Topic: Homeschool Product Review
Prelude - I am a bit sad as I write this. This is my last review for this year. It has been a fantastic, learning, growing year but most of all it has been a year where I have made many new friends that will be lifetime friends. As you know, I will be continuing with the TOS Homeschool Crew next year, and many from last years crew will as well. Some, however, are disembarking in order to take on other challenges that God has given to them. Thankfully we have set up a Yahoo group where we are going to keep in contact with one another. So, although I am sad that this last review is the end of this cruise, I am excited as soon we will be embarking on another grand cruise with many more exciting things to come!
If you have written any review of writing materials that I have written, you will know that I have for a long time been a fan of something I used many years ago called Rhythmic Writing (RW). One of the many things that RW does is teach good writing technique by giving every stroke a count that a child chants while learning to form the letters properly. Since being on the homeschool crew I have found a couple of unique programs that do something very similar to what we used to do with RW. One of them is Peterson Handwriting.
My first introduction to Peterson Handwriting was a wonderful online chat that I had with Rand Nelson, one of the head folks at Peterson Handwriting. He was very helpful in explaining the background of the Peterson approach, and guiding me to what material would be appropriate for Joshua to use. You can't find any better costumer service than what I got with Rand.
Last years crew got to review Peterson Handwriting as well, but what they reviewed was just the online version. Because of their suggestions, the people at Peterson decided to develop ebooks that could be downloaded. You can then print out pages as needed and even print out extra of the same page if your child needs extra practice.
This is another one of those end of the year review items where, because of our children's health issues this spring, we just didn't have enough time to use it the way we wanted. I will highlight some of the things that I really like about the Peterson Handwriting approach and then, after using it more, will post a followup at a later date.
If you look at the Peterson website, there are links to research that backs up the Peterson approach. You can wade through this if you wish, it is very interesting, but I will touch upon some of the research as I explain the approach.
The Peterson approach is all based on making sure that a child has mentally internalized how to properly make letters and numbers. So many handwriting programs today just give the student workbook pages to trace over a letter and then copy it, hoping that it will turn out nice looking. They don't take into account that, if not watched properly, the child could trace the letter any which way, and, more importantly, they don't take into account that, in order to internalize how to properly make a letter, you must start with large motor skills, and not just small motor skills.
The Peterson approach uses four steps.
Step One: The usual step of the teacher demonstrating how to make the letter. With this approach, however, you demonstrate by making an over-sized letter or number on a chalkboard or large piece of hung paper. They suggest using a different color for the different strokes (examples are in the ebook). You then point to the model with your pointer finger and trace the model while you say the "Action Words". The action words for the small a are "Hook Around" - for the curved part of the a and "Small Down" - for the short line that completes the a. Because the models are large, you are using a whole arm movement to trace the letter.
Step Two: The student then faces the letter and "air writes" while chanting the action words. While the student is doing this, you watch for directionality problems and making sure that they are chanting what they are doing. This makes sure that the brain is developing a "gross pattern" for that letter or number.
Step Three: Now you've come to the point where you use the printed out page for the letter or number you are working on, but, you don't use a pencil yet. First, you "Finger Trace". The child uses his pointer finger, the finger that should actually be doing the "driving" when you write, and you trace over the letter while saying the chant. In this step you are actually programing the muscles to form the letters correctly.
Step Four: Finally, you are ready to start actually forming the letter while using the pencil. Make sure that your student is gripping the pencil correctly - a chart for how to hold the pencil and how to position the paper correctly is included in the download. The first time you begin to form the letters, you actually to it on unlined paper. You want to make sure the child is able to control the movements before having the constraints of the lines. Then, after they can form the letter or number legibly without lines, you introduce the lines. If there is any confusion in what to do, you simply take them back to Steps two and three and review those steps before trying step four again.
It all sounds very complicated but is very easy once you get started with it. You don't spend much time on any one step before moving on to the next one and the child actually has a much more enjoyable time than strictly trying to trace a letter and trying to make it look nice in a workbook.
Also, with my educational therapy background, it all makes perfect and logical sense to me. I would recommend this for any child, but especially children that have small motor problems or have problems with reversals while writing. As you move throughout the levels of Peterson Handwriting, they move very logically from print to cursive. Although I did not work with anything but print, it looks as if cursive is done in a very similar way
Peterson Handwriting is also very reasonably priced. The ebooks for individual use are $19.95. That would be for a family using this product. If you are going to use it in a classroom or a co-op setting, the price is $29.95. The Peterson website has a lot to offer. It can be a bit overwhelming to navigate at first, but I think you can find your way around easily enough. Remember, also, that there costumer service is amazing. If you call their 800 number or email them, they can set up a time an online consultation time within minutes. They are very helpful. To get to the Peterson Handwriting site, just click here or on any one of the hi-lighted links above. To find out what some of the other TOS Homeschool Crew members had to say about Peterson Handwriting, just click here. Happy Homeschooling!
As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew, I was given free downloads of several of Peterson Handwriting's products to try out and review on my blog.