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Monday, May 31, 2010

Peterson Directed Handwriting E-worksheet Review

Being a First Mate on the TOS Crew meant that this was my second year to have the chance to look at Peterson Directed Handwriting. My first review of their overall program is HERE, and I still stand by it. I HIGHLY encourage you to check out that review for a detailed idea of how the program works as I won't go back over everything in this review.

Peterson is a handwriting program that has been around since 1908. It is vastly different from most other handwriting programs out there because it focuses on a multi-sensory approach to ingrain the muscle movements involved in writing so deeply in students that they don't ever have to "think" about writing again once they have mastered it. The actual motions will become automatic, freeing them to focus on note taking or creative writing without ever losing time to the mechanics of actually forming the words. It's a process I can appreciate. I use American Sign Language to sign praise music with a choir I sing in. While I could sign most songs the first time I hear them, they would be rough for sure. But with each subsequent time I practice, the movements become smoother and smoother until finally I no longer have to focus on the mechanic of properly forming the signs and transitioning from one sign to the next, and I am freed by that muscle memory to actually WORSHIP, much the same way a writing student using the Peterson method would be freed once they have mastered the strokes and letter formation to CREATE or rapidly record with their writing.

This time around, the Crew was specifically asked to take a look at Peterson's new PDF by Hand program and the e-workbooks that accompany it. The full PDF by Hand program involves a fancy-schmancy electronic pen and writing tablet, but the electronic workbooks that go with that system are also available as a download that is usable by anyone with the free Adobe Acrobat program. Since technology and I clash, I opted for just the e-workbooks.

One of the best things about Peterson's is that they (or really Mr. Pencil, a.k.a. Rand Nelson) are passionate about you understanding their writing system, how it works, why it works, and what products will best meet your needs. They are so passionate that purchase of the e-workbooks (and most of their other products) includes free one on one consultation with Mr. Pencil himself. He listens to your challenges, assesses your needs, and recommends the products that will work best with your children. And he's no skimp on time. He spent an hour with me discussing my four children and their writing challenges, making recommendations, and setting up our downloads. And he did all that with me having NO VOICE, so I had to type all my responses. The e-workbooks offered by Peterson Directed Handwriting cover the gamut from kindergarten early letter and number formation to slanted print writing to cursive at all different sizes depending on age/ability level. They focus extensively on proper paper placement for ease of writing, proper pencil grip, proper posture, and the actual mechanic of writing so that everything your child does sets them up for success and ease in writing.

The pros: The e-workbooks are instantly downloadable and non-consumable. You can print the same pages over and over for multiple children, or for the same child who just might need a little more work on some letters than others. Mr. Pencil's consultation is available free of charge as you purchase your writing books or at any time you might need guidance. I like the way the program works-it's multi-sensory, it breaks letters into small parts, and it uses the voice to guide the stroke. It's unique but successful. And I LOVE their Word Masters books that allow specific practice of hundreds for high frequency words that student encounter.

The cons: The one thing I would still note is that some of the letters in the cursive program are odd looking-particularly cursive "c" and "p". I personally decided though that I just wouldn't be dogmatic about it if my kid made them the more traditional way instead of the Peterson way. And I figure that they will likely adapt their handwriting as time progresses anyway-I know I have-but that Peterson gives a firm foundation for them to work from.

The bottom line: I don't think you can go wrong with Peterson Directed Handwriting. With a century of experience in teaching kids to write, they certainly know what they are doing and have the research to back them up. And the e-workbooks, while they vary in price, might seem expensive in price (none are more than $19.95), but if you remember that they are reusable and allow you to reprint as needed for more practice work, I think they balance out. I know my old handwriting program had print workbooks that were $5-6 a piece, but they were consumable and that was per child, so with four kids, it all works out for me.

To check out Peterson's e-workbooks or their printed materials, go HERE. To see what other members of the TOS Crew thought, go HERE.
Legal Disclaimer: As a member of the TOS Crew, I received several e-workbooks to review. Those workbooks were the only compensation I received.
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