Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Handwriting Without Tears

“But I don’t want to do handwriting today!”

Intense Sobbing.

“I just can’t do it anymore!”

Weeping Uncontrollably. A little stomping for good measure.

"I want my mommy!"

And this is just my typical reaction during our Handwriting lessons. 

Here's the challenge. One bright guy who is dyslexic and dysgraphic. He is desperate to learn to write in cursive. My hesitation has always been this. I can hardly read his ball and stick print. Would learning to write in cursive frustrate him to the point of despair?

Josiah is also at an age (11) where he notices more the gaps between where he should be and where he really is. The research that I have done has suggested that kids who have poor fine motor skills and struggle with their “ball and stick” handwriting often find better results learning cursive.  He is also a leftie. Which adds another hurdle for him to jump. 

I was anxious to discover if Handwriting Without Tears would make a difference.  

What I received

3rd Grade Cursive Teacher's Guide  
 This is the New Edition - $9.25

 Cursive Handwriting (workbook)
Also a New Edition - $8.25
It is intended for 3rd Graders or students who are working at that level.

How it Works

The claim of Handwriting Without Tears is that only 15 minutes of Handwriting practice is needed with their method. I'm all for that!

The Teacher’s Guide begins with an introduction. They lay out their Principles of Effective Curriculum Design.  Here are some points that stuck out to me.

/    HWOT’s cursive style is more similar to print than the traditional slanted cursive. It is easier to learn and easier to read.
/    The workbook only has on it what is needed. They are also “lefty friendly” Yay! The models are on both sides of the page so that the lefties can see them.
/    They have included Cross-Curricular activities.
/    They use double lines. I have found that the traditional handwriting instruction lines confuse Josiah. Having only 2 lines made it simpler for him to remember the steps.
/    HWOT employs multisensory teaching. Which I love! All the learning styles are covered.
/    A Click Away is a feature that allows the teacher to find more resources online.
/    There is an assessment tool available. 
/    There are video lessons available to watch teachers and occupational therapists putting the curriculum into practice.
/    A+ Worksheet Maker Lite is available for free (you can pay for an ungrade). This tool perfect for spelling or vocabulary lists.

The sequence of study begins with Foundation Skills. These were so helpful.  There is a whole section on “Grasping Grip.” 

 One thing that really stuck out to me was that children are imitators. It made me more conscience about how I was holding my pencil. My fingers are double jointed. I also realized that I need to change my years long habit of combining my print and cursive writing. At least for the time being ;<)

Lowercase letters are taught next. Josiah was so proud of his “Magic c.” Capitals are next. There are also a good amount of writing activities; poems, paragraphs and even a friendly letter to use after letter formation has been learned.

Some of my favorite resources are found in the back of the book. There is a section of remediation tips. The Teaching Guidelines are also found in the back. Those are also available to print from the A Click Away feature.

How We Used It

I want to share just a little bit of how we used it and how I think this program is going to change Josiah's life. 

The first weeks of the program are spent in preparation. It is like having your own Occupational Therapist. Josiah learned proper posture and paper arrangement. He practiced certain  movements in the air and on paper to get his muscles used to the whole idea.

The worksheets are located in the Workbook, but with the purchase of the Teacher's Guide you receive a code to download as many helps as you need using the A Click Away feature. I made copies of all my favorite activities....and a few more of the Cursive Writing Warm-ups.

Do you notice how his right hand is holding the paper down? There is even a strategy provided to help with that! No more wiggly paper!

Another favorite activity was the Pencil Pick-Ups. These provide all sorts of fine motor exercises using the pencil. It was obvious where he struggled. But because of the nature of the activities he didn't become frustrated. It was just fun.

He wanted to take a picture of the page. I didn't argue.

Every Monday you are encouraged to implement a Favorite Multisensory Activity. One of the main teaching strategies in HWOT is the Wet-Dry-Try Application. It involves a chalkboard, a little piece of chalk, a small piece of paper towel and a bit of wet hair roller sponge. I got a lot of mileage out of some old sponge hair rollers. All of these items can be also purchased on the HWOT website. Except for my hair rollers. 

Josiah loved this!


Each letter group is taught in sections. We did spend more time on each letter than recommended. We still did only 15 minutes a day, but I reviewed more than most probably would need to. This is a picture from his workbook.

We were also encouraged to employ the whiteboard. Which was also a hit. I loved that the lessons simply weren't copying or tracing.

He was very proud of that "d." And as well he should be. I have a few of these chalkboards I got at the Thrift store for pennies. There are HWOT chalkboards (along with other aids) available for purchase. The lines used in the HWOT are different than the standard handwriting lines used on our chalkboard. I used this particular one on this day because our HWOT chalkboard is being used for a coffee table vignette. Don't tell. It's multi-faceted. Josiah was still offended by the middle line.

 The Remediation Guides are wonderful. It certainly made this Momma happy. I went to the Click-a-way feature and printed off the section on teaching Lefties so I could have easy access to it. 

My Thoughts

I think with any curriculum or program that promises results the user must bear some of the responsibility. This is a curriculum that is not best left for self-study. The parent/teacher must model and then instruct. 

Consistency is the name of the game, my friends.

I loved that HWOT doesn’t require an enormous amount of time to implement.Yet every activity assisted in furthering Josiah’s confidence and proficiency. I can see such a difference now than from when we first begun.

HWOT is truly a multisensory program. And such a great deal! It is something that we can continue to use past this level without feeling a strain in the wallet. 

It is a wonderful fit for us and we will certainly continue to use it.

But don't just take my word for it! Check More Reviews for other Handwriting Without Tears products.

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.


  1. We have been using HWOT for a while now and we love it. My 6 year old has completed grade 2 book and prints really neatly. We are part way through grade 3 and have seen good success so far.

  2. This is a great review, Rebekah! I loved how you took photos and showed some of the techniques. Great job!


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