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How can I help my daughter improve her illegible handwriting?

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How can I help my daughter improve her illegible handwriting?

We are finishing Heart of Dakota’s Preparing Hearts for His Glory now. My daughter’s handwriting is horrible. She does not care about how it looks. Seriously, she writes so badly that you can’t read 1/3 of what she writes. Doing cursive on unlined paper is hard for her. Even doing the notebook pages on lined paper in the manual, it looks disgusting. I need something to get her to write neater. I’m thinking of getting another handwriting workbook for her to do over the summer. I guess I am just frustrated with her. How can I help my daughter improve her illegible handwriting?


“Ms. Please Help My Daughter Improve Her Illegible Handwriting”

Dear “Ms. Please Help My Daughter Improve Her Illegible Handwriting,”

Your question struck a chord with me. So many kiddos struggle with exactly what you are mentioning with your own daughter. All kiddos have their weak areas. It is sounding like your little honey’s weak area is handwriting. One thing to ponder is that Charlotte Mason would say that neat handwriting is a habit, which needs to be worked on as all habits are, carefully and consistently one step at a time. With most kiddos who have poor handwriting, it’s important to note that as the volume of writing increases, handwriting that used to be passable at best become illegible at worst.

It will be most important to address her handwriting habits.

While it is a good idea to work on handwriting in short time increments over the summer, it will be more important to address the habits she’s formed with her handwriting during the school year. Likely, you should see some improvement in this area in the summer simply because it is one of the few or only subjects your child is working on, and she is probably doing very little work requiring handwriting during the rest of her day. However, during the school year it’s important to really weigh how poor the handwriting is and whether it is bordering or moving toward the illegible.

If her handwriting is illegible, I would have her do less, better.

If her handwriting truly is illegible, I would begin first by cutting back the amount she is writing (meaning you would neatly write the beginning part of the assignment for her), and then she would finish the last portion neatly. Charlotte Mason would say that a little done neatly is better than volumes done carelessly. Whatever is not done neatly would need to be redone. When a child isn’t writing as much, it is easier to have him or her redo what is done carelessly. Then, the habit of doing written work carefully can truly be honed.

Retraining of this habit will help her handwriting improve.

As your daughter improves in this area, she could take over more and more of the handwriting assignments herself. While this likely will feel like a backward step, it honestly is the retraining of a bad habit that has been allowed to form. I know this because I had it with my own son, prior to reading more deeply about Charlotte Mason. I did not go as far back as expecting perfection from him (and had I been more willing to devote more time to the retraining of this habit I should have), but I did lessen the amount he wrote and did require him to redo as needed. This helped my son immensely, and his quality finally improved.

Writing in a workbook is a crutch that doesn’t improve daily writing.

Honestly, continuing to write in a workbook is a crutch that will not improve written work in the day-to-day writing. Kiddos can perform it on the workbook page, and then continue their messy habits in all of their other written work. These are just my thoughts, after years of using workbooks for handwriting with my son and seeing little improvement.

Diligently working on handwriting overall as a habit in all areas of written work bit by bit makes the most impact.

Diligently working on handwriting overall as a habit in all areas of written work bit by bit made the most difference at our house. Also, if you feel that your child functions better with lines, you can easily assign your child to write on lined paper for the notebooking assignments. Then, she can cut that portion out and glue it on her notebook page. We did this in my public school teaching days all of the time. It makes each notebooking page customizable to fit exactly what the assignment requires.


This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Peggy

    I love this information! I would add a few more suggestions too after working with an occupational therapist for years!
    1. It may be that the strength of your child’s hands are not typical, weak (I have two such kiddos). Work in some hand strengthening activities: wall push-ups, the Hand spring gizmo, “theraputty”, clay, pulling weeds in the garden, etc!!
    2. We also let our child write his 8-12 sentence narrations on the computer, print it and cut and paste it on the workbook. This was a good compromise for me. It has not decreased his/her handwriting ability at all but increased the attitude toward a pleasant attitude.
    3. Visualizing lines that are not there (blank piece of paper) is difficult for some people. The suggestion of lined paper is great! I have found this to be so much better when I remember to do this. Also, the visual perceptual activities are hard for some children. An example, they do not even see the differences between cursive “a” and cursive “o”.

    Just a few more suggestions!! May the Lord help you as you both work through this process! It is a huge learning for us as teachers too!

    1. Great ideas, Peggy! Thanks so much for sharing here and being an encouragement to other homeschool moms!!!

  2. Carrie

    I would like to add that if your little girl continues to struggle it might be worth your while to have her vision tested. I’m not talking about eyesight. My son had developmental issues between his eyes and his brain which required vision therapy. Before the therapy he was unable to write neatly. Actually UNABLE. After completing therapy he is now relearning handwriting. It is a difficult task but he is making progress. That’s just another thing to consider.

    1. Good thought, Carrie! Thanks for sharing, and we are so glad to hear your son is making progress now!!!

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