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Keyboarding Without Tears 4+
Touch typing made easy, handwriting without tears & get set for school.
- 1.0 • 1 Rating
Access the Keyboarding Without Tears K-5 student curriculum. This app is available for licensed students of Keyboarding Without Tears web-based program and serve as a companion app for touch-typing practice on mobile devices. Students can login and access their Keyboarding Without Tears activities assigned to them by their educator. An existing educator account in +Live Insights educator dashboard is required to access the app. The Keyboarding Without Tears K-5 curriculum features: • Effective, game-based activities • Pre-keyboarding and touch-typing lessons • Developmentally appropriate lessons by grade • Easy online progress monitoring • Digital citizenship and general computer readiness activities • Strong English Language & Arts and other Cross-Curricular connections
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I originally purchased this program and used it successfully on a computer. Our schools distribute iPads, so we purchased several licenses for students to use Logitech keyboards plugged into their iPad. This app does not work with a keyboard! Kind of interesting because it is called keyboarding without tears! When I called about this they kept telling me they're working on the glitches. When I called recently, they said they have stated on their website that this app is not recommended to use with a separate keyboard with the iPad. They did however refund the money, so that is good! So if you are buying this to use with an iPad, it would be used with the touchscreen. I don't know many people that type that way. If you use the touchscreen the better option would be using word prediction. We are using the typing club or other apps that work with the keyboard.
This game is 💩. There is this thing that says solve or something and I don’t know what to do. So I restarted the whole level and I found you out you had to tap on it. THEY NEVER TOLD ME TO TAP ON IT! When you enter, the game suddenly crashes and you get a black screen. It deletes all of you progress without warning. If you are using keyboard you sometimes have to press the shift button on screen and then press the key on your keyboard while holding. The screen never moves down so you have to press al the buttons on the keyboard until you hit the right one. And then you have to do it again for the next letter! This game is so bad it makes me want to destroy my device. It is a big pile of trash and never ever ever ever play this game. It will brake you and enrage you. KeyboardingWithoutTears more like KeyboardingWithTears. Please improve this game!!!!!!!!!!
Deception through Omission
Purchased app to teach my 8-yr-old how to type. Open app and app asks for PIN number. Hmmmm. Go to Live Insights website. Create an account. Get pin. Enter in a bunch of info and set up my child as a student. Go back to app. Find and click on my child's name. Cool, now we are getting somewhere . . . nope. Now app redirects me back to website, where I apparently must purchase one or more licenses before app will function. Try calling Live Insights for help. No one answers. Just get a voicemail box, which I can't leave a message on because it is full. Now I give up. What a total waste of time. Thanks Apple App Store for failing to mention anything about this in the app description.
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Improve Writing Skills with Handwriting Without Tears
Elevate your child's handwriting skills with Handwriting Without Tears, a valuable addition to your BookShark curriculum. Whether you're considering an All-Subjects Package or a Reading with History Package , this resource enhances your child's literacy journey. With its research-backed approach and engaging materials, Handwriting Without Tears ensures that your child not only becomes a confident writer but also excels across all subjects. Don't miss the opportunity to integrate this effective handwriting resource into your BookShark experience for a well-rounded and comprehensive education.
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Handwriting Without Tears Pre-Kindergarten Package
Handwriting without tears k package, handwriting without tears 1 package, handwriting without tears 2 package, handwriting without tears 3 package, handwriting without tears 4 package, handwriting without tears 5: can-do cursive, handwriting without tears k consumables only, handwriting without tears: teacher's guide level k, handwriting without tears: letters & numbers for me, handwriting without tears 1: teacher's guide, handwriting without tears: my printing book.
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Practical Strategies & Tools to Help Kids with Dysgraphia
Increasing muscle strength, using screen filters, and eliminating fluorescent lights are just some ways to treat dysgraphia – a disability that impacts writing abilities – and to improve handwriting for a lifetime..
Dysgraphia – a learning disability that affects writing – has no quick, permanent fixes. The condition, characterized by illegible, messy handwriting and difficulty putting thoughts on paper, is usually treated by a combination of fine motor skill training and compensatory accommodations. But writing – from the mechanics to the cognitive processes – is much more complex than it seems. Effective interventions reflect this complexity.
The methods and tools below are practical ways to address the underlying issues and help children improve writing .
Build Core, Arm, and Shoulder Strength
It might come as a surprise, but building strength in arms, shoulders, and core muscles can help with dysgraphia . Handwriting requires a foundation of postural stability and motor skill. Decreased core muscle tone (the state of muscles at rest) and strength (the state of muscles in use) negatively impacts postural control and hand use, as is often seen in individuals with dysgraphia.
Activating postural muscles improves core, upper body, overall bodily strength and stability. Play, exercise, and movement are great ways to do this. Some suggested exercises include:
- Strength training
- Horseback riding
- Dynamic seating – sitting on a ball chair (#CommissionsEarned) or a Movin’ Sit Jr. (#CommissionsEarned) cushion can activate the core and help children with ADHD who may benefit from moving and fidgeting for focus
[ Think Your Child Has Dysgraphia? Take This Screener ]
To build shoulder and arm strength, consider the following:
- Play Zoom Ball (#CommissionsEarned) – a two-player toy where a ball is propelled back and forth
- Climb on playground equipment
- Help with chores – vacuum, pull wet laundry out of the machine, move furniture, garden, cook
For hand strength, dexterity, and endurance, try:
- Using clay or putty: Play-Doh (#CommissionsEarned) for younger children and Therapy Putty (#CommissionsEarned) or Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty (#CommissionsEarned) for older kids
- Playing with resistive toys such as pop beads (#CommissionsEarned) , Squigz (#CommissionsEarned) , snap-together toys
- Incorporating slant boards, easels, writing paper taped to the wall or even underneath a table to reposition the wrist and thus improve grasp
Adaptive Writing Tools
Less is more when it comes to writing utensils. Use short pencils, crayons, chalk and other smaller-scale items that provide easier grip. Identify the “holding stripes” on crayons and markers or add tape to pencils and chalk to teach children where to place their fingertips (not their fingerpads).
Pencil Grips for Better Writing
Commonly used to improve grasp and handwriting abilities, molded pencil grips soften the writing tool and train the fingers to develop a stronger, more functional grip. Use popular products you can find online and in some toy or stationary stores such as these:
- Writing Claw (#CommissionsEarned) – has small cups for inserting fingers to help kids learn proper finger placement
- The Pencil Grip (#CommissionsEarned) / The Crossover Grip (#CommissionsEarned) – The Pencil Grip is a cushiony grip with three sides while the Crossover Grip adds a thumb blocker for kids who wrap their thumbs around their pencil
- Firesara OWL (#CommissionsEarned) –this cute grip has two cups for the thumb and index finger, and a loop beneath for the middle finger; producing a mature, efficient grasp
[ Read: What Does Dysgraphia Look Like in Children? ]
Paper Choice for Better Writing
Poor design of the writing paper itself can make handwriting and letter formation more difficult. Writing paper for early learners often features multiple lines and dashes that confuse more than they help. For children with dysgraphia, who tend to have visual sensory issues, a very busy page or a poorly printed worksheet can also impede writing.
