Another Reason We Homeschool

This story about standardized testing in Illinois infuriates me on so many levels.

Writing is such an important skill. Try getting into a good college without writing an essay of some sort. How about the business world? Well written e-mails, proposals, resumés…all important. Even in personal life–more e-mails, letters, etc. But the public schools in the state of Illinois apparently don’t see writing as an important skill to test and track. Who cares if our students are poor writers? We don’t need to know if they’re struggling, so maybe we could teach them better and remedy the situation. Nope, instead we’re just going to ignore the whole issue, because it’s too expensive.

With all of the stupid things our states wastes money on, I can’t believe that they’ve decided that assessing how well schools are teaching writing is not worth the money. Will math and reading be next on the chopping block? As much as I hate the time and money spent on standardized testing, I can’t believe that they’re just throwing out one of the “three R’s” so casually. If you’re going to insist on doing something, do it right, and do it completely. Writing is a cornerstone of language arts, and I think that mastering language arts is one of the most important, if not the most important, things that students need to do.

Even though this story doesn’t impact us directly, it’s also another reason homeschooling is looking better all the time. Indiana is hardly the first state to do this…as a matter of fact, it’s only the most recent in a long line of states that have determined that writing in cursive is no longer a necessary skill for students to master.

Yes, I know that handwriting is something of a lost art. But, I think writing in cursive is important for more reasons than writing it neatly and efficiently. It’s been my experience that most children don’t really understand how to read cursive until they’ve learned how to write in cursive. And there is still need to be able to read cursive. Old documents? Written in cursive. Yes, you can always look them up online, but what if you want to read them for yourself, in a museum, for example? It would be helpful to be familiar with how cursive letters are formed.

Letters from grandparents? Probably written in cursive, and the older generation still prefers to send actual letters to e-mail. And they would also probably appreciate a handwritten letter in response. The art of letter writing should not be lost completely just because of the convenience e-mail offers.

Copywork? OK, probably most public schools don’t even bother with this anymore. But I think it’s important for several reasons, some of which include learning to copy grammar and punctuation appropriately, and learning good writing by copying works from the greats. And copywork goes faster if you can master the flow of cursive.

Do you have to be able to write in cursive? No, of course not. But that doesn’t make it an archaic skill…it’s something that is still worthwhile to master and understand.

Homeschool Review: “A Reason For…”

We’re on our second year of A Reason for Handwriting ( we started with Book K last year, and have moved on to the now-alphabetically-sequenced Book A), and our first year of A Reason for Spelling (also Book A). Even though it’s early in the school year, I have a pretty good feeling for both programs.

I was very impressed with the way Handwriting introduced proper letter formation in Book K, using a tree-house as a guide. My children thought it was a fun way to learn, and even though Bunny still has some work to do on writing well (which is all about her rushing, and not about her understanding of what she’s *supposed* to be doing!), Turkey has excellent printing already, and they both know how letters are supposed to be written.

We’re still working on reviewing what we learned last year now that we’ve started Book A, but looking ahead, I love that we’ll be using Scripture to practice handwriting (even if the translation used isn’t my first, or even second, choice!), and I also love the fancy border sheets, which reinforce the idea that handwriting is a public way of communication, and should look nice.

So far in Spelling, we’ve worked on phonics review, and it’s been very much like the Explode the Code series. The activities have been fun, and the bonus activities suggested in the teacher’s guide are geared toward every kind of learner, even kinesthetic. What I like most, though, is the way the lessons line up with the lessons in the Handwriting book. Of course, this only works if you’re using the same level of handwriting and spelling at the same time (which we are), but I think it’s a great way to reinforce the Bible passages used, and to bring in needed repetition in spelling and writing well. And why wouldn’t you link the two? It seems like a very natural way to learn, which is one of the things I love about our main curriculum, Sonlight.

I’m definitely looking forward to learning cursive and spelling harder words in the years to come with the A Reason For… books!