I have two handwriting charts on my wall. One is manuscript, and one is cursive. They're there for reference, of course. And as an objective standard, because even I can't perfectly copy the letter formation depicted on those posters. I've had them on the wall since my oldest was about 4 1/2. But the best fine motor exercises for preschoolers is actually coloring, scribbling, playdough, any fun, random activity they'll stay interested in long enough to work those little muscles.
Being on our own program, I have the luxury of waiting for signs of maturity--patience and focus, before I start requiring specific directed practice in letter formation. For one this was early 5, for another it was early 6. One is still working on patience and focus at 9, but we've muddled through somehow to legibility, at least. The steps are the same, though the time frames vary. First there is a lot of copying, one letter at a time, fairly big. Then we move on to copying the alphabet, still fairly big. Until accuracy and consistency develop. Then we move to free hand. Bit by bit. I require maybe 5 minutes of this per day--but I want total effort and focus for those 5 minutes. Slowly and eventually we work up to cursive.
I have had one ask to learn cursive before their manuscript was solid, and I allowed that. It went fairly well, really, but the manuscript got sloppier, and sloppier. So the copywork is back to manuscript and every piece of that child's work I check, no matter what subject, is also checked for penmanship. I'm sure slowly and eventually cursive will come back into the picture.
It's conceivable that one of my children could have become fixated on the cursive poster and how lovely the letters were, and maybe this causes them to be anxious and discouraged because they could not write that way yet, and grow afraid they would never get close. What is my ideal response? Really it should be what it is anyway--to show them the steps to get to where they want to be, but maybe with extra compassion and some effort at getting their attention to be on the first step and I show them: up, down, across. And perhaps they do this, but complain or worry that it's not enough. But it is, for now. That one step may not be the end goal, but it's the goal for now, and focusing on it is enough, for now. They may believe me and they may not--they may even already know it deep down inside. Regardless, it's my job to show them that first step, and to tell them it is enough, for now. When through practice it becomes not enough, I show them the next step, and that becomes enough, for now.
This was my object lesson for this evening, pressed somewhere into my being. I'm nothing more than a different sort of child, learning to write a different sort of hand, with a different sort of end in mind--anxious and discouraged about ever getting there. But slowly and eventually maybe I will; if I focus on the first step, it may be enough, for now.