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Why I Don’t Teach Cursive

Massachusetts is one of several states that wants to keep penmanship as part of the curriculum. A few hours ago a Facebook friend asked if others thought cursive should be kept alive.

My answer: No — unless you have nothing more important to do.

http://homeschool-open-source.com/betty-dubay-italic-handwritingIn my experience, cursive is one of those sacred cows that people hold onto because the affinity for the past overrides actual cost/benefit analysis of possible educational options.

Resources — particularly time — are limited. I have shelves of truly amazing, awesome things I’ve always wanted to do with my kids, but haven’t had the time to complete. Items, I fear will end up being passed on to some lucky family, completely unused, when Caleb graduates from our homeschool in eight short years. Things like intermediate logic courses, spherical geometry, or intense geography.

I just don’t care about cursive. Particularly nonsensical D’Nealian! Why should capital Zs look like Ys with a loop? Why should Gs and Zs and Ss look like nothing at all? Who got to decide that nonsense?

More to the point, why should I keep up the nonsense just because I had to learn it?

I have to think that all the things we learn — and a long list of things we can’t add to our already full schedules — are more profoundly impactful than learning to make a capital Q look like a swirly number two.

For our entire homeschooling journey, we have used Portland State University’s Italic Handwriting series. It is an elegant system that moves efficiently from a streamlined print to a joined print that’s still legible and uses the same alphabet.

Arguments for Cursive

The arguments (all real!) I hear in favor of continued cursive torture are as follows:

So many historical docs are written in cursive.

There are no relevant historical documents that haven’t been “translated” into digital format.

Addendum: Please note that learning to read cursive takes about 15 minutes. Learning to write in cursive, much longer.

Cursive teaches eye/hand coordination.

There are plenty of things to teach eye/hand coordination that are actually useful in themselves. Consider:

  • Knitting, crocheting, or other needlework
  • Playing violin or piano (or any other instrument)
  • Drawing or painting
  • Playing basketball or baseball
  • Building

All are more interesting than hours of writing swirls on paper and they produce something awesome as well.

Most of all, with limited resources (time!), cursive isn’t remotely the best use of my kids’ time. I’d rather they learn to play piano or program or build something or about a billion more useful things! :)

Mastering cursive will increase self-discipline.

So will forcing your children to spend hours in in plank position. (And they’ll have rock hard abs, to boot.)

Preparing a proper business letter is a lost art.

If by “proper” you mean “handwritten,” then yes, it is. If by “proper” you mean “correctly formatted,” then no, it’s not. As a business owner since 1987, I have never once received a handwritten business letter, in cursive or not.

Fluency in cursive writing improves cursive reading.

I have three kids in college — one in grad school and two undergrads (all at BYU). There has been exactly ONE thing they’ve had difficult doing because of this “deficiency.” They have a hard time reading the birthday cards from their grandpa.

Rather than require my children to spend hundreds of hours in penmanship courses in elementary school, I chose to spend 15 seconds per year reading the cards with them and 15 minutes teaching them to read cursive when they felt like it. And let them spend those hundreds of hours doing things like singing, programming, writing, etc.

Schools should get back to basics.

In a sense I agree with this. Schools spend so much time teaching conflict resolution, dental hygiene (for eight or nine years straight), sensitivity training, diversity education, etc., that they scrimp on the most basic things of real educational value. But how cursive handwriting gets put on the list of essentials is beyond me.

Sure, if you plan to have a career addressing wedding invitations in fine calligraphy, then this might be on top of the list. Otherwise…

Children with good cursive will have “higher quality” signatures.

Holy. Cow.

Bottom Line

One of the main arguments I (and probably you) hear against homeschooling is, “Aren’t you worried about socialization?

My answer has always been the same, “What do you mean by socialization? And how does public school optimally provide it?”

It’s not about hating public school, per se, nor about pretending schools don’t provide various socializing opportunities. It’s about whether public school is the best way to socialize kids. And pretty much across the board, it’s not.

In the same way, it’s not about hating cursive. And it’s not about ignoring the positive elements learning cursive holds. It’s about looking at the various options available and determining whether the time needed to learn cursive handwriting is the best use of our homeschool time. In our family, there are too many more valuable things to do to make it a wise choice.

I’ll add more reasons as responses roll in.


Here are more real life additions to the reasons to impose cursive torture on children. :)

Both print and cursive are “very necessary.”

More necessary than all the alternatives?

They need to recognize cursive.

And your kids have to spend hours and hours on penmanship to “recognize cursive” when they see it?

I want my children to be able to read cursive so they can do family history work and read the documents our founding fathers wrote.

Being able to read cursive and write in cursive are not the same skill. In addition, recognize the myriad different cursive styles and systems that have been used historically. I bet you neither you nor your children learned all the variations just so you could read each of them. Right?