Find paper with simple guidelines or get a blank sheet of paper and draw out lines that work for your child. For inspiration, look to the double-lined paper offered through the popular handwriting curriculum called Handwriting Without Tears . The paper guidelines are relatively intuitive and provide early writers with a baseline to anchor letters which you can further darken if needed.
Multisensory Approaches to Dysgraphia
Sensory issues – from hypersensitive hearing to visual overload – are common in children with dysgraphia and can be part of what makes writing challenging. Handwriting instruction should use a multisensory approach to help children deal with sensitivities and provide alternative methods to encourage writing.
- Use different mediums – encourage your child to write in paint, sand, foam, or even food and roll out Play-Doh or clay to form letters.
- Try assistive technologies – as an alternate to picking up a pencil or crayon, apps like Letter School and iTrace are great for practicing letter formations and learning to write sight words. Have your child switch from using their fingers to a stylus every so often so they can get used to the feel of a writing tool.
- Play games like Tic Tac Toe and Connect Four to teach diagonals which are often tricky for children with dysgraphia to perceive and reproduce.
- Start keyboarding work sooner rather than later. Handheld writing tools will always be essential, but keyboarding is an important skill that lets your child express their ideas and think creatively without the chore of handwriting holding them back. Learning Without Tears has a keyboarding program for young children. Typingclub.com is a good free, online typing tutorial for students who use computers while Taptyping is a useful tutorial for those using tablets such as the iPad.
Build Visual Skills for Better Writing
Preventing eye strain and modifying the environment helps address the sensory issues that tend to affect vision and thus impact writing abilities in children with dysgraphia.
- Get a comprehensive eye exam performed by a developmental optometrist. Find a specialist in your area through the College of Optometry and Vision Development.
- Follow the 20/20/20 rule . Every 20 minutes, have your child look at something about 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This is especially important if your child is learning remotely or uses screens a lot, as it helps to rest and refocus the eyes.
- Use blue light blockers on screens. Blue light blocking filters can be added to eyeglasses or placed on top of a screen to block out blue light known to interfere with the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates circadian rhythms (24-hour internal clock) and can interfere with sleep, which is often a problem already for kids with ADHD. At the very least, activate the built-in nighttime settings or use the f.lux app which both darken the screen as the evening progresses.
- Try color filters for those who are sensitive to harsh white light and those who experience contrast sensitivity in which dark letters on a white background are hard to read and may even appear distorted. Most computers and tablets have colored filters built into their accessibility options (go to system preferences > accessibility > display). This is also built into the iPhone while Android users can download the Irlen Colored Overlay app .
- Eliminate fluorescent lights. Very sensitive people can hear or see these lights as they flicker, which can interfere with writing and general focus. Switch to warm LEDs, incandescent lights, halogen lights, or diffused natural light.
- Keep light sources at eye level as much as possible. Overhead lights beaming down can be troublesome for kids who are sensitive to glare.
- Keep work areas clear of clutter for less visual overload.
Dysgraphia: Additional Support
Writing is not just about putting pencil to a paper. It’s a combination of neuromuscular, motor, cognitive, perceptual, and linguistic skills. Dysgraphia complicates these components, and often comes with other sensory, motor, and information processing challenges that require the attention of specialists.
Occupational therapists use techniques that help build physical strength, stability, and dexterity, improve letter formation, and deal with visual processing and sensory challenges.
Educators and speech therapists can help with phonemic awareness (listening and identifying individual sounds) which helps children process and reproduce words and sentences. These professionals can also work on conceptualization – identifying what to write about – and thought organization.
You can find more information and learning strategies in my books, Raising a Sensory Smart Child and Sensory Processing Challenges , and by visiting my website at www.sensorysmarts.com .
Dysgraphia Treatment: Next Steps
- Read: How to Treat the Symptoms of Dysgraphia
- Learn: How to Recognize Dysgraphia In Your Child
- Watch: Overcoming Dysgraphia and Writing Challenges – A Guide for Teachers and Parents
The content for this article was adapted from the ADDitude Expert Webinar “ My Child’s Handwriting is So Messy: Strategies for Improving Dysgraphia in Children with ADHD ” by Lindsey Biel, M.A., OTR/L (available as ADDitude ADHD Experts Podcast episode #322 ) which was broadcast live on September 1, 2020.
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#CommissionsEarned As an Amazon Associate, ADDitude earns a commission from qualifying purchases made by ADDitude readers on the affiliate links we share. However, all products linked in the ADDitude Store have been independently selected by our editors and/or recommended by our readers. Prices are accurate and items in stock as of time of publication.
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Handwriting Without Tears
Developmentally Oriented: According to its occupational therapist developer, this is the only developmentally-based program on the market, which means it pays particular attention to the needs of children who are learning to write . It offers basic exercises in figure-ground discrimination and top-to-bottom, left-to-right sequencing.
With letter formation, it begins with capitals because unlike lowercase letters (p, q, b and d, for example), uppercase letters are easy to distinguish. Kids don't mix them up. You'll note that cursive letters are formed in an upright rather than slanted position.
This homeschool handwriting curriculum program is helpful if your child has significant learning challenges and physical limitations. Parents also say it's easy to use with left-handed writers.
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Handwriting Without Tears is designed to meet the developmental needs of students learning how to write. The program starts with capitals. Why? Kids don't mix up the capital letters they way they do p, q, b, and d. Moreover, the capitals are all constructed of only four distinct shapes, all of which are relatively easy to write.
Most of us don't think of these skills, but consider: learning handwriting requires the ability regularly to distinguish certain shapes and to translate those distinct mental images into consistent physical motions in one's hand. It requires the ability to hold a writing instrument in a comfortable manner. It requires the writer to consistently follow certain well-defined, pre-prescribed motions....(There are more skills, but I just want to give you a taste.)
In keeping with its developmental concerns, Handwriting Without Tears offers extremely basic exercises in figure-ground discrimination and top-to-bottom, left-to-right sequencing.
Handwriting Without Tears uses a unique (in the United States) two- rather than three-line practice writing sheets. (The author says that beginning writers who are taught using three-line paper often lose track of which lines they are supposed to be aiming for-and so their writing will often move (up and down) between, over and across the various lines. The two lines, by contrast, are easily distinguished, and each two-line pair is strongly separated from the next.)
Handwriting Without Tears has been wonderful! Both of my kids love it. The methods are engaging, easy to remember, and they help kids form neater letters. The very first day, with just the 2-line paper, my son's writing improved (I was surprised!). And, my children's writing doesn't look like Handwriting Without Tears , it looks like their own version. I got My Printing Book for both of them so I haven't used any of the other books yet. You can always change to a "prettier" style if you have a child who wants to put the time and artistry into making beautiful letters. But for basic handwriting teaching methods — hands down, Handwriting Without Tears is the best. — Merry, 17 May 2005
Note: If you choose the homeschool Handwriting Without Tears program to teach handwriting, you will notice that they introduce letters in a different order than we do in the Instructor's Guide. This is on purpose since the Handwriting Without Tears homeschool program starts with the letters that are the easiest to write and progresses to those that are formed similarly.
When teaching letter sounds, we are preparing your child for reading. What is important to learn first for reading is not necessarily the easiest to learn to write.
- It works. Even with kids who face significant learning challenges and physical limitations.
- You'll find that it makes sense to you as you are trying to teach.
- Users say it's particularly easy to use with left-handed students.
