Books, Homeschool, Writing

More Handwriting Helps: Write a Book

Handwriting practice is the bane of my existence. I have a five-year-old who reads well beyond grade level. However, getting him to practice his handwriting is like pulling teeth.

Traditional methods of practicing handwriting have proved futile. Workbooks don’t hold his interest, so I’ve had to invent numerous handwriting games to hold his attention. It’s such a struggle that I have not been diligent about sitting down with him to practice.

Recently, I heard Katie Davis’s interview with comic book author/illustrator Stephen McCraine. McCraine recounted making his first book at age sixish. He drew the pictures, and his mom filled in the speech bubbles — except for his name, which Stephen could write himself. The interview sparked an idea. Surely writing a book was something I could try with Cooper, my five-year-old, as a means of handwriting practice.

So this morning I grabbed two sheets of paper for each “book.” I folded them in half and stapled them in the crease, creating 8 pages, including the covers, for each book. I asked Cooper and Finley to brainstorm some ideas. Finley, age three,  opted to write a story that Cooper had just made up: their stuffed bear, Winnie, finding a lost library book under the couch. (Note: The bear was on the right track. I found the missing book behind a couch cushion. Thanks Winnie!)

Cooper wrote a book based upon an animation he’d seen: Springtime on Mars. He drew the pictures and dictated the text: “Watch out! The aliens ran for cover.” I lightly traced the letters and had him write them, following my pencil strokes. We completed the cover and a two-page spread. Cooper was very proud of his first book. I’m hoping we can add a page or two in the days to come.


Handwriting Practice Place Mat

An early draft

My older son has developed some horrible handwriting habits, which I’m trying to correct. I have a few wipe-off writing practice books from the mid 1990s (published by Troll Associates), but it’s hard to get him motivated to use them except when we play the occasional game of school.

My friend Kaley, a homeschooler, had a brilliant idea: she has writing practice place mats, and her boys practice writing while she’s making their meal. Being thrifty, I figured I could make my own.

My mom is a former preschool teacher with far better handwriting than mine, so she put together the early draft (above) using white paper, colored markers and a ruler. My son can start with the basic lowercase “c” shape, then move on to “o” and “a” before using those same strokes to form ds, gs, qs and the like. We have been trying to help him remember that he always starts at “two o’clock” when forming those lowercase letters.

Once we have a design we are happy with, we’ll laminate the place mat. You could also try clear contact paper if you don’t have a laminator at home. For writing practice, we use Dixon Phano China Markers, which are waxy pencils that offer more resistance than dry-erase markers. You can find china markers at office supply stores or online.