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Handwriting Without Tears

Handwriting Without Tears is designed to meet the developmental needs of students learning how to write. The program starts with capitals. Why? Kids don't mix up the capital letters they way they do p, q, b, and d. Moreover, the capitals are all constructed of only four distinct shapes, all of which are relatively easy to write.

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Most of us don't think of these skills, but consider: good handwriting requires the ability regularly to distinguish certain shapes and to translate those distinct mental images into consistent physical motions in one's hand. It requires the ability to hold a writing instrument in a comfortable manner. It requires the writer to consistently follow certain well-defined, pre-prescribed motions....(There are more skills, but I just want to give you a taste.)

In keeping with its developmental concerns, Handwriting Without Tears offers extremely basic exercises in figure-ground discrimination and top-to-bottom, left-to-right sequencing.

Handwriting Without Tears uses a unique (in the United States) two- rather than three-line writing paper. (The author says that beginning writers who are taught using three-line paper often lose track of which lines they are supposed to be aiming for-and so their writing will often move (up and down) between, over and across the various lines. The two lines, by contrast, are easily distinguished, and each two-line pair is strongly separated from the next.)

Handwriting Without Tears has been wonderful! Both of my kids love it. The methods are engaging, easy to remember, and they help kids form neater letters. The very first day, with just the 2-line paper, my son's writing improved (I was surprised!). And, my children's writing doesn't look like Handwriting Without Tears, it looks like their own version. I got My Printing Book for both of them so I haven't used any of the other books yet. You can always change to a "prettier" style if you have a child who wants to put the time and artistry into making beautiful letters. But for methods — hands down, Handwriting Without Tears is the best.

— Merry, 17 May 2005

Note: If you choose the Handwriting Without Tears program, you will notice that they introduce letters in a different order than we do in the Instructor's Guide. This is on purpose since the handwriting program starts with the letters that are the easiest to write and progresses to those that are formed similarly.

When teaching letter sounds, we are preparing your child for reading. What is important to learn first for reading is not necessarily the easiest to learn to write.

Some of the potential advantages of Handwriting Without Tears:

  • It works. Even with kids who face significant learning challenges and physical limitations. (If you're a member of the Sonlighters Club, go to Special Needs-Learning Challenges Forum to talk with some unbelievably pleased moms!)
  • You'll find that it makes sense to you as you are trying to teach.
  • Users say it's particularly easy to use with left-handed students.

Primary potential disadvantage:

  • Letter forms are slightly modified from the "traditional." Print characters tend to be narrow, with long ascenders and descenders (the lines that go above the "middle" line and below the "bottom" line on traditional, three-line writing paper). Cursive letters are formed in a completely upright rather than slanted position. These modified letters may appear unattractive to people who have been trained more conventionally.