- Letter forms are slightly modified from the "traditional." Print characters tend to be narrow, with long ascenders and descenders (the lines that go above the "middle" line and below the "bottom" line on traditional, three-line writing paper). Cursive letters are formed in a completely upright rather than slanted position. These modified letters may appear unattractive to people who have been trained more conventionally.
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Handwriting Without Tears Review
Handwriting doesn’t have to be a nightmare for students…or their parents. With an easy to use, structured format, activity-rich lessons and strong multisensory component, if you’re looking for an effective, engaging and even fun way to help a student learn to write by hand, Handwriting Without Tears might be just the solution you’re looking for.
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What Is Handwriting Without Tears?
Created by Learning Without Tears, a leading provider of accessible and easy to teach learning materials, Handwriting Without Tears is a handwriting program aimed at preschool students and up.
Designed by occupational therapist Jan Olsen, Handwriting Without Tears systematically teaches students everything from the proper pencil holding through correctly writing letters, numbers, sentences, cursive and more.
The program teaches through a combination of workbook exercises, hands-on activities and even music and song, and consequently has become a very popular program for traditional schools and homeschools alike.
What Grades Or Ages Is The Program Intended For?
Handwriting Without Tears is largely a curriculum aimed at students in K-5.
That said, it is more of a skill-based program than one intended for a particular age or grade range.
That is, rather than having a book for Grades 1, 2 or 3, there are books that cover readiness and pre-reading skills, capitals and lowercase, letter groups, words, numbers, cursive and more, with lessons, exercises and activities that match different levels of skill development and fluency.
Consequently, the program can more easily be used by those outside of a traditional age range for handwriting instruction, which is actually pretty helpful as students tend to develop differently.
Precocious students who take to handwriting can feel more free to move through the various books as their skills progress, while those who are a bit behind or have learning difficulties can take their time and work on the fundamentals without feeling as embarrassed since there are no obvious references to grade or age.
This focus on skill means that the books in the Handwriting Without Tears tend to have a rather unique naming system.
Rather than referring to recommended grades or ages, they have different titles that somewhat relate to their main content.
As can be seen by these titles, there is something of a progression of skill throughout the series.
Earlier in the series, students learn the very basics of letter formation and handwriting and then progress through learning print writing, developing their printing skills, before tackling cursive and then honing these skills through more complex exercises in later books.
As with other skill-based curricula, however, this does mean those that transition into Handwriting Without Tears from another handwriting program can find it a little less intuitive to figure out where to start.
Because there is no obvious and direct correlation to grade or age, homeschooling parents need to make an honest assessment of their child’s skill level, which itself requires a bit of thought and knowledge about the student.
To make things a little easier, Learning Without Tears offers a type of placement test that parents can use, which they call their Screener of Handwriting Proficiency , which can be downloaded online.
Parents coming into Handwriting Without Tears can also use it to figure out where their students are strong and where they need help, which in turn can help when selecting the appropriate book from the series.
Unfortunately, while accessible to homeschool parents, it requires parents to set up a free account using their email.
To use it, parents set up an account and select an administration packet based on an approximate grade level or skill (beginning print, intermediate print, beginning cursive, etc).
Parents give students a short quiz sheet, where students are given different tasks depending on their assumed level of skill. Kindergarten students are assessed on their ability to find letters and numbers, 2nd Grade students are given letter, number and short sentence tasks, while more advanced students may have to identify and write in cursive.
The assessments are pretty straightforward and easy to administer, in our opinion, even for parents who have never homeschooled before.
While pretty obviously designed for classrooms and teacher/professional use, they do include a homeschool option.
The instructions are fully scripted, providing parents with a ready, proctor-style dialogue to use as well as detailed, step-by-step instructions for the test’s administration.
When it comes to scoring and evaluation, the Screener offers pretty detailed information concerning what parents should be looking for and offers pretty clear examples and illustrations of what to watch out for (both good and bad), which is quite helpful.
On the downside, the Screener is set up as an self-administered and grade leveled assessment.
As a result, parents of students who are very behind or who really just don’t know where their student would otherwise fit in a traditional school framework may still find themselves hunting around the different grade levels and reading a few different assessment options to figure out where to start with the assessment itself.
What’s Required To Teach With Handwriting Without Tears?
As with other educational programs, there is a teacher’s guide for Handwriting Without Tears.
These spiral bound books are printed in color and are a couple hundred pages long.
As might be expected, the teacher’s guide contains full lesson plans for each handwriting lesson, outlining lesson objectives and required materials, as well as providing step-by-step guidance, detailed illustrations and suggested dialogues.
Given the very visual nature of handwriting, and the fact that the workbooks often contain a step by step diagram of letter and word formation, some parents can world directly from the workbooks and make do without these formal lesson plans.
Other parents, such as those who are new to homeschooling, are teaching students who are struggling or are unsure of their own ability to teach proper handwriting techniques, can certainly benefit from the structure and teaching tips that these teacher’s guides provide.
It’s also important to note that the teacher’s guides contain a lot more than just lesson plans.
They also contain enrichment ideas, support and tips for differentiation and English Language Learners, as well as offering suggestions for linking a lesson to broader language arts learning and other social studies courses.
They also contain various activities, which can make Handwriting Without Tears a far more engaging and dynamic program, allowing students to get up, move around and enjoy their learning a lot more.
One thing we found interesting and, honestly, kind of cool was that lessons often include a scannable QR code.
Once scanned with a smartphone, these QR codes open to the Learning With Tears Website and offer parents a variety of helpful resources for teaching that level’s lessons, including videos, lyrics to songs, various printables, digital worksheets, enrichment activities and more.
These extra resources can provide a lot of value and in many cases make lessons a lot more fun and engaging than a typical copywork-based handwriting program might offer.
They can also offer important tips for instruction that can be useful for some parents, such as further remediating the learning or making sure that left-handed students are progressing without any bad habits.
One thing parents should note is that these teaching guides, while certainly useful, can be extremely detailed and activity-rich.
While this may be no problem for most homeschooling parents, who are often used to taking what they need from a curriculum, these guides can be a little overwhelming for some newer homeschooling parents, particularly those who are simply looking for handwriting practice.
Student Edition Workbooks
What is effectively the heart of Handwriting Without Tears, the student guide is where students put pen to paper and practice their letter formation and handwriting.
These books are consumable, printed in black and white and are well-illustrated and straightforward to use.
Each worksheet contains a good amount of illustrated instruction, clearly outlining what is expected of the student, and generally providing a highly detailed review of how students should approach letter, sentence and number formation, both in print and cursive.
Because they are so straightforward and detailed, they can be (and are, by some parents at least) used independently of the teacher’s guides as a main form of instruction or in tandem with another program.
That said, the student editions sometimes make reference to activities outlined in the teacher’s guides and so those using them alone may miss out on some of this extra (and fun) learning.
One thing that we like about the student workbooks is that they open flat, rather than curving, and so are a little easier for left handed kids to use compared to other programs out there.
Slate and Other Handwriting Tools and Manipulatives
In addition to its workbook exercises, Handwriting Without Tears includes a variety of hands-on exercises using different learning tools and manipulatives, which make learning a bit more interactive, engaging and even fun for students compared to many other programs.
Below, we discuss some of the more interesting ones we found.
One of the more central manipulatives used in the program, the Handwriting Without Tears Slate is a 4”x6” wood-framed chalkboard that is used to help students learn to properly write letters and numbers.
