Monday, August 20, 2007

Fonts and other resources for handwriting (mostly italic)

August 2009: See my updates a review of BFH and plans to create my own curriculum.

I've been thinking about buying either StartWrite or Educational Fontware, but I'm on the fence. I really only need one set of fonts, so I balk a bit at spending $25 - 35 for it. I have some educational fonts that I've found for free, so I thought I'd share what they are. I haven't seen these listed in one place. I prefer a slanted font, and currently I plan to teach cursive italics rather than traditional cursive. This is not intended to be a complete list, just a list of what interested me.

I would like to be able to make lines in the same proportion as the fonts, and so far that's been an issue with the free fonts I've found, although I could use the lines from the Learning Curve font even though I'm not planning to teach cursive.

When you evaluate a font, look at all the letters, upper- and lowercase. Is the lowercase a the form you like? How about the uppercase G? I'm partial to a nice upward slant on the bottom of a lowercase a, so I look for that. Check each letter, perhaps comparing them to the handwriting workbook of your choice.

These are the fonts that I've found that look useful:
  • Possibly the most useful font is free on all Windows computers -- Lucida Sans, when italicized, looks an awful lot like a nice italic hand. With this or any other font that doesn't come in a dotted or dashed version, you can use the Font dialog box to choose Outline format (or another format you like, such as engraved or raised). You could also make the font color gray, so that you can see what your child has written over the top. Windows Vista has some additional Lucida fonts such as Lucida Handwriting and Lucida Calligraphy that you may like.
  • Neal Font: a dotted slanted font. Possibly useful italic-like font, but difficult to read.
  • Jarman and Jardotty (select your computer type from the menu at the left): Nice dotted italic font. Make a worksheet based on Jardotty here. The creator of these fonts writes about handwriting here, including some animated suggestions for better handwriting.
  • Precursive New: a slanted font available with arrows, dashed, or as a regular unadorned font from BJU.
  • Foundation Handwriting: I don't like the C or c and the uppercase G, and I'd rather have a lowercase k without the loop. However, in italics, it's an italic cursive font (lowercase only), which may be it's most useful feature. I got the basic font for free, but I haven't found it again except as a set for sale. (Possibly here. Use a virus checker please!)
  • Print Clearly: An upright printed font available in a dashed version. From Blue Vinyl Fonts.
  • Skyland: an upright printed font with arrows.
  • Learning Curve: a cursive learning font, also available in a dashed font. Quite pretty. The font also includes dingbats for learning characters to create lined paper. From Blue Vinyl Fonts.
  • Kid Letter Font: D'Nealian style, includes lines, arrows, dots, and other options. $15

Some other resources:

  • has a page on free teaching fonts here:
  • had a category of school fonts (I think I've included the best above, but the one with only a bottom and a middle guideline may be useful to some)
  • has some cool handwriting fonts that could be useful helping an older student to develop a personal style.
  • This site has some great ideas about teaching italics -- could easily replace a book (click the Quick results, easy work link).
  • Another great site on learning and teaching italics, this one by Ted Power.
  • Donna Young has some handwriting pages, although she doesn't favor italics.
  • An overview of handwriting styles from Zaner Bloser. (Not actually from Zaner Bloser, according to Kate Gladstone. See comment section.)(Looks like Zaner Bloser actually bought this link since I made the post and Kate commented on it.)
  • Kate herself has a list of handwriting resources here (click the Resource People link at the bottom of the page).

For money:

That's it! Let me know if you find anything here useful!

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Charlotte Mason outside time

The weather has broken here after a long hot humid spell, so I decided today would be a good day to try to get our 4-6 hours outside, as Charlotte Mason recommends. This has been a typically up and down day.

I went out around 10am with the clippers. First I had to chase the kids off the non-Charlotte Mason approved computer. I took out my tree book to identify a tree near our driveway, and tried to get my five-year old interested in that, not particularly successfully (I think it's a Hickory tree). I spent awhile clipping, and after a little moping, the boys got busy drawing in chalk on the driveway. That is, until the five-year old freaks out about his brothers messing up his drawing. I have a little talk with the oldest about how important it is for the five year old to feel that he can draw (since he’s intimidated by how good his brother is at it), then I go around to clip in the back, after suggesting we separate the driveway so that middle boy can have his own part. Of course, the three-year old isn’t very good about following rules like this, but I’m not sure that came into play. Pretty soon the seven-year old comes running out with the five-year old in pursuit. Turns out the middle child has been throwing ice cubes at his big brother because he’s still mad about the drawing. thing. So I sent him to his room, and on the way he yells at me that I’m stupid, which earns him a little extra talking to.

