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We Write to Read Home School Handwriting Kit, Preschool & Kindergarten: Physical Language Readiness with ABCs and 123s Review by Donna Campos

Peterson Directed Handwriting
315 South Maple Avenue
Greensburg, PA 15601-3218

The Preschool & Kindergarten level of We Write To Read Home School Handwriting Kit is a Physical Language Readiness course for reading and writing. The "complete kit" contains a Teacher Handbook, one student book (ABCs and 123s), two Finger Fitter pencils (one with and one without an eraser), one audio CD, one Animated Letters CD-ROM, and two self-adhesive position guides for desk or table placement--one for right-handed students and one for lefties. (Families wishing to reduce costs could purchase the basic kit, which does not include the audio CD or the Animated Letters CD-ROM.) Designed for use in a homeschool environment, the kit includes all instructions necessary within the Teacher Handbook. The kit includes "Finger Fitter" pencils that are triangular in shape and of a larger diameter than standard school pencils. No pencil sharpener is included, although one is available for an additional $3.98. The CD-ROM presents letters and numbers in vertical and slant positions for both print and cursive, along with additional examples of various types of stroke. The "Animated Letters" are not cartoon caricatures, but rather letters being drawn with movement so that a student can observe the correct writing stroke. An "Extras" portion of the CD-ROM includes developmental considerations, positional skills, and an explanation of the Peterson Method. The songs on the audio CD use an "echo" style, with the students repeating what is sung. "Mr. T" leads students through instructional songs about holding a pencil properly, positioning the paper, and correctly using writing paper guide lines. The pupil book is presented horizontally with a flexible plastic spiral binding. The spiral will lie flat when the book is fully opened, or you can flip pages behind to view a single page. The entire print alphabet and numbers are represented on the inside back cover of the pupil book, along with sign language hand signs for each letter and number. Both front and back covers of the pupil book are a glossy card stock, offering more durability.

The program includes six weeks of lessons, with detailed specifics for each daily task. The Teacher's Handbook begins with General Instructions and gives a thorough explanation of the method and the process of learning beginning writing skills. The Peterson Method stresses patterns of movement rather than simply having children trace over letters with pencils repeatedly. Physical position for the student, the pencil, and the paper are all addressed, as well as actual handwriting specifics. The pupil book contains illustrations for position skills and posture, as well as a pictured symbol for each sign language letter. The process is slow and steady but clearly outlined for the teacher to follow. I encourage reading up on more information through the website, as some of the comments referencing the mid-line and scientific approaches are better understood after gaining additional knowledge from the website.

The use of gross motor abilities was our favorite part of the program; my son made very large flowing arm motions when practicing correct strokes, and it helped him grasp the concepts more easily. I was concerned that the simplistic songs might not gain my son's interest, much less keep it; so I practiced a bit before having him listen. Surprisingly, they were a pleasant addition to the process, and he easily sang along as instructed. It seems that the simple wording and fairly direct instruction included in the songs were helpful for my son (who is on the autism spectrum); however, some parents may need to hype their children up about the songs. I feel the Peterson program is well suited for special needs students who are often overwhelmed by lengthy, involved lessons. The Finger Fitter triangular pencils are great, and they truly did help my son hold the pencil more efficiently. The website provides several options for pencil grips and quite a few printable helps. Plan to spend some time browsing the website; the free instructions and posters are well worth it.

Because homeschoolers often work at multi-use surfaces, such as the dining room table, permanently placing the self-adhesive guides may not be ideal. We placed rolled tape on the back of the guide so that we could use it and then remove it as necessary, but purchasing additional guides is another option. The adhesive is "ultrabak plus" by and is described as "removable"; however, we did not want to place it anywhere that wasn't solely a desk surface. Songs on the CD are marked as to the grade level they are designed to work with; we were thankful that the "rap" songs for grades 3-8 were not part of this younger level, as we did not enjoy them. Many additional materials are available through the website store, including a classroom "Big Book" and reproducible black-line practice sheets to help in the teaching process. We wish some of the smaller items had been included in the complete kit--particularly the pencil sharpener. The pupil book can be used as a non-consumable if you have your student write on separate pages. Another option would be laminating the pages, however this would not be easy to do.

One hundred years of service to the educational community is a level of commitment rarely seen today. Peterson Directed Handwriting is a company with a lengthy history of assisting teachers in handwriting instruction. The Teacher's Handbook gives an excellent reason for teaching correct handwriting skills: "Brain function scientists have established a definite link between handwriting process training and reading skills." The gross motor patterning provides a multi-sensory component and allows optimum learning to take place. Once the method is correctly taught and grasped by the students, they can practice writing on sidewalks, write-on/wipe-off boards, and chalkboards, as well as in everyday assignments in order to improve handwriting skills. The lack of repetitive, and often unnecessary, copy work using the pencils helped us to enjoy this program. The use of finger movements and air writing surpasses the grueling writing, writing, and more writing often required in handwriting instruction. The focus on process and slow, precise stroke movements places the Peterson Method in a unique position. It offers a well-rounded combination of learning tactics that will prepare young children for more specific handwriting tasks in the elementary grades. The parent-friendly Teacher's Guide will be encouraging, as it provides parents with information regarding early learning skills and better ways to prepare their children for an education.

Product review by Donna Campos, Senior Reviewer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April 2008