School is back in session around Minnesota Transplant’s house, so kids must be soaking up lessons in the three Rs: Reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic.
Oh, wait a minute. Scratch that. Not writing. Illinois schools are cutting back on writing tests and teaching cursive writing in elementary schools, according to today’s Daily Herald.
Apparently, the elimination of cursive writing lessons stirs controversy across the nation. National Public Radio’s Diane Rehm recently devoted a whole hour to the subject of “Handwriting in the Digital Age.”
I wrote an entire manuscript on computer, and honestly, I think better while typing than while writing. Proponents of cursive writing point out how signatures should be written in cursive. “How will you endorse a check?” they wail.
Huh? What’s a check? I use a debit card almost everywhere I go, and pretty soon, Americans will be using their cell phones to pay for all the junk they buy (just you wait — it’s coming).
Personally, I like cursive writing, but I don’t think it must be part of a third grade teacher’s lesson plan. Teachers can only squeeze so much into the school day, and parents are responsible for teaching what they think is important, including reading and ‘rithmetic. If you are one of those people who complains about high taxes and about what’s not being taught in today’s classrooms, you’re a big, fat hypocrite.
High on the list of subjects that ought to be taught at home are sex education, money management and religion, all matters that carry a moral component incumbent on the parents to impart. Lessons on these subjects should be woven into conversation and activities on a weekly, if not daily basis.
Depending on what’s important to them, parents might consider including other subjects into their home lesson plans:
- Nutrition and fitness.
- Housecleaning, laundry and cooking.
- Relationship issues (how to get along, how to share, how to disagree).
- Hunting and/or responsible fire arms handling.
- Driving and car maintenance.
Kids might learn a little bit about some of these things in school, but they will live more fulfilling lives if they learn at least the basics about all of these things at home. If cursive handwriting is important to you, weave lessons about it into your daily interactions:
- Encourage a child to add items to the running grocery list on the kitchen white board.
- Have children write notes inside birthday cards to parents, siblings and grandparents.
- When a child begs for something, tell him to make an argument for it in writing. Imagine how much less wheedling you’d have to listen to when you demand “Write down five reasons why you think you should have a sleep-over this weekend” or “Write down the top three reasons you should get your ears pierced.”
- Hand-write the annual missive to Santa.
- Give a lockable diary to your child (and respect the kid’s privacy). I kept a diary for five years from eighth grade to 12th grade, and I believe that regular writing is part of the reason I’m a writer now.
- Teach kids to write thank-you notes. (At this point, I’d settle for thank-you text messages, but a written thank-you note is a thing of beauty.)
- At a certain age, time outs can be spent writing, a la Bart Simpson. “I’m sorry I pinched my brother” written 10 times might get the point across.