Posted in Our Adventures, Subject English, Writing & Penmanship

Manuscript versus Cursive: The Case For Cursive First

Albert Anker Schreibender Knabe mit Schwesterchen I 1875

When I first began homeschooling Delightful, I toyed with the idea of starting her on cursive writing before teaching her manuscript printing.  However, I ended up starting her with manuscript first at the age of 3.  This was because she had started copying letters onto all sorts of scraps of paper and I wanted to ensure she knew how to correctly form her letters. At that time, it seemed that cursive required a little more in the fine motor skills department than Delightful was ready for.

During her K4 year, we used the Adventures in Phonics Level A book from Christian Liberty Press for both printing and phonics practice.  Today, however, Delightful, now 5, made it clear to me that she is ready to learn cursive writing.  She has been adding decorative flourishes to her printed letters for the past several weeks, and today she tried to copy her name in cursive from a paper I had written it on.  So now I begin to ask myself why oh why I didn’t just start with A Beka’s K4 cursive program in the first place since that combines cursive writing with phonics instruction?

I looked at A Beka’s books, but I do not think they will be easy for us to switch to given the level of work Delightful is now doing.  As such, my plan is to continue with Adventures in Phonics for phonics instruction and try Classically Cursive for cursive instruction.  The advantage to this approach is that Classically Cursive is reproducible and so it is a one-time purchase for all my children.  I will have to re-evaluate what approach to use with the littles ones once Feisty is ready to start “school.”

So why start cursive so early?  Research has shown that children who learn cursive first tend to develop better penmanship than children who start with manuscript.  In fact, children who start with manuscript tend to revert back to manuscript even after they learn cursive.  I can personally attest to this.  Both of my older children learned manuscript first in the public school and they both print all the time.  I also find writing to be a chore.  In fact, to my chagrin, my handwriting has worsened over the years as I spend more and more time typing.  We will see if Delightful has the same struggle or not.

Samuel Blumenfeld has written an article detailing why children should learn cursive first.  You can read it free online here.  So what are your thoughts on this topic?


One thought on “Manuscript versus Cursive: The Case For Cursive First

  1. Handwriting matters … But does cursive matter?

    Research shows: the fastest and most legible handwriters avoid cursive. They join only some letters, not all of them: making the easiest joins, skipping the rest, and using print-like shapes for those letters whose cursive and printed shapes disagree. (Citation: Steve Graham, Virginia Berninger, and Naomi Weintraub. THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN HANDWRITING STYLE AND SPEED AND LEGIBILITY. 2001: on-line at — and there are actually handwriting programs that teach this way.)
    Reading cursive still matters — this takes just 30 to 60 minutes to learn, and can be taught to a five- or six-year-old if the child knows how to read. The value of reading cursive is therefore no justification for writing it.

    (In other words, we could simply teach kids to _read_ old-fashioned handwriting and save the year-and-a-half that are expected to be enough for teaching them to _write_ that way too … not to mention the actually longer time it takes to teach someone to perform such writing _well_.)

    Remember, too: whatever your elementary school teacher may have been told by her elementary school teacher, cursive signatures have no special legal validity over signatures written in any other way. (Don’t take my word for this: talk to any attorney.)

    Yours for better letters,

    Kate Gladstone

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