Handwriting without Tears

Handwriting Without Tears

A complete handwriting curriculum, Handwriting Without Tears provides a solid foundation of good writing skills and penmanship from pre-printing skills to printing and cursive writing.

What Is Handwriting Without Tears?

The Handwriting Without Tears program, known as HWT, is a nationally recognized program created and developed by Jan Olsen, an occupational therapist. Ms. Olsen initially developed the program because her son was having difficulty with handwriting when he was in the first grade.

From its early beginning in 1977, HWT has grown to include teachers' guides and workbooks that range from the preschool level through the fifth grade. In addition, the program utilizes many hands on learning materials, music and assessment methods. Using the HWT program, children learn to write in a way that is easy to learn and developmentally appropriate.

HWT uses a multi-sensory approach to teaching good writing skills that include visual, auditory and kinesthetic-tactile strategies. Children are encouraged to move, feel, touch and manipulate objects to reinforce their writing skills. Multi-sensory play includes:

  • Playing with wood pieces sets to help understand the concept of letter formation
  • Writing on a slate, backboard or chalkboard
  • Listening, singing along with and moving to CDs
  • Imaginary writing
  • Letter stories
  • Door tracing
  • Roll-a-dough letters
  • Capital and lowercase letter cards
  • Mystery letter game

Letter Formation and Instructional Order

The HWT program teaches a style of print and cursive writing that is a simple vertical style of letter formation. This method is developmentally easier for most children to learn. The first letters taught are capital letters that are easy to form. The letters are taught in groups that are formed with a similar sequence of strokes using two lined paper instead of the more common three lined paper.

The HWT program teaches letters in an order that makes writing mastery easier. The following are links to the developmental teaching order used in HWT and several additional resources.

By following this method each child learns:

  • Proficiency of letter formation with clean neat lines
  • Correct spacing between letters and words
  • Proper placement of letters on the lines
  • Ability to differentiate between the size of lowercase and capital letters

The Instructional Levels of HWT

  • Preschool instruction of the HWT program includes reading readiness techniques using the multi sensory teaching approach.
  • The kindergarten workbook, Letters and Numbers for Me, focuses on the multi-sensory approach to letter recognition and formation.
  • My Printing Book, the first grade workbook, stresses the lowercase letters with a review of the capital letters, using the HWT ball and stick approach to letter formation.
  • The second grade workbook, Printing Power, reviews both capital and lowercase letters and includes copying of sentences, words and paragraphs.
  • Third grade introduces cursive writing in the workbook Cursive Handwriting. Starting with pre cursive writing techniques, the child moves on to lower case letters, words and phrases.
  • Cursive Success is the fourth grade workbook with a full review of the lower case letters and instruction of the capital letters. There are also stories included for copy work.
  • The fifth grade workbook, Can-DO Cursive, promotes cursive writing skills with proper grammar.

Each of the grade levels offers a variety of additional teaching aids and hands on learning tools for the child to enjoy. A complete listing by grade level of available products for the HWT program is found at the Handwriting Without Tears products page.

Homeschooling and the HWT Program

Although the program was originally targeted for use in public and private schools, it is also very successful as a homeschooling writing method. Many homeschooling families find the gentle approach of the HWT methods, combined with the inexpensive consumable workbooks and numerous hands-on interesting teaching materials a nice addition to their homeschool curriculum. Many families move through the HWT program faster then the instructional workbooks suggest, depending on the child's success.

The following websites offer HWT material and complete packages to homeschooling families.


If you are looking for a handwriting curriculum with a proven success rate, is simple to teach and enjoyable to learn, then HWT may be the perfect choice for your homeschooling family needs.

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