Why My Daughter Is Learning Cursive (Even Though She Doesn’t Need It)

Education GeekMom

Cursive is being taught less and less these days. It is no longer a needed skill to survive in the US, thanks largely to computers and most of the writing being moved to electronic devices. Keyboarding is replacing cursive after one learns print handwriting.

Many adults over 30 feel this is a shame, that we are depriving our children of a culture, and a skill, we remember fondly. Yet, from a practical standpoint, I would rather have my child know how to type than write cursive. From an employment standpoint, how fast you type matters. How fast or clearly you handwrite does not matter. It rarely comes up.

In fact, I have worked with several people who do not know cursive when designing software, and only once did it become a problem. We were in a meeting at Microsoft, and there were about five of us in the room. A coworker wrote something on the whiteboard, in cursive. We started diving into it to decide if it would solve our problem or not, until the youngest in the room, a new college hire, asked what he had written. The guy had never learned cursive. After a few minutes of “how can you not know cursive,” the cursive writing co-worker rewrote the information in print. From that point on, we solved this problem by simply not writing in cursive. This was about ten years ago.

So, for the three Rs, cursive is not needed. There are other reasons to teach them, though the science behind the recommendations is often not there. The best option seems to be to teach print handwriting first and then to teach cursive if your goal is to be able to handwrite quickly (or vice versa). Print handwriting is a simpler handwriting and looks like what people read in print, so it can be easier for kids to learn. Learning handwriting does help with how the brain grows as you learn. It doesn’t really seem to matter what type of handwriting you learn.

Culture is another reason people want their children to learn cursive. They can read old documents, and have a better understanding of our written language. While I do see the value in this, it doesn’t seem to me to be a strong enough reason to force cursive on a child at the expense of another subject, as cursive can be picked up at a later date.

Given all this, you are probably wondering why it is important to me that my daughter learns cursive. For me, there are two reasons: proactive learning to prevent dyslexia and wider education. I think I will start with wider education first.

My daughter loves to learn, but she loves to learn when all the subjects are somewhat mingled. I think this is great, as it gets more cultural and critical thinking education in. Both are important and often overlooked. Cursive is part of cultural awareness. It does not directly relate to critical thinking and problem solving, but a program that has cursive in it without sacrificing another subject is likely to use critical thinking to help get more subjects in a day.

And finally, the biggest reason for my daughter to learn cursive is that both her parents have dyslexia. The way dyslexia works is things get flipped and moved around in a 3D environment in our minds. Because of this, “b,” “d,” “p,” and “q” all look the same. But if we learn to look at the words instead of the individual letters, then “bed” looks different from “pad,” for example. When I am reading and writing, I actually think about the word bed to help me see “b” and “d” differently. Cursive enables this by connecting the letters in a word together. My daughter may not have dyslexia, but she does show possible early signs. Because of this, if cursive was not introduced to my daughter in second grade after print handwriting was mastered, I would be taking her to calligraphy classes to get the basics of cursive.

So is cursive required in today’s culture and environment to succeed? No. But it is interesting and can be helpful. Additionally, a program that teaches it as a second writing style is more likely to have a more diverse education program that encourages critical thinking and cultural knowledge in addition to the three Rs. Also, if your child has certain kinds of disabilities, it can help them master their disabilities.

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13 thoughts on “Why My Daughter Is Learning Cursive (Even Though She Doesn’t Need It)

  1. I never thought of the benefit for dyslexia. In our family it’s specifically dysgraphia– just writing, not reading– my husband has dysgraphia, and our daughter does have a lot of trouble with b d p and q, if not any other issues– it seems so random when she just can’t seem to get those letters but learns everything else really quickly, so we suspect she has a bit of her dad’s dysgraphia too. Luckily her school IS learning cursive, and she’s actually pretty excited about it because it’s “prettier”…if it helps her with her spelling at the same time, bonus!

    I write with a combination print/cursive, but there’s enough cursive in it that my kids couldn’t read it until they’d learned cursive, too. I didn’t even realize how much cursive is in my handwriting until they said so, so I am definitely for students at least learning to READ cursive just so they won’t be lost when they encounter it in people’s handwriting!

    1. Hi Amy,

      I personally know the difference it can make with dyslexia, I hope it helps your girl as well. Our daughter is excited about learning cursive as well, both because it is pretty, and because it feels like a secret language.

      I’ve read that people who are taught both create a custom combination of the two if they hand write very often. It is interesting how that develops.

  2. My daughter has never been taught cursive, but she can read it. I noticed one day (when she was about 5 or 6) that she was reading a list I had handwritten without any trouble whatsoever. She has occasionally shown an interest in learning to write cursive, but she hasn’t stuck to it.

