Handwriting (& Coloring) - When help is needed

God's Creation From A to Z: A Complete Kindergarten Curriculum
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Laura M
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Handwriting (& Coloring) - When help is needed

Unread post by Laura M »

Amanda wrote:My 5yr old is having some difficulty with handwriting. He is able to trace letters, and we are using the tactile activities.

However, he has a lot of trouble writing the lowercase letters. He has major trouble on the blend ladder pages. He can't make lowercase letters fit on the lines. He does not like to color either.

I know he needs practice and I don't want to skip things that will help him. However,he is reading very well , and I don't want to frustrate him. Any advice?
Hi Amanda
Your 5 yr old sounds like my oldest son who is now 8. He also doesn't like to write, draw or color. Here are some suggestions resulting from my experience.

You don't want to make him hate school, so I would ease up on the things he really doesn't like or isn't ready for...it sounds like your already doing that. I still required my son to write some...but just not as much, maybe skip some words and do what you can orally.

Maybe you can get some of that really wide lined paper with the dotted lines inbetween for preschool and kindergarten ages (at walmart) and just have him copy some short lower case words to get in some practice. Also just get him use to making lines and circles trying to keep within the lines.

I also skipped most of the coloring and drawing. Sometimes my son would like to draw or color if I would do it with him.

My son still doesn't "like" to write or draw but he is doing much better and I am content with the fact that he wasn't totally frustrated with school.
Just my two cents...hope it helps.

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Unread post by Daisy »

My 5.5yo does most of his writing on the white board. He does sooo much better with this.
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Unread post by CharleneHoell »

My now 8 yr old ds also had issues with handwriting. I believe it is just taking him longer to get the fine motor processes down.

I had him do his handwriting on graph paper. It comes in squares of all sizes. It worked much better for us because he had trouble with the dashed lines in regular manuscript paper. Hope this helps! :)
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Unread post by RachelT »

Dear Amanda (that's my middle name!),
I think I can understand your situation. My ds began K one year ago when he was 5.5. He had some vision issues and I modified some of the activities.

For a little while I stopped using the lined paper altogether for the blend ladder pages and had him write on a dry erase board or on blank paper, while we manipulated magnetic letters to figure out the words.

I would make him do the writing practice, but would let him stop if he got frustrated and come back to it later. We just worked on forming the letters for awhile. The textured letters and tactile activities are also great for this!!

Now that we have begun 1st grade, he has worked so carefully on his pages to make his alphabet scroll and he is finally getting the idea of staying in the lines, athough his handwriting still needs lots of practice.

Have you ever heard of or used Handwriting Without Tears? My dc both used it last year along with the K program and it helped so much! HWT has great tactile activities. My ds has also benefitted from using small golf sized pencils to learn how to hold them properly. HWT recommends that children begin with a small broken part of chalk, then a crayon or these golf sized pencils because they have to pinch the pencil and it is not as heavy in little hands as a longer pencil. I found a package at an office supply store of 100 small pencils and then we just use a large hand sized eraser. My ds still prefers these pencils over the long kind.

For coloring, he now will do some with crayons, but last year he liked using these dot markers that have a large round ink stamp kind of end, they fill things in quickly and easily. My ds is now learning how to draw and starting to draw things from his own imagination and for his enjoyment! (A year ago, I didn’t know if that would ever happen!)

I think this is like the tortoise and the hare - "Slow and steady wins the race". Just keep working on it bit by bit and eventually you will see a big difference.

Rachel, wife to Doug ~ 1995, mom to J (17) and B (15)
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Re: Handwriting problems in MFWK

Unread post by cbollin »

Some different ideas on the Day 5 drawing pages....
*use stickers
*look for pictures in newspaper and/or magazines that start with the letter sound. We tend to use the previous week's grocery ads and coupons for that. Cut the picture out and glue in on the drawing page space.

For handwriting: I've watched the occupational therapist use the MFW K handwriting sheets with dd. One thing he does --- he sits behind my dd and uses light pressure on her forearm to help guide her on the lines. He coaches her along the way. Maybe your son needs something along those lines as well.

