Charlotte Mason used a book called A New Handwriting for Teachers, by M. M. Bridges. It contains a few pages of instructions, and then “ten stiff, thick pages” for the children to copy from.
Since I am trying to remove workbooks/printouts from my life (I solemnly swear that paper breeds!), I decided to see how Ms. Mason used the program, and if I could recreate a sequence for it. I went through programmes 90 – 95 (one programme is one term or 12 weeks of schooling) on Ambleside’s archives, and copied the assigned sections. I choose these terms because they are continuous. I copied the relevant sections here. Happily, I found an easy to use sequence, assuming that some of the 8s are really 3s. (I have read a lot of old books, and many times some of the letters and numbers are unclear. Also, common sense says Charlotte would not have assigned card 8 to children still learning their letters. But I could be wrong!)
- Use card 4, covering basic strokes and lowercase letters according to stroke or shape.
- Focus on either the right half or the left half each term.
- Two terms:
- Left-hand half of card 4 (straight lines;letters i, t, u, r, n, m, h, p, f, l, b, v, w)
- Right-hand half of card 4 (curved lines; letters o, c, e, a, d, q, j, g, k, s, x, y, z)
- One letter to be mastered each lesson. (Teacher to study instructions.)
- Write, or print, letters and words from dictation as well as from copy. (See Home Education, page 234 – scroll down to “Writing”).
- Use card 3 (lowercase) and card 5 (numbers & letter combinations).
- Three terms:
- Card 3, Lines 1 & 2 (letters a-n; 20 letters including variations)
- Card 3, Lines 3 & 4 (letters o-z; 19 letters including variations)
- Card 5, Lines 1 & 2 (numbers 0-9); Card 3, Line 5 (8 letter combinations or variations)
- Two letters to be mastered each lesson. (Teacher to study instructions.)
- Transcribe (copy) from reading books. Write words and short sentences from dictation.
- Three terms:
- Card 1, Lines 1 & 2 (letters A-K); Card 3, Lines 1 & 2 (letters a-n)
- Card 1, Lines 3 & 4 (letters L-T); Card 3, Lines 3 & 4 (letters o-z)
- Card 2, Lines 1 & 2 (letters U-Z); Card 3, Line 5 (letter combinations & variations)
- Practice card 3 (lowercase).
- Use card 6 as a model.
- Two perfectly written lines a day, transcribed from favorite passages of Shakespeare or poetry.
- Use card 6 as a model.
- Choose & transcribe passages from poetry, Shakespeare, and other books.
- Children started at the blackboard, then moved to a pencil and finally to a pen.
- Children using the blackboard should rub out any letter that doesn’t meet their standards, so that only a perfect word (the objection of early lessons) is left.
- Start with a medium size for letters, not small. Don’t make the child ‘labor’ on large writing. (CM says it is easier for the small hand to become a scrawl, and bad habits are to be avoided. Older children use small hand.)
So I will be using card 4 for Andrew,who is 6 years old and full of energy. I believe Charlotte uses the example of six perfect strokes, so that is what we will do at first. I know his frustration level will go down, because the work will be shorter and simpler than what I asked him! I will have him use the whiteboard.
For my 8 year old, David, I will use cards 1 and 3. He pays good attention to detail, and I think he will like the simpler, freer method. I will also do some dictation with him – he could use the challenge.
My 10 year old, Jonathan, is a big picture guy, hard worker and easy going. I will probably have him study cards 1-3, and then have him decide what letters he needs to practice. When he feels confident, we will move to card 6 and two perfect lines a day.
I’m very excited to see what Charlotte used in her schools (simple, but deep), and I hope it will be a help to someone else out there!