Another Parenting Failure? My Kids Hate Handwriting
Some days I look at my kids’ notebooks and marvel at how badly they write. Not the content but the actual penmanship. As high school students you’d expect some hurried writing but what I’m seeing is an immaturity in the formation of letters – and I’m talking printing. Forget about cursive – they can’t be bothered with what they consider obsolete.
I get it though, they have lots of homework and no one is giving penmanship ribbons like they did in my day. (I have 3.) But over the Christmas holidays, when I was writing quick notes on the back of some of our Christmas cards, I realized they couldn’t even read my cursive writing. I panicked. I thought, “Oh my God, this is close to illiteracy.”
I tried to overcorrect by pushing my quality pens and paper on them, but they found my interest in pens and paper to be just another facet of my quirky tastes, along with telenovelas and the “Bye Bye Birdie” soundtrack.
Not wanting to give up, I bribed them. For just 10 minutes a day of handwriting practice they could get whatever dessert they wanted at the end of the week. My daughter committed to the deal and for weeks she copied passages out her John Green or Ann Brashares books. Slowly, her cursive improved. Smooth curves and uniform strokes emerged. I felt vindicated until the day she walked into my office and announced she was done with sweets and done with writing practice, as if both were bad habits.
This summer my 16-year old son reached a couple of milestones: getting his driver’s license and his first summer job. He filled out all the forms by hand just fine but even he could see that his new driver’s license was marred by his shaky signature which looks like a third grader’s. “I should have worked on that,” he said. So I conveniently placed some inked fountain pens and a Rhodia dotpad on the coffee table near the TV remotes. And sometimes when I tidied before bed I’d see rows of his signature, with shaky loops as bent as tree branches but he kept trying. Now that school has started he’s lost interest and in the morning I’m only finding fresh blank pages and perfectly capped pens.
My kids and I still debate the merits of handwriting. I have a list of opinions that are important to me: handwriting is a basic skill, it’s satisfying to slow down and write something thoughtful, it’s easier to remember things when you take notes by hand, pens and paper can be so fun to use. My kids say printing is fine sometimes, but computers and smartphones have made cursive writing unnecessary. Plus, our school district seems to agree. I wish I’d paid attention sooner. Their good grades and enthusiasm for school were enough for me. Now I don’t have as much influence over the kids and they’ve moved on.
Recently, we moved some furniture around and I had the space to move an older computer table into the dining room. There’s no computer there but I do keep a few Rhodia pads, greeting cards and a variety of nice pens handy. Of course, I end up using it the most but my husband and kids venture over there from time to time when they have to write a shopping list, a thank you note, or a birthday card. I am consoled by the fact that there is a small writing environment where we have to slow down and think about what we’re going to write. And this holiday season I’m going to get some gold and silver colored gel ink pens for the pencil cup on the writing desk and ask my kids to share some of the note-writing on the back of our pre-imprinted Christmas cards. Hopefully our friends and family will be able to decipher their handwriting.
(I am a freelance writer, social media content manager, wife, and mom to 2 wonderful, challenging teenagers. I’m a pen and stationery addict and share my hobby on Instagram as @desktoptoys.)