Continue to use lots of tactile methods. Take another look at step 5 of day 1 of the reading plan.

Also, it can help many students (special needs or not) to get their whole body involved in a similar large motor activity before trying to write on paper. In other words, make sure they can move their body (arms and legs) the same way as it takes to write a letter.

Can they reach up high and then reach low?
Can they reach their arm up high and then stop at mid level and then switch directions to touch the floor? (that doesn't make sense in writing, does it?)

let me try again on that one:
*have student put their hands together and reach above their head and start on the left.
*bring their hands to their right knee -- it's ok to lift your leg
*now have them touch their left foot.

do things like that before you sit down to try handwriting.
have them make large circle motions with their arms (figure 8's on their sides)

Sometimes when we do these kinds of activities it helps our kids to apply it to paper with their hands because it gives them something concrete to apply to the abstract idea.

Here's a fun activity if you can ....
get a mirror and practice letters with shaving cream. We bought a very cheap mirror to use for this. We made "lines" on the mirror with masking tape. The tape helps to represent lines on paper. and practice with shaving cream.

practice outside with chalk.

hope something in there helps a bit

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Unread post by donnagio »

Those are great ideas. The Handwriting Without Tears is a good program, written by an Occupational Therapist to help her son. They also have paper that is just 2 lines close together, with spaces in between. There are less lines to worry about.

It is good to tie the gross motor activities in with the fine motor as well, as others have mentioned. They also have a technique with a chalk board, where you write the letter with a sponge, they dry it, then write it with the small chalk-"wet-dry-try". The shaving cream sounds like fun too.

It probably is partly a maturity /readiness issue. Anything he is interested in that would use the same muscles/skills as writing would be good- I am thinking mazes maybe, beads, gluing small pieces of paper to make a picture instead of coloring, legos.. And then making letters with other media- Handwriting without tears also has wooden pieces straight and curved, to make the letters. There are only 4 shapes, I think...

Hope some of that helps.. Donna
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Letters floating off the lines

Unread post by donutmom »

Posted: Tue Oct 16, 2007 8:02 pm

When my oldest was in kindergarten, I also stressed over his writing letters. They floated all over those lines. No matter how much I hot air I blew, they kept floating (maybe it was all that air!! tee hee!). I even purchased a wipe-on/off book for him to get extra practice (which did not win me any brownie points). And that's when I was "freed". It was actually what was written in the front of this $3 book that gave helped me stop stressing and worrying.

It stated that there were 3 parts to handwriting skillls--1. letter formation, 2. uniform letter size, and 3. uniform slant and neatness. It said not to worry if the letters floated or sank as the child was learning to write them. If they were formed correctly, then that was what was important. Once they had all the letter shapes mastered, then move on to size (lower case being half the size than upper case, etc.). The dotted line is helpful then. Then after that work on neatness and having them all slope in the same direction. Hope I stated all that in a way you can understand.

Anyway, I found that advice so helpful and wished I had learned it earlier in my son's K. year--it would have saved some tears. It's helped a lot as I'm now teaching son #2 to write (although I could use some advice with him on how to encourage him to not turn each letter or number he writes into a object of some drawing or for squiggles and swirls! Makes it difficult to check his math work!!) Maybe this will help you.
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Unread post by Poohbee »

Posted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 3:12 pm

don't think it is necessary to correct her every time she writes a letter incorrectly, and perhaps you don't do it every time. Of course, we want them to learn to write their letters correctly, but constant correction will be discouraging for them. Pick and choose the times you want her to write the letter correctly.

We completed MFW K last year. My daughter sometimes wrote some letters and numbers backwards. Sometimes I let it slide, and other times I corrected her, depending upon the assignment she was doing at the time. At the ages of 5 and 6, it is natural for children to have some difficulty forming their letters and numbers. They will get it in time, with gentle correction and guidance.

