Dotted letters are very effective for handwriting practice too. You can buy handwriting practice books but they won`t be personalized for your child so you may want to consider getting a dotted font for your computer. Make sure you get the same style as your child is using at school to avoid making handwriting more complicated for them! It`s easy to install a font on your computer and then you will be able to create name cards or type out a little story your child tells you. Once printed out the child can trace over the dotted letters. Probably the most important point is to supervise children closely whenever they are writing. That way parents and teachers can ensure that the child has a good tripod pencil grip for control. Supervision should also ensure that children start each letter in the right place and move the pencil in the right direction. Getting the letter formation correct is much more important than neatness in the early stages. If children get into the habit of starting a letter in the wrong place or moving in the wrong direction, for example drawing the letter o in a clockwise direction instead of anti-clockwise, these habits will easily become ingrained and very hard to correct later.
The fashion for cursive writing comes and goes. Many years ago all children were taught to write in an elaborate cursive script, requiring many hours of weekly practice to perfect. Over the years as other subjects began to crowd out handwriting lessons in the school curriculum this gradually gave way to teaching a basic print style of handwriting (ball and stick). Many people now believe that keyboarding skills are more important than good handwriting. Others believe that even computer keyboards will soon be defunct with speech recognition software becoming more popular. However, many schools do still teach cursive writing. Traditionally schools teach children a simple print style of handwriting first, moving on to cursive at a later stage. This has the advantage that the initial letter shapes are less complex to write and most of them match the style of letters which children come across in their reading books. One disadvantage is that children spend many hours practicing one style of handwriting only to be told after two or three years that they now need to write in a completely different style. As any teacher or parent knows, it`s very hard to get children to `unlearn` well-established habits, whether it`s thumb-sucking or a writing style.
In looking at work for the first grade, following Steiner`s indications, we would begin with two lines: the straight and the curved. The first year is the year when the child gains uprightness - so in this posture the child actually "draws" this form with her upright body. So you see it`s not just about drawing a line or letters or writing words... the reasons Steiner set forth for his specific methods of teaching go much deeper and as a Waldorf home educator you really do need to do the homework to understand completely what is going on. You must have a real understanding of coordination, movement, senses... the human ego and will forces and the soul force. Waldorf is about willing, thinking, feeling and all of this is going on in your child at all times! Physical movement with the child`s entire body should always precede any attempt at putting anything on paper. The child should be asked to stand straight with their arms straight above their heads. They should be able to run a straight line forward. They should attempt it with their eyes closed, then walk the line backwards and so on. Then they should draw the line in the air in front of them, and practice drawing it with their arms, hands, legs... A Ribbon stick is a wonderful tool for this practice.