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The Learning Without Tears Story

In 1977, Jan Olsen set out on a mission to make handwriting easier to learn for her son John. Responding to John’s tears over handwriting in first grade, Jan used her occupational therapy training and background to develop strategies to facilitate his handwriting skills. John’s teacher noticed his progress and asked Jan to help other students in the class. Soon, Jan became known in the area as the tutoring solution for handwriting, and her ideas became the basis for the first therapist’s guide, Handwriting Without Tears.

Learning Without Tears Through the Years

1977

Jan Olsen begins helping her son in handwriting, using her occupational therapy training to develop strategies to facilitate her son’s success

1978

Jan collects her ideas for helping Occupational Therapists help struggling children and writes a book with her ideas called “Handwriting Without Tears”

1988

After tutoring hundreds of children, Jan does her first workshop to train educators in the Handwriting Without Tears approach

1989

Jan Olsen designs her first student edition, Cursive Handwriting

1990

Seeing how much the cursive edition helped, Jan designs her first student workbook for print, My Printing Book

1996

HWT reaches 45,000 customers, shipping workbooks nationwide

1999

A full product line, including teacher’s guides and workbooks for K-5 is published

2001

The company headquarters is opened in Cabin John, MD

2002

The Omaha, NE office is opened as the hub for Professional Development.

2003

Get Set for School is launched as a Pre-K readiness program

2008

The Gaithersburg, MD office is opened, dubbed the Diamond Office

2011

The Gaithersburg, MD office is opened, dubbed the Diamond Office

2012

Wet-Dry-Try is launched on the iTunes App Store

2013

First Spanish edition of HWT is published
+Live Insights is launched, serving as a digital dashboard connecting our products

2014

Keyboarding Without Tears released

2016

The Gaithersburg, MD office is opened, dubbed the Diamond Office

2017

Company is rebranded as Learning Without Tears

2018

30 million student editions sold
Handwriting Interactive Teaching Tool is launched

2019

Terry Nealon joins as CEO
Pre-K Interactive Teaching Tool is launched

2020

The Handwriting Without Tears Integrated Print and Digital Solution is launched
Get Set for School has additional components added, making it a complete Pre-K program

2021

Letter book series A-Z for Mat Man and Me is published

Looking Forward

Our reach to help young learners has significantly grown since our early days of delivering hand-bound editions of Handwriting Without Tears. Our passion for creating products and services that help all students succeed is as powerful today as it was on the day we started.


The future of education is evolving at lightning speed. Learning Without Tears, with more than 40 years of classroom experience, a deep understanding of the needs of our earliest learners, and an extraordinary staff of professionals committed to improving education, is meeting the challenge by innovating new print and digital solutions to help teachers build essential founational reading and writing skills.

More about Learning Without Tears

This guide expanded into a full, multisensory K–5 curriculum, including student editions, assessments, music, and engaging manipulatives that are integrated directly into the lessons—instead of being added into instruction as an afterthought.
Designed with children in mind, the developmentally appropriate, hands-on instruction is simple and effective for all children and teachers. Jan even developed the Handwriting Without Tears style of cursive, simple and