Genealogy requires reading cursive.

So? (See above.)

Raising a generation who cannot read cursive is raising a generation who cannot understand their history.


See above.

It helped two of my children overcome difficulties recognizing b, , p and q.

Was it the best way to do so? If so, already addressed above. If not, already addressed above.

I refuse to raise adults who write a check and it looks like a kindergartener wrote it.

Writing legibly doesn’t require writing in D’Nealian (or any other) cursive. But if making sure you child signs his checks like John Hancock is the priority for you, so be it.

P.S. I still use paper check on a occasion, but not one of my adult kids has ever so much as purchased them.

My 10 year old has excellent penmanship and I’m very proud. He’ll be one of the only adults in his generation who will and that gives him a great advantage in the work place no matter how prevalent computers become.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been given a penmanship test during a job application. Keep it up there is you’ve ever been given a promotion based on penmanship.

As I said in the post, it’s a matter of opportunity cost.

I’ll put my kid who spent 20 minutes per day programming against your kid who spent 20 minutes a day writing curlicues any day of the week. Sure, you can do 20 minutes of programming and 20 minutes of penmanship. But that 20 minutes will cost you all the things you could have done.

Your middle school and high school students go to take the SAT AND ACT and cannot write in cursive the REQUIRED statement of honesty as REQUIRED by the testing service. The test proctor has to take time to teach more than 75% of the students how to write the statement in cursive. Same issue for the MCAT, LSAT, GRE, etc.

I’ve had four kids take the ACT, two take the SAT, one take the LSAT, and one the GRE. None of them learned cursive. None of them had special proctor tutoring.

I just asked one of my daughters if she ever required cursive tutoring in a test and she scoffed loudly.

She’s still going to learn intensive geography, etc. Cursive/handwriting is not such an intense “subject” that it takes much time or discipline as some may think.

There’s a reason that progressives (of either party) so oppose a fair or flat tax. Having all the tax we pay gathered up in one lump sum makes it hurt they payer more. And the payer is more likely to rebel if they recognize the true burden of their taxes. Instead, we are taxed a few pennies here, a dollar their, a fraction of a cent every second Tuesday. And when the government comes to us and says, “We need more money for EDUCATION and it’s ONLY $2 a person!” we all pony up and vote for it because, after all, it’s for the CHILDREN.

Similarly, educators (homeschoolers included) have this way of pretending that 10 minutes a day just doesn’t really matter. It’s meaningless. It’s a trifle. It doesn’t take much time and couldn’t possibly get int he way of learning anything else.

But the truth is in the math. Everything we choose to do has as cost. Including that 30 hours per year.

If that’s the best way you can use 30 hours, do it. If your child will gain the most from spending those 30 hours learning D’Nealian, have at it. I can’t make that determination for you. I’m just asking that you make sure it really is the best use of those 30 hours and not just a knee-jerk, default choice based on what you’ve seen, what you’ve heard, or what you’re used to. Or because you’ve never considered the other possibilities.

It’s not hard, it takes her less than 10 minutes to do, and it won’t hurt her.

One of the first huge changes that occurred when I began homeschooling 19 years ago was when I decided that my kids would do nothing unless I had thoughtfully done a cost/benefit analysis of the topic. That was a huge change from accepting out of hand most everything schools required, offered, promoted.

In a nutshell, none of the three things mentioned above would motivate me to require something of my kids.

  1. Just because it’s not hard, doesn’t mean it’s worth doing.
  2. Just because it takes only 10 minutes (for the record, that’s 30 hours per year), doesn’t mean it’s worth doing.
  3. Just because it won’t hurt her (given your assumption that spending 30 hours per year on something that isn’t hard isn’t consequential), doesn’t mean it’s worth doing.

Again, I’m not saying you shouldn’t teach your kids cursive. I’m saying I wouldn’t chose to do it based on those factors.

Learning to write in cursive is part of life and being a grown up, educated person.

Honestly, I have no respond for this other than to say making definitive declarative statements about the necessity of particular bits of knowledge without any backup doesn’t impress me much.

I’d rather have my kids spend 20 more minutes reading classics, playing the piano, programing a computer, cooking, dancing, or rubbing my feet with lavender-scented lotion every day than spend it making pretty doodles. Because I see more benefit to those ways of spending the 20 minutes (particularly that foot rubbing thing) than doing cursive.

As I said, if penmanship is the best use of your child’s time, go for it. It’s just not mine.

So how do they sign a contract?

I really thought I addressed this sufficiently above, but I will humor my dear decades-long friend who said this and respond in more detail. You’re welcome, Mary.