    1. Hi Aud,

      My daughter also learned to read cursive without being taught. Isn’t it interesting how that can happen? She will soon start to officially learn to write in it, and is super excited. Writing in it can be fun, maybe your daughter will discover that at some point. Even if she doesn’t, she will be able to read whatever she comes across.

  3. My children’s primary school started teaching cursive as the “writing alphabet” and print as the “reading alphabet” two years ago. No child has a problem with this, and many learn to write more easily: (almost) all letters are a single line, they all start and end in the same place, and as the author notes, kids with reading difficulties (dyslexia or just needing a bit more time and effort) have far less writing difficulties than used to be normal.

    1. Hi Gabe,

      For whatever reason, I was taught to print first, and then write in cursive. From what I read, they have not been able to get solid scientific numbers on which is better to learn first. The dyslexia side of things, they have been able to do the research to prove cursive is helpful. Other than that, it seems that personal preference comes into play on what people think works better.

  4. My kids have learned to read cursive on their own and I am teaching them how to write it as well ( we home school). How did a former student who is presumably now an adult get to a workplace with a meeting and a white board and NOT ever have to read somewhat legible hand writing on say, a birthday card even? No teachers notes on a paper? Did everyone write in print or type out a response or grade for the student in print? That’s literally inconceivable- and I don’t mean the iGen literally, that could mean figuratively either. No notes from grandma? Nothing at a library or church or any other place of business actually spur this person to attempt to learn to read it? When in fact as someone else commented, and is our experience, 5 and 6 year olds can? While just NOT writing in cursive was a simple solution, I would be worried about the performance of someone who never had the initiative of a 5 year old to be curious about the ‘fancy writing’ up to and including as an adult.

    I understand parents and grandparents being upset by it, and I definitely agree that it helps with language/learning issues, I have one that flips b and d around and some numbers, too. She is bumping up to cursive as a first grader because of that as well. She can read just fine but writing clams her up and we heard cursive would help. It makes her feel SO grown up.

    In general even if the teachers don’t have time or refuse to or aren’t allowed to teach cursive, the PARENTS could have taken 5 minutes a day to teach a letter or two in cursive to their children. They could write letters to grandma/aunts or uncles/ for a while for practice reading and writing. Wow.

    1. Hi Jill,

      The kid had never been around cursive to learn it. We found that out when we gave him a hard time about it. It was very surprising to run into, but it was also not a skill he needed for his job. There are many things that a five-year-old will become interested in that are not needed for the job, and not everyone has been exposed to. Probably partly because he had spent much of his childhood with computers instead of hand writing things, he was also very good at problem solving software design issues, the main skill we needed from him.

      Skills do become obsolete, and where I am, the public schools generally don’t teach cursive anymore. I would rather make it a fun thing we do together than teach her my bad handwriting. That said, it seems my area was an early area to drop cursive from its education, and replace it with keyboarding, so people here are more used to the idea that their kids might not learn it. My daughter is in private school, for other reasons, but if she was in public, I would probably take calligraphy classes with her as my handwriting is pretty messy.

      As for parents taking five minutes a day to teach a letter or two in cursive to their children, there are about a thousand things I could take five minutes a day to teach my child, and at any given point, the importance of one or the other of them comes down to the specific needs of my child. I have crazy respect to parents who homeschool. Between going back to school and working, there have been a few years where I was lucky to see my child for five minutes a day for more than half the week (and that is about to start up for me as well). For me, learning cursive is important for my girl, but mainly because it will proactively help with any possible dyslexia she may or may not have. If it wasn’t for that, I would probably let the school choose for me, and save my five minutes with her for snuggles and reading a book to her while I get my master’s degree.

    1. Hi Nivi,

      Interestingly, the montessori my daughter was in from a baby through kindergarten did not teach cursive. Handwriting, yes. From the time she was two. Cursive, no. (And they followed the montessori curriculum closely based on all the works I saw her do.) Of course, she never got that excited over the sandpaper letters. She learned to print her letters fist. She is now in a private school that is not montessori, and they teach print handwriting, cursive, and keyboarding. It always amazes me the variations you can see even in a fairly strict implementation of a learning system.

  5. I have noticed on other web sites that many of the people who are against the teaching of cursive seem to be the ones who say they don’t like to use it themselves or they aren’t good at it. Seems like they want to make sure no one else gets good at it either. Sounds like a bit of “sour grapes” to me.

    Personally I use cursive five days a week. I’m often jotting down information that customers or suppliers call in and I’m sure not going to take the time to open an electronic document just for that.

    However, the reason I’m in favor of teaching cursive isn’t because of scientific or historical reasons, it is for the same reason that I support schools teaching at least a bit of music. To me it just makes the world a little bit more of an artistic place.

    Thanks for posting about cursive in your blog. I enjoyed reading it.

  6. Not everyone can do let’s say thet can learn everything else in school, and just not that how’s that fair also it’s dying and computers no need,

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