bad handwriting and I even FAILED penmanship in 4th grade and it made me feel terrible. To this day I still say I have terrible handwriting but I’m sure that’s not entirely true.


Before I ask for your comments, let me preface it by saying:

I do not have the unrealistic expectation that my my kindergartener (6 in September) will have excellent penmanship. I know that it will take years for penmanship to be mastered.
I don’t want her to hate penmanship like I did. 
I don’t want her to struggle the way I did all throughout school.
I’m not expecting this to be easy and I know that there is no miracle curriculum out there. 
I’ll probably stick with teaching manuscript (especially since a good friend scored me Handwriting Without Tears for $5!)


I would love to start a conversation and hear from people who have tried or currently do cursive first in their homeschool.

Teacher friends, I would love to hear from you too! Share your thoughts!!

Please remember to be friendly and kind and respectful of other parents preference and practices. Any mean spirited comments will be deleted. Let’s keep Hey, Donna a friendly little space.


Leave a comment below!


Image Credit: Image used with permission from Barbara Snow


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  • Reply
    June 22, 2012 at 11:53 am

    I have a few thoughts (some of which I’ve shared with you already)…

    We tried cursive with my oldest, starting in K4-K5. It was extremely difficult for her, because fine motor skills were not her strong point. Up until we started handwriting, she was doing pretty well with manuscript on her own, just copying what she could see. I feel like doing the cursive really set her back. Cursive became such a discouragement to her that she hated doing school and there were many tears. We switched to manuscript, and it took her until the middle of second grade (this last year) to really master it. I think handwriting would have been a struggle for her either way, but doing cursive definitely set her back as far as I can tell.

    I also think that since your daughter has probably already started learning manuscript at her preschool, it would be better to continue with that until she has mastered it, rather than changing things up in kindergarten.

    I know every child is different though, and some have done really well with starting cursive first.

    • Reply
      June 23, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      I let Claire play with a worksheet that I printed from The Logic of English site. She practiced writing cursive i’s and t’s and she did really well. I have to say I agree that it might make sense for me to just continue with manuscript since she did learn it in preschool. She’s got plenty of time to master it. I’m just so intrigued with the concepts behind teaching cursive first.

  • Reply
    Dawn @ The Momma Knows
    June 22, 2012 at 12:02 pm

    Doing cursive first is on my “wish I would have” list for most of my kids. My two youngest both have serious fine motor issues and my youngest was diagnosed with dysgraphia. Along with the dysgraphia diagnosis came a recommendation to teach him how to type and assurance that his writing will be legible by the time he’s an adult. Oh boy. But I still wonder… if I had started him with cursive, would the letter size and spacing even be an issue now? He’s 10 and most of the time he can’t keep his letters on the line, irregular spacing between letters and words, some letters float in the air and others are under the baseline, etc. We do a small amount of penmanship practice each week, but my next purchase for him is going to be Handwriting Without Tears Cursive. The only way you will know if doing cursive first is a good idea is to try it out. I wish I had.

    • Reply
      June 23, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      Thanks Dawn. I have noticed that cursive first is recommended for those with dyslexia, it makes sense to me! I’ll have to keep in mind the fine motor skills – Claire has very good fine motor skills but her biggest struggle is knowing where to start each letter. She gets very frustrated! Luckily she’s just in kindergarten and we have time to work on it!

  • Reply
    Susan @Homeschooling Hearts & Minds
    June 22, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    If I had it to do over, I would have done cursive first with my 2nd boy (he’s almost 7)—he has issues with correct formation of the letters and a script that would force him to work from left to right with lower case letters all starting in the same place might have helped with that.

    That said, I TRIED cursive first with my oldest daughter and while it was not a disaster, everyone was unhappy and her cursive handwriting was a mess. I’m reteaching it to her this summer and she is loving it, and writing it beautifully (she’ll be entering 3rd). So I’ll agree with the previous commenter and say that some kids are not developmentally ready for cursive first. At least with print her handwriting was somewhat legible.

    I think the real key to teaching any handwriting is to model it and to not rely too much on workbooks. Show them how to do it and do it with them. Another key is to give them paper ruled to the correct size for THEM. My oldest (now 12) never ever could write neatly on primary ruled paper, for instance, it was much to big for him. Using a smaller ruling automatically improved his legibility. Right now my rising 3rd grader’s ideal paper ruling is to use college ruled paper, 2 lines for one line (make sense?). Put a little “x” on every 3rd line to leave it blank for monkey tails. The sizing is perfect and she has a midline (which she definitely needs).

  • Reply
    June 23, 2012 at 10:09 am

    We have done cursive from the beginning. I didn’t go “all out” on the A Beka package, but we did use their letter models for our correction. I just had my son copy, write his own, and then write a word. Gradually, we moved onto sentences. There was alot of discussion about what “floor of the house” letters lived on, and that seemed to help him.
    Like others, I have noticed that he makes more formation mistakes when printing as opposed to cursive.
    The jury is still out as to what I will do with my daughter. She doesn’t have the bent toward fine motor skills like he did.

  • Reply
    August 1, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    My daughter went to private Christian school for Kindergarten and 1st grade. She learned printing in K and then cursive last year using Abeka. I was very skeptical of learning cursive in the first grade– I felt her fine motor skills were not developed enough to take on the challenge, but I am very happy to say that I was WRONG! She struggled initially, but given adequate practice, she absolutely flourished! Her cursive is gorgeous now, and MUCH better than her printing ever was. I am so thankful that she knows cursive, and I plan to have her keep refining her skills as we enter our homeschool journey this year.

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