I was taught D’Nelian in school. My signature is not in D’Nelian. It is in my own junior high movie star autograph style. My husband’s signature, likewise, is not in the D’Nelian he was taught. His is, in fact, utterly illegible. All of my non-cursive writing children have signatures fancier and prettier than mine. Even my 10-year-old just signed a contract at a bank last week.

Note 1: there is no specific requirement for signatures; the signatory chooses what her/his signature is.

Note 2: writing a fancy signature — if indeed this is one of the essential adult skills — doesn’t take nearly the time, effort, resources that are expended to learn to have über purty handwriting.

Note 3: most of my signatures the last five years have been digital, even big deal signatures.

{ 36 comments… add one }

  • Carlie R November 30, 2013, 4:24 am

    Cursive was so painful to me in school and I always got reports of “not trying.” I NEVER use it in my adutlt life. I have always thought it was a holdover from ancient teacher who never stopped to THINK about what they teach.

  • Lisa Rusczyk November 30, 2013, 7:12 am

    Great topic! Thanks for this side. I am glad I an read and write in cursive. But I would not be upset if my daughter did not learn it in public school. She has better things to learn. If I have time I will teach her.
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  • barleycorn November 30, 2013, 9:48 am

    Given the choices, I don’t spend time to teach it. Too many more important things to teach.

  • CMB November 30, 2013, 10:47 am

    Yes historical documents may have all been digitized, but try reading grandparents or other ancestors journals or diaries which were all written in archaic cursive writing. What better way to, in the words of Michelle Obama, “change our history” than to have some academic progressive “digitizing” original source documents?

  • Brightpenny November 30, 2013, 10:49 am

    I saw some comments on Facebook but wanted to leave my thoughts here. It seems to me that no one who commented read this post. They just have a preformed opinion that they wanted to put out.

    I like cursive and teach it to my kids, but after reading this, I’m going to think more about it. I do see value in it (and so do you), but there might be more important things to do with my time.

    When people say “it is important” they forget that we all leave gaps. We have to do what is MOST important.

    Thank you for getting me to think again. You always do that!

  • PQ November 30, 2013, 10:52 am

    My kids aren’t old enough to be doing cursive, but I always assumed we would do this. I hate to admit it’s because I did it and everyone I know does it. :/

    You gave a talk at convention where you said to ask questions about everything you do. This is one of those times when we have to at least ask about what we are doing and see if it’s best. Maybe cursive is best, but right now I can think of a lot of things that would be better uses of time. So we’ll see!

  • Clorinda November 30, 2013, 11:08 am

    Until every old record is indexed on the LDS Church website, and until all my ancestors’ journals (and mine for that matter) are transcribed and printed, knowing how to read cursive is still very important because I want to do my genealogy and get to know my ancestors. I also want my children to be able to read my journals themselves, not with my help because they probably won’t be reading through most of them until I’m lots older or dead.

    Just another point of view. :-)

  • Miriam November 30, 2013, 12:55 pm

    I have a 19 yr old son. I didn’t teach him cursive beyond one book of Handwriting without tears. He did the whole book beautifully. BUT he cannot read cursive handwriting!!!! He cannot tell what people scrawl on notes quickly because he learned it too perfectly and not enough.

  • Alison Moore Smith November 30, 2013, 1:36 pm

    Thank you for the great comments!

    CMB and Chlorinda, you make valid points, but note that schools (and current curriculum) aren’t teaching “archaic cursive writing.” They are teaching a particular brand of cursive — which is different from other brands. In most cases, this brand is D’Nealian. Writing in D’Nealian doesn’t make reading other forms of cursive much easier.

    I added above what I should have included initially: reading cursive doesn’t require writing in cursive. If your point is to be able to read some original source documents or journals, then the needed skill would be reading the particular brand of cursive it is written in.

    As someone who’s done extensive indexing with my parents, I can assure you that amazing cursive penmanship (1) doesn’t make for better indexers and (2) isn’t required to learn to read the signatures. :)

    Brightpenny, thank you! Yes, many comments don’t actually address the points in the OP. I appreciate that you took the time to do it. :)

    If WRITINGin cursive is the best use of your time, go for it. It’s just not ours.

    PQ, yes! That section is titled “Question Everything.” It applies perfectly here. Before we decide to do something, we should ask why we are doing it and if it’s the best way to accomplish our goals. Yes, yes, yes! :)

    Miriam, very interesting! I learned D’Nealian cursive in school (as did just about everyone my age). It was NEVER gorgeous like my parents, but it’s passable if I take the time to make it so. Still, I usually type and when I have to write — like on a chalkboard in an church lesson — it’s pretty horrendous.

