Cursive and the perfectionist.

2013-05-09 14.06.11

Let me tell you, when a perfectionist starts to learn cursive it is fun times.

“Augh! Look at this y! It’s horrible! Look at how messed up it is!”

“No, Alex. I’m not going to look at your messed up y. Finish the row, and then circle the y you like the best, and I’ll look at that one.”

Z is hard too! Miss Amy says that she never mastered cursive z. Do you think I’ll ever be able to get it?”

“If you could write cursive letters the first time you tried, you wouldn’t need a cursive book. Just keep practicing and then circle your best z.”

And miraculously? This totally works. Circling the best letter, which I guess implicitly means disowning all the less-perfect ones, seems to shut off the perfectionist critic in her head. It keeps her practicing.

She can’t wait to be able to use cursive all the time:

2013-05-09 14.05.48

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5 Responses to Cursive and the perfectionist.

  1. Kyndra says:

    Oh I love that response! I’m going to have to try that…K

  2. Ian Osmond says:

    What a great idea! “Circle the one you like best.”

    I’m going to try to figure out ways to incorporate that into my own life.

  3. It may help your little perfectionist (and “Miss Amy,” presumably his teacher) to be aware of this:

    The fastest, clearest handwriters join only some letters: making the easiest joins, skipping others, using print-like forms of letters whose cursive and printed forms disagree. (Sources below.)

    Reading cursive matters, but even children can be taught to read writing that they are not taught to produce. Reading cursive can be taught in just 30 to 60 minutes — even to five- or six-year-olds, once they read ordinary print. Why not teach children to read cursive, along with teaching other vital skills, including a handwriting style typical of effective handwriters?

    Adults increasingly abandon cursive. In 2012, handwriting teachers were surveyed at a conference hosted by Zaner-Bloser, a publisher of cursive textbooks. Only 37 percent wrote in cursive; another 8 percent printed. The majority, 55 percent, wrote a hybrid: some elements resembling print-writing, others resembling cursive. When most handwriting teachers shun cursive, why mandate it?

    Cursive’s cheerleaders sometimes allege that cursive makes you smarter, makes you graceful, or confers other blessings no more prevalent among cursive users than elsewhere. Some claim research support, citing studies that consistently prove to have been misquoted or otherwise misrepresented by the claimant.

    What about signatures? In state and federal law, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over any other kind. (Hard to believe? Ask any attorney!)

    All writing, not just cursive, is individual — just as all writing involves fine motor skills. That is why, six months into the school year, any first-grade teacher can immediately identify (from print-writing on unsigned work) which student produced it.

    Mandating cursive to preserve handwriting resembles mandating stovepipe hats and crinolines to preserve the art of tailoring.


    Handwriting research on speed and legibility:

    /1/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. “The Relation between Handwriting Style and Speed and Legibility.” JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 91, No. 5 (May – June, 1998), pp. 290-296: on-line at

    /2/ Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, Naomi Weintraub, and William Schafer. “Development of Handwriting Speed and Legibility in Grades 1-9.”
    JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL RESEARCH, Vol. 92, No. 1 (September – October, 1998), pp. 42-52: on-line at

    Zaner-Bloser handwriting survey: Results on-line at

    [AUTHOR BIO: Kate Gladstone is the founder of Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works and the director of the World Handwriting Contest]

    Yours for better letters,

    Kate Gladstone
    Handwriting Repair/Handwriting That Works
    and the World Handwriting Contest

  4. Pingback: All cursive, all the time. | TINDERBOX

  5. jesscook says:

    I, being a teacher have been associated with a group of teachers and educators and I would love to share your posts on handwriting with them. I am sure we would all gather lots of information on training kids on handwriting. Keep sharing!

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