The pictures hanging up are from my niece and nephew. My kids don’t draw. They don’t color. The last time I recall one of my kids holding a pen was when my son wrote his Seven Games password on his shorts because he couldn’t find a piece of paper.
My kid’s type.
This isn’t what I imagined. I grew up with art supplies everywhere. I assumed all kids like painting and drawing and writing loopy letters to pass time. But now I understand that cursive is an anachronism, and maybe printing is next, and kids pass time on iPhones. Yet there are benefits to handwriting that you don’t get when you only use a keyboard:
Handwriting connects our brain to our body. This is especially important for kids with vestibular issues. Kids on the autism spectrum often have bruises and odd gaits because they don’t connect their brain and their body very well. These issues are not small: New York City paid for four hours a week of occupational therapy for three years to help my older son overcome these issues. So teaching kids on the spectrum to write will be helpful. (But not if it’s a huge uphill battle. They can learn to color in the lines or play a musical instrument with many of the same results.)
Handwriting helps with memory and recall. This was especially important before the Internet, when the academic class, residing in the Ivory Tower, differentiated itself by memorizing facts. (Please, someone quiz me on big dates in the history of individualism in western thought.) In the age of the the Internet, people who are great at memorizing slipped quickly from the realm of Einstein to the realm of special ed. (Topic for some enterprising blogger: is Aspergers a function of the brain or of our time in history?) At any rate, we actually synthesize information faster on the computer, as we move ideas around (think: copy-and-paste is the killer app for intellectuals ). So almost no one needs to write to memorize anymore.
Handwriting allows us to mind map. To do lists are linear, but the way we think (when we create lists of ideas) is not so linear, but more like interrelated, overlapping maps. We think in related chunks. My first novel was actually my attempt to answer the question: how can someone write a linear story when our thoughts are non-linear, repetitive, and incomplete?
And I confess that when I want to get a handle on how my brain is thinking about big ideas, I’m more apt to make a picture with bubbles and arrows and squares than a list. However there’s plenty of software to make mind maps, I just don’t know how to use it. So none of that is a great argument for teaching handwriting to homeschoolers.
That said, I let my kids type everything. The truth is that some people will benefit from writing by hand, and they will write. And some people will benefit from a keyboard, and they’ll use it. I find myself writing by hand a lot even though I write on a keyboard for my job.
There is not a perfect answer for everyone when it comes to writing by hand or not. Just like there are benefits to learning to play an instrument but there is no right answer to whether your kid should play an instrument. Or long-distance running. Or cooking. All skills have benefits. The trick is to let your kids decide which skills and which benefits mean the most in their own life.