    For what it’s worth, my parents were both born in the 1920s and their versions of cursive (from Price, Utah, and Vernal, Utah) are markedly different from each other and from mine! I had to learn to read three kinds of cursive just to get through family cards. :) (But, like I said, learning to read a particular cursive isn’t a big deal, nor remotely as time consuming as writing in it.)
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  • Rebecca November 30, 2013, 5:42 pm

    My kids ask me to teach them cursive because they like the looks of it and they’re public school friends know it. I’ve always intended to do it but have never found the time. If you want to learn it to do genealogy there is a book that I have on how to read old writing. It covers many different kinds of cursive. I have done a lot of genealogy and I do know cursive but it doesn’t seem to help me all that much.

  • Donna November 30, 2013, 7:45 pm

    I have a different take than you on cursive and records. I served as a part time missionary at the BYU Family History Center for one year. Each Sunday I would assist in teaching several classes of around 100 BYU students how to index. Each class was one hour. The students that did not write cursive had great difficulty in learning indexing, even with the drop down box of letter variations. Most kids came in excited, but hit a wall when they could not read the documents. They left after an hour still unable to decipher cursive. And, no, they did not learn to read it in 15 minutes. When students that age hit a wall in the optional service project of indexing, most do not get into indexing. Those who wrote cursive and used it regularly had little problem in reading the letters and using the variation box. Many of these already had indexing accounts. Those who did not know cursive and did not learn cursive in an hour were usually not seen again. This is something that could have been learned in their youth, but as busy college students, doing an optional activity, most did not feel it a priority.

    I write my notes in cursive, my annotations, my journals, my composition books etc. I want my children to be able to read them. Also to be able to read our ancestor’s records. Sure, a lot is digitized. There is something empowering to be able to read the original and not have to be dependent on others to constantly translate for them.

    I shared the BYU-FHL experience with my family. I only have one child left at home. She decided on her own to teach herself cursive. She wanted to be able to do family history research and she said she was embarrassed to sign her signature. She had me write the letters down and she practiced on her own. Her journal is her practice.
    Cursive is part of our home school, along with the hand written note.

  • united we stand November 30, 2013, 8:19 pm

    I liked the article and it made me think about lots of choices I make.

    The comments mostly made me want to bang my head on the desk. Why do people insist on making comments when they obviously haven’t even read the article? It’s kind of embarrassing to see homeschoolers talk like this. aggghhhhh

  • Alison Moore Smith December 1, 2013, 12:43 am

    Donna, thanks for posting and your insights.

    Here’s the thing, I’ve said all along that if you think cursive is the best use of that time, you should do it. If you (collective you) can’t think of any more valuable skill to learn with those 30 hours per year (or whatever), then do it. Of course.

    If you think kids should learn cursive no matter what — even if it means not doing more valuable things — then we disagree. Otherwise, we don’t.

    I’m hoping some people will understand that what they teach is a choice and that choosing NOT to teach something “everyone” learns for the sake of doing something that will be of more value to that child is the right way to approach education.

    All I know is my own experience, of my children, and those I’ve worked with. My parents — both of whom are/were very bright individuals with multiple degrees and eons of penmanship (seriously, they were born in the 20s) — have/had difficulty with indexing. My dad, who has gorgeous penmanship still (he’s 84) has never been able to do it. I, who had significantly less handwriting prowess, but typical for my time period, could do some, but ended up with lots of skips. My kids who have been involved been more successful than any of us!

    When they wanted to learn to read cursive it was, in all cases so far, simply a matter of showing them the letter changes. It wasn’t onerous or troubling or trying to read. Annoying maybe — I mean why in the heck does a Q look like that? — but not rocket science. Literally 15 minutes practicing in a particular style was about all that was necessary.

    I agree that there is “power” in being able to write in cursive — as with every skill, in that you’re able to do something you wouldn’t be able to do without the given skill. I just think there are too many more powerful skills to make that particular one a requirement. Generally speaking, I don’t think it’s powerful or useful enough to bother with.

    To be clear, two of my six kids to date have had interest in learning calligraphy. Neither went very far in it, but they enjoyed it. I supported them by buying some instructions books, paper, pens, ink, etc. It was an art and hobby.

    After years of forced penmanship, I was embarrassed about my signature. Then I decided to be a movie star and made it awesome. Then I forgot that awesomeness and it looks ugly again. And I just don’t care. Strangely, all my kids can sign there names at age-typical levels and all but the two youngest have signatures decided nicer than mine. Unless I wrote about, I doubt anyone would know any different if you saw my kids signatures. :) And most doctors I know did learn cursive, to no avail. :)

    And since I want my kids to be able to read my notes, I choose not to write them in cursive. Because my years of penmanship did me no good! :)

    Again, it’s opportunity cost. If you’ve got nothing better to do, go ahead! If you do have something better to do, that’s the better choice.

