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03 October 2017

Easy Peasy Cursive {Crew Review}

Channie's Easy Peasy Cursive Workbook

We were given the Easy Peasy Cursive book, from Channie’s Visual Handwriting & Math Workbooks to review. These are simple and straightforward: notepads full of letters to practice. There is a page of letters to trace, a page of trace-then-write, and a page for writing independently for each letter. At the back of the book there is one page, front and back, for practicing words.

We follow Charlotte Mason's classical education philosophy, and she says this about practicing handwriting:

Set good copies before him, and see that he imitates his model dutifully: the writing lesson being not so many lines, or 'a copy'––that is, a page of writing––but a single line which is as exactly as possible a copy of the characters set. The child may have to write several lines before he succeeds in producing this.
-Charlotte Mason

I've found this to be good advice in the past, to focus on helping my kids to produce just a few beautiful letters, rather than going for a whole page. We've always started with letter formation first, then moved into words, and this workbook is great for the letter formation part of the process. It was no problem to use this book in a Charlotte Mason-friendly way: although the book is printed in a way that suggests that you could just sit down and write the whole page at a go, I chose to work on it line-by-line with him: we never work more than one line of any letter at a sitting. The large number of examples means that he's always got a beautiful sample to look at; it's just how I do it when I make up my own sheets. The first day I just opened it up to A, then let him choose what he wanted to for the second letter; he chose I. Completely open-and-go. I love that.

Finding a pen that works well for the pages was a little bit of a challenge: I felt like the  mechanical pencil that we happened to grab the first day wasn't a good choice: the dots that you trace are pretty dark and quite close together, and I felt like it was hard to see the pencil lines. We tried ballpoint pen, but ended up settling on a very fine line Sharpie. The pages are just a little slick, and the letters close together, so our Crayola markers were out of the question: the ink would smear, and it's hard to make beautiful letters when your ink is misbehaving. But the ballpoint pen was adequate (can you tell I'm a pen snob??), and the Sharpie worked out pretty well -- I was worried that it would bleed through the paper, but it's not too bad.

The one thing that I wish they had done differently with these is that I wish that they had included more words to practice, or several blank pages so that I can give him models to practice. But the book is almost entirely letters. And that's good, as far as it goes, but where the paper is so very specific, it would have been nice if they had allowed for more than just letter formation. 

As far as how I feel about these, I really want to like them. The idea is great, the slanted boxes to give spacing is brilliant -- and it should have been relatively familiar, because our Japanese also happens in boxes to get the spacing right, and Dragon(7) doesn't have any problems with that. But he's really struggling with this, in spite of having been excited to learn cursive when we got the book. It's not working very well at all: he can trace the letters, but when I ask him to draw his own, even right next to a model, immediately after tracing several, he just can't do it. I had him try a couple of things in his regular notebook, and it is just funky. That thing on the third line is a capital and lower case L, drawn immediately after practicing in the workbook. He's all over the place with it.

I suspect that the issue that Dragon finds cursive challenging, more than that the workbooks aren't a good system. While he hasn't completed all of the practice, I didn't anticipate that he should need that much repetition in order to be able to write with a model, rather than tracing.  My plan at this point is to put away cursive for six months or a year, and then revisit it, and see if it makes more sense to him. His printing is still a little bit unsteady, and we're working on things like consistently getting upper case letters out of the middle of words -- there are a couple of letters where he strongly prefers the capital, and will chose A over a every time, even in the middle of the word, if I let him. So I wonder if this book won't work better for him later on, after his printing is a little more consistent and his writing a little more mature in general. Maybe I should get a Quick & Neat Alphabet Pad, and see how he does with that.

If you want to read more reviews of Channie's Visual Handwriting & Math Workbooks - there are a couple of titles the Crew is looking at- click the banner below.


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1 comment:

Rozy Lass said...

How old is he? Perhaps his fine motor control isn't as mature as it needs to be to have good success. You are wise to simply introduce, and then put it away for a while, and bring it out again when his hands are more mature. I'm always amazed at how much you teach your children; they are going to have awesome knowledge when you're finished. Keep up the good work.


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