Jan 23, 2008

what's in a name?

a new obsession

She has a new obsession. Once you learn how to write your name, the graffiti-urge takes over. You write it on paper, in the sand, with paint - I envision the child's inner Julie Andrews twirling about while singing: "The hills are alive ... with the beautiful letters of my name!"

What a fantastic moment.

As a child, did a good part of your doodle-time consist of trying out different ways to write your name? I remember going through the peer-pressure induced "the dot over the 'i' in Meggie must have a heart" phase. Or the dramatic cursive slant that mirrored my "I'm a deep-thinking artist" phase at age 16. Then came the default scribble with a hint of an "M" post-secondary. My handwriting turned out to be more like my father's than I would have ever dared to imagine.

All of this talk of handwriting makes me nostalgic. Even in my generation, beautiful handwriting is not a staple. We are the masters of the keyboard. How wonderful would it be to exchange handwritten letters with a loved one? Of course, we all sign our names and write in a few cutesy sentences in birthday cards. But when was the last time you poured out your soul onto paper? I personally can't recall. I do all of my emotional release in person, on the phone, or through email.

And this makes me wonder - will my children ever handwrite much more than their names? What society doesn't necessitate - does it become needless, with little value? After all, the written word is powerful, possessing the ability to transmit thoughts and feelings across space and time. But, of course, this can be done just as easily with the help of a computer keyboard.

Many answer-less questions. What I am certain of, however, is that children are meant to adapt to the society into which they are born. From language acquisition to musical ability, the child's brain is wired to become adept at situations that he or she frequently encounters. For example, if a child grows up in a household that has the luxury of books and parents who love to read, the child will have a deep desire to learn to read, too - just to fit in. If books are not a part of the child's daily life, the child will not be as inclined to express an interest in the written word.

The world changes, but children continue to adapt. The question is whether or not these adaptations are neutral, helpful, or harmful. I tend to think that the question of handwriting versus typing is fairly neutral when it comes to the health and happiness of a person and of society at large. There are other questions that are more pressing, such as the dramatic negative changes that television and child-directed marketing brings about in the mind and body of a child. More on that later.

In the meantime, I'm considering reading this book, or perhaps this one.


P.S. Thanks for all of your pre-order love! Keep the orders coming - they'll be sent out on February 8th.


Jess L. said...

I feel that writing - handwriting, as a craft and pursuit and even just a daily activity - won't ever really die. I mean, I type at 110 words per minute. I don't like writing things long out by hand. But I DO enjoy putting pen to paper, making lists, and taking advantage of a medium that allows you to move in any direction at all times without worrying about switching drawing tools or futzing around with switches and such.

The appreciation of beautiful writing is still alive in the world - just ask my friend Monica, whose everyday handwriting gets so many oohs and aahs that she's made a flickr set of pages from her notebook. Here's a good one: http://flickr.com/photo_zoom.gne?id=231558530&context=set-72157594330489552&size=l

Emily said...

I feel weird posting on the blog of a complete stranger, but I do regularly check your blog and appreciate your thoughts on kids.

For me, there's something very cathartic about handwriting things. I don't always keep up with my journal, but forcing myself to put something into words and WRITING it with my own hand helps me to understand my own thoughts and feelings and also to resolve whatever problems I might be feeling. There is nothing like brainstorming on paper or doodling out designs. There are a lot of things you can't do on a computer. Even planning out meals for the week seems to flow best when I hand write the lists.

Beautiful penmanship has changed, certainly, but it is still valued (think of classes or books on scrapbooking titles). And I love letters that are handwritten. Just for the fun of it, I've even written letters with real ink and a calligraphy nib. Being a creative person, I bet you'd find the same enjoyment out of writing by hand.

Montessori By Hand said...

Oh, I do certainly enjoy handwriting! I do a LOT of it, as I record my daily observations of my students. I also very much value the artistic expression of beautiful penmanship - jess l. - what incredible handwriting your friend has! I just think it's interesting how quickly technology has changed society, and it certainly seems to be moving rapidly away from the necessity of handwriting, which I think is sad. :( I, too, don't think that handwriting for enjoyment will ever disappear - I just wonder about those who don't view it as form of expression, but rather a chore. (And there are many out there, my husband included! :)


Amber said...

Yes, a post that is a passion of mine.

I grew up perfecting my handwriting. It went through many stages. While in high school, I learned 'typing.' That was before 'keyboarding.' Though I still take pride in my handwriting skills, I seldom use them.

My daughter has wonderful handwriting. I love it. Recently, she wrote a "book." Though I gently suggested she handprint the text, she insisted upon typing it out and printing each page. I felt a little sad at this because I love seeing her writing. I also realized it's inevitable---keyboarding is pushed more than handwriting in many schools now.

I'm nostalgic, though, and still LOVE to receive a handwritten note---it's all the more special.

