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Vintage Penmanship Chart

Vintage Penmanship Chart The Prudent Homemaker

Note: This post contains affiliate links. You can read my disclosure policy here.

I love penmanship. 

It's important to me that my children learn to write beautifully.

When I was first learning penmanship, I remember being frustrated that we could not choose alternative ways to write letters, even though I knew at the time that there was more than one way to correctly write several letters (for example, the way I learned to write an uppercase cursive "I" in school was completely different than I had seen other adults write it).)  My teacher was pretty strict about us following the rules that year, but after that, I was free (for the most part; I had another difficulty with a teacher in 9th grade when I tried those non-crossed lower-cased "t"s from the photo below) to write a different style of cursive.

Vintage School Book The Prudent Homemaker 

When I was starting 7th grade, I came across this beautiful student workbook at a flea market with my grandparents. Here was a young girl with exquisite penmanship. I started copying her letters and incorporating them into my own penmanship.

Eventually, I ordered some books on different styles (Copperplate being the easiest to find)  and learned more. My favorite styles are Copperplate, Roundhand, and Spencerian.

Penmanship 1 The Prudent Homemaker

I was delighted to find, several years ago,  that the Spencerian books are still being published. My children are using these for our penmanship studies.

I always wanted a wall chart to hang that would show what we are learning. Several years ago, Karen at The Graphics Fairy shared a penmanship page that I loved and wanted to hang.

Penmanship Chart The Prudent Homemaker

I made some changes to it to make it wider and longer to fit in a standard sized frame (I copied the edges and pasted them next to the eisting edges). I also cleaned up some bits of it, and then I made some more changes to it. My original plan was to make it chalkboard style, but by a happy accident, it became blue first, so I ended up with a blueprint style. If you want to do the same, I used "invert" in Photoshop to change it. If you want a black and white chalkboard looking choice, choose "invert" in layers and then do a black and white layer. The current versions of Photoshop and Elements may do this differently; I have a super old version of Photoshop that I am using. A free site like PicMonkey probably has a similar option. I moved the contrast to 100%.

Then I ordered a print from Sam's Club ($4.28 with tax)  and framed it in a frame I already had (one that used to hang above the table).

(Even though I set the image to 11 x 14 in Photoshop, the program still wanted me to crop the image. I had to make sure it didn't cut off the bottom of the letters.)

This will now hang by our dining table where we have school.

When my children have finished all 5 Spencerian books, I reward them with an inexpensive fountain pen and ink cartridges. In the U.S., most people don't use fountain pens, so these are quite unusual. Fountain pens can be rather expensive in the U.S., since they're not used as school pens, like they are in other places (such as France). These are some of the very inexpensive options I've found on Amazon. I have all of these and like them:

Fountain Pens The Prudent Homemaker

From top to bottom:

Parker Vector colored pen (comes in red, blue, black and gold; I used to buy these at the university bookstore when I was a student)

Rosewood fountain pen (price is often changing; we got this one for $3.65)

Parker Vector Stainless steel pen  

Knox Avicenna

Stainless steel and gold pen  (the least-expensive of the group) 

 Calligraphy Books The Prudent Homemaker

It takes them several years to finish the books. My two oldest children both finished them in 7th grade.  After they've finished them, I've handed them a few other books that I've owned for years to let them learn more on their own (including alternative capitals), but it is no longer a required subject for them to work on each day. These books are (clockwise from upper left): 

Ornate Pictorial Calligraphy

The Art of Calligraphy

The Technique of Copperplate Calligraphy

Learning to Write Spencerian Script


Winter tells me often that she receives compliments on her penmanship from other people her age. They are also amazed by her pen. I always smile when she tells me, because I used to receive the same comments as well.

We start the workbooks when they are ready (usually in second grade). I know in other countries cursive is all that is taught from the very beginning. I have the children first learn to print before they move on to cursive, so that they learn both.

Do you enjoy beautiful penmanship?


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Tagged in: Homeschooling


  • Margaret @approachingfood August 13, 2016

    I love this! I think it's important to make sure handwriting isn't lost as a skill. And why not make it beautiful while you're at it? Really love that blueprint!

  • Sheila Holland August 13, 2016

    This is a lovely blog post. I am almost 70 years old, and was flabbergasted to learn that cursive writing is no longer being taught in public schools. It is wonderful that you are teaching your children penmanship. I have had a life long love of fountain pens, too. Thank you for the chartand book listing.

