With all the texting, emailing, typing, photo sites, and devices of all kinds, cursive handwriting is becoming an anachronism. Some people, though, think teaching cursive is important. In fact, some say it is better to teach cursive to young children before they learn to print. With this in mind, and since one of my children (Big Sis) is about to enter 3rd grade and has requested to learn cursive, I decided to go ahead and teach it to both her and my up-and-coming kindergartener (Lil' Sis) as well. We started with learning the letters a couple of weeks ago and they are really enjoying it. They ask to do cursive everyday and my oldest is rather proud of her ability to write her name the way her mom, dad, and grandparents write.
When I had started teaching my daughter to print her letters, we found an iPad app called LetterSchool, which she rather enjoyed using. It offers both phonics and learning how to form the letters and numbers, all while using fun animations and sounds. Since we liked that app so much, I went looking for a cursive version from the same company, but didn't find one. There were several other options though, many of which are listed for free. We tried several of the free ones, but simply weren't impressed with any of them. Like The Three Bears story, it just seemed that something was wrong with each of them. Some were too strict with letter formation, making it frustrating or cumbersome for Lil' Sis to get it close enough, leading to discouragement. Some were too boring and repetitive or no different than using pencil and paper. Some were too liberal and didn't have enough guidelines for forming the letters, which meant it didn't give Lil' Sis enough guidance so most of the letters didn't end up looking quite right. But then, we found an app that was "just right".
Cursive Writing Wizard by L'Escapadou was what we had been searching for. It functions similarly to LetterSchool, though it's animations are a tad less varied and ornate. Unlike LetterSchool, however, the Cursive Writing Wizard allows the child to interact with the animation after forming the letter and Lil' Sis loves that reward. I would venture to say that it is the novelty of it though. The variety of interactions are limited, so I am willing to bet that it won't continue to hold her interest long term. Nonetheless, it's a useful tool so far and a good start to getting extra practice.
Cursive Writing Wizard offers a few options for cursive handwriting practice, including random lines and designs (useful for younger kids or beginners or just for fun), capital letters, lowercase, numbers, and even words. I particularly liked the words option because not only can you choose from pre-made word lists, but you can also create your own. I love the chance to use our spelling words, names, our address, or anything else they are interested in or that we are working on! There are also two modes of play: Free Play (great for beginners) and 5 Stars Mode (perfect for customizing the experience to your child's needs and allowing for progressively more challenging practice and repetition for improvement). Perhaps important to note, too, is that you can choose between Zaner-Bloser and D'Nealian style cursive letters (or from two styles of French).
The app is partly customizable and has clear instructions for use. Under the "For Parents" menu, there are directions and information on how to get the most from the app. The "Settings" menu provides some great options as well, such as specifying the amount of time a child has to interact with the animations before moving on to another letter, changing font size, sounds, dotting i and j, language (English or French), and play mode. The play mode option lets a parent dictate parameters of letter size, difficulty, style (animation or pen), and more.
Two more features of the app that homeschooling families might find useful are the Profiles & Reports. If you have multiple children, you can easily add and track additional users (profiles). Parents can also use the reports section to see exactly what each child is practicing and how they are progressing. It provides a list of which letters, shapes, or words practiced and even allows you to replay the tracing they did! You can see exactly how they completed the letter formation, with the app displaying each stroke they made in a different color so you can see if they used multiple attempts or lifted their finger midway through. And for those that like to keep records of practice and progress, you can even email an image of the child's work to yourself to print or keep for later!
Overall, I would recommend this app to other families whose children are just starting out with learning cursive. At first, I wasn't sure if this French app would be what we needed, but I was pleasantly surprised with it's functionality and my girls have enjoyed the fun practice and animations. We have been using the iPad version, but there is a Android one available as well. We did not receive this app for review. We purchased it with our own funds and I have reviewed it by my own choice. There were no incentives received to do so and I have no connections or associations with the L'Escapadou company that created Cursive Writing Wizard. At $4.99 (at the time of this blog post), it certainly isn't a cheap app and I would be more inclined to spread the word if it were $2.99, but we have not regretted the purchase and it has been worth the investment.
If you get and use this app, please comment below and share your experience! Also, if you know of any other great apps for handwriting or otherwise, I'd love to hear from you.
I'm a homeschooling mom of three, enjoying our time in Hawaii and hoping to share some of that experience with you, including ideas, reviews, resources, and information.