The slate is designed to work with the Handwriting Without Tears program, giving students an opportunity and space to work on letter and number formation outside of the workbooks and formal lessons, letting them strengthen their skills and develop proper writing habits.
The slate is periodically referenced in lessons and workbook exercises and, being essentially a chalkboard, it is designed to be pretty intuitive to use.
In fact, there is a big smiley face on the top left corner, emphasizing the top-down/left-right directionality of proper penmanship.
It is also integral to the program’s interesting Wet-Dry-Try practice activities, where students use a wet sponge to “trace” a letter with water, dry it with a cloth and then try their hand at writing the letter with chalk.
Interestingly, there is an app-based version of the slate available, which digitally replicates the slate chalkboard.
With the app, students use their fingers on the touchscreen to write with virtual “chalk,” and try their hand at a digital version of the Wet Dry Try activity using a virtual wet sponge.
Although not quite as tactile and physical as the real life version, the app is perhaps a little more travel-friendly and parents might appreciate the lack of chalk dust and residue after lessons.
Stamp and See Screen
Handwriting Without Tears also offers a Stamp and See Screen, which is a magnetic screen about the size of the Slate (4”x6”) and is essentially a magnetic drawing screen or Magna Doodle that has been configured for use with this program.
Students use it much like a chalkboard, drawing letters with a chunky, magnetized, chalk-like stylus and can erase what they’ve done with a sliding eraser located on the side of the device.
In this way it is much like the Slate chalkboard, only without the mess and without the ability to do Wet-Dry-Try activities.
Wooden Letter Shapes
Interestingly, Handwriting Without Tears also offers a set of big, wooden shapes – big lines, little lines, big curves and little curves.
Students can use these shapes to “build” letters on a table and even use them in tandem with the Stamp and See Screen, kind of like a giant Magna Doodle stamp.
Using these shapes to build letters lets kids work on their lettering in a very hands-on, interactive way and without putting pen to paper (or chalk to board) and can make for an interesting, 3D activity of sorts.
Handwriting Without Tears Approach To Handwriting
Developed by occupational therapists, rather than educators or curriculum developers, Handwriting Without Tears approaches teaching handwriting skills a little differently than most companies out there.
Handwriting Without Tears is designed to follow what the company calls a developmental teaching order.
In other words, the program has been designed in a specific way, presenting the teaching material while taking into account how students learn and how they develop cognitively and physically.
The series starts off with the easiest and most fundamental skills and slowly builds on that as it progresses through the series.
In Handwriting Without Tears students learn uppercase before lowercase, block before cursive, and learn letters according to similarity of formation rather than alphabetical order (more on that later).
Further, in the earlier books of the series, students are given gray blocks to write their letters in, providing them with a defined space to work in, helping them develop good habits of size control and proportion when writing by hand.
Later on, as students get more used to working with white space, they move on to more traditional, two-lined worksheets and then single-line worksheets.
The books are also designed to be as clear and simple to look at as possible, which is great for younger kids, and, interestingly, reinforce left-to-right directionality of writing by having all illustrations and drawing go from left to right across the page, helping students get in the habit of tracking words (and later write them) in the correct direction.
Handwriting Without Tears is also a very systematic handwriting program.
That is, it provides very specific, very clear and simple step-by-step instruction throughout all aspects of pre-writing and writing, providing not only explicit direction on how to form letters and numbers according to a specific methodology, but also providing pretty detailed and precise instructions for proper posture, pencil holding and more.
As a more practical example, when students are taught to write a certain letter, they are expected to follow a pretty precise sequence of steps, often being told precisely where to start with a dot.
The idea is to provide students with a handwriting base, rooted in occupational therapy best practices, that will help prevent issues before they start, rather than allowing students to work things out naturally and correcting any issues later.
While some homeschooling students and parents may chafe somewhat at this directive, fundamental and more rules-based approach to handwriting, it does provide parents with a firm and consistent teaching methodology that they can more easily implement.
Handwriting Without Tears is a strongly multisensory handwriting program, as well, engaging far more of a student’s senses than simply pencil-paper skills.
Aside from handwriting practice, throughout its lessons students can work with various manipulatives, such as wooden blocks or magnet boards, engage in a variety of activities, such as doing Wet-Dry-Try or working with playdough or cards, and even engage in song and rhythmic movement.
Aside from making handwriting practice and learning far more engaging and fun for the student, there is evidence that engaging more pathways in the brain can better help students remember and recall information.
A multisensory also makes Handwriting Without Tears better suited to students with different learning preferences or styles.
Whether a student learns best through written work, listening, touching or getting up and moving around, they are pretty likely to find at least some activities that work for them in this program.
In addition, by shifting handwriting practice away from solely traditional pencil and paper practice, the program can be less intimidating for students who initially find holding and using a pencil difficult, allowing them to work on their letter formation in a more adaptable and less frustrating way.
Finally, and one thing that we find interesting about Handwriting Without Tears, is that it can be fairly multidisciplinary.
In addition to straightforward handwriting practice, the program also offers various exercises and activities that integrate with other subjects and topics the student may be learning.
For example, there can be exercises that work on grammar and mechanics, with students learning and working on synonyms, homophones, root words, rhyming words, singular/plural and more, as well as the occasional exercise that incorporates things from broader social studies lessons, such as geography.
Although Handwriting Without Tears doesn’t really dive too deeply into these other topics (it is a handwriting program after all), this does mean it can be a little more of a natural fit for homeschoolers and can be incorporated into a student’s studies in a number of different ways.
How It Works
Handwriting Without Tears is designed to be parent-led, with parents introducing and presenting information to the student.
In later grades and as students’ reading skills improve, however, we feel students can do a lot of the work more independently, particularly given the clear instructions and illustrations in the workbooks.
The books’ are broken up into different units, made up of 4-5 lessons and a unit review, which is a kind of exercise page that assesses how well a student has mastered the different letters and skills taught in that unit.
The program’s lessons are pretty consistent, straightforward and tend to follow a particular format.
They are also pretty short, typically taking around 15 minutes or so to complete, so they’re not as overwhelming for younger students as other programs can be.
At the top of each page, the objectives, multisensory activities and multimedia resources (QR Code) are all neatly laid out, providing parents with a clear overview of the lesson and what’s required to teach it.
The lesson then begins and goes through a three-step process of instruction:
First, parents themselves actively demonstrate how a letter is formed. Following the instructions laid out in the lesson guide, they verbalize each step of the process as they draw each stroke.
At this stage, parents can also take advantage of the many multisensory activities found in the lesson guides.
Many lessons have a particular activity associated with them, and their particular page numbers are listed clearly at the top of the page, so parents should have no trouble finding them.
Generally the activity guides are found towards the back of the lesson guides and are pretty clearly laid out, providing a good deal of background about the activity, its objectives, what materials are required and how to go about implementing it.
Following this, students then practice under the watchful eye of their parent, tracing the letter (by hand and then with a pencil) and following the same step by step approach the parent just demonstrated, all the while verbalizing what they are doing, which can further strengthen their learning.
Independent Practice and Check – After the guided practice, students can work on their handwriting and, later, writing independently.
Then (with their parents at first) check their written work for proper sequencing, size, placement and so on.
