We just got in these two new products from Clairefontaine that we special ordered weeks ago, specifically for handwriting and great for kids, and along with so much great interest from the recent Globe & Mail article on cursive handwriting, I thought I would share some tips on teaching your child handwriting.
We just had our Children’s Handwriting Class earlier this afternoon, which was a lot of fun! We had a few kids come over to the shop and I was a bit more prepared this time with some folders and worksheets and my favourite stickers. I learned about pet hamsters and new teachers for the school year, and the kids practised some cursive writing in purple and green and pink ink.
Inspired by kids learning cursive writing, of course I think about all you adults out there. We do offer calligraphy classes, but I’m more talking about ‘regular’ handwriting for taking notes at the office or writing a letter to your grandmother. We sometimes get customers who come in to get a fountain pen because they have an interest in improving their handwriting, and so having the right tools is important.
For a lot of us, we sometimes think we’d like to improve our handwriting (we’d like to lose weight, we’d like to clean out the garage, we’d like to…), but we just haven’t found that perfect starting point. When people ask how to improve their handwriting, the short answer is: there is no magic – it’s just practice, practice, practice.
Now, I’m not quite delving into the debate about whether or not cursive writing should be taught in public school, but if you are interested in spending some time on your handwriting, French ruled paper, or Seyes ruled paper, could be something to help you out.
Calligraphers also use this paper, sometimes ignoring the “rules” for standard handwriting, but using the lines to help get a consistent size – I’ve seen calligraphers using the Pilot Parallel pens with letters up to 15 or 20 lines high.
This paper looks super complicated, but if you spend some time with it, it’s actually not too complicated at all. The paper has thick lines with three thin lines in between each. These thin lines are supposed to help you keep the size and height of your letters consistent.
Seyes ruled or French ruled paper is widespread in France, and actually, I think you can find it in many countries in Europe. It’s often used by students, and I think the margin on the left (nice and wide!) is for teachers’ gentle encouragement/corrections. The vertical lines help with indentations for paragraphs or tables, as these notebooks could be used for a variety of school subjects. I’ve also read that generations of French school children used J. Herbin’s Poussiere de Lune ink, which is kind of a romantic thought! All that moondust 🙂
We have a customer who had grown up in France who comes in specifically for this Seyes ruled paper. She said since she’s come to Canada she’s been using “regular” paper, and her handwriting has been swooping all over the place uncontrollably (this is not the case, as I’ve seen her handwriting and it is perfect…ugh! The French and their eating endless varieties of cheese and never getting fat! And their perfect handwriting!!).
There are five rules to follow:
1. Capital letters go up to the third line.
2. Lower case “bodies” – like a, c, the circle part of d or p – go up to the first line.
3. Loopy stems go up to the third line – b, f, h, k, l.
4. Non-loopy or straight stems go up to the second line – just d and t.
5. Anything that goes below the line – f, g, j, p, q, y, z – go down two lines.
Really, basically everything goes up to the third line, or the first line, except d & t. If you keep that in mind, you just have to be careful about the d & t.
A popular warm-up exercise for calligraphers and handwriting teachers is to try drawing circles of consistent size across a line. I think you’re supposed to go fast to really loosen up the muscles, but I don’t think I’m at that stage yet – I’m still at the concentrate-really-hard-and-don’t-mess-up-because-you’re-taking-a-picture-for-the-blog stage, but don’t be afraid to mess up!
If you’re just starting out, it may help to take a letter that’s troubling you and write that letter over and over again. The next step might be to try connecting two letters of different heights, like a – f – a – f – a – f to practise getting from one height to the the next.
It takes practice! It takes some practice and concentration to get all that muscle memory working, so take a trip to your local cafe, or sit out on the porch in this fresh spring weather! And then, send me a letter in your beautiful (or you know, “unique”) handwriting 🙂
We have two types of notebooks in this Seyes or French ruling – an A5, softcover staple and we just got in an A4 softcover spiral bound. These are made by Clairefontaine, so the paper is excellent for fountain pens – although the lines are quite close together, so I might recommend a fine or extra-fine nib if you’re specifically practising your handwriting.
Interesting side note! When I was in college I spent some time teaching in Madagascar, an island country off the east coast of Africa. Madagascar was previously a French colony, and like Canada, they still have much of the vestiges of French language and culture around.
When I was there, a young stationery aficionado wandering around, I discovered Seyes ruled notebooks. Having never encountered them before at that time, I stocked up on a few, and I still have one left today!
The paper quality, however, is no Clairefontaine (and that’s being generous…).