Beautiful handwriting is a dying art form. I am not talking about calligraphy or oriental writings; just plain old good handwriting. It’s something you don’t see very often.
I was standing in line at the grocery store – something I spend a large percentage of my life doing – when the lady in front of me pulled out her checkbook. At first, I thought, “Who writes checks at the grocery store these days?”
That was until I saw her handwriting. If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I would’ve thought a computer had done it. Now I knew why she writes checks at the grocery store. Handwriting like that deserves to be admired by other people! She should get some kind of award for that!
I spent many of my elementary school years practicing cursive handwriting. Pages and pages of loops and dips were laboriously and tediously formed and presided over by my grade school teachers before we could even begin to make real letters. Even with this early meticulous attention to details, my handwriting skills leave much to be desired. My handwritten pages now look like a snail had somehow crawled into an inkwell and slithered across my paper. Those lovely loops and dips are a thing of the past. Speed became more important than aesthetics.
If my handwriting is bad, my children’s handwriting is atrocious. I thought I would give them some handwriting worksheets during the summer to strengthen their fine motor skills. By fall, I may be able to read the work they did in school.
I started them with the loops I remembered from grade school. I demonstrated: round and round and round, all the way to the end of the line and start again on the next line. Then I left them to finish the task. I’m not sure what I expected when I returned to check on them. Lyrical loops and delicious dips, I supposed. What I got was pages of geometric figures connected together. The geometric figures were not circles or ovals or even egg-shaped. They were more like parallelograms, triangles and pentagons. It looked like a sketch of a train wreck.
I praised them for the pentagons – those were the closest loop-like figures – and then I reminded them that loops do not have corners.
We eventually moved on to letters and the numbers which they insisted on doing from bottom to top. Then I asked them to practice their newfound skill by writing a journal page everyday telling what they did the day before. Their entries became shorter and short each day as they, too, opted in favor of speed over elegance. They wrote: “We ate. We wrote. We went to bed.”
I praised them for using a noun and a verb in each sentence and reminded them that future generations may read this journal and conclude that they were very boring people. They were not inspired to do more. Apparently, future generations could go hang themselves. I tried another tactic: I asked them to write an inspirational quote from a famous person each day. These may have been more for my benefit than theirs. I knew this was the case when I read an amazingly legible version of Helen Keller’s “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.”
I was optimistic that my children would soon develop better handwriting. According to Ms. Keller, we were half-way there!