Now, as we are working through MFW 1st, my dd still writes some of her letters backwards, but not as often. I would just recommend picking and choosing the times to ask for correction and other times just let it go.
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Unread post by Suzq »

Posted: Fri Sep 28, 2007 8:41 pm

One thing we have tried is having the child choose the letters he formed the best. He circles them and then I choose the one I like. It helps him to see the ones he did his best on and then will do it that way next time. We still struggle with wanting to rush and "just get it done" but when he takes his time it works great.
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Unread post by lyntley »

Posted: Sat Sep 29, 2007 11:22 am

Maybe review the letter by showing the "right way" each time before the child picks up the pencil?

Because I'm a lefty, with an early writing righty, I would put the pencil in my right hand and show the proper formation. I think it helped her to see also that my writing with the right hand wasn't "perfect" either. That tendency to be perfect (The first time) is so frustrating for little ones. 6 years old is still very young to be writing much anyway.

handwriting help

Unread post by cbollin »

dance1493 wrote:we are new to MFW. we are working on My Father's World From A-Z
and noticed my dd is struggling with handwriting and understanding.
She grabs everything else up and takes off with it
the writing drives her crazy.
Especially lesson 1 with S and curvy lines.
any ideas?
Welcome to the board!

The letter S is one of the hardest letters to learn to write in our alphabet. So, it's ok that it will take a lot of time this year to learn it. They aren't expected to get it right away before the end of the unit. Encourage them to keep trying. S is easier to say than to write so it gets introduced early and practiced often. I'm sure she is doing a great job!

One thing that I found helpful: do a lot more of the tactile activities each day. My youngest enjoys shaving cream on a mirror to practice letters. Take a look at the day 1, step 5 items (those are in the yellow phonics instruction pages) and do those each day before going to pencil and paper.

You might also practice some pencil tracing race tracks to just practice have to turn and make curves. Basically make some large size letter S's on dry erase board, or sidewalk with chalk, or even paper. And let her practice it with larger motions before going to paper.

some kids like it better with cars and race tracks.

and my youngest benefited for a long time having me go hand over hand with her to help her change directions. her name begins with S.

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Re: handwriting help

Unread post by TriciaMR »

I highly recommend the tactile activities... I bought a rubbermaid container, scuffed up the bottom really good with sand paper, and the put a very thin layer of colored sand on the bottom - and I mean thin, just barely coating the bottom. I make sure I have my boys practice the letters or numbers they are going to write that day in the sand first. It really helps and they love it. In fact, they'll remind me if we don't do it.

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Handwriting for boys in Kindergarten

Unread post by 4in4years »

mtnmama wrote:I am trying to decide if this is an obedience issue that I need to be firm on or if it is a development issue where I need to back off. This is the second time we have been through this. I let it rest a month and tried a new tactic this week.

My son turned five in May and we started MFW K this month. He can blend, sound out three or four letter words, and loves all of the other parts of the curriculum... except for handwriting. He does it if I force him with potential punishments, he cares nothing for rewards and even if I try to make it relevant to him (helping him write a story, address a letter to grandma, etc. all things he loves) he only does it grudgingly and never neatly.

Can I just skip that part of the curriculum for now and pick it up in the spring? What is your assessment of our situation?
My boys needed a few more years.


Re: Handwriting for boys in Kindergarten

Unread post by cbollin »

just one opinion based on how I had to wait with my youngest.

Is he at least doing the tracing activities in the handwriting part?

I'd focus on the tactile stuff over the worksheet. Let him build the words with the Lauri letters, and then finger trace the letters in the proper direction. All of those step 5 of day 1 routines -- that's tactile stuff that will help with handwriting.

I wouldn't even consider the "relevant to him (helping him write a story, address a letter to grandma, etc. all things he loves)" route right now. He is a young 5 year old and isn't ready.

when you're ready to try the day 2 worksheets late in the year: go with just one row of upper and one row of lower case. Consider doing them on chalk board, or lined dry erase board (the personal size ones).

work on fine motor development and make sure he is sitting comfortably and knows that after 5 minutes the activity will change. Get this vision checked. work more on letting him cut the words instead of writing them.

