Handwriting Without Tears

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  • Reviewed on Monday, September 26, 2011
  • Grades Used: Up to 5th
  • Dates used: 2009-2011
My concerns with HWTears go beyond how far I have actually seen it worsen at least some children's handwriting while they thought they were doing better (in some cases, while the writing remained clear at slow speeds, increased use of the program tended to weaken or remove the ability/willingness/desire to write clearly -- or at all -- when it had to be any faster than some slllloooooooooowwww practice pace.)
For me, an even bigger concern has been my knowledge of HWTears' tactics when they market to non-homeschool educators. HWTears requires schools/districts that adopt the program to buy a certain dollar amount or quantity of HwTears stuff per year, as calculated by HwTears on the assumption that 100% of the kids will be using HwTears. As long as any school/district meets or exceeds that number of orders, HwTears gives that school or district an 80% discount on the cover price ... but the day a school/district ever less than the agreed-upon quantity, the discount is voided and the school or district has to suddenly pay 5 times as much for whatever amount they're still buying. You might think that more of them would quit buying from HwTears completely at that point, but normally they've signed HwTears' standard contract which apparently specifies that they have to stick with HwTears as their most-common handwriting program/supplier/training-provider for at least 7 years after they sign.
Therefore, it's very unusual for schools/districts that have signed on to the program to think about removing any students from it when it isn't working well for them — because, the minute a kid is removed, that makes it so much more expensive for the school/district (that was "locked into" still buying into it for everyone else, now at the new full price which is 5 times higher than what the district had been led to plan on paying.) In my observation and experience, this is creating tremendous administrative and personal  pressures (including ethical pressures) on many teachers and support staffers in HWTears-using schools. Specifically: if a teacher has 30 kids and s/he reports that the program isn't working for one or more of them, s/he may be officially pressured into withdrawing that observation — or it may just be officially ignored by whoever chose the program & is therefore paying HwTears for it every year — because "if you discontinue it for even one student just because it isn't working for that one student, you're making it prohibitively expensive for all the others, which means that you are sacrificing the school for just this one kid." (quote from a principal to a teacher)
    Therefore, a pattern is developing — among some teachers, at least — of stating that unsuccessful students in this program are successful, so that the school keeps getting the discount for something it was "locked into" buying anyway. It's becoming common — among teachers hereabouts, anyway — for teachers to say that a student who isn't succeeding in handwriting to say that this student "is another success of HwTears"  if the student is able to do one or more of HwTears' many non-handwriting activities, such as singing a song about handwriting or watching a puppet-show about handwriting. This way, the teacher cannot be accused of reporting that some of the kids aren't succeeding with HwTears and may inconveniently need something else instead.

Granted that the above isn't a homeschool situation, is that the kind of maneuvering that homeschoolers aim to bankroll for anyone?


  • Reviewed on Tuesday, February 1, 2011
  • Grades Used: K-1st
  • Dates used: 2009-2011
This curriculum couldn't be more accurately named. Handwriting without tears is the curriculum that finally brought peace to my daughter's handwriting lessons!

She used to whine and cry and refuse to do her lessons and when she finally did her handwriting was almost illegible!

This program has been such a relief for me to use. I love it more than I could possibly say. I'd pay double or triple what they charge for it.

I bought the full on package, magnetic board, wood blocks, everything but really the only thing I use regularly are the workbooks and that's plenty!

I STILL hear my daughter occasionally using the tips the book teaches... "magic c, up like a helicopter..." as she writes her letters neatly. LOVE this program and couldn't recommend it enough!

Calming Tea

  • Reviewed on Tuesday, December 28, 2010
  • Grades Used: 1st, 2nd
  • Dates used: 2010-2011
TRY IT! You will NOT be disappointed! And the different letter shapes are NOT ugly. THey turn out great for children. AND the paper difference doesn't confuse kids. You can use HWOT paper and easily use 3 lined paper in other subjects with no problem, if you really need to.

When I started homeschooling, I thought that handwriting could be accomplished easily. After all, I only have vague memories of handwriting, and I never remember *crying* over it. Why did everyone make such a big deal about Handwriting without Tears?

I never used it with my son, and ended up putting him into cursive early, in order to stop letter reversal issues. I used Calvert Script with him (which is a LOT like HWOT, only harder to teach, with less teacher help.)

Then I started my 2nd child, my daughter, on A Reason for Handwriting. She just could not make nice neat letters! And was having a lot of letter reversals. This was my 2nd time using A Reason for Handwriting, and now I realize it wasn't my kids, it was the handwriting program. It was not EASY for kids to learn.

SO I finally switched her to Handwriting without Tears and she loves it. I love it. Her writing is FAR neater. THe Teacher's Manual is excellent and provides great reminders and explanations.

My dd finished HWOT 1 and moved right into Reason for Handwriting Transition. She practiced her manuscript and then was ready for cursive with Reason for Handwriting. Handwriting without Tears was a good start for her.


  • Reviewed on Sunday, October 24, 2010
  • Grades Used: K, 1, 2, 3
  • Dates used: 2007-2010
Snapshot: kids who use this program will have legible writing without reversals, ultra simple instructions to follow, and will write fluidly instead of drawing their letters. The experience of learning handwriting will be a warm, fun, comfortable one. I considered it cheap, did not buy all the extras.

I first used HWT books at home because my older children were not getting any handwriting instruction in school and I couldn't read their writing. For that purpose, probably any workbook would have been fine.

I have now used HWT with 2 homeschooled kids with no previous writing experience, and their writing is lovely! We did the chalkboard, erase with with sponge, trace with finger-and kindergartners love this. I did not want to pay $29 for the wood pieces, but you can download the pattern for them online and print in on card stock and that works good too. My 2nd grader reverses some numbers, but not b or d! (p.s., we never did the number pages in the book!)

Most importantly, handwriting time was a warm, happy, loving time for us: i.e., NO TEARS! All the sensory experiences: chalk, sponge, water, pencils on nice paper, songs, movement-we love it.