  • LeeAldenCobb August 13, 2016

    I do now!! So inspiring!!!

  • Sarah in Maryland August 13, 2016

    I love beautiful writing. Even my grocery lists are often copied more than once because I enjoy making them pretty. My husband despises handwriting and is terrible at it. Our oldest son is following in his father's footsteps, to my dismay (although he is improving). Our oldest daughter, though, enjoys experimenting with different ways to write. We do copywork from the original McGuffey's to practice handwriting. I've never used a fountain pen, but I think I need to try!

  • The original McGuffy's are very pretty and similar to French cursive. You can find some free French-style cursive practice here: http://www.pepins-et-citrons.fr/ecriture-c518599

  • Debby in KS August 13, 2016

    It was definitely one of my favorite subjects...probably because I was very good at it. I always got complimented and A's. :). Admittedly, I don't use it very much anymore. I had a pretty bad bout with tendonitis about 20 yrs ago and it's just not very comfortable to hold the pen at constant attention. I print most of the time. And I'm always told that I do it like a 3rd grade teacher!

    I also had to add that I used fountain pens all through college. I still have MY favorite one! I think that's a wonderful gift. My other old fashioned *thing* was sealing wax. I also have my first "D" embossed thatI got for my 12th bday.

  • I love sealing wax! I prefer the new sealing wax sticks that you stick in a miniature glue gun. They are so much easier to use than the kind with a wick.

  • Debby in KS August 13, 2016

    I haven't seen that kind. My friend brought me a couple of the old style wax sticks from Italy and I'm still using those. She bought herself a whole collection of wax and embossers. I confess to turning the color of Kermit lol.

  • So telling you this probably isn't going to help you frugally in any way . . .
    but check out this site:


  • Miriam in Estonia August 14, 2016

    Thank you so much for the link! I think browsing the web site is perfect frugal activity :-)

  • Debby in KS August 14, 2016

    Oooh, that site is amazing. Thx...I think lol.

  • Cindy S. August 13, 2016

    When I was in 2nd grade, my penmanship was bad. My older sister wrote well, so my mom would have me write OVER their handwriting on old papers and I began to enjoy it. I started trying different styles of writing. Over the years I have received many compliments. I even did calligraphy as a teenager.

  • Marcia August 13, 2016

    I do like penmanship and was taught it in school. My DD, who is 52, is quite artistic and has taught herself through books to do calligraphy. She once did the invitations for her daughter's dance teacher's wedding, and was swapped a whole year's worth of dance lessons for doing so. Since her daughter took lessons 4 nights a week for years, that was a good deal for both of them! These obscure talents do have some usefulness! Even though I stayed at home until my children were 10 and 12 years old, I did barter some skills for cash and other things I had need of during those stay at home years. Sewing and knitting and even cooking (baking) came in handy at times to supplement the budget!

  • Susan H August 13, 2016

    I am a teacher in California. It is a state standard to teach cursive in third grade. The children love learning it!

  • I am glad they are still teaching it! I was writing on the board in cursive in my youth Sunday School class a few years ago, and some of the boys in class told me they couldn't read cursive. I only write in cursive, so I wrote like normal and then told them what I had written on the board. It made me realize that if we stop teaching it, we then end up with people who can no longer read documents and letters from the past.

    I have seriously considered doing it from the beginning like they do in France and England, but these books have small letters, so I wait until they can write smaller.

  • Kim August 31, 2016

    My daughter goes to an international school and follows the Spanish curriculum. She was taught in Kinder to write in cursive - the same size they use now in 4th grade ! So don't let the size stop you! They can learn just fine (though I thought it was strange at the time, now it just feels normal! ).

  • momsav August 13, 2016

    This is wonderful! I think penmanship is important. It feels, to me, like we're dumbing down when we don't teach it.

  • Miriam in Estonia August 14, 2016


  • Lisa August 13, 2016

    about 4 years ago I realized my 11 year old could not read the cursive writing that was in his birthday cards. I spoke to the teacher and was told they do not teach it anymore since "everything is computerized". He ended up being taught by his occupational therapist and now has the best handwriting of most of my children. I find our public school system is only interested in testing for math and reading levels, not so much about teaching anymore especially when it comes to the basics.

  • Miriam in Estonia August 14, 2016

    Unfortunately this is the sad state of schools in Finland, too.

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