Homeschooling with SPD: Handwriting / Language Arts


One of the hardest things for me when teaching my daughter is the huge ability gap between different subjects, or even within a subject.

For example, she reads on at least a 3rd grade level.  It’s likely higher, but I haven’t ventured any higher because it’s hard enough finding age appropriate content in a chapter book.  Thankfully, she still loves to read “easier” things like Dr. Seuss, and various picture books – but she blows through them in seconds.  She taught herself, and I can’t explain it.  I’m super proud of her, I just wish I knew the secret.

Her phonics and spelling ability are more on age level, which can be a challenge in relation to the reading.  She can read difficult words, but not sound them out or attempt to spell them.  She can read the word on paper, and she knows the sounds the letters make, but she can’t always *hear* them when trying to sound out a word to spell it.

This makes it hard to find a specific homeschooling curriculum for Language Arts.  She still needs to learn the Kindergarten phonics rules, but the readers that some curriculums use are way too easy for her.  Last year I tried to buy up a couple levels for one curriculum so that the readers (for the child to read) would be more on her level.  However, what I failed to consider was that the rest of the language art lessons were then much too advanced for her – especially the copywork. Some of the days had several sentences that they were supposed to copy.

We are still working on writing capital letters correctly.

Handwriting, is incredibly hard for Lovebug.  Her gross and fine motor skills are delayed so it’s physically difficult for her.  She’s also a perfectionist, so it’s emotionally hard on her as I correct her hand position or remind her to start her letters at the top.  Today we were working on the letter A, and she traced the capital & lowercase version 5 times each.  After that, she was to color a picture of an alligator. Normally, the coloring is relaxing for her & she loves it, but today it was extremely stressful.  Her fingers were tired from the letter tracing, her mind was tired from agonizing over her mistakes, and she was practically in tears trying to think about what color she wanted to color the alligator.  She said “I just can’t figure out where to start!”

It’s like her brain just says “I quit! I’m not thinking any more!”.

I use the Handwriting Without Tears program and LOVE it! It is a program created by an Occupational Therapist and uses a multi-sensory approach to writing.  It’s awesome for her and is definitely helping.  It’s just that when we take a break (like over the holidays), any ground we’ve gained…we lose.  I guess I need to stop taking breaks.  We are using the Preschool workbook right now, and once we are done with that we’ll move on to the Kindergarten book – even if she’s in 1st or 2nd grade.  I told her I don’t care how long it takes her, I will keep working with her until she gets it.

I changed one thing this year over last year that has helped minimize both my stress and my daughter’s.  When I am teaching handwriting, we spend 10-20 minutes on it and I correct her hand position, letter formation or pencil grip as needed.  Once the handwriting lessons are over, I’m done correcting.  If she wants to write a card for Daddy, or copy words from a book, or write in her adventure journal – she can do it freely.  This used to bother me because I felt like if she keeps practicing it wrong, it will be that much harder to teach her the right way.  However, that backfires too because if I spend so much time correcting her, she feels like a failure and hates writing completely.

I’ve noticed this year that she has many times initiated writing on her own.  She’s written a story, added words to a poster, and several other things that she would have never done if she had expected me to correct her every move.  This way, I can encourage her to enjoy writing, while also spending an appropriate amount of time each week teaching her how to do it correctly.

We’ll get there.  Eventually.  Then, she’ll learn to type and never handwrite anything again.

What have you found that works for you? Or doesn’t work?

5 thoughts on “Homeschooling with SPD: Handwriting / Language Arts

  1. Thanks for this post! My 12 year old son, who get’s bussed for a gifted program through our public school (so a definite smarty) has the WORST handwriting I’ve ever seen! You’ve inspired me to work with him on it, as I’ve ignored it for so long, justifying it by telling myself he’ll get over it. I’m going to check out the Handwriting without tears program for sure!

  2. Thanks for this! My son was diagnosed with Asperger’s less than a year ago. He is 10. Also very bright and in the GT program at school, and his handwriting still looks the same as it did in kindergarten! The teachers have given up and told him it doesn’t matter how he forms the letters! And somehow he is a Lego GENIUS. I am still trying to figure him out. Looking forward to exploring more of your site.

  3. Hey cuz,

    She propably has dysgraphia. Here is a link explaining a little more about it. Luna has it as well, and she will NEVER write like everyone else. Start teaching her to type now. Get jump start typing or garfields typing. After six years of therapy, and lots of handwriting workbooks, including handwriting with out tears. She is able to write legible if she tries super hard, but only for a sentence or two. I wish I could go back to those early years, I would have just taught her how to type. Then used writing as a fun activity, maybe she wouldn’t hate it so much now.

  4. I would encourage you to keep going on the handwriting but to start keyboarding! I know my son will write much more if he can type it- not only because it is physcially easier for him, but because he knows that once he is finished getting his thoughts out he will have to go back and edit for spelling, grammar, etc and that means REWRITING!! While is typing skills are quickly improving, I wish I would have saved lots of tears (his and mine!) by jumping on the keybording bandwagon earlier.

    We enjoy Dance Mat Typing on the BBC website ( ).

  5. I home school my 6 year old grandson who has been diagnosed with SPD. He hates handwriting, so I’ve done a bit of research. I’ve read that after a year of basic handwriting, it’s best to switch to cursive because it is easier for the children to form the letters correctly. We currently use Handwriting Without Tears, which is good, but it certainly hasn’t made him like to write. I intend to start him on cursive next year, but as long as his writing is legible enough to be read, I’m not going to obsess over it. Beautiful penmanship is a fairly lost art. With the use of word processors, I’m more concerned with his ability to think clearly and write a cohesive sentence than with how he forms his letters. I feel there are enough important challenges for him to overcome. Is being able to print really all that important? I agree with the approach of working on it for 10 minutes or so, then not worrying about it.

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