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  • Myra December 1, 2013, 1:54 pm

    In my opinion, cursive italic handwriting is unattractive and unpleasant to read. I feel that ‘regular’ cursive handwriting has a much more classy and classical look to it and I feel it’s totally worth the time to learn it. That being said, I don’t think it takes very long to learn. Both of my incredibly capable and talented sons who are now in college know how to read and write in cursive, and as we look back on things, none of us remember the time spent doing it. It is simply a drop in the bucket along with all the other great skills they’ve learned.

    It seems possible that you have strong opinions against cursive handwriting simply because you hate it, and that is totally fine. Well, I love it and find that it is a simple and very worthwhile skill to have.

  • Alison Moore Smith December 1, 2013, 4:28 pm

    Nope. I don’t hate it. Can’t even figure out what there is to hate, it’s just handwriting after all. :) (Although I do hate Saxon and that’s just crummy math. 😉 ) I just find too many other more worthwhile things to do. :)
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  • Kim December 2, 2013, 5:27 pm

    Finally had a moment to read over your article. Still doesn’t change my mind. When my kids were younger, we would practice the letters. We did it in a step by step method through our journal writing and through dictation. I didn’t use much of prewritten material but enough that my kids were not illiterate. And I certainly didn’t fret over perfection. And never was it beat into their heads must do all the time. We had plenty of time to do fun things. Of course, we all pick and choose what we spend our time on. But my kids were certainly not hindered by learning cursive. (20 year old graduating in April in biotech education, 17 year old almost finished with associates, and 13 year old already first year starting his bachelors in computer science.) I said before, fortunately, it was helpful in recognizing as b,d,p and q’s. For some reason the thumbs up thumbs down wasn’t cutting it. Drawing on their backs, playing in butter or whip cream… I could give you a list of fun ways to do handwriting both printing and cursive. Knowing cursive has been great for doing family history, reading family journals and even looking at old documents.

    For us, cursive is a skill that may be used. And the more skills, the more broad your opportunities can be. When we were done with skill of cursive, we moved onto typing. None of my kids have been hurt by it. Then again our life wasn’t consumed by the computer either. But they do utilize it for signatures, cards, checks and even the ACT honor statement. Are they great at it? Nope. My girls have taken a liking for beautiful handwriting. It represents them well when they need it. My son, it is yet to be seen. For all things, I think it is finding the balance. Printing, cursive, typing are just forms of communication. Just like the different languages are valuable in programming (although some of them are WAY out of date), the different methods of communication are important for a complete understanding of our past without having to “trust” someone else’s interpretation or even their typing.
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  • Kim December 2, 2013, 5:30 pm

    On a side note: Wow, how sad they can’t read a note from their grandfather. Recently, my kids were able to read my grandfathers last words, just last sunday as we were going through some things. There is something far more personal about it than some typed up diatribe. But that is just the sentimentalist in me.
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  • Alison Moore Smith December 2, 2013, 7:14 pm

    No, it’s not sad at all. I read it to them and then, after a few years of seeing them, they could read them themselves.

    P.S. I can’t read my dad’s handwriting very well either. And I spend hundreds of hours practicing cursive. Alas, it wasn’t the SAME cursive he learned. Poor, poor me.
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  • Alison Moore Smith December 2, 2013, 7:18 pm

    But my kids were certainly not hindered by learning cursive.

    Of course they were hindered! That’s my point. They were kept from doing whatever they would have done OTHERWISE. EVERY choice removes other choices. You think those OTHER choices were less valuable than cursive. That’s fine. But there WERE other choices.

    My point is to get people to THINK about the OTHER choices before they jump on the school curriculum bandwagon. As I’ve said repeatedly, if they think cursive is the BEST use of time, go for it. But at least take the time to make the conscious decision realizing what the cost is.
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  • James December 3, 2013, 2:57 am

    I agree with the point that people should thing before they mindlessly ape the government schools, but the attack on cursive is rooted in ignorance and is a symptom of what’s wrong with government schools.

    Cursive itself is not the problem.

    The article seems to be predicated on the idea that learning to write cursive is such a difficult thing and requires so much painful practice that writing cursive represents an unacceptable opportunity cost. There are just too many other wonderful things kids should be doing instead of this painful procedure.

    The judgement that it’s a painful waste of time seems to be from the perspective of painful personal experiences being flogged to learn a particular style in government schools.

    In other words, this is projection en masse.

    I find the attitude of “Printing! Printing! We have printing and need no other writing than printing!” rather amusing and unfortunately philistine.

    I hope people consider that perhaps there are ways other than the government school methodology to teach this functional and practical art form, and not pass their prejudices along to the children so blindly.

    Cursive is a manual encoding system as printing, shorthand, or ancient tachygraphy are. Each has its strengths and weaknesses.

