I’ve always loved italics and calligraphy and my daughters have been quite keen to learn it, so I was very excited when we were given the opportunity to review Everyday Education, LLC‘s Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting, a one-book method by Caroline Joy Adams for teaching italic-style handwriting.
About Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting
As you can see from the cover, this book is not only an italics course, but primarily a phonics-based program for teaching any child how to read and write in 60 days. This is one of those lovely books I come across as a homeschooler and quickly realize that it is not just for homeschoolers but rather is an excellent tool for students in any educational setting! I would have loved this book back in junior high when I was teaching myself calligraphy in my spare time!
In the introduction, the author outlines four different ways the book can be used:
- To teach young children how to read and write.
- To teach children with reading difficulties to read effectively.
- To teach children to have fast, legible, attractive handwriting.
- To teach yourself beautiful handwriting.
I don’t have anyone ready to learn to read or struggling with reading right now (thank the Lord!) and I already do calligraphy myself, so we used this book for purpose #3. My 12-year old already has nice handwriting but has wanted to learn calligraphy for a while so she was keen to zoom through this book and get to the calligraphy section at the end. My 9 and 6-year olds have what I consider average handwriting so I allowed them to decide whether or not they wanted to try this system as it is quite a different system than what we have been using. They both wanted to give it a try so we are working through it together more slowly.
When I was first looking at this product, I was intrigued to see that students with dysgraphia and other penmanship difficulties often do better with italic than with traditional printing or cursive, as italic letters are based on the shape of a triangle and can be more easily formed and remembered than those that are based on an oval or round shape. None of my girls have found it to be all that different in practice, but none of us have those difficulties. (And I’ve never insisted that the circles in their letters be perfect.) I’ll be keen though to hear from someone who does have those difficulties whether they found using italics helped!
One thing I really appreciated was that all the samples on the practice pages are handwritten by the author (rather than machine-produced like so many handwriting curricula.) I agree with the author that giving students a mechanically-produced model they cannot possibly hope to reproduce can be discouraging and cause them to stop trying whereas samples that are neat but not perfect are much more motivating.
There were a few things we found confusing about the instructions. The author mentions several times in the introduction and in the instructions that one of the major benefits of the italic style is that so many of the letters are made in one stroke, but then we found that it took letters we usually make with one stroke and broke them into more strokes without explaining why. The most troubling of these was the lowercase “e,” pictured above. We could not for the life of us figure out why anyone would make it with two strokes the way the book describes, but when I asked some friends, they said other calligraphy books they’d seen did the same thing so I guess there must be a reason. It would have helped us had the reason been explained as I am not good at enforcing “rules” I don’t understand. :} So, all my kids are pretty much making lowercase “e” “wrong”, with one stroke instead of two. But it still looks pretty. (If someone could tell us the reason in the comments, we’d be forever grateful!)
I also found the way the author uses primary paper strange. With all our other handwriting curricula, we have always used the dotted line as our mid-line and called where she writes the basement (and only hanging letters like “j” and “g” go down there.) This wasn’t a big deal, but my girls, especially the younger ones, did find it a bit confusing and kept starting lines in the wrong place.
Bignificent’s Thoughts on Italics with Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting
I asked Bignificent if she wanted to share her thoughts on Perfect Reading, Beautiful Handwriting since she is the one who has spent the most time with it. She was happy to share.
I really enjoyed learning italics. I like it much better than regular printing and cursive. I like how quick it is and how many options there are. I like to write slanted, wide, and with a calligraphy pen. I like how all the examples are hand-drawn and how there is plenty of practice. I write italics just for fun even now. This course was very informative, interesting, and most importantly, fun.
While there was very little I didn’t like, there were a few things that I didn’t quite enjoy. The way they wrote lowercase e’s and uppercase G’s I found very confusing. Later my mom told me that one of her friends said that most calligraphy books were like that. I’m sure I could learn to write my letters like that. I just didn’t enjoy it at first.
The other was that some of the instructions weren’t explained as well as they could be. For example, on one page it said to never join from f’s and certain other letters. Then on the very next page, which was about all the possible joins that we could use, it had a row of possible joins from f’s. So that was confusing. It took us a few minutes to figure out that maybe the joins that you couldn’t do came from one point in the f and the possible ones came from a different area of the f, but it would have been nice if they had explained this better.
Here are screenshots of the two pages she mentioned above. In the first, as you can see, it says not to join from “f,” and then on the next page of practice, there is half a row of joins with “f.” My rule-following girl could hardly handle this one! 🙂
When we finished this review, we both looked it over and realized we had criticized this book a lot, but we really loved it and highly recommend it! You can see from the screenshots we included how lovely the practice pages are, and I just loved seeing my girl grab her iced coffee and her new calligraphy pen (which gets introduced after letter formation and joining are mastered) and actually ENJOY writing! The younger ones reacted the same way – they all really enjoyed handwriting with this program which is a far cry from pretty much everything else we’ve tried! We will absolutely continue using this program (although I may go hunting for a few explanations), and I’m strongly considering just using it with my boys from the start rather than the traditional ball-and-stick printing I’ve done with the girls.
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As a member of the Homeschool Review Crew, I received a free copy of this product in exchange for my honest review. You can see what my fellow Review Crew Members thought of it and a few other products from this vendor by checking out the Crew Blog Post for this review. I always love checking out everyone’s reviews as they always come up with creative ways I never would have thought of to use these things!