Last fall the Wall Street Journal published an article titled “How Handwriting Boosts the Brain.” The author addresses the fact that in spite of our ever advancing technological world, the ancient skill of handwriting still has real value. For the children, “the practice helps with learning letters and shapes, can improve idea composition and expression, and may aid fine motor-skill development.” But even for us oldies it offers an exercise in keeping our minds sharp. The article gives several accounts of experiments that have shown the advantage of handwriting.
In our homeschool we practice Copywork along with using the Getty-Dubay Italic Handwriting series to practice beautiful letter and word formation. The question has come up from time to time in various discussion groups of why we continue to focus on penmanship in this computer and texting keyboard age. The WSJ article was very encouraging to me as to why. I considered the difference between manually forming an S on paper and pushing down the left ring finger on the keyboard. I’m sure there is good brain activity and programming that goes into memorizing the position of the keys on the keyboard, but there is something missing if you don’t also continue the art of manually forming letters on paper.
I think of the other manual activities that Charlotte Mason advocates for the student — some in which we could do far better. The drawing, particularly in our nature journals, and handcrafting. I see such value in nature drawing — the real connection you can make with that object by spending time forming the details on paper. Nature drawing is similar to narration in that it forces you to pay attention to detail. And then the drawing etches those details in your memory.
So as I sit here and type these thoughts, I wonder the advantage there might be in recording my thoughts by hand and then transferring them here. Just as I am training James in narration and realizing my own need to develop that skill, I think I’d better practice what I preach when it comes to handwork.