    Schools have unfortunately poisoned people with regard to cursive, but its roots are directly derived from the art of calligraphy (“beautiful writing”). I’ve studied enough calligraphy over the years I know the answers to “why is this shaped this way” and the lineage through time.

    I also agree that the D’Nelian method suffers from fatal flaws as it’s a product of intellectuals. But because D’Nelian is *one* form of cursive doesn’t mean that it’s the one and only.

    Cursive came into existence thousands of years ago as a *practical response* to the real-world problems with printing. Cursive in the practiced hands of a person who hasn’t been tortured with government schooling methods is far faster and cleaner for recording information, including taking notes — yes, I hear people saying “I can print faster” but go back and re-read my caveats. If you can print faster and more easily than you can write cursive you don’t have a practiced hand and probably were tortured in school with it.

    Cursive is demotic writing — people’s writing — practical and quick. Anything that was meant to endure was rendered in printing.

    There is additionally the esthetics of writing, and that’s where I bring out the larger world of calligraphy, of which cursive writing is a small subset.

    I can accept that some people have the esthetic sense of a rock, but for those that spend so much time and money having their children study painting, drawing, sculpting, or other arts but reject the art of beautiful writing is a rather prejudiced view of the arts, but a forgivable bias given the trauma.

    We’ve not forced cursive down the throats of our children as a slavish adherence to tradition. I don’t believe our handicapped child can write in cursive. That’s not where his time should go.

    But we haven’t deprived our other child of the joys of this practical and applied art form either.

  • Kim December 3, 2013, 8:32 am

    It just comes down to what skills you want your children to have. And how you decide to spend your time.

    And you are right! It is about thinking about your choices, the student’s needs and putting priorities accordingly. That is the joy of homeschooling!
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  • Lynette December 3, 2013, 11:31 am

    I am teaching my children cursive for one reason only: So they can read it. Generations before wrote solely in cursive and my own journals are written mostly in cursive (I like writing in cursive because it’s faster to write than print). I told my kids I don’t require them to write anything in cursive and I don’t care if they never catch on, but I pointed out that at least knowing what cursive letters look like will help them to read my journals and their grandparents and great-grandparents journals. I know it’s becoming a thing of the past, with technology exploding onto the scene, but being able to *read* it is still important — at least to me. :)

  • Alison Moore Smith December 3, 2013, 3:22 pm


    …but the attack on cursive is rooted in ignorance and is a symptom of what’s wrong with government schools.


    Cursive itself is not the problem.

    I’m not sure what problem you think I’m trying to address here. Cursive is “the problem” as it pertains to the teaching of cursive. I don’t teach it and I’m explaining why because it’s an issue that I see come up over and over.

    The article seems to be predicated on the idea that learning to write cursive is such a difficult thing and requires so much painful practice that writing cursive represents an unacceptable opportunity cost.

    You’re conflating two different issues here.

    Yes learning to write in cursive takes time and yes it has an opportunity cost. (Everything does.)

    The difficulty depends on the child and the level of acceptability of opportunity cost varies with the child and family. So, no, I’m not taking guesses at how this fits into OTHER families, I’m explaining how it fits in OURS.

    As I addressed above, I had two children who were moderately interested in calligraphy. Because of their interest, we supported and accommodated it. But it never became part of our central curriculum because we found too many other things that were more useful/valuable to us.

    I find the attitude of “Printing! Printing! We have printing and need no other writing than printing!” rather amusing and unfortunately philistine.

    And it’s not my position. So…

    But because D’Nelian is *one* form of cursive doesn’t mean that it’s the one and only.

    Absolutely. As I’ve said repeatedly, learning one form of cursive simply does not mean that you have learned the variety that exists in historical and genealogical documents. In fact my parents both had beautiful handwriting, but very different.

    My kids have learned to recognize my dad’s (because he’s still alive), but only my oldest can read anything old of my mom’s. And, to tell the truth, I struggle with her journal, too.

    My sister and cousin and I sat around with a bunch of old documents a couple of months ago and it was hilarious trying to decipher the various handwriting. Gorgeous and fancy, but very hard for us to read. (And we are ALL so old that we ALL learned cursive!)

    If you can print faster and more easily than you can write cursive you don’t have a practiced hand and probably were tortured in school with it.

    My fastest writing is a combined cursive and print, which removes most superfluous lines. But I almost never write anything by hand. Gaining a “practiced hand” at cursive would take far more time FOR ME than I could ever get back in efficiency. Since I don’t care about it (it’s not the way I’d choose to spend discretionary time) and I use it ver little (it’s not a practical matter).

    I can accept that some people have the esthetic sense of a rock, but for those that spend so much time and money having their children study painting, drawing, sculpting, or other arts but reject the art of beautiful writing is a rather prejudiced view of the arts, but a forgivable bias given the trauma.

