Monday, August 31, 2009

Barchowsky BFH Handwriting Review

This is an update to my earlier post on Fonts and other resources for handwriting.

I finally gave in and purchased BFH Fluent Handwriting. However, I bought it used, and all my comments are about the older version. (My book is blue with white writing and copyrighted 1997 and 1998.)

I've spent a bit of time with it, and it's definitely a love-hate relationship already. I love the style of writing and the approach to teaching it. I really like the warm ups that are included to encourage consistency and rhythm. However, as a program it is difficult to use. There is no clear index to what is on my CD. (I think the book should have included a printed version of the pages on the CD. Some pages, like worksheets with large print, could even have been shown in 1/2 size.) I have to use their program to look at the contents and pages appear in about 1/4 size on my screen. I can only read a page if I do a print preview, and I can only preview one page at a time. I'm also frustrated that I haven't found a single page to print to use as a reference to the alphabet. With the font that is included on the CD I can make one in Word, but it seems like an obvious thing to include in a handwriting program. (I looked into ordering them from the website, and the shipping for three 25 cent strips was $9!)

The book I have contains the same sections as the updated book. Note that the first section is, indeed brief, and goes from posture and how to hold the writing implement (which is indeed useful information) right to some of the patterns for warmups and the joins that go with each pattern. Introducing younger children to writing is not covered in the book. The CD, however, does include pages for teaching capitals (one page per letter) in alphabetical order, and pages for teaching lowercase (also one page per letter) grouped by letter family. I do really like the quick narrative for each letter. Some of them are especially fun like: g: "Gus the gopher runs around, jumps up, and goes down in his hole to curl up." The narratives for lowercase letters are grouped by letter shape, and those for uppercase letters are in alphabetical order.

The CD for the older book contains five folders: Basics 1, Basics 2, Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. I notice that the new version has a level 4, which my older CD does not have, but perhaps it doesn't have two Basics levels and the material is the same. In each folder are worksheets to print out, including patterns and letters and, at the higher level, words and words with joins. The first page or so of each file is nearly always text for the teacher to read, and it is this text that can't be read without using print preview or just printing the lesson. Some of the words used on some of the worksheets can be replaced by the user by typing new text.

I find the material poorly organized. For instance, after a little review, my fourth-grader is ready to start joining letters. However, the material for introducing that topic is split between the book and the CD. The book is perhaps more complete, but doesn't offer matching worksheets. To be clear my copy is old and the program has been revised. I don't know how many of my comments apply to the revised program and unfortunately, the website doesn't provide a lot of information.

The search for the perfect handwriting curriculum continues or rather, I need to forget it and build one from what I already own! (Getty-Dubay is calling to me - I've never seen it in person, and it adds up in price with three kids . . . .)

1 comment:

Wendy Hawksley said...

Thank you for posting your review. We are looking for a handwriting program, and I hear many good things about "Handwriting Without Tears". But Barchowsky was in the running. So far the overwhelming consensus recommends HWT. I'll have to do my own testing now!