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Re: Handwriting for boys in Kindergarten

Unread post by gratitude »

I would say it is a developmental / maturity / age 5 / common for boys issue.

My oldest ds could do a lot of school work long before he was ready for handwriting at age 6. I didn't prepare him as well for handwriting, as I did with my second ds, and it showed when he turned 5 and wasn't ready to write. After six weeks of trying I backed down from handwriting until his sixth Birthday. We did Bible for K, he did his math orally, and we still worked some on phonics. I wish I had been using MFW K for that year! :) When he did turn 6, last summer, I started with writing letters in flour & building them with chocolate chips (then we made cookies) and drawing letters and numbers on my back. Within a few weeks he was writing, but it took us two more months to develop holding the pencil skills. I spoke with a K teacher once who said boys are often not ready for school until 6, and just turned 5 year old summer boys struggle in K. She was a lovely 50+ in a private Christian school who has taught for many years.

If it was me I would back down and work on fine motor skills and holding a pencil and doing simple mazes (great for fine motor development skill) that will prepare him for handwriting. You can still do all the rest of MFW K, which as you know is delightful.

Postby gratitude » Thu Jul 22, 2010 9:36 am
We also used Handwriting without Tears to build letters with the wooden pieces. It was fantastic! It really helped my visual - spatial ds learn to write!
Last edited by gratitude on Wed Jul 21, 2010 4:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Handwriting for boys in Kindergarten

Unread post by Julie in MN »

mtnmama wrote:I am trying to decide if this is an obedience issue that I need to be firm on or if it is a development issue where I need to back off.
If he is willing to talk about it or to form it with blocks or especially to write it in a flour tray or on a marker board, then it's not an obedience issue, IMHO.

Writing a single letter seems so very simple to us, but really it isn't for a child. Some children are motivated or for whatever reason are able. But if the child is not, then it might help to stop and think how many skills it may take to write a single letter: switch the brain from the concrete to the abstract, control the tiniest muscles of the hand without paralyzing them, control the mental and physical functions at the same time, remember the instructions for forming the letter, point the instrument (pencil?) at the correct angle and pressure, focus the vision on one thing only, etc.

For some kids, it can be a lot easier to just focus on understanding the abstract concept of a symbol that stands for a sound, and what shape that symbol is, without worrying about learning to write yet. And folks throughout history have learned more than I ever will without the aid of pencils or skads of paper.

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Re: Handwriting for boys in Kindergarten

Unread post by RachelT »

Hello! Handwriting has been a challenge for my son - and still is a challenge today! He is my first and Kindergarten was our first "official" year of homeschooling, so I wanted to "do it right"! (How's that for a first-born, teaching a first-born for the first time!) Anyway, my son actually has a diagnosed learning disability called "dysgraphia" which comes through in his writing so we have tried lots of things, but don't this is still normal for a 5 year old boy.

I LOVE MFW Kindergarten and I am so glad that we had the tactile Lauri letters. They were a big help! Such good motor development and just feeling the letter forms. All of the salt tray, shaving cream, sidewalk chalk ideas are fun to try and see what he likes and start with making really BIG letters and LARGE motor movements with the shoulder, first, before making smaller movements with more wrist action.

We also supplemented K with the Handwriting Without Tears K program. It is fantatstic! It is really hands-on with the play doh, wooden letter pieces and Mat Man. It is fun and helped so much! Check it out at www.hwtears.com

My son also did a year of occupational therapy and I learned that strengthening all of the muscles - big and small, does help. My son started having to do push ups and situps, balancing on a therapy ball, climbing up a slide while holding a rope (pulling on the rope), bouncing balls, etc. So lots of physical games can also contribute to further development of something that seems unrelated like handwriting. Our therapist also liked for him to play games while laying on his stomach, but propped up on his elbows to strengthen his core.