Following the lesson, optional learning is laid out for parents. There are ideas for enrichment, differentiation for English Language Learners and those struggling with handwriting, and some activity ideas that connect topics in the lesson to other subjects the student might be learning (usually Language Arts but occasionally other Social Studies subjects as well).
Handwriting Without Tears Letter Order
One thing that parents should be aware of, and that tends to separate Handwriting Without Tears from other programs, is the order in which it presents the alphabet.
Most programs tend to introduce letters according to alphabetical order, generally following how students would have learned them in the first place, and generally students are taught the uppercase and lowercase formats together (or one after the other).
In other words, lessons tend to go from A to Z.
In Handwriting Without Tears, however, letters are instead grouped according to how the program wants them to be constructed, i.e. how they are supposed to be written from start point to end point.
For example, students might work on so-called “Frog Jump Capitals” – i.e. the letters F E D P B R N and M.
These letters are grouped together since they are drawn starting with a big line on he left, starting at the top and moving down before jumping back to the top and moving rightwards, as demonstrated in the video below.
Similarly, the capital letters H K L U V W X Y Z are grouped together as “Starting Corner Capitals,” since students start at the top left corner, before moving down/left to right.
As the series progresses, it groups various capital letters and lowercase letters in similar ways, both in block and cursive print.
Across the series there are, for example:
- Diver Letters
- Center Starters
- Slide letters
- Tow Truck Letters
This grouping system, while perhaps a little unusual for parents and students used to thinking of letters in relation to their alphabetical order, is actually in line with the program’s developmental approach to teaching.
When it comes to writing by hand, the alphabet can be something of a jumble of different techniques and forms, some are easier to draw while others are harder.
This is especially true with cursive, considering its now less familiar shapes and issues students have when joining different letters.
By breaking the alphabet apart and regrouping the letters by how they are formed, Handwriting Without Tears can start by introducing the easiest to draw ones first before moving on to the more complex, making the system actually pretty thoughtful.
It also makes the program quite useful for students who struggle with handwriting, as by letting them work on easier letter formations first, they can achieve some quick wins that can boost their self-confidence and perhaps reduce their anxiety around handwriting a little more.
Our Thoughts on Handwriting Without Tears Lessons
Overall, we feel that Handwriting Without Tears lessons are very effective, well-designed and can be very engaging, especially for students who struggle with handwriting or who may otherwise roll their eyes at the prospect of pen-and-paper writing in the digital age.
The lessons are short and to the point, often taking less than 15 minutes to go through, so they’re not too much of a burden to fit into even a busy homeschool schedule and aren’t so long that students get bored or lose interest.
The program’s lessons are also very straightforward, moving from introduction of a letter to guided practice to independent practice pretty fluidly.
The instruction is also very clear, providing parents and students with easy to understand, step-by-step instructions for producing letters and offers plenty of helpful illustrations that can make things a lot more understandable and act as a model against which parents can check student work.
Although the program does offer activity options for each lesson, these don’t really ever feel like busywork, and they can add a lot of value to the learning, particularly with kids who have different learning preferences (tactile and auditory learners, for example) and can be a change from more workbook-oriented programs, such as A Reason For Handwriting , Zaner-Bloser and others.
Handwriting Without Tears offers a good deal of practice, as well, offering a good amount of guided and independent practice in each lesson and providing a unit review after every few lessons.
In this way, it can be a very helpful program for students who need a lot more practice and reinforcement when learning fine motor skills.
One thing we enjoyed about the lesson plans was their integration of technology through the printed QR codes.
By simply scanning the page (or inputting a provided url) parents can immediately access a wide variety of multimedia digital resources that can add some fun and useful activities, exercises, videos and songs to use during a lesson.
Through these QR codes there’s no need for parents to move to a computer and hunt around for files or websites, they can simply use their phone or tablet and access the materials right away.
Another thing we found interesting about Handwriting Without Tears is how flexible it can be for homeschooling parents, something that surprised us given the program’s systematic, rules-based nature.
While the program offers a lot of options for activities, as well as extra exercises for remediation or enrichment learning, parents are largely free to choose what they would like to include in their lessons.
Depending on time constraints, as well as how distractible a student is, parents can choose to include all, some or none of the activities recommended by the book.
Some parents have focused solely on the workbook exercises and, while probably not the most engaging, recommended or comprehensive way of using the program, have reported finding handwriting success with their students.
There are some things about Handwriting Without Tears that we feel parents should be aware of before starting, however.
It is, for example, very different from many other handwriting programs out there.
It is a very structured, detailed and rules-based approach that teaches students a very particular and explicitly taught method of forming letters and numbers, providing detailed instruction on everything from size, proportion, stroke method and directionality, and even covers things like proper posture and grip.
While very helpful and effective for most students (and parents who have never taught handwriting before), some other students and homeschooling parents may chafe a bit under this structured and systematic approach, preferring a program that offers a little more individual creativity and freedom.
Similarly, students who have gone through a large part of a handwriting program already and have learned certain habits may not appreciate having to go back and relearn some of the fundamental methods of the program.
Another, admittedly minor, issue homeschooling parents may have is with how the books are structured.
By and large, the activities, tips and guidelines are all located in different sections of the book, meaning there can be some flipping around during lessons.
Finally, parents should note that the lesson guides are quite detailed and expansive.
While this makes the lessons very comprehensive, clear and easy to teach, at times it can be a lot of information for homeschool parents to take in, and can be a little overwhelming for some and it can be somewhat easy for those not used to homeschooling to get distracted by all the information, potential exercises and activities.
How Easy Is Handwriting Without Tears To Teach?
Handwriting Without Tears is very easy to teach in our opinion.
The lessons are fully scripted, providing parents with all the information they’ll need to introduce topics and teach them in a step-by-step manner, including a ready dialogue they can fall back on if they aren’t really sure about how to explain things themselves.
Further, the program’s lesson guides and workbooks are illustrated, providing an easy to understand visual guide that effectively outlines each step in the handwriting process very clearly for both parents and young students.
The activities themselves are similarly well scripted, detailed and illustrated, making it quite easy for parents to quickly and easily set up and run them with a minimum of prep-time.
As a result, we feel that new and experienced homeschooling parents alike should have no issue teaching Handwriting Without Tears.
On the downside, however, while the program is fairly easy to teach once parents get used to it, its format, letter grouping and methodology does take some getting used to on the part of parents, who would probably be best served by reading up on the program’s structure and way of doing things.
Pros And Cons
Developed by topical experts.
Rather than being developed by a curriculum provider or educational company, Handwriting Without Tears has been developed by occupational therapists and teaches in a way that takes into account the development path and needs of kids.
Consequently, the program isn’t just based on best practices, it’s also not as frustrating for kids, particularly for those who struggle with learning to write by hand, as some other programs might be.
Lessons in Handwriting Without Tears are pretty short, usually under 15 minutes or so depending on the student. As a result, they aren’t as overwhelming for students to sit through and can be easy to fit into just about any homeschool schedule.
Very multisensory and activity-rich
Handwriting Without Tears isn’t just a worksheet and copywork based program, but rather involves a variety of multisensory activities that can fit different learning preferences.
There are, for example, a variety of manipulatives and games that can suit tactile learners, songs and videos to suit auditory and visual learners and get and and go activities to suit those who enjoy more kinesthetic learning.