    Good heavens. Can you evoke anymore hyperbole than that?

    James, who has rejected beautiful writing? If my children want to do it, they may, and I will provide the materials and training. If others want to do it, I won’t tell them not to.

    I don’t teach it as part of curriculum because I don’t see it as a core educational element.

    For example, I do not know a single adult who isn’t seriously hampered by being unable to read well and be completely adept at algebra. I know hundreds who are successful and functional and happy without having amazing penmanship skills.

    We teach reading and algebra to all our kids. We teach cursive to none as a general part of curriculum.

    One of our “long-term flexible homeschooling goals” (as I talk about in my speeches) is for our kids to be musically literate because we have decided that IS valuable enough to spend time on. THAT is a core part of our homeschool, but HOW that is done varies with each child markedly. So if you were to assert that all children should be musically literate, I’d agree. If you said all children should play the violin, I would disagree.

    I don’t believe our handicapped child can write in cursive. That’s not where his time should go.

    Which is exactly my point. We agree! In the case of your handicapped child, you see better uses for the time.

    In the case of my kids — with the exception of the two who spend a bit of time doing calligraphy — we have better ways to use the time than on cursive.

    Again, this is an individual pursuit. In 19 years of homeschooling what I find is that most people who went to public school adopt a public school model. It’s a shame, because the model is not a good one.
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  • Natalie December 4, 2013, 12:16 pm

    I love teaching cursive! :) My children have enjoyed learning it because I make up their copywork. When my oldest first started learning it years ago, we used something I found online and just has tears with no success. When I found some cursive penmanship fonts I liked, I started typing up their vocabulary and verses and journal dictating and printing it a very light gray for them to trace. My kindergartener prefers cursive over print! One of my sons that hates all penmanship would rather do cursive than print too. My oldest 5th grader uses it because it’s quicker. I am fine with however they learn to write. We love exposing them to print, cursive, calligraphy, and of course, typing. I love the way cursive looks and feel it’s very much worth our time :)

    But I am extremely interested in your preferred math curriculum! I read your “Learning to Love Math” post moments before I was planning on purchasing $300 worth of Saxon! Miraculous! We’ve enjoyed Math-u-See… But I looking for something I love teaching & they love learning. I was hoping to get some math Christmas gifts… But your post probably won’t happen until next year? :(

  • Donna December 5, 2013, 8:12 am

    When I first read this post I thought of my experience at the BYU-FHL. I appreciate your response. My mother-in-law is 93. She had difficulty with indexing. But not with original research she had done in original vital records. I think the biggest struggle for older adults does not come so much in the reading of other people\’s poor penmanship, but in the working of the technology itself. They seem to have done just fine over the years working in the pen and paper world and deciphering the scribble of others. But all of the sudden they cannot read it if it is on the computer? I think it is the computer and trying to remember where that drop down cue box for penmanship is.That all said, after the initial response I remembered an article read earlier this year about cursive and brain development- “what learning Cursive Does for Your Brain- found in Psychology Today, 14 March 2013. I chuckle as I am remembering that my mil, who graduated from Standford with her BA in Honors Literature prints but does not do cursive. It did not hamper her. That musing aside, I do find the brain research mentioned in the article, interesting…Particular interest was in “haptics.” Also, ” The benefits to brain development are similar to what you get with learning to play a musical instrument. Not everyone can afford music lessons., but everyone has access to pencil and paper. Not everyone can afford a computer for their kids- maybe such kids are not as deprived as we would think.”
    Anyway, fascinating subject.

  • Michael December 6, 2013, 8:32 am

    I don’t know, I’m kinda torn on the whole handwriting thing. I’m 42 and have 4 kids. When I was in school, we were all forced to learn how to write and Cursive was the next progression in learning how to write properly, efficiently, and fluid. Up until a certain grade (forgot when, but think it was early High School), I forced myself to stop writing in cursive. I saw some other kids who printed, looked really cool, and started to develop that way of thinking. Now, many many years later, I print everything that needs to be handwritten (looks like typewriting fonts, neat and clean), but when I reflect back on it, I could kick myself for making the change.

    I’m in the computer field, and use computers 99.9% of the time. However, when I do need to write something, like a letter to my Grandma, or to write something with my kids, I’ve seen how it is slow (and I print as fast and any other quick printers), tiring, and inefficient… it just plain is! There is no way that any “printer” will ever be as efficient and quick as someone who how to write in cursive, whether they print in normal print, italic, or otherwise.

