Why do Calligraphy?
by Barbara Benson
Sometime early in my homeschooling, a Waldorf resource mentioned doing calligraphy in 6th and continuing through 8th as both an art form and a lovely embellishment for main lesson books, particularly in history. Over the years, I can say that I am very glad I pursued that lead.
With my oldest, left-handed son, calligraphy helped him write slowly and carefully, learning not to drip the ink. He was never the best at calligraphy, but his poetry book in seventh grade, done all in calligraphy is still something I cherish. For each memorized poem, he also wrote down an original poem, accompanied by lovely pencil sketches and tone drawings. With my twins, my choleric son learned not to rush and produce something that looked “professional.” My artistic twin enjoyed the calligraphy for its own sake and did poetry and illuminated letters for history. The girls seemed to totally enjoy the art form and used it for cards and relaxation as well as school work. My eldest even asked for a sophisticated calligraphy set at Christmas at age 17. My youngest did a great job with her title pages in main lesson books and also illuminated letters in medieval history.
The idea is to give the gift of a calligraphy pen in sixth grade once cursive is really mastered. They do practice sessions, rather like when learning cursive, of about 15-20 minutes, two to three times a week, in order to practice the basic shapes (use any good beginner’s guide to calligraphy). They learn to hold the pen properly and work with special lined paper designed for calligraphy. Then they proceed to learn the Roman style (100-500 A.D.) of calligraphy first. This is obvious since it is the easiest style and they study Rome in sixth grade. As they progress through 7th and 8th, they practice with the forms and thicknesses of nibs on the pen relevant to the time period in history( Gothic was 1000-1400 A.D.; Italic 1500-2000 A.D.)- and the writing becomes more elaborate and embellished. There is a very definite sequence to the forms which are copied carefully until they can be used in a sentence or heading in the main lesson book.
I think that all my children benefitted from calligraphy, and for middle school children, it is a great way for them to slow down, focus and master an art form that is lovely and deeply connected to our own history of writing. It was an enjoyable part of our homeschooling.