Easy to teach
With clear, step-by-step, fully-scripted and illustrated lessons, Handwriting Without Tears is easy for parents to teach and for students to understand.
Very guided approach helps build good habits from the start
Handwriting Without Tears takes a very systematic and rules-based approach to teaching handwriting, guiding students through a deliberate and consistent step-by-step approach to writing out letters.
Combined with its strong emphasis on practice and review, it can more easily get them in the habit of creating properly sized, spaced and drawn letters from the start.
Embedded links to digital resources
Rather than inserting printed URLs or webpage names, the program’s lesson guides include readily-scannable QR codes that link to a variety of helpful digital resources, making it a lot easier and faster for parents to include these in their lessons.
Flexible and scalable to suit homeschool needs
Although it offers a lot of activities, teaching suggestions and enrichment ideas, by and large Handwriting Without Tears leaves the decision of what to use up to the parent and relies on a fairly lightweight core of workbooks exercises and quick, step by step lessons.
Its teaching can easily therefore be as comprehensively scaled up or paired down as parents require or would prefer.
Can have a few moving parts to keep track of
Parents who want to take full advantage of the program and its multitude of multisensory components and activities can find that, as with other hands-on learning programs, there can be a lot of things to buy and keep track of during lessons, such as slates, chalk, magnet boards, wooden shapes, apps, playdough, CDs and more.
Can be a little different than how most parents learned handwriting
Handwriting Without Tears has a very definite way of teaching handwriting, as well as grouping and introducing letters, that can be very different from the more traditional ways parents have been taught to write.
As a result, parents may need to spend some time, at least at first, reading about the program’s methodology and familiarizing themselves with its lesson structure.
Who Is Handwriting Without Tears Ideal For?
Parents and students looking for a fun, activity-rich way of learning handwriting.
With its plethora of hands-on activities, digital resources and manipulatives use, Handwriting Without Tears can be a very engaging way of learning to write by hand, making it a lot more fun for parents and students to use than other programs.
Students who have had a hard time with traditional copywork-style handwriting programs
Some students can learn handwriting by simply copying sentences and letter forms, but for a variety of reasons other students can have a hard time with this, finding it tedious and/or preferring to learn in other ways.
In addition to traditional workbook exercises, Handwriting Without Tears offers a variety of multisensory teaching activities that can be really effective for tactile, auditory and kinesthetic learners.
Parents looking for an easy to teach, step by step handwriting program
Handwriting Without Tears teaches its material clearly and simply, with lots of helpful illustrations, a fully scripted dialogue, and easy to follow, step-by-step instructions for producing letters.
Consequently, parents who are new to homeschooling or who are unsure of their ability to teach handwriting themselves will likely find it quite easy and effective to use.
Students who do best with lots of practice and review
Some students have an easy time learning to write by hand, while others struggle with the fine motor control required.
In addition to providing students with a consistent, step-by-step process for producing letters, Handwriting Without Tears also provides them with lots of opportunities for practice and review, both in their workbook and through engaging multisensory activities, which can help them hone their skills over time.
Students who have a hard time sitting through longer lessons
Handwriting Without Tears lessons are usually pretty short, often taking less than 15 minutes to complete. Consequently, students tend to have an easier time going through them without losing focus or becoming bored.
Who Is It Not Ideal For?
Students who are already somewhat proficient at handwriting.
Students who have made significant progress in another program and have developed strong habits in creating some of their letters may have a harder time adapting to the particular way of doing things outlined in Handwriting Without Tears, often needing to go back to earlier levels to relearn/undo certain habits, which can be frustrating.
Parents looking for a complete self-study program
Although students can use some of the materials more independently later in the series, by and large Handwriting Without Tears is designed to be taught to students and requires a fair amount of parental involvement and time.
Parents and students who want a handwriting program that lets them develop more naturally
Handwriting Without Tears is a very systematic program that teaches students how to create letters in a particular, step-by-step way.
It will, for example, detail where to start with a first stroke, where to end, directionality and so on, rather than allowing students to find their own preferred and natural way of doing things.
As a result, students who like to do things their own way and parents who want to take a more natural, student-led approach to teaching may not find this to be a good fit for them.
Note: Prices correct as of writing. All prices are in USD.
As mentioned previously, Handwriting Without Tears can involve a number of different books, but generally involves a level-specific teacher’s guide, student workbook and some manipulatives.
Pricing for the books in the series can be dependent on the precise retailer involved, the edition involved and any sales or discounts that may apply.
That said, student guides typically cost around $11.85, while teacher’s guides tend to cost around $24.99.
In terms of manipulatives, again it varies between the specific physical product (and the company offers quite a few), but in general they can be picked up for around:
Slate chalkboard – $5.25
Stamp and See- $15.50
Double lined blackboard – $14.95
Wood pieces set for capitals – $32.95
As always, it is important to check for current pricing and any deals or offers that may be in effect.
Is It Worth The Price?
Overall, we feel that Handwriting Without Tears can add a lot of value to homeschooling parents and students.
The books are well-designed, easy to teach and, most importantly, easy for students to learn from with clear, structured and step-by-step instructions, diagrams and a logically laid out, developmentally appropriate curriculum structure.
More than that the series makes learning handwriting a lot more engaging for students, going beyond a traditional workbook methodology to help them learn to write by hand using song, movement and lots of different activities and manipulatives.
In this way, Handwriting Without Tears can suit a wider variety of learning preferences and can make learning handwriting a lot more approachable for students who struggle with it.
Finally, while there are all kinds of activities offered by the program, in the end it is a very flexible curriculum to use.
Parents can choose to use all of the various manipulatives and provide their students with a complete multisensory experience, or choose to use none of them at all and work mainly through the illustrated workbook.
Handwriting doesn’t have to be a nightmare for students…or their parents.
With an easy to use, structured format, activity-rich lessons and strong multisensory component, if you’re looking for an effective, engaging and even fun way to help a student learn to write by hand, Handwriting Without Tears might be just the solution you’re looking for.
About the Author
Anne Miller is the editor of The Smarter Learning Guide and is a passionate advocate for education and educational technology. A mom of two, she majored in English Language and Literature and worked as a substitute teacher and tutor for several years. When not writing she continues to root for the Yankees and the Giants.
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Handwriting Without Tears Reviews
This program uses fun, entertaining, and educationally sound instructional methods to teach handwriting to all students: pre-k through cursive. The lessons require minimal preparation time. According to publisher’s materials, the program "follows a developmental teaching sequence by teaching easy letters first, beginning with capitals and then teaching letters in groups of similar stroke sequence. When students master easier skills, they are better prepared to learn more difficult groups—those prone to reversals or having diagonal lines. As a result, children gain mastery and confidence more quickly and can focus on the content of their work rather than the mechanics of letter formation." The workbook cost per child is under $10. Supplemental materials, including clothing, can be purchased at various price points.
Website: Handwriting Without Tears
( 23 Reviews )
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I don't love the alphabet graphics that do with this.
My son on the autism spectrum had a very difficult time with hand writing. We fortunately had a great occupational therapist who recommended Handwriting Without Tears. He started with the mini chalkboard and progressed to the special paper then regular paper and developed completely normal handwriting skills. We are ever so grateful for this program and highly recommend it for all children really but especially for those who have trouble with learning how to write. By the way we started this when he was 5 years old.