    My wife is big on the homeschooling thing (kids were homeschooled early on, but she still maintains the concepts and implements them), believes in alternative learning, and I’m all for it. But when it comes to handwriting, all my 4 kids (3 boys and 1 girl), have horrid handwriting. But how can I complain if they don’t force it in school? How can I complain when we just don’t have the time to sit with all 4 kids and teach them proper printing (because cursive is just a big waste of time).

    When I did write in cursive, it was so fluid, so easy to write quickly and it to appear neat, legigle, and just plain efficient. Yeah, it takes a little more to learn it, but after I learned it in the fourth grade (I think that was the year, but that was a long time ago), that was all I needed. One year of learning how to write, and how to write properly. And when I say “properly”, I mean “properly” in the sense of choose a style that is quick, easy and legible.

  • Magic and Mayhem December 15, 2013, 3:02 pm

    Actually, cursive is now required on the SAT and PSAT. See:


    It is not required that students write in cursive *well* (or “properly”) but they do need to write the honesty statement and it specifically says it must be written in cursive. The purpose is to have a handwriting sample (not print) to compare as part of the latest security measures.

    We do a cursory foray into cursive when our kids are about middle school age. I see no harm in teaching it but I certainly wouldn’t stress over it or make a bunch of busywork. My oldest daughters both wanted to learn at a certain age and enjoyed practicing with various pens. There is something to be said for having nice handwriting, whether in print or cursive. I personally write much faster in cursive and am glad I know how to do it.

    It seems as if both sides are very passionate and almost angry about this topic, which kind of mystifies me. The people on the other side aren’t idiots or villains for having different HSing opinions or goals. :)

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  • Shelley Johnson December 30, 2013, 12:46 pm

    There are many reasons to write in cursive.
    Writing in cursive is a real time saver. Writing in cursive is much faster than writing manuscript. When a high schooler has to take an essay test, he will be able to write more quickly and have more time to formulate his thoughts. He will have an academic edge.
    Writing cursive is an activity that uses both halves of the brain. Some experts believe it helps prevent and treat ADD. It sure helped one teen I know. It may not be a coincidence that when third graders stopped learning cursive, the number of ADD cases rose dramatically.
    Our countries founding documents, census documents and many genealogical documents throughout the world are written in cursive. Our historical and family roots will be closed off to us if we don’t know cursive.

  • Shelley Johnson December 30, 2013, 12:57 pm

    Our family uses a traditional cursive, but we omit some of the the superfluous strokes to make it easy to read and write.

  • Shelley Johnson December 30, 2013, 1:10 pm

    My 10 yo daughter learned to write cursive with very little practice. She traced the letters on a teaching-cursive placemat and then wrote the sentence “the quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog” a few times. She got the hang of writing all the letters in less than 15 minutes.

    And the teen whose ADD improved by learning cursive had already been playing musical instruments for six years.

  • Hudzen November 6, 2014, 12:17 am

    That is all what I need to hear. . I’ve been practicing writing cursive 3 months from now.. and I found out that it is a waste of time. I’m a programmer.. I don’t need cursive but I’m interesting to try new things specially in improving some areas of our brain. I try cursive but.. It’s all about writing, if I spend that time practicing other programming languages I think. I learn something useful.

  • Nan Jay Barchowsky February 12, 2015, 1:40 pm

    Thank you! Well said, and let it be known that I teach cursive italic, what could be called the shortcut to handwriting

  • Tom August 6, 2015, 9:05 am

    It takes a lot of time to teach algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. So do we now stop teaching these because so few use them?

  • alan August 23, 2016, 4:45 pm

    Anyone that thinks cursive is not important is a moron, is stupid and ignorant of why it’s important, and I will not waste my time as to explain to these idiots to why it’s so!

  • Alison Moore Smith October 5, 2017, 4:53 pm

    I tend to think it’s moronic to simply fling ad hominem while never supporting your own position. But, hey, what does a moron know? 😂
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  • Alison Moore Smith October 8, 2017, 9:38 pm

    Sweetie pie, Alan Davis, just sent me an email. What a charmer! Here it is:

    You’re right! What does a moron know? You just answered it baby! You’re lazy and a poor excuse for a teacher. What makes you think that you’re right about what’s important to teach? You just simply refuse to listen to any others ideas as I’ve seen that for myself in your comments section. This is my last reply as there’s no talking to wanna be know it all’s!

    Oh, I’d be a million your a democrat too!

    Alan, I’ll send you my venmo account since I’m extremely conservative…and have been my entire life. I’ll be expecting the deposit by midnight.

    But, again, you think ad hominem is an actual argument. If you’d care to actual present some evidence of your (unspoken) position, you are more than welcome. But, I know, I know, you prefer to spew without any facts. Super cute! (And…yup…moronic…)

    Good luck in life. I need to get back to my kids. You know, the ones graduating two years early, those taking calculus, and those with advanced science degrees. It’s all good!
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