Marcy said...

My husband, who in spite of years of early Montessori schooling still ended up with chicken-scratch handwriting =P, says he cannot wait until handwriting is made obsolete. I myself am a bit saddened thinking of the day we'll amaze our grandchildren with stories of these old-fashioned "pens" and "pencils" that we used to use "back in the day." I have become addicted to online blogging, but I also love writing by hand and fill up notebooks regularly-- not with thoughtful entries but with lists, notes, things to remember, etc. I've thought about switching to electronic PDAs or things like that, but in the end I love my notebooks and pads of paper too much-- it's just easier that way. And so while I certainly agree with you that there are other issues in our rapidly-changing world that might take more precedence, I will be sad watching writing become less and less needed, less and less used.

meg said...

It makes me a little sad, but more and more often I find myself thinking that I'll need to type a letter if it ever wants the hope of getting to the recipient. As if I couldn't *possibly* find the time to scribble it on stationery.

Dallas said...

Beautiful post. I miss the art of handwritting, and I'm on the tail end of it going out. My mother has beautiful script, with letters that are all even and pretty, but my handwriting is awful, because I was typing on computers early in my life.

I have found it interesting how my signature has recently changed with getting married and changing my name. I had a very distinct way of signing my name before my wedding, but I don't know how to write my new last name in cursive - it just doesn't feel natural, so I end up just making a squiggle instead.

Bethany Hissong said...

As an art teacher I often wonder about this. My children's teachers usually hate to teach handwriting, preferring to spend that time on keyboarding. If drawing is such an important right-brained activity, then why wouldn't handwriting also do something to stimulate the intelligence? I don't think we have begun to understand the importance of mark-making. I tell people who say that they can't draw, "if you can write your name, you can draw!". But how true is that anymore? This is a fascinating topic for me! Thanks for addressing it!

Anonymous said...

A dear friend of mine from college used to hand write long letters to each other for several years after she moved to another city. The hand written, hand illustrated and collaged letters are some of the things I treasure most in the world, a record of us at that point in our lives, before we each got married and had kids. I have not written many letters since that time.

Anonymous said...

I love, love, love your blog. There is a meme going around blogland that asks you to list the blogs that make you smile.. you made my top 10 for sure!

Diana said...

Oh my! Just today my hubby and I didn't agree on something and instead of emailing him I decided to write a love letter. What a coincidence!

Heather said...

Wow, this was great, A lot to think about.

One Hook said...

Interesting post. I've often wondered if handwriting will at one point become obselete. To answer - yes, eventually I think it will...but, I also read a lot of science fiction! hee hee

I can't remember the last time I wrote a letter instead of an e-mail. It kind of makes me sad.

AnnieB said...

thought provoking post - I need to mull this one over. I can't remember when I last received a handwritten letter...

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Hello, I signed up for your email list, but I didn't get the email about the pre-orders. My email is amaranth3@prodigy.net and I did do the confirmation- maybe I signed up too late?

guam_mummy said...

Hello Meg......what a wonderful blog....I am just new to your posts. Thanks for this one on particular. Obviously I'm not anti-computer as I am using one :) However I love to write letters by hand rather than emails and I absolutely feel my soul spring when I receive a hand written letter .......its as if the writer's soul goes into the letter so much more. I think I'm going to read all your archives now and I'm a fan already. Thankyou.

Em said...

So true... I wonder if my daughter (5 yrs old) will ever want to write letters to anyone. Right now she's enjoying writing love notes to her 'boyfriend' in her class, but other than that, it's just her name. I need to try to write more around her too I guess. That might encourage her more. She asked the other day if she could 'type a story to Aunt Kathy?'... and I let her! Em

Maluhia said...

just received my patterns yesterday and i can't wait to make an apron. they look great! is there a flickr site to post pics for finished products? can't wait to see more of your patters!

grace said...

i have 2 girls, a 2yr old and a 3mth old, and i was doing some research on montessori for my elder girl when i stumbled across your blog. i like how you write, insightful and genuine. i've already "favourited" you, and i look forward to reading more whenever i have the time, which for now is not often haha!
anyway, i just want to add that i believe that something handwritten has so much more soul to it, ESPECIALLY when so little is handwritten these days. that's why i keep journals for my 2 girls, i started one for each from pregnancy onwards, i write in them regularly, documenting their growth, funny incidents,happy moments, my feelings about them, things i want to tell them, etc... my hope is that when the time is right to give these journals to them, they will recognise the emotions behind each handwritten word, and feel the love i have for them. i hope that with these journals, i can capture the beautiful and unbelievably happy moments of their childhood, and share them with them. sometimes i get quite emotional writing in them, because i feel like i'm desperately clinging on to every moment, every second. and somehow the emotions seem more real when it's ink on paper...
oops think i wrote too much. :)

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