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Thursday, January 31, 2013

PreScripts from Classical Conversations, a review

When I attended the 2:1 Conference last spring, I met a representative for Classical Conversations.  We chatted about kids and learning.  About Peter and his skin.  And about the new handwriting program they were working on.  It’s here!  And it’s called PreScripts.

Classical Conversations Prescripts

The name “prescript” comes from the Latin words prae (before) + scribere (to write).  The Prescripts program is intended to come before writing (composition).  It is designed with the classical understanding that we learn to do things on our own by copying models, models of speech, models of behavior, and so on.

PreScripts provides your child with a model of cursive handwriting to emulate, but it’s a bit more than that.

There are 4 books:

Cursive Letters and Coloring (Medieval to Modern History)

PreScripts book 1

Letters and Coloring introduces the cursive alphabet, one letter at a time.  On alternating pages you there are coloring pages of historical events and simple drawing exercises (mainly tracing and coloring).  The book is landscape format.

Each letter is first shown in a large 2” high model, with numbered strokes, appropriate for finger tracing.  Copy lines are 1/2” wide (with midline), with several evenly spaced models for tracing and space between for copying.Prescripts book 1 inside

Cursive Words and Drawing (Scripture)

PreScripts book 2

Words and Drawing features short sentences from scripture (some have been simplified), interspersed with very simple drawing lessons like the one here (many of these are variations on the tracing and coloring exercises in the previous book).  Writing lines are 1/2” wide with midline.  The book is landscape format.

The beginning of the book reviews all the capital and lower case letters of the alphabet as you see here.  Then there are written numbers with appropriate scripture references and finally tricky letter combinations using the first chapter of James.

Prescripts book 2 inside

The drawing lessons are very similar to what you see here.

Cursive Sentences and Art Lessons (Medieval to Modern History)

PreScripts book 3

Sentences and Art Lessons features longer copywork selections of historical facts … prescripts book 3 inside

…and lessons in the principles of art (the lesson you see here explains the “rule of thirds”), as well as some drawing techniques, like using grids.prescripts book 3 inside 2

There’s a complete cursive alphabet at the beginning showing stroke order.  The exercises instruct the child to trace and then copy the passage.  Writing lines are 3/8” wide with midline.

Cursive Passages and Illuminations (American Documents)


Passage and Illuminations features excerpts from American Documents and guides your child towards creating an illuminated alphabet.  This book is in portrait format.  Lines are 11/32” wide with no midline.prescripts book 4 inside

All the PreScript Books are spiral-bound for lay-flat ease of use and printed in black and white on average thickness paper (I would guess 20lb, you can see through it, notice the shadow of graphic from the previous page in the above photo).  They are economically priced, regularly running $12-13 per book for substantial 120-140 page books.  

How did we use PreScripts?

For the past month, my 9-year-old daughter, Mary, has been using both the Letters and Words books.  She asked to use both books because the PreScripts cursive style is slightly different from what I had been teaching her and she wanted to review the letters, but to also write full sentences.  She’s an industrious girl!


What do we think?

I really like the concept of PreScripts.  I like the idea of mixing handwriting with drawing and having children copy words that are worth committing to memory.

I think these books are a good value, there are not many handwriting books on the market in this price range trying to offer this much content.  For many it will be a plus that they are printed books rather than files to print yourself (it can get expensive to print all that stuff).

I was surprised at the narrow lines used for the first book (1/2”), Cursive Letters and Coloring.  Given the level of the drawing exercises (mostly tracing and coloring) and fact that it’s just single letters (not even joined) I would peg that book at not higher than a 2nd grade level.  I know that many 2nd graders could write that small, but my 2nd grader (Peter) wouldn’t be able to.  And he’s already past the level of the tracing exercises.  Mary is definitely past the level of the drawing exercises in that book, but the line width is about ideal for her.  The coloring pages do seem appropriate for this age group. 

Now, part of what’s at issue here is that a child’s writing skills may not necessarily match up with his/her drawing skills, and that’s something that the publisher can’t really predict.

The early drawing exercises in Cursive Words and Drawing also seemed a little simplistic for the target age range, but the later lessons incorporate things like foreshortening and simple shading…I love that, as these are skills that kids can easily incorporate into their own drawings, rather than just copying this or that. 

I found Cursive Passage and Illuminations to be a little lackluster in presentation---you kind of lose the beauty of what illuminations are when a book is in black and white---but I love giving kiddos the opportunity to create their own creatively colorful alphabet! There are some references and a brief history of illuminations given in the book’s intro in case you want to learn more about this topic.

I think the most successful book of the series is Cursive Sentences and Art Lessons.  The complexity of the passages, the size of the lines, and the genuinely informative art lessons make it appropriate even for middle schoolers.  I really like this one.

There were a couple of things that Mary said could be improved in the books overall:

  • For the landscape formatted books, the spiral binding gets in the way when you are writing at the bottom of the top page in each 2-page spread, which literally cramps her style.
  • The lines of writing to be traced and then copied are too full, there’s no leeway if your handwriting tends to be just slightly bigger than what you are copying, you run out of space!  It does goes right to the margin on most pages.

I would love to see this entire series also available as pdfs for those of use whose kids writing skills don’t match up with their drawing skills:   I could pick and choose the drawing lessons that I want to use so they would be appropriate to my particular child’s abilities.  That would also eliminate the spiral binding getting in the way.

Overall recommendations:

I like PreScripts.

I like the quality content, low price, and having art instruction mixed with handwriting instruction.  There’s plenty in one book to last a whole year.  The product could be improved in a couple of areas, but I still think it is a very good overall value---I’ve definitely spent more money on handwriting workbooks with less going for them!  Really worth a look. 

Right now, all four PreScripts books are on SALE, making them $1o-$12 each!  That’s really a great deal.

Disclosure:  I received this product for free in order to facilitate my review.  I received no other compensation and all the opinions expressed here are my own.


Let’s connect:


  1. It depends on which Bible version you are using. The King James says, "Believe ON the Lord Jesus Christ . . . " so I don't think that's really a typo.

    I enjoyed your review. Thanks!

  2. Hi Sherry,
    Thank you very much for the clarification! I will eat my humble pie and edit the review---it's my contention that no matter how careful I am, the instant I point out fault in someone or something, it comes back to get me (it's happened before). ;)

    When I wrote this review, I checked the phrasing as it was given in the CC book against an online Bible translation site.

    CC version: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved..."

    CC cites NKJV is their primary source, and NIV and KJV as secondary sources (so these were the translations I was looking at):

    NIV: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved..."

    KJV: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved..."

    KJ21 (KJ 21st Century, I couldn't find the NKJV online 8 months ago): "“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved..."

    It appeared as though the NIV was being used here with a slight modification. It also appeared as though the "on" had been changed to "in" in a newer version of King James. This was how I came to the conclusion that there was a typo.

    So I emailed my review contact, but received no response (and I don't say this as a negative---chances are my email got lost in a very full inbox, but only to point out that I did try to clarify). I went ahead and published my review and now 8 months later I find out I was definitely wrong. :(

    Thanks to your comment, I've rechecked and can now find the NKJV online. It shows the passage as given in the CC book---so clearly I made an error and I apologize for that.

    I'll edit the review.

  3. L, I didn't think it was that big of a deal. :) Different versions has different words in that spot, so I think either one is fine. Your review helped me decide to use these books, so I am looking forward to getting them. Thanks!

  4. I'm glad it was helpful to you.

    And no worries---I didn't think you were making a big deal about it, it was kind of "face-palm" moment for me, lol.

  5. :) Like when I just saw my post said, "versions has." Yikes!


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