The training comes as public schools and teachers are putting a renewed emphasis on writing as part of an overall curriculum. While many educators thought that with the advent of computers and smart pads handwriting would eventually be displaced by keyboarding skills, new research is showing that the skills of drawing letters on paper can stimulate learning and creative processes in children. Studies find that children who communicate through handwriting tend to be more creative and more accurate in presentations than children who type directly onto the printed page.
The leaning processes for Handwriting without Tears were developed by two occupational therapists, Jan. Z. Olsen and Emily Knapton who were expert in age appropriate learning processes, helping children learn in ways that are fun and build confidence. The activities teach children about the formation of letters and improve their fine motor skills, said Melissa McHugh, a Burleson ISD special education teacher who provided in-service training to DKH teachers on handwriting without tears. An experienced educator, McHugh said she was delighted as she applied Handwriting without Tears. It changed the way she taught and managed the classroom. “Jan and Emily have thought about gifted children, special needs children and children who are right square in the middle of average,” she explained.
Because state curriculum standards have pushed reading and writing skills into kindergarten, many children have difficulty and frustration being required to demonstrate skills for which they are not developmentally ready. For example, curriculum standards now require that children begin keeping a written journal by December of their kindergarten year. Just starting school, many have not had time to master the fundamentals of writing and if they begin using a pencil and pen on paper without the right kinds of skills, they are likely in a rush and develop bad habits that will be difficult to unlearn when they progress further in education. Handwriting without Tears takes into account where children are in their learning processes, using activities with blocks of wood and crayon to form letters and spell out the names. “We never ask them to hold a pencil,” McHugh said. “They meet with success after success and it is amazing how that builds their confidence,” she explained.
In schools and in her home where she is raising two boys, McHugh said that she spends a lot of time helping students eliminate and remediate bad habits of children who have not learned to write properly. “This prevents those bad habits,” she said.
McHugh, who put on a special one-day seminar for DKH Academy personnel said she found a receptive audience she knew would apply the principles well. “They are an amazing group of women,” she said.
Handwriting without Tears is just one of the DKH Academy programs that help children reach developmental goals while having fun and building self-esteem. “Our staff is made of highly educated, dedicated professionals who are passionate about the education of young children,” said Shelley Easler, Director. Easler, who holds a masters’ degree in speech and language pathology along with numerous certifications in early childhood and preschool education, has been working in education since 1980. The staff is made up of experienced, degreed teachers who frequently attend seminars and workshops promoting excellence in the education of the young child.
Easler said that the works of noted childhood theorists Dr. Arnold Gesell, Dr. Jean Piaget and Dr. Maria Montessori provide the framework and foundation of the processes at DKH Academy. DKH stands for “Das Kinder Haus,” which means “The Children’s Home” in German. The school buildings and grounds look much like the residences in the surrounding neighborhood. “It is a nice transition from home to a “big” school,” Easler explained. “The children feel secure when their surroundings are familiar and warm.”
For more information on DHK Academy, visit its website at DkhAcademy.org.