Once I decided that I wanted to make most of my own homeschooling materials, I needed to figure out HOW, and in my mind, using a consistent font between all of the materials would be a simple way to reduce the complexity for my children. And so, my great search for a suitable education-oriented font began.
I hoped for consistency across the materials that my daughter was already familiar with. She has been using a handwriting app on my tablet for about a year now, so I gave that a look. It had 3 distinct font settings: Zaner-Bloser (ball and stick), D’Nealian (a simplified cursive with no leading strokes), and HWT (Handwriting Without Tears, somewhere in-between the prior two). Once I reviewed our other materials, I noticed that my Usborne Get Ready for School Wipe-Clean Activity Pack uses a style similar to HWT, and our workbooks use Zaner-Bloser. So, what’s a mom to do? Ask facebook of course! After much discussion, my friends seemed fairly consistent in a bias towards Zaner-Bloser. I know I personally love the way it looks, and I find it easy to read.
Then I began researching source materials, dimensions, and use in the Montessori world. I watched hours of Margaret Homfray videos and loved the background she provides on why the materials are used. That was when I was introduced to the argument (and it seems to be a hot topic) for D’Nealian letters. One of the reasons Margaret Homfray gives for introducing children to cursive first is that they are able to gain a fluency when they learn to write, and suddenly having to write in a different style slows them down and is distracting. According to Margaret Homfray, this can be difficult for some children to ever recover from. I thought that piece of information was interesting, but since children and adults are no longer expected to write in cursive, it seemed a bit outdated to me.
So of course, I turned to facebook again, asking my friends if there is any value today in children learning cursive. And there was an overwhelming yes—I only had one dissenter. The conclusions there was that it’s important to learn to read cursive to understand historical documents, and that it’s much faster to write when you’re taking notes. Which I know I have found true in my own life. When I was in college, if I wasn’t typing my notes, I was writing in cursive.
After a little more discussion with Montessorians, I learned that if children are taught to write in cursive, they tend to just pick up print (both reading and writing). Cursive also activates more creative areas of the mind, and can be easier to write for children who struggle with letter reversal.
Since print doesn’t seem to need much separate practice, I have decided to follow the guideline that Margaret Homfray explains in her videos. If the material is something a child is going to trace, copy, or write, a D’Nealian font should be used (it shouldn’t have any leading lines/strokes until the children actually begin connecting the letters). If it’s something that the child is going to read, then a print font should be used.
With that in mind, these are some of my favorite fonts that I have found during my search:
Block Letters Tryout
KG Primary Fonts
-Primary Penmanship 2 (there are lined versions as well)