The emphasis of the Memoria Press handwriting books is review and practice. No time is wasted on intense instruction—students simply copy the words provided using the strokes indicated. There is also an unusual promotion of creativity (unusual in the sense that most other programs don't follow this pattern) in that students are encouraged to doodle and draw and space is even provided for such activity; the idea is that this will engender familiarity with the pencil and lead to better penmanship mastery.
How Do These Work?
There are a couple of options available, each with its own emphasis. Copybooks I-III focus on traditional ball-and-stick printing for grades K-2. Most of the copywork involves either Scripture verses (King James Version) or children's poems by Robert Louis Stevenson, Sara Coleridge and others. There are limited teaching notes at the beginning of each consumable text, though the authors believe it's practice, not instruction, that primarily leads to better handwriting. Boxes facing the lined pages (lines are 5/8" in Books I-II, and 19/32" in Book III) offer a place for kids to draw what they're writing.
Teachers are encouraged to use the verses and poems to supplement vocabulary drill and for memorization. This may be more difficult with Hymns and Prayers which is the cursive copybook, as all copywork is in Latin. Intended to be used in conjunction with Prima Latina, Memoria Press' introductory Latin program for grades 1-4, Hymns and Prayers presents the New American Cursive writing method. By way of supplement, the Copybook & Sketchbook simply offers blank 9/16" lined pages faced by blank pages for them to draw on.
The New American Cursive series follows the same "practice, practice, practice" method as the Copybook Series, but introduces students to cursive immediately without first covering manuscript printing. Also for grades K-2, students begin by tracing letters along dotted lines before writing letters, words and sentences on their own. There is very little teacher support, though you can use these books in conjunction with the StartWrite software program to create customized worksheets.
Kids are directed in each book by Mr. Meerkat, a cartoon meerkat who teaches them how to hold their pencils and write their letters. Each consumable text follows a theme. Workbook 1 focuses exclusively on letters and short words. For Workbook 2 there two options: one focuses on quotations from famous Americans, while the other focuses on general famous quotations and Scripture verses. Workbook 3 has kids copying Scripture and lessons on manners. All Scripture verses are taken from the King James Version. Lines are 1/2" wide in Workbooks 1-2; in Workbook 3 they are 3/8".
None of the books in either series are reproducible; fortunately they aren't too expensive, and there are no accompanying teacher guides to raise the price further. The New American Cursive style is basically traditional cursive—it looks nice and isn't too difficult for most kids to master. The authors also claim this system is particularly left-hand friendly. Kids may not like the simple black and white appearance of each text, though Mr. Meerkat does add an element of fun to the New American Cursive Series.
Our Honest Opinion:
There isn't much to be said against the constant practice method of instruction, especially when it comes to handwriting instruction. The emphasis on Scripture and virtue in all these texts make these great choices for young kids, as they will be learning God's Word as well as penmanship. We would suggest using Copybooks I-III before jumping into the New American Cursive Series, but if you prefer to teach cursive first, then skip the copybooks. If you want extensive teacher material you won't find it here, but if you want solid methodology and constant practice for your kids, this is an excellent choice.