Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What To Do?

What do you do when a child's handwriting is awful?  I'm not talking about a little bit crooked or things that are misspelled - those things are age-appropriate and can be fixed with time.  I'm talking about handwriting that is barely legible - what my elementary teachers would have called "chicken scratching."

M1 probably has dysgraphia.  Handwriting is and always has been difficult for him.  We're working on cursive, and he sort of likes it, but he sort of doesn't because it's still writing.  For now, though, he still has to turn in work, and half the time I can barely read it.

We've worked on handwriting consistently since he came home three years ago.  We use Handwriting Without Tears, and he knows how to write properly.  He simply won't do it.  A lowercase 's' often looks like a backward 'c' because he won't put the top curve on it.  Lowercase 'n' and 'h' could be twins more often than not.  The list goes on and on.  If he misses a letter in a word, rather than erase and fix it he'll try to squeeze it in, even if there isn't space.  He doesn't leaves space between words or sentences.  Letters are all over the place, even on paper that has the dotted line down the middle to help keep things even.  If the space is available, his writing is HUGE - this is becoming a real issue with regards to math, where it's often hard to pick out his answer from the chaotic math problems scattered around the page (yes, I do provide him with separate paper to do these on, but he won't use it).

I let him type when he can, but that's a painfully tedious process yet, too, so for now that really isn't an option.

What would you do?  I need ideas, because I'm about out.  Right now I'm making him copy the really bad stuff over again, but that adds SO much time to our school day, depending on whether he'll focus or not (the focus issue is another part of the puzzle here... I really wish I could put him back on Vyvanse!).  So what do you think?  Tough it out till he's fluent at typing and/or cursive?  Make him keep copying the worst stuff over?  Just get over it?  I will not write everything (many reasons for this, not the least of which is that M1 needs to work on his capitalization and punctuation issues), nor is oral work always an option, so I really need something that might stick.



Beth said...

Hahhaha We are there! With both of them. We've moved Abby almost completely over to cursive. It's helped a LOT with the spacing and random capitols in her words. We also took a few breaks from HWOT - they started to find the books extremely tedious and went and got some "fun" workbooks that focused more on the elementary shapes of letters. A backtrack, but it let them take a *break* without actually taking a break. I've also promised the girl that unless it's handwriting or the final draft of a paper, I won't get onto her about her handwriting - she was having panic attacks about it and then getting so focused on her handwriting she couldn't focus on the other things she was supposed to be doing. The science lesson or language arts or whatever. I figure 1 battle about handwriting a day was enough, but if I could get her to keep practicing it to where she didn't HATE it at least (and her thinking I was going to tell her something was wrong with every lesson was making her hate it more and more) then she would either improve or well.. not. But if she didn't, me telling her she wasn't, isn't helpful either.

Addlepated Monkey Mama said...

Man, oh, man are our boys cut from the same cloth, Sarah! Mine's a lefty and a total chicken scratcher, content to be fast and sloppy. He presses down very hard and grips the pencil down at the very bottom. He does copywork every day and I sit with him and watch him make every letter. If it's messy, the wrong size, etc. then I make him redo it. If I notice that he's consistently making a letter or number incorrectly, I make him practice it over and over again until he gets into the habit of making it correctly. I'm still trying to get it through his head that he needs to do his math neatly. Sometimes he makes a mistake because he misreads a number later in the problem. So anyways, I'm trying to enforce neat writing for school work (since I still sit with him for everything I can have him correct it as he goes) and hope the good habits will spill over to his recreational writing. I'm big on habit forming, you may have noticed. It requires a lot of attention and vigilance on my part, but I think it's the only way for my son since he found the motivation on his own yet.

Sarah said...

Yeah, I took breaks when we were Abby's age, but now that he's 9, almost 10, there's a LOT more writing involved in almost all aspects of the curriculum. So I can't just drop everything, and that's the most frustrating part.

AMM, I'm a lefty so I know how bad lefty writing can be! I've seen some spectacular examples over the years. I threatened M1 tonight that I'd start sitting next to him for every single assignment to make sure his work was done properly, and his eyes got huge and he promised to work harder. That might have been just the ticket! ;) Math is definitely a toughie here, too.

Addlepated Monkey Mama said...

Oh, and I just remembered reading a thread on the WTM forum about getting kids to be more careful with their work, specifically math, I think. One parent gave out a "get out of one math lesson" coupon for every five lessons done correctly. I wondered about doing the same thing, not only for math but neatness.

We're studying the Middle Ages right now, so we also pretend my son is a monk in the scriptorium, making a beautiful illuminated manuscript. He's been getting a kick out of that.

Sarah said...

Oh, I *LOVE* the coupon idea! That's a great, easy one. I'm totally doing that starting tomorrow. THANKS!

farmwifetwo said...

My lefty handwriting is neat but I don't write upside down. I turn the paper so I can write correctly.

I have found with both boys time is the only answer. My eldest for whatever reason finally started writing neatly at 11 just before the computer arrived at school. He uses both.

The youngests is messy (10 autistic) but the more he writes the more legible it becomes. He has to be reminded to write neatly and small but we're writing short phrases not essays.

Which is why the elder - after 2 yrs of waiting - got a computer at school. He can't write quickly nor neatly fast enough. Although I have noticed on the essay parts of these tests he's not using it which has me unimpressed... debating if it's worth complaining about.

Anonymous said...

Hi... My daughter is 8, has atrocious handwriting and it's a struggle for her. She holds the pencil wrong and still writes many letters backwards. I now have her write words/sentences over that aren't legible.She balked (and had numerous meltdowns)at first, but now, after 5 months her handwriting has gotten MUCH better. I also no longer make her do busy work or copywork. She knows whatever she writes is important. Hope this helps. Good luck.

rowan said...

I am so following this!!!! My daughter, soon to be 8, has so many of these same issues. She is right handed, so that isn't the problem. But she wants to hurry through her work; she says her hand hurts when she writes; etc. I'm hoping that starting cursive next year will cut down on the kinder level handwriting that I'm currently getting. sigh