My son has autism and has been slower to learn writing and reading. We have waited until this year, his fourth grade year, to do cursive. HWT is amazing. My son always hated to write anything down. He prints very slowly and has struggled with printed letters. But he has taken to the HWT cursive lessons in the orange book like a pro. His cursive handwriting is neat and orderly. He doesn't complain about the lessons. He enjoys them. They are fast and easy for us, and he is retaining between lessons how to write the cursive letters. I recommend this to parents with kids who struggle with writing.
HWT has brought joy back to our handwriting time!!!!
I liked the program personally. It shows the kids quick steps to draw and reinforces it with wooden pieces. My son really liked using those at first, but then just wanted to make shapes and it became more of a distraction. The chalkboard idea was GREAT and definitely helped me see if there was anything he needed work on. He is writing very well and we've had several compliments!
We started using HWOT for 1st grade during our Kindergarten year since my dd was already ahead on handwriting from her PreK years. She liked it instantly and did great. The Rock Tap and Learn CD is fun and the kids love it. My little ones loved the songs too.
We art just finishing 2nd grade and it has been good. We are to be starting cursive soon and, though the cursive looks a little funny to me, I think we will stick with it because we have had good success. The lessons are quick, it is easy to teach, and my daughter has done well with it.
The cons are that any workbooks, printable worksheet or other thing available online typically does not have the HWOT lines and therefore can be challenging. My dd has struggled with writing in notebooks trying to figure out which lines to use. Though I have purchase extra paper and loaded up binders, if i print out a notebook page or activity sheet online typically the writing has the standard 3 lines (one dotted in the middle) and she struggles with her letter formation a little.
Otherwise, great program. Easy to teach and use.
We used the workbook this year as we saw a friend use it with good results. My daughter did it but wasn't thrilled about it - although it did improve her handwriting quite a bit.
I think I will have to use some of the other tools they have. We saw them at the NCHE conference and my daughter loved playing with all of the hands-on things available - magnets, chalk board, sponges - so I might just have to invest in some of these other things to help her think as she is writing.
If I am constantly on her about neat writing she will do it - so I know she can. I just don't want to constantly be on her for neat handwriting - there are so many other more important things to encourage her to do. She does many numbers and some letters backwards.
I have a 3 yr old - so I could start using the magnets with her - might just need to invest in those. My 2nd grader would use them too. Maybe it would continue to help her process the letters & numbers individually.
She's an avid reader & very intelligent - so I'm not sure why we have an issue with backwards letters & numbers.
We have enjoyed the hands-on tools (chalkboard, letter shapes, audio CD). The mini chalk and mini pencils have been used over and over again. I have used it with one son and I am currently using it with another.
My daughter loves this program. She gets a few minutes to work on handwriting and just goes right through the pages. It helps her learn in a way that makes more sense to her than traditional methods.
My oklder girls had actually started with some other handwriting programs and didn't like them. They'd get overwhelmed at how long some of the lessons were. When we found and tried this, they actually looked forward to the lessons! We have used them with all 4 of our children now with lots of success! I highly reccomend this program.
I am currently using this with my 1st and 2nd grader. They are both using the 1st grade book. We acquired these from a friend so we only have the mat and wooden pieces but my kids love taking turns building our letters of day. It makes the formation of the letter very concrete for them. I have seen a vast improvement from the beginning of the year.
We love HWT! My son learned to print his letters so quickly. He loved the simple sayings that they use to remember how to write each letter. This series gave him the confidence to write words and sentences.
I love that it can be used for both left and right hand students.
I purchased the teachers edition in addition to the student books. I am glad that I did. Even though it is written for a classroom teacher it is helpful to read to understand how to begin teaching handwriting.
We switched to HWT from another program because my son was crying about doing handwriting. Since the switch my son's handwriting has improved leaps and bounds. My preschooler loves it! My stepdaughter didn't learn cursive at public school. When we told her that she would learn this year as a 7th grader, she wasn't happy. She likes the ease of the program, has beautiful cursive and doesn't mind doing it at all!
I've used one handwriting curriculum and this is it! It was good for my older two, but even better for my child who has some fine motor issues. The letters are easy to form and not much writing on a page. Success is almost ensured! This unique style also makes it very difficult to reverse letters. My kids really did not struggle with reversals. My younger boys have worked through all the printing books. My older two worked through 2 cursive books. I also used the wooden letter pieces with my younger two and they loved them. Handwriting was such a drag when I was a kid, and really with this curriculum my children never complained.
My son loves this workbook. If I give him a choice of what to do first he always picks his cursive lesson. It is very easy to use and fun.
This is a great handwriting book. It helped my daughter out because she has dysgraphia. It allows her to write as big as she needs to which she loves to write big. My other daughter just loves to do handwriting now and soars right through it.
I absolutely adore HWT! As a parent of a child who has had occupational (fine motor) therapy for many years, this is a godsend!
The method is very effective and multi-sensory. You can easily pick and choose which items to use.
They have an incredible resource of PDF worksheets, helps, fun pages, and other resources.
Very easy for a homeschooling parent to use! The auditory and visual prompts are wonderful for a global learner!
We used this last year with 3rd and 5th - they both started out with the cursive book, my 3rd grader excelled, having had NO cursive, she now has beautiful cursive handwriting, thanks only to HWT. I missed the window with my 5th grader, PS did him no favors in the handwriting department! Both are using the 'cursive success' book this year: 4th and 6th. 4th grader doesn't really need it but actually enjoys copying even more beautifully, it then doesn't make the 6th grader feel so badly that he's still having handwriting practice. When he's doing the exercises in the book, his writing is vastly improved but he reverts back to printing for general work - he had to learn to type so that I could read his reports! I love the speed of these lessons and the quick learning curve; I remain hopeful that eventually my 6th grader will be willing to use cursive in general work!
I love this curriculum. We bought the following pieces for Pre-K: the wood blocks with mat, large alphabet cards, magnetic tracer, mini chalkboard, teacher's guide and student workbook. This was so fun! My daughter loved it. The lessons are short but build on each other. We did Mat Man when lessons got mundane. 🙂
For Kindergarten we just used the chalkboard and workbook, and she still liked it. We bought the music cd for first grade, and it is fun too. We are learning all the lowercase and she has totally changed her writing she does for fun (on her drawings) to match what she has learned. For 1st grade, I like more practice which we do on the HWT paper.
I like the teacher's guide, which details each lesson and includes a schedule to follow if you need it. They also teach pencil grip, posture and each letter formation with tricks to remember. I highly recommend this!
I'm using this for my son and daughter, we love it.
Since this is our first year homeschooling I wanted to use a handwriting program that was familiar to our boys. HWT is the program our prior school had used. I like they way the teach cursive and the exercises are just right, not too much and not frustrating.
I used this for pre-k with my oldest and then switched to something else, but I had to switch back because her frustration level was so high on the other.
We just switched to using HWOT this year because of my lefty's lack of confidence in starting cursive. Being a right-hander myself, I wan't sure I could relay the proper positioning to my son. I literally stumbled upon HWOT in a website's review. I thought, what the heck, and took the plunge. I'm so glad I did! We had instant, and I mean INSTANT success - even with my lefty!!!! Their handwriting has never been so beautiful! I just wish we had started from the beginning with HWOT for the printing skills.