My son still loves mazes! I also wanted to tell you that my son had to trace anything that he wrote even through most of 1st grade. So you can use a light colored marker and have him trace over it in pencil and gradually he will be able to write letters and words without tracing, in time.
Rachel, wife to Doug ~ 1995, mom to J (17) and B (15)
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Handwriting question, MFW K

Unread post by cbollin »

Sunshinestatemama wrote:My 6 year old daughter is just finishing up MFW K. She writes very nicely but she still does not form the letters the proper way unless I am sitting next to her watching her write every single letter. For instance, for the letter M, instead of starting with a line down, she will start at the bottom and go up. What should I do to correct this? Or do I just work on it through 1st grade? Thanks for any advice!
Personally..... I'd look long term on this and probably not fret. I mean... there are times I do not make my letters by starting at the top. I know I have sloppy handwriting. oh well. So, I"d work in very gentle methods

Other people have seen this as a willful act of defiance on their child's part and discipline accordingly. are you getting that sense? is she cocking back an attitude of "No Mommy! I will not!" or "I am going to try it this way." probably not... right?

OR is it the more common reason...
she is just not remembering every.single.detail.about.how.to.form.letters. It's a lot to remember! and sometimes I wonder if it does matter... a lot of cursive letters will start at the bottom when we connect them, so don't go over the top with the kids on this. (pun intended there)

If you feel that there is some kind of block to her eye hand coordination... take it slowly. Try something like a ditty. Handwriting without Tears had a little ditty to the tune of "if you're happy and you know it" but used the words......"oh where do you start your letters? At the TOP!" they sell a little personal desk size chalk slate with a smiley face at the top left to encourage children to start at the top. you could easily make your own with a dry erase board or buy a small slate at teacher supply store and put a sticker at the top left to practice individual letters. You could use a baking sheet as a salt tray and put a magnet at the starting point...

You said she writes very nicely. so... give lots of praise and hugs for that.

part of me wants to say: make sure she understands the concepts of "top" "bottom", left, right. and can apply that to the lines and paper. It could be as simple as when you are not present, she doesn't have a reference point to know which is the top line, or bottom line, or left/right....

can you make a chart for her to follow with big starting dots and points... color code it so she can look at it for starting places....

it could be as simple as that. she might need a visual reminder where to start so that when you aren't right there, she can do it all my herself!

Yes, you might be working on this into 1st grade and that is perfectly OK!

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Re: Handwriting question, MFW K

Unread post by erin.kate »

I want to read Crystal's post, but I have to scoot out the door ... I'll come back. Handwriting without Tears sells a CD with a song about "Where do you start your letters? At the top." etc ... We don't use HWT but I do like the catchy songs on the CD. :) I still pretty much sit with my girl for every handwriting lesson, 10 minutes each per day and they're in 2nd and K, but I know in time they'll move to mastering the formation.
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Re: Handwriting question, MFW K

Unread post by TriciaMR »

You know, at some point, it may not be worth the battle. I have 2 that have struggled with writing (some dyslexia going on) - literally not remembering how to write the letter. I have one that doesn't struggle, but he doesn't always start the letters where I've taught him - just like your kid, his capital M starts on the line. But, he remembers how the letters look, and for the most part follows the general way I've taught him. I would continue to work with her, sitting by her. I would also make a chart (StartWrite software is one I love, but there are also free worksheet generators out there) for her to reference. I've put one on all my kids desks, and at the table we work at - and I let them look at it as much as they want. Basically, it shows the starting dot and which way to go from there if it isn't obvious.

