“More is going on in handwriting than meets the eye” says Heather Church, Pedagogical Chair, Faculty, Parents & Community Life.
In a society that values typing speed over handwriting, many young children are bypassing an important skill set in their school years.
Why is handwriting such an important part of the Waldorf curriculum?
In her article The Importance of Learning Cursive Writing, Heather Church shows how a child’s pencil grip changes as they develop; from a little fist holding a crayon and using their shoulder and trunk to move it, to the mature grip which utilizes the fingers and wrist, using the shoulder and elbow as support.
While this process may seem to be a natural as learning to walk and run, learning to write cursive goes far deeper. It can almost be compared to a child that can walk, and a child that can dance.
Our fingertips are incredibly sensitive and feed a vast amount of information into our brains. Allowing our children to master only the most rudimentary handwriting skills before whisking them off to keyboards leaves a hole in their mental and physical development.
We have seen how handwriting goes hand in hand with language learning, reading and working memory. In fact, MRI scans on children’s brains who practice writing more, show enhanced neural activity than those who only looked at letters, as you would on a screen.
A child who can write well will enjoy additional benefits. Consider what Perry Klein, professor of literacy at the University of Ontario reported. “If students can form letters fluently, then that frees up their attention to focus on the content and language of what they’re writing.”
When writing essays, children wrote faster and expressed more ideas than they would have on a keyboard.
“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,” said Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris. “There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain.” And it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn’t realize,” he continued. “Learning is made easier.””
Waldorf teachers have made the choice to teach the right thing at the right time; when it is developmentally practical to do so. And what better time to teach children the art, beauty, and practical use of superior script?
We feel that the need for keyboards is not an essential developmental milestone and that they have plenty of time to master this skill as they grow older.
However, considering the above facts, we will continue encouraging our children to let their fingers dance over their pages and create their magical stories in increasingly rare and beautiful cursive.
Further information on this subject:
Cursive or Cursor