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Most Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How is SmithHand different from other handwriting curricula?

A. SmithHand works. The handwriting methods used in the United States for the past 90 or so years have resulted in a general decline of handwriting quality. SmithHand has produced good results with students of many different ages. SmithHand is skill based, so it is taught only once, then reinforced. SmithHand is written comfortably, allowing the writer to use the fine motor skills he/she possesses. There is no need to reinvent a workable alphabet with SmithHand. SmithHand can be written the way it is taught.


Q. What age/grade should students begin?

A. Consider skill, not age or grade, in deciding when to begin handwriting. Students are ready to begin printing (manuscript) when they can color well. When they print with facility and some speed, they are ready to begin cursive writing, whatever the age. Handwriting is a skill. We think of it as training, not education. Because fine motor skills are a prerequisite, children should not be expected to print or write before they acquire these skills. Copying letters like pictures is not writing. Many people start children too early, long before they have the needed basic skills to actually write (not copy) letters. If a child cannot write small, he/she is probably not ready. Boys are generally ready later than girls, often by two years or more. Students will generally read before they write. Starting after the needed skills are present is not a problem, but starting before they are present makes for unnecessary frustration and contempt for handwriting. We believe it is not a good idea to begin cursive writing before the third grade for girls. Boys are usually ready in the fifth grade or a little later. Evaluate skill, not age or grade, in deciding when to begin handwriting.


Q. How many books are there?

A. There is one workbook for SmithHand manuscript (printing) and one workbook for SmithHand cursive. That's all. SmithHand teaches only handwriting. When children have the necessary fine motor skills to color well, they use the manuscript method book and practice pads to learn to print and reinforce their skills. When they print well (with facility and some speed) they use the cursive book and practice pads to learn cursive writing and reinforce those skills.


Q. My son/daughter has already started cursive with another curriculum. Will this cause confusion?

A. No. SmithHand begins with the simplest stroke and progresses to gradually more difficult levels. So long as the student has the needed fine motor skills, other writing habits will be supplanted as he/she works through the exercises.


Q. The materials we have been using have a different kind of printing. Is this a problem?

A. Children need to learn to distinguish between different type faces and fonts, and most do this as they learn to recognize letters and then read. Once they know that different versions of a letter are still that letter, then they are not confused by any legible alphabet. This abstract reasoning skill generally develops with time and practice.


Q. How long does it take to learn SmithHand?

A. Once the student has the needed skills to begin printing, he/she should begin the manuscript method slowly, working a little every other day to train the muscles in the hand and develop hand eye coordination. Stop before becoming tired or bored, even if this makes for a short session. Allow the student to proceed at his/her own pace, working regularly, but not for long periods of time. As skills grow, so will speed. A semester is usually enough time to learn each method, provided the needed fine motor skill level has been attained before starting. Sometimes more time is needed, and taking more time is not a problem. A student with minimal skills will take more time and practice paper. Older students and adults with fully developed fine motor skills will not take so long.


Q. My daughter/son is 14. Does she/he have to start all over with printing again?

A. No. SmithHand cursive teaches students to write slim, angled letters comfortably. Learning SmithHand cursive should influence the way a student prints, but this should be intentionally encouraged by reinforcement with grading. After a student has learned SmithHand cursive, any printing should be slim and angled like the cursive letters. The manuscript capitals are included in the cursive workbook.


Q. Why does my son/daughter write clearly when he/she works very slowly with other methods, but gets sloppy when trying to write faster?

A. Most alphabets can only be written slowly and awkwardly because they actually teach a copy hand, not true cursive writing. This means the letters can be copied slowly, but not written at speed. When students work slowly on these other writing methods, they can copy the letters accurately, but because they are copy hands, they cannot be written rapidly.


Q. How is this different from italic?

A. SmithHand has little in common with italic writing other than its slant and beauty. Italic handwriting gained popularity as an alternative to the ugly letters most other handwriting methods have used for many years. Although beautiful, italic writing is slow and laborious for most people. We consider it a copy hand.


Q. How are the pads used?

A. Use as much of the lined practice pad paper as needed to learn either the manuscript or cursive methods. There should be a full pad or so left over once the workbook has been completed. The remaining paper should be used to write all assignments from other subjects to reinforce good handwriting practice. We cannot know what vocabulary words you will need when you teach SmithHand writing, so we do not include any more than are necessary to learn to write the letters and letter combinations. The words you will need to practice come from the spelling, history, and other assignments your student will be covering at the time. Use all the practice paper to reinforce good handwriting, then use regular lined paper. Continue to grade for handwriting quality on all written work.


Q. The lines on the SmithHand practice paper are narrower than the paper we have been using. Why?

A. Small children have small hands and less developed fine motor skills than older students and adults. The length of the stroke they can make with skill is necessarily smaller. Consequently, the size of a letter must be small if we expect them to write with skill. We do not like and do not use big pencils, paper with big lines, or big, rounded letters. Our practice paper lines are based on the length of the stroke a typical child can be expected to manage.


Q. I have been writing in a way that no one can read ever since I finished grade school. Is there any hope for me?

A. SmithHand has improved handwriting for many adults and older students. Because it is based on fine motor skills, anyone with these skills can be expected to learn the method.


Q. Should we use a pencil or a pen?

A. We recommend using a mechanical pencil with a soft lead such as HB to learn and write SmithHand manuscript. We like the Pentel Sharplet 0.9mm, but it should have a soft lead. For cursive writing, we recommend and supply a Sanford Expresso extra fine pen with our cursive kits. This pen makes a slim line which will not widen, dries instantly, and has a little drag on the paper to help the writer maintain control.









































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