Monday, August 30, 2010

Peterson Directed Handwriting (TOS Homeschool Crew Review)

Trace these letters on this paper.  Now trace these numbers on this paper.  And now trace these letters again. Tracing, tracing and more tracing.

That's the way a lot of homeschool moms believe is the best way for a child to learn to write.  I held the same belief, until I received Peterson Directed Handwriting ("PDH") to review as part of the TOS homeschool review crew.  PDH has been around since 1908, and my understanding of its basic philosophy is that handwriting begins with a visual image of letters/numbers and muscle memory, and that process then translates to smaller muscle memory and handwriting fluency.  (I say "my understanding" because there is a lot of information on methodology, etc. on the website to review before you even start teaching.)  Once the muscles know the rhythm/movements for letter formation, fluent writing follows.  I had never thought of that, but the girls' karate teacher and ballet teacher have all mentioned muscle memory from time to time, so it makes sense to me that it would also apply to something like handwriting.

The website itself ( has so much information that the company should charge admission (although I'll admit that there's *so* much information that it was sometimes confusing to me due to the way it's presented on the website).  There is a ton of  information in the website's resource library here, and a very informative audio/visual presentation on PDH's methods/philosophy here.  Very eye-opening - highly recommend you view it.  There is a plethora of other information - I think your first step should be to explore the entire website and digest some of the information.  When choosing which level to start with, reading the Where Should I Start? article might help.  Another bonus - Rand Nelson ("Mr. Pencil"!) of PDH sets up web meetings to help - I found his insight (both instructions on the program itself and individualized pointers for my children) invaluable.  Mr. Nelson can be contacted at or 1-724-837-4900.  He seems to have a real passion for helping kids have legible, fluent handwriting.

Let me back up a bit.  For this review, I received the print program e-books - print step 1, step 2 and step 3, each of which retails for $19.95 (see more details on the e-books offered here).  (There are other purchase options, including kits - go here to see a list of the products available, and here for more detailed information, including pricing.)    With the instructions I received on the web from Mr. Nelson and these e-books, I was ready to get started (although in hindsight I wish I had ordered some of the available accessories (position guides, grip guide, special pencils, etc.) - I may yet order those.  (Note that the kits include many of these "extras".)  I noted that the instructions in the step 2 e-book seem to be a bit more detailed than those in the e-book for step 1.  You can view all the e-books here (printing is disabled, though), so that may be helpful for someone starting with the step 1 e-book.

Since my girls have been writing for a while, they have bad habits firmly ingrained - so we're taking this program very slow.  I'm also going slow because I've met with a bit of resistance (you know, the "mommy, we already know how to write these letters!" protests).   Obviously, this program would have worked better for us if we had started it to begin with.  At the time of my writing of this review, we're still working through the program.  While I don't care for all of the parts of this program (some letters look odd to me; I prefer to have the girls use continuous strokes for as many letters as possible, and some of the PDH program uses "stops" on some letters), I will probably continue with it because I'm seeing improvement.  I will at least continue with the parts that work on muscle memory.  

Also, I've found the ideas/tips regarding paper placement, hand/arm placement and pencil grip.  

The Peterson method uses four basic steps:

1 - illustrate and describe
2 - write in the air and say
3 - finger trace and say
4 - write and say 

The girls thought "air writing" was quite fun.  We've always had problems with the size of their writing, so we started out doing really big "air letters", and then made a game of making them smaller.   We also did the same process on our white board.  Their letter size on paper is not quite where I'd like it just yet, but it has improved since we started.  PDH's auditory cues for teaching letter formation ("tall down, roll around" for b; "hook around" for c; "hook down, cross" for f) have also helped.

The above animation is a sample of the auditory cues, but also a sample of some cool animated letter formations available on CD here for $17.95!  Note that I did not receive this CD as part of this review, but found it while exploring the website - it looks so cool that I think the girls would love it and I think we'll be purchasing this CD. The CD includes letter formations for vertical print, slant print and cursive.

I really like most of this program; the parts I don't like we are "tweaking" to work for us.

To see other reviews of this product, click here. For giveaways, other product reviews and other fun things, follow the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Crew blog at:

Disclaimer: As part of the 2010-2011 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, I received a complimentary copy of the product in this review in exchange for my fair, honest and unbiased (and not necessarily positive) review. No other compensation was received.


  1. Great job on the review! I gave you the Sunshine Blog Award. Stop by my blog for the details.

  2. Great job on the review. I just gave you the Sunshine Blog Award. Stop by my blog for the details.