Handwriting, Copywork, and Journaling the Charlotte Mason Way

GettyDubay(Hand lettered by Barbara Getty)

Handwriting has never been my strong suit. I disliked the loopy cursive I was taught as a child, so I ended up writing with a sort of mishmash of cursive and print that I made up based on convenience. I haven’t dwelled on it much, but over the years I have noticed that my handwriting is (1) similar to several men’s handwritings and (2) nearly identical to that of my dad and my sister. Weird, I know. You would think if I halfway invented this style of writing it would be unique. To be fair, it is rare, and so it is that much more convincing when I have encountered a Post-It Note that I apparently wrote but have no recollection of writing. That actually happened to me at work when I was about 20 years old. A (male) coworker’s handwriting looked very much like mine.

Getty-Dubay / Cursive Italic

All this to say, I’m not super picky about my homeschool students’ handwritings Yes, I want them to write legibly, but the whole print vs. cursive debate is not one I care to enter. I was so happy to discover the Getty-Dubay style of handwriting (called “cursive italic”) that dispenses with the ornate loops but retains the joined letters of what most people consider “cursive” handwriting. In a 2009 New York Times article, the creators of the Getty-Dubay font – Inga Dubay and Barbara Getty – explained exactly where we get the term “cursive” and how their style of writing falls under that category:

Cursive does not necessarily mean continuously joined or looped letters. The root of the word “cursive” is the Latin cursus, past participle of currere, “to run.” Hence, cursive writing means “a running hand.” … Your running hand can have rapid, legible handwriting that is semi-joined or perhaps uses few, if any, joins. The choice about joining is yours. (New York Times, “Op-Art: The Write Stuff,” 8 September 2009)

So perfect! It’s quick, and it’s legible!

The article (a link to it is available on the Getty-Dubay web site) goes on to explain why non-loopy cursive is easier to read: Our eyes recognize the top half (instead of the bottom half) of letters. With loopy writing, the tops tend to look alike, so the eye has to spend extra time studying the full letter to read. When loops are left out, the eye recognizes the letters more quickly. The article has visuals that really bring this point home.

Another article published in The Oregonian (a link to this is also found on the Getty-Dubay web site) describes another distinction between looped cursive and cursive italic: Looped cursive is a relatively new invention. Schools in the United States began teaching looped cursive in the early 1900s. By contrast, cursive italic has been taught since the Italian Renaissance. The article also points out that the transition from basic italic (slanted printing) to cursive italic is much easier on students than the transition from block printing to looped cursive. And, as previously stated, cursive italic is infinitely more legible than looped cursive!

I have nothing against the mom who loves looped cursive or the student who wants to learn it. In fact, A8’s best friend has loved learning looped cursive. And, who can blame the little guy? When it’s done right, looped cursive is downright beautiful.  As for me and my house, we will write in cursive italic. As it turns out, Charlotte Mason would probably agree with me on this point (though I must admit I arrived at this on my own without consulting her). In her Volume 1, “Home Education,” Mason sings the praises of “Mrs. Robert Bridges” (aka Monica Bridges), a contemporary of Mason. Bridges had studied Italian manuscripts to develop a teacher’s book to aid in the teaching of handwriting. You can see samples of this style on the Ambleside Online web site. It looks very much like the Getty-Dubay style (which was developed in the 1970s).


Everyone who is all-in (or even half-in) with Charlotte Mason knows that handwriting and early spelling and composition skills are taught through “copy work.” For anyone new to the concept, copy work is basically done by the teacher choosing a well-written phrase – one sentence for young students, three or four sentences for older students – and has the student copy it. They only copy it once (not like Bart Simpson on the chalkboard) and to the very best of their ability (A8 enjoys adding an illustration, too). In our house, copy work is considered  “skills” work on the same level as mathematics practice. In fact, we tend to refer to both in the same breath: “math-and-copy work” because they are daily, automatic tasks done either just before or just after Circle Time. These are among the first tasks that my boys learn to do independently. I set out their copy page and math worksheet, and they just do it (unless it’s a new math unit, which requires a bit of teaching on my part).

Until now, I have hand written A8’s and L5’s copy work page. I pull a short passage from whatever we are currently reading, and I try to mix it up with passages that contain dialogue, proper nouns, colons or semi colons, question marks, etc. so that they are exposed to all of these elements. This fall we are going to try something new. I’m sending off to Educational Fontware, Inc., for a license to print (on my printer) in the Getty-Dubay style. Think of it as a worksheet generator. It prints the words and the lines on which the boys will write their copies. I’m super stoked!


In addition to his nature notebook, I would really like for A8 to begin journaling (about life, his thoughts, what he’s reading) this year. I’m not sure if I should give him a mixed media paper spiral bound notepad and just let that be his nature journal as well as his thoughts journal or if I should give him two separate journals. Part of me thinks by combining the journals into one, that pulls nature into his life, if that makes sense. If anyone has any words of wisdom on this, I’d love to hear them. Whatever I do for A8 tends to set a precedence for his brothers.

Until we meet again next Friday, be well.

I’m reading:


Moderately challenging books:

Stiff books:




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