Later, they swang for a bit, and then we had lunch outside, which was a little hard to coordinate, but we managed, and had a good 10 or 15 minutes, including noticing an interesting bug. I commented on our trees—which ones matched and which ones were different.

Later, my oldest wanted me to read with him, and at my suggestion he set up a spot for us with cushions while I did a little cleaning up in the kitchen. That worked for about fifteen minutes, and then the other two got a little too rowdy and we stopped to look at clouds for a few minutes.

After another break inside, I came out again to practice throwing a Frisbee. The middle boy turned on the hose, but the three-year old ended up in control! They had a good time, that is, until the five-year old freaked out about getting squirted when he didn’t want to be.

Tonight we have a Frisbee game, so that will be more time outside, so we’ve definitely exceeded the recommended time, but it ain’t easy! I find that most outside time is like this – some good, but a lot of issues, too.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

I Surrender! I Take It Back!

When I was a new mother of a single baby, I did not immediately surrender to motherhood. I especially did not surrender to homemaking. But as time went by and I had two additional babies (eventually, three children under five), I did. I was a mother and a homemaker, and I came close to embracing that role in my life as well as in at least one holiday letter sent out to friends and relatives. My relationship with housework has always been rough, but I do accept it as my responsibility, currently, although I do expect some help (and I don't do laundry).

But now I'm wanting to take a little back, to find a little ambition and figure out what to do with it. The first step is to permanently give up any thoughts of having any more babies. I know we're done, I really do, and there are plenty of good reasons not to have any more babies, but I still find it hard to state definitively that this is it. Nobody I tell believes me.

The second step may be to figure out which ambition to follow. Should I try to save the world? Should I try to write that bestselling historical novel? I have enviable leisure to figure that out; well maybe not leisure, exactly, but I don't have to work for a living, currently; I just have to take care of a house and three kids.

My biggest problem? I feel like my creativity is stuck, and I don't know how to crack it open. I think that my calling is to write. I am a published technical writer, but that, I'm almost sure is not my calling. I love to read. Lately my reading list has been a bit bland -- books about homeschooling, homemaking, and chick lit, mostly. But I'm a historical fiction nut. I love A Midwife's Tale, by Laurel Ulrich. I read fantasy: Judith Tarr, Ursula Le Guin, Shari Tepper, Anne McCaffrey. I like mysteries, but of all the genre's I read, I'd be surprised if I ever wrote mysteries. But where do I find the stories? I don't seem to have them. Maybe a scene here or there, but no complete story arcs. Maybe non-fiction is a better bet for me?

And then there's this baggage from my last worthwhile endeavor -- that is, being a mother to young kids. I still have those kids, and I'm still committed to giving them the best childhood that I can. It's just that I want to find a little something meaningful for myself, too. I'm petrified, that I'll look up in fifteen years and wonder what I thought I was doing with all that time. I recently listened to an interview with a homeschooling mother of one, whose life still seems to center around homeschooling -- her only daughter is 28! I don't want to send my boys to school, but I recognize that I'm afraid of the work of finding and following through with an alternative. There is an alternative school within commuting distance, but I'd have to work to pay the tuition. We have a relaxed lifestyle at home now, and that would change if we went that route.

And somewhere in there is finding some time for this new ambition. Although it's true that my kids are less work than when they were 0, 2, and 4 (they must be, right?), I find it hard to actually find that time in my day. Apart from creating and cleaning up three meals a day, plus snacks, plus keeping the house in acceptable shape, not to mention answering a hundred questions an hour with a smile on my face, there are plenty of family-type projects to work on, from photo albums to family movies to family room shades. And I've always struggled with routines -- I think I want one, I may even spend time creating one on paper, yet they never last for long. Yet I think that is what I need to carve out time for me.

Part of me is ready to jump right in, but another part of me thinks I need to educate myself first. I don't know enough to be able to write like Diana Gabaldon. And even though J. K. Rowling gets plenty of criticism, she seems to know plenty of history, mythology, and literature. Natalie Goldberg says to be specific: not just tree, but sycamore. I don't know anything about trees! But how to get there? What the heck did I do for nineteen years of school?! I think it has to be independent study, but I wish I had a way to make myself accountable for it.

But that is the beginning of my plan: 1) Read. Read more widely. Read things that are difficult. Think about and form opionions about what I read. 2) Write. Attempt to write fiction. If scenes are all I have, then just write scenes.