Over the last few years, and despite using a few different approaches and handwriting books, penmanship was not a strong area for my children. My oldest (Big Sis, age 9), has not previously enjoyed writing (until recently), in part because she is self-conscious about how it looks. Both girls have also asked to learn cursive, but still struggle to make the letters look fluid or to write smoothly. Not knowing how to help, we just trudged on with regular practice, hoping it would get better with time. I didn't even realize there was another option until I was introduced to Everyday Education, LLC's Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting, by Caroline Joy Adams. Since having "pretty" handwriting is something both girls want to achieve, this book seemed right up their alley and were pleased to give it a try!
About Everyday Education, LLC
Everyday Education, LLC is a small, family-owned and operated business started by Janice Campbell. It's a source of books and articles for homeschoolers of all ages, with topics focusing on literature, reading, writing, transcripts, college, and more, including publications like this new edition of Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting which I am sharing about here.
About Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting
Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting is a 218 page book that is designed for just what the title says: effectively teaching a child to read and write - and do it well! As their website explains, this book - available in both print and ebook versions (or as a bundle of both) - contains sixty phonics-based lessons as well as the italic style of handwriting. The book can be used with/by a child (starting at age four or five), teen, or even an adult, and can be used for just one subject or both.
The foreword, written by Janice Campbell, provides some background on the book, tips on both reading and writing, and offers some suggested teaching schedules. In case you're wondering what type of time commitment this program requires, she points out that short 10-15 minute lessons are ideal, with a session each day (five days a week).
The introduction by the author gives some convincing reasons to use an italic style - which the author asserts is easier to learn, more legible, and more attractive than today's cursive. In Chapter One, she answers common questions, gives advice and recommended books for further reading on the topics of teaching reading, and briefly explains what the italic style is and how it developed. She mentions it's possible to complete all sixty lessons in sixty days, but that one should go at the pace that is best for each child (which will vary).
The approach in the rest of the book is simple and straightforward, easy to follow, and does not take long to learn. Reading instruction is done systematically, beginning with the introduction of the letter sounds and moving on to blends and increasingly more advanced words. Uniquely, the book incorporates copying of letters and sentences right from the start. There are a few Bible verses in the practice pages, as well as lots of other quotes, sayings, words, and sentences of all kinds. It is not a book of Bible verses, but there are some in there.
Interestingly, even during the phonics and reading portions, beginning with Chapter Two, the book is written in the italic style, preparing the student with plenty of examples and models for proper penmanship. As the book transitions to focused instruction of italic writing, it progresses from straight, to slanted, and then to joined letters. Finally, one can choose to continue on to learning to use an edged or calligraphy pen for truly fancy, artistic, beautiful handwriting.
Both Big Sis and Lil' Sis are reading solidly already and did not need a phonics focus at this stage, so we used Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting primarily with the goal of improving handwriting. The author offers four ways to use the book and this is one of them, but she points out that it can also be used to teach reading, work with a child who has reading difficulties, and/or be used by the adult for achieving better penmanship themselves.
We received the ebook version, so I looked it over and then printed up the relevant portions right away. Since I needed to make dinner, I asked Big Sis to put the practice sheets in a three-ring binder and off I went. However, I came back several minutes later to find that she hadn't put more than a couple of pages in the binder. Turns out that she was too excited and had pulled up the book and had been busily reading through the whole thing! The style appealed to and intrigued her. She asked if we could get started right away, saying that it looked like something she would enjoy, so I capitalized on her interest and we got to it first thing the next morning! (Lil' Sis was pleased to be doing the same thing as her older sister, as usual.)
Daily practice was key for my girls. To make it easier for the girls to write neatly, we removed the pages from the binder when they wrote on them. Despite my daughter's interest in this book and method, handwriting - and writing in general - have historically been an area of struggle and contention in this house. Therefore, I eased the girls into practice and kept lessons super short as advised. At first, we worked only briefly each day, doing whatever portions of a lesson that we could accomplish in ten minutes or less. After a couple of weeks, however, Lil' Sis was asking to do more sheets of practice. We expanded our handwriting time slightly on days the girls were motivated, but I still tried to cut things off before they began to tire or their attention wandered.
While Chapter Six is where the focus of the book shifts to handwriting, there were plenty of opportunities to practice letter formation and sentences throughout the book, so we took advantage of those pages for lots of practice. I'm glad we did, because it has easier, larger print and spaces for practice. Plus, Lil' Sis giggled at many of the silly model sentences, motivating her to continue, often leaving her wanting more.
We did run into small challenges with some letter formations that seemed odd. For example, the capital M and N didn't seem to flow easily and looked choppy when the girls attempted them... but I believe there is a reason for this when it comes to calligraphy later on. Lil' Sis also commented that the lowercase "m" looked like an "r" and "n" stuck together when she tried reading or copying it, but she got used to it.
Additionally, the way the author and book used the beginning lined practice pages was foreign to Big Sis because she'd spent so much time learning differently in the past. I think it could be confusing to other kids too. The author has the letters sitting on the part that appears to be the spaces between lines, with the tops of tall letters touching the dashed lines, rather than the lowercase letters all bumping up to that dashed line as we're accustomed to from prior handwriting courses. Later, the slanted lines were a bit much for her and it took some getting used to. Eventually though, the more advanced simply lined pages made things easier and clear. I think that starting my daughter on writing with this book & method would've been ideal, but we were able to work through the differences and overcome the quirks with some extra time and practice.
After learning with this book and gaining confidence that she can write well, Big Sis now enjoys writing more! Now, in order to keep things going smoothly, we are sticking with a slower progression through the book and getting lots of practice before moving on. Therefore, we have not yet worked with joining the letters, aside from introducing them, nor have we started using a calligraphy pen. I think only Big Sis will be ready for that later this school year, but I'll let her choose if and when she would like to try it. If we do, we'll consider adding an update here!
I found the informative parts of the book to be interesting. We all liked the appearance of the italic style - which looks to me like a casual blend of printing and cursive. We also loved the way the book was mostly written in that same italic and the author offered examples of slight differences in style (showing each as she wrote it), encouraging the student to choose their favorite. And I appreciated that lessons could easily be accomplished mostly independently by my girls, which is of particular importance right now because Baby Sis was born recently and needs a lot of attention too!
The program of instruction was structured and systematic, yet flexible. The author seems to be an advocate of Montessori and Charlotte Mason styles, so the book might particularly appeal to homeschoolers that ascribe to these methods, but I think it could easily be used by and adapted to a variety of learning approaches and student needs. Overall, we liked it!
At the time of this post, the ebook costs $27 and the printed and bound book is $29. A great deal for anyone and considering that it's relatively inexpensive (especially for what is offered), it is an appealing option for those with limited budgets too!
For more information about Everyday Education, LLC, you can visit their website or find them on social media: Pinterest, Janice Campbell on Facebook, Excellence in Literature on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter!
While my review was primarily on the handwriting portion of the book, you can click on the banner below to read more reviews... some of which might focus on other areas of the book, and you can find out what other families think about it. There are also reviews of a couple of other products from Everyday Education too!
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.