Peterson's Directed Handwriting is different from other handwriting curriculum because it focuses more on the physical skills (gross motor) that need to be in place before kids can even begin writing. They do not recommend tracing or copying letters because it results in non-fluent movement, rather than the child's writing being smooth and having a rhythm to it.
Rather than starting with tracing or copying, they recommend different approaches to learning the movements, such as airwriting or fingertracing and then eventually writing. This approach helps teach the process for letter building and also develop correct motor patterns.
We've been working with the Preschool/Kindergarten Homeschool Kit ($44.70) which includes the Teacher Handbook, Position Guides, ABC/123's Student Workbook, two special pencils, an animations CD ROM and also an audio CD with songs for learning writing strokes. Rand Peterson, the owner of Peterson's, is extremely helpful and available for advice when you are choosing or using the curriculum to help you find the best fit for your family.
I have been impressed with the materials that we've been using from Peterson's. It does, however, require more teacher involvement, especially more on the front-end, with reviewing the material and learning how to properly use the curriculum. You will need to be hands-on with the child (or children) you are using the program with because of the more detail-oriented aspect of the curriculum. The lesson plans are day-to-day specific and walk you through step by step in how to carry out the lessons, so there is little guess work involved in the plans.
There were several things that I really loved about the curriculum. I had never looked at the importance of the gross motor tie-in, proper body positioning and paper placement with any of our kids. The air writing and learning the letter formations has been extremely helpful in teaching Zachary his letters and helping him learn how to write. The worksheets that we have been using (above is a sample of the letter formations) are colorful and help him remember the different letter formations that we started out learning (tall down, small down, etc...). I love, love, love the workbook and how it is laid out. Because we learned the gross motor tie-in, I can say the cue, he can visualize the movements, and then writes them smaller scale.
There is an incredible amount of research related documents on Peterson's website if you would like to do a little more exploring on your own. Other members of the Homeschool Crew have also written reviews on different age levels of Peterson's if you would like to gather more information on this curriculum.
Although it may not be for everyone, I do think that this curriculum has been helpful to my family and I would definitely recommend it. It has helped me realize the importance of what happens early on in the writing process and how I can better help my children develop their writing skills.