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Handwriting muscles may feel weaker with less practice, device overuse
Writing by hand may feel difficult for many of us as we engage less in fine motor activities and use devices more.
Aisha Attah used to write by hand a lot, whether for schoolwork or in her journal. But after the pandemic began, Attah, 20, found herself spending more time online — and less with a pen and paper. Months later, in a meeting at her first job, Attah tried taking notes by hand. “It was incredibly uncomfortable,” said Attah, a brand marketing executive in Southampton, England.
Handwriting is a fine motor skill that isn’t innately learned; it needs to be taught and practiced. It also is a skill that benefits us by stimulating our brain: We remember information better when we write it down by hand, research shows .
But for many of us, handwriting can feel difficult as we turn to smartphones, other devices and even robots for many of our hand tasks.
And with cursive dropped from Common Core State Standards in 2010 in the United States, children have few opportunities to learn and practice; for some, handwriting has been relegated to an extracurricular activity .
The problem isn’t only that we’re practicing less. Technology has changed the way we use our hands. Also, the more time we spend on our devices, the greater the probability of problems with our hands and wrists, such as pain, weakness and nerve changes.
“It’s like going to the gym,” said Mellissa Prunty, an occupational therapist at Brunel University London and chair of the National Handwriting Association in the United Kingdom. “When you write for long periods of time but you don’t do it often, you are going to feel tired and fatigued.”
Why handwriting matters
The hand-brain connection is stronger when we write something by hand vs. typing it, said Paula Heinricher , an occupational therapist and national presenter for Learning Without Tears, which trains educators in subjects, including handwriting. Although we might be able to take more notes on a keyboard than by hand, “there’s also research that shows when you write by hand, there is a deeper brain connection and a deeper understanding, and you retain that information longer,” she said.
A 2020 meta-analysis concluded that college students performed worse in their classes when they typed notes into a device vs. writing them by hand. And a 2014 study found that students who took notes by hand understood the information better than those who used laptops for note taking.
The ability to write quickly and legibly also has a critical link with academic performance. A 2013 study found that children who had good handwriting skills in preschool performed better in reading and math in second grade. And in a 2019 study of 141 first-graders in four schools in Italy, children who were taught cursive developed better reading and writing skills compared with a control group.
Prunty has worked with children who have above-average reading, spelling and vocabulary skills. But because of fine motor coordination difficulties, “those kids, although they’re bright, will write less, and it’s less interesting to read. That’s because their speed is impacted,” she said.
Fewer fine motor activities
If our hand muscles don’t feel particularly sprightly, it’s easy to point the finger at our devices: We send a text instead of writing a note. Or we type a grocery list into an app rather than scrawling it by hand.
While there is little hard evidence that fewer students are taking notes or completing assignments by hand now compared with years past, children’s use of devices has increased , especially in the pandemic years, parents said.
But devices aren’t the only culprit. In general, we’re not engaging in as many fine motor activities as in the past, said Ritu Goel , a certified hand therapist at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
With keyless entry, for instance, many of us no longer turn a key to unlock our car or the front door; instead, we push a button or tap out a code. So the lateral pinch, a fine motor motion, “is becoming a little less used in day-to-day activity,” Goel said.
The effects of device overuse
Overuse of technology can have an effect on our handwriting muscles; the main ones being the flexor pollicis longus, the flexor digitorum superficialis and the flexor digitorum profundus. The flexor pollicis longus enables us to flex the thumb, while the other muscles allow for finger flexion. We also use these muscles for other fine motor tasks such as picking up small objects.
In a small 2015 study of student smartphone users, researchers found that the flexor pollicis longus tendon — which originates as a muscle in the forearm — was larger on participants’ dominant side than the non-dominant side. That was true for all participants, irrespective of how much they used their smartphones.
The size difference, though, was biggest in those who used their devices the most. In that same high usage group, the median nerve — a sensory and motor nerve beginning at the armpit and ending at the fingers — was significantly larger on the dominant side than the non-dominant side.
Researchers theorized that smartphone overuse caused the differences. With the repetitive pinching motion of texting, “only one muscle is doing really hard work,” said study author Esra Erkol Inal , associate professor of physical therapy and rehabilitation at Reyap Hospital Istanbul. There’s no benefit to using one part of the hand so extensively, Inal said, but there are risks.
Overworking specific muscles can enlarge tendons enough to cause noticeable symptoms. The tendons controlling our hands begin as muscles in the forearm and run out to our fingertips through the tight space of the carpal tunnel. Bigger tendons crowd the median nerve, which essentially gets squished, said Lisa Kruse , a hand surgeon and assistant professor of orthopedics and rehabilitation at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. The result: carpal tunnel syndrome, which causes numbness, pain and weakness in the hand and forearm.
A study of neurology patients at a Turkish university found that people diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome spent more hours per day on their smartphones than those without hand or wrist complaints.
Grip strength — which enables us to hold a pen or pencil — may also be affected: A small study of students at a university in Lahore, Pakistan, found a significant association between high levels of smartphone usage and a weaker grip.
While more research is needed, it’s possible that the more we use our mobile devices, the higher the risk for some type of hand dysfunction. Device overuse changes the balance of our hand muscles and could cause damage in the future, Inal said.
Help for handwriting muscles
Even as we continue to use technology and devices, we can bolster our handwriting muscles with a few strategies.
Make sure your smartphone isn’t too big. If our smartphone is large relative to our hand, we wind up reaching across it more, which can cause thumb pain, Goel said. You should be able to hold your smartphone comfortably in one hand with a good grasp.
Use devices mindfully: Her teenage patients scoff, but Goel advises texting with the index finger — not thumbs — while holding the smartphone in the other hand. Give yourself cues to take breaks from scrolling, such as by setting alarms on your phone. And don’t forget posture: When working at a desk, Inal stores her phone in a smartphone stand and strives to keep herself vertical, rather than hunched over.
Stretch and strengthen: If your hands are cramping, Goel recommends tendon gliding exercises , movements to bend and straighten different joints. You can also perform what’s called a prayer stretch by bringing your palms together with your elbows out and pointing your fingertips upward for a wrist extension. Reverse the exercise with a wrist flexion, directing your fingertips down so the backs of your hands touch. In addition, Goel suggests rolling your hands across therapeutic putty, Play-Doh or a small rolling pin.
Completing tasks without assistive devices will help strengthen the small stabilizing muscles in your hands. For instance, using a manual can opener engages your gripping and pinching muscles, Kruse said. One strengthening exercise she suggests: Place your hand on its pinkie finger side on a surface. Bring your index finger upward to engage the dorsal interosseous muscle, located between your thumb and index finger. Work toward adding resistance, such as a rubber band.
When in doubt, get it checked out: If you have hand, wrist or forearm discomfort that interferes with daily activities, seek a medical evaluation. An occupational or physical therapist can perform an ergonomic assessment to identify any problematic environmental factors — a workstation set too high, for example, Goel said. Sometimes hand fatigue is related to writer’s cramp, a type of dystonia or involuntary muscle contractions, which can be treated.
Handwriting, typing and even dictation-to-text methods are all valuable ways to express ourselves. And while it’s not realistic or necessary to avoid our devices, it’s worth bringing back that handwritten note on occasion and encouraging your children to do the same, Heinricher said.
“The reality is that we are a hybrid world. So it’s about having different tools in your literacy toolbox,” Prunty said.
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