Sunday, September 2, 2012

How's Your Cursive?

A Scan of My Great Grandmothers' Scrapbook, 1918 or so.  The page on the left is a recipe written on my GGrandfathers stationary from his bar!  The one on the right is a home remedy.  Can you imagine that's how everyone wrote back then?
Over the last 20 years I've been fascinated with family past.  I've been on for almost that long and have made great strides in research of my ancestors on all different branches.

As my family got word of my obsession with family history, I became the family archivist as well.  I received tons of photos and I am proud to say that just about every one I was given has been posted on for all posterity!  My uncle sent me a box with all kinds of cool stuff that came from my mothers' side of the family.  My Great Grandmothers' Scrapbook, a recipe book, an address book and more were in that box. 

The first time I went through the box was just a cursory look to see if there was any hidden treasure....The second look was to be a little more thorough because I had the time.  The third look I realized I'd found treasure! 

I discovered handwritten correspondence between my great grandparents and other family, recipes, and other notes.  These are precious documents that I had taken for granted on the first glance. 

This is one of my favorite finds.  Notice how beautiful my G-Grandmothers handwriting is.  Then take a look at the ingredients in this potion!

A letter my great grandfather wrote to his son, my grandfather.

He later died that same year during the flu epidemic.

At the last Daughters of the American Revolution meeting I attended, it was reported to the ladies that a proposition was made at the last convention, that the DAR champion and encourage the teaching of cursive handwriting in schools.  I went home and started looking up what was happening to that small, unappreciated art form.

A sample from my grandmothers' address book.  I always loved her handwriting and started making my "G's just like hers to sign my name.

I learned that due to the age of technology, learning the keyboard is higher on the priority list than teaching cursive writing.  I completely understand that we live in an age when the use of the computer grows everyday and that all children should be proficient in its use, otherwise be left in the dust.  I also recognize that teachers have innumerable benchmarks and objectives to meet with their students and little in the way of time to get there. 

A lovely sample of handwriting by my cousin Catharine Ann accepting the invitation to my parents wedding.

Matthew J. Gaiger wrote, "Because children are developing their fine motor skills, cursive writing allows them to gradually improve their eye-hand coordination versus straight lines that strain students. The first step in developing our cognitive abilities is the development of our fine motor skills.  As our brains learn to connect our inner worlds to the external universe, we begin to recognize abstract ideas like awareness of others and perception.  Cursive writing affords us the opportunity to naturally train these fine motor skills by taking advantage of a child’s inability to fully control their fingers.  This means cursive writing acts as a building block versus as a stressor.  With a less strenuous learning experience, children can progress in their learning at a faster, more efficient rate."  Beth McKinney goes into a lot more detail about how cursive writing stimulates and develops the brain.  I found it disturbing when she noted that, "As information replaces industry in the marketplace, parents, educators and students themselves have come to place more emphasis on the development of knowledge over the development of physical skills. Those who work with their hands are considered less valuable than those who work with their bodies in many sections of our society."  As one who works with my hands I consider that a slap in the face.  There needs to be a change in that type of thinking! 
Here's a letter to my Aunt Cecilia from one of our cousins in Ireland.  I believe they were teenage pen pals during this time.  It was a long letter so I'm only showing the first and last page.

As I mentioned earlier, I see cursive writing as an art form.  I remember being so proud to bring home good grades in penmanship and  I think I was good at it because I could also draw.  I liked making my letters and eventually having a very nice handwriting.  I've read many studies regarding the impact that learning to draw has on cognitive functions of the brain and I see many similarities between the findings there and those regarding cursive handwriting.  I feel ashamed of myself that I've gotten away from it.....both cursive writing and drawing.

Another letter from a cousin in Ireland.  I think it's interesting to look at the different styles of handwriting as much as to read what people were interested in chatting about from one continent to the next.

I think I'll pick up a pen and start practicing my letters and begin handwriting some notes from now on.  One day my descendents may find them in a box of stuff that is passed down to them and I'll be able to torture them into learning to read and write cursive, all the way from the grave!