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Patriotic Penmanship, Grade 4 Review by Wendy Robertson

Mary Ellen Tedrow
Laurelwood Books
1639 Ebenezer Rd
Bluemont, VA 20135

Cursive handwriting is something my children have always wanted to learn, and it was simple enough to teach, but having good quality things for them to write presents more of a problem for me. I know that they need to keep practicing their skills, so when I heard about the Patriotic Penmanship workbook by Mary Ellen Tedrow, I was interested. I already had a handwriting program lined up for my seven-year-old son, but nothing for my ten-year-old son, so the timing on this review product was perfect.

Patriotic Penmanship, offered by homeschooling book company Laurelwood Books, is simply a soft cover, consumable workbook for children and retails for $12.95. There are 30 lessons, each designed to take one week (four school days). Looking at the book, it didn’t seem to me that a full week would be needed for the lessons (each lesson is only a two-page spread), but because my son isn’t a huge fan of writing, we did take it that slowly. Each lesson is based on a famous quote or Bible verse; the child will be writing a good portion of the quote by the end of the week. The whole quote is often a paragraph or a four-line stanza of a poem, so the book has the child complete part of it.

This course assumes that the child already knows how to write in cursive; it’s a practice book, not a teaching book. The first day of the week, the child just writes capital and lowercase letters, starting with A and working through the alphabet all the way to Z. (This step goes away starting with week 27 since you’re out of letters at that point.) On day two, children are instructed to write individual words from the week’s quotation, and on the third day, they write word pairs. Finally, at the end of the week, the quote is written either two or four times, depending on its length. You don’t need anything to go along with the book if you look at it as a practice book for your child and not a teaching book. If your child doesn’t already know at least the basics of cursive handwriting, you’ll need something more to go along with it. If you’re in that situation, however, it’s probably better to start with a lower level and not the fourth-grade workbook.

Patriotic Penmanship, like any workbook, is best for students (and parents) who thrive in that kind of situation. It won’t be for everyone. For our family, it worked well because I’m a parent who likes to have a record of what my children have completed during the school year. Just knowing that they’ve learned a bunch of stuff doesn’t seem like enough to me, so for my own peace of mind, we do a combination of paperwork/workbook type activities and more hands-on things in our homeschool. If you’re a homeschool parent like me, I think you’ll love Patriotic Penmanship.

The biggest con we found after using this practice book is the style of the handwriting it asks the students to use. Yes, it is “just cursive,” but it’s a very loopy style of cursive. Without careful monitoring of my son to make sure his loops were just right, some of the letters got out of control because of excessive looping. It does provide a nice looking cursive, however, so I worked with him to help keep his handwriting clean, and we didn’t have any major issues with it.

I think the price for the book is fair. It’s very comparable to what I’ve paid for curriculum workbooks in the past, and there’s a lot of handwriting practice available in the book. It should last you the entire school year if you run the traditional 36 weeks. It would be extremely easy to modify for almost anyone; you could have the child do more than part of a lesson each day to enhance the practice time (we did this sometimes, but not every time). You could take it slow and steady, like we did. Or you could do something in between. There’s no wrong answer!

Product Review by Wendy Robertson, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, May 2014