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Re: Handwriting question, MFW K

Unread post by Mom2theteam »

This is really a great question! My 6 year old who is finishing up K does the same. He doesn't have great handwriting, but it isn't bad either. But, he doesn't form them correctly a lot of the time. Some he does, but definitely not all. Starting at the bottom instead of the top is a very common thing he does, especially with anything with circles, like o's or a's. When we are doing handwriting exercises, I sit with him and correct him. But, when his is writing for fun, I don't say much unless I'm sitting right there. I wondered if it was a big deal, but figured we would just keep working on it. I'm sure not everyone forms their letters exactly right. I know I don't hold my pencil the ideal way. Handwriting has been a struggle for him since the beginning. It was very hard to get him to hold his pencil properly. He does okay with grip now, but I still have to correct it at times. I just feel like this is something that is going to take a little longer for him to get. However, I'm very interested to see what the BTDT moms say. :-)
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Re: Handwriting question, MFW K

Unread post by weareborgswife »

For me, I haven't made a big issue of it with my kids (7 and 9), if the letters are properly formed in the end, that is my main goal. I do offer suggestions on how to make it easier for them to do, and my middle daughter is starting to try them. My oldest is getting ready to learn cursive, and we are using A Reason for Handwriting with him and I will be sitting with him helping remind him as for cursive starting/ending positions is important. We are more working on proper capitalization as they both have a couple of letters they prefer to make as capitals instead of lowercase, but between our Explode the Code, Writing Strands assignments, and A Reason for Handwriting, their handwriting is looking good (at least to me ;)). My only grades that were below an A- in elementary school were in handwriting. As I child it frustrated me so much, as even when I did my "best" and it was legible, but not "nice enough", that I would have to be graded on that... and that it would "ruin" my report card.

I'd rather focus on the content of their writing, personally than if they make every letter "exactly" how they are supposed to. As an adult, I have had no problem with people being able to read my handwriting :).

Funny side note - My son has been orally doing his math as the first few chapters of the new math book were review. I had an errand one day so my husband was in charge and he came to me later and said, I love that he can do math in his head, but thinking he should learn how to make an "answer sheet" with a heading, name, date, subject, with numbers on the sheet, and then answers next to them, so when he goes to college he will know how fill out his math papers. So I showed our son how to do this, and told him Tuesdays and Thursdays we would do written math. Two days later the college student who is staying with us was doing homework. My husband asked her what she was doing and she said her math... her "book" was a CD-rom and she went to class the first day to learn how the program worked, and now her whole math is online. There is no "math paper" to head, number and hand in, and it seems that 95% of the math classes at the community college are like this.

I want my kids to know how to read and write with paper and pen/pencil, but honestly in today's society it isn't as necessary as it once was either.
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Re: Handwriting question, MFW K

Unread post by Sunshinestatemama »

Sorry for the delayed response! I only have time to get online without interruptions once a day and now is the time! :-)

Crystal, it is not an act of defiance at all, thankfully. It's exactly what you said about not remembering every single detail of every letter. I'm sure I don't form each letter correctly all the time either!

I know I'm not supposed to compare, but my older daughter just finished 1st and she wrote her letters pretty much perfectly at the end of K. When I first noticed my middle daughter was still forming them wrong, I brushed it off thinking we would work on it in 1st (or maybe get an additional handwriting curriculum). They are just very different kids! But, as we wrapped up K, I wondered if it was okay for me to keep brushing it off and waiting until 1st. From the feedback here, I'm guessing it's fine! I am learning as I go! :)

If we are in the schoolroom where her alphabet chart is close by, she will glance at it to remember how to do them right. But, we move around the house and don't always do school in the schoolroom and then she doesn't have that visual reminder. :) I will make her a smaller chart that she can tote along wherever she does her work so that she will always have one close by.

Thank you to all who replied. There were many helpful thoughts and suggestions, and I will check into some of them! :)
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Re: Handwriting question, MFW K

Unread post by MelissaM »

One other tiny suggestion might be when you are working on handwriting, don't have her do the whole handwriting page - just have her do 3 or 4 letter M's (or whatever), with the emphasis on doing them as perfectly as she can (not to pressure her into being perfect, just to encourage her to work diligently :) ), and then she can stop writing before she has the chance to get tired and/or distracted and/or forgetful.

But yeah, I wouldn't spend much time worrying about it - just keep working on it gently and slowly - and one day she will have whatever handwriting she is going to have, and she will know how to use a keyboard. :)
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