One copy of zaner bloser handwriting and one of Cursive Kickoff sitting on a table.

How to Choose a Cursive Curriculum

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When selecting your homeschool curriculum its important to think about penmanship.  As your child continues their educational journey you will need to decide if you will be teaching cursive.  In my family this was not a decision, but a need.  I write 99 percent of the time in cursive.  In fact, the only time I print is if I know someone else can’t or might not be able to read my writing.  So for me the decision was not if I was going to teach cursive, but how to choose a cursive curriculum.

Styles of Cursive

Believe it or not there are many styles of cursive and even more curriculums.  Some of these styles are: 

Handwriting Without Tears (HWOT)

D’nealian

Zaner-Bloser

Spencerian

Getty & Dubay Italic

Today we are only going to focus on the first three.

Handwriting Without Tears

The school my child was going to had used the Handwriting Without Tears program for print.  It is a fabulous program for printing.  It was developed by an occupational therapist to teach handwriting in an easy to follow manner.  This program was specifically developed for left handed writers, for children who struggle with motor skills and for children with cognitive issues.  The letters are setup to be easy to write with very clear instruction on how to form letters correctly.  They then move to the same curriculum in cursive once they complete the printing program.

This program is wonderful in it’s simplicity.  It does not require your child to have completed the print program in order to start the cursive.  However, children will find the transition very easy if they have.  The cursive letters look only slightly different than in print, which makes the transition to cursive very simple.  All of the letters are written straight up an down, just like in print.  I have heard that some parents of right handed children complain of wrist tiredness due to the straight up and down positioning of the letters.  I didn’t notice this when using the program.  But it’s worth noting.

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Each page is very short and only takes a few minutes to complete.  Every page flows well together.  If you are looking for a way to teach cursive in the simplest and easiest way possible, this is definitely a great place to start.  The program goes from Kindergarten to grade 5.  Cursive lessons begin at 2nd grade.

Why We Discontinued

We chose to discontinue this program after completing the first cursive book.  The main reason for this is that my husband and I both write in traditional cursive.  Our handwriting looks nothing like the HWOT cursive.  So after working through the program my child could not read my cursive or any other cursive that didn’t look like the HWOT program.  It really is its own style of writing.  This completely defeated the point of teaching cursive for us. 

Also, several of the letters in the HWOT curriculum do not look like standard cursive letters.  Most notably was the letter “Q”.  It looks like a 2.  This again, makes it very difficult to distinguish from traditional cursive.  Lastly, and this is really only important to me, the HWOT cursive is so simplified that I find it rather unattractive.  It really doesn’t have the flow of a traditional script.  Again, that’s just my opinion and may not really be an issue for some.  But in the end we chose to move to another program.

D’Nealian Cursive

So in the world of traditional cursive there are two main types most people think of.  D’Nealian and Zaner-Bloser.  These were the primary cursive curriculums being taught when I was young. They are similar in how all of the letters are written.  The main thing that makes D’nealian different is that all of the letters, both printed and cursive, are written in a slant.  This means that when learning to write your child will rotate their paper and sit in a more specific posture in order to be able to make the words appear at an angle.  This posture makes slanting the letters easier.  It also makes writing in cursive easier on the child’s wrist.  

It is a continuous stroke method.  This means you continuously write without lifting your pen.  This program goes from kindergarten print all the way through 6th grade.  Cursive lessons start in 2nd grade.  The books are sequential and are reasonably priced.  The final book in the series teaches calligraphy.  This method is definitely not as simple to teach as HWOT.  

Our child learned print with the HWOT program which teaches that printed words are written straight up and down.  It really didn’t make sense to try to reteach printing at an angle since printing was already well established.  I think this would have led to a lot of frustration for us.  However, if you were starting to teach this from the very beginning it would definitely be a program I would consider.  I think teaching the slanted print and following through to the cursive program would make it easier to teach.

Zaner-Bloser

Zaner-Bloser (ZB) has been around for many years and has a well respected reputation for teaching handwriting.  The primary difference between Zaner-Bloser and D’nealian is that Zaner-Bloser teaches your child to print straight up and down.  It then teaches cursive at a slanted or curved angle.  We ended up choosing this curriculum simply because of that.  This meant that we did not have to reteach printing.  We were able to simply start with the cursive program.  It simplified the process for us.  

I really like the books.  They are well priced and you get a lot of pages for your money.  ZB cursive starts in a very simple manner.  It teaches a three step pattern of model, practice and evaluation.  These have a teachers guide but you could definitely go without them to conserve cost.  The student edition teaches not only proper posture but also simple strokes from the beginning.  Each page builds on the next and increases in difficulty as your child goes through the lessons.  This program goes from Kindergarten to 8th grade.  Cursive lessons begin at grade 2.

My only negatives would be that the pages sometimes are not always level appropriate.  For example I noticed very difficult pages thrown in between the basic lessons.  There are times when I have had to adjust them to make them easier to complete.  Also, I do think that for many children this program might be harder to learn because of the differences in slanting between the printed version and the cursive.  Overall, I have been very pleased with this curriculum and we will continue to use it for the time being.

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Conclusion

All of these programs can be taught it 15 minute a day lessons.  None of them take more time to teach than any other.  They are all reasonably priced.  But they all have significant differences which is why you should carefully consider which one is best for your child.  HWOT had a very simple approach which could be very appealing to many parents.  However, it deviates from the look of traditional programs enough that some children will find it hard to read traditional cursive once they complete the lessons.  D’nealian and ZB do take more effort to learn but are handwriting styles that have been around for many years.  This makes them a more widely used style.

Keep in mind, these are not the only options to choose from.  They are just some of the ones I have used.  It’s important to consider not just the cursive program, but also the style of cursive you are selecting.  Also, make sure to consider the difficulty of the program.  

If you find that the style you are teaching doesn’t work for your child, remember that you have many other options.  I hope this helps you when choosing your cursive curriculum.  Feel free to let me know which cursive program you have tried.  Tell me why you do or don’t like it in the comments below.  If you enjoyed this article, don’t forget to check out my post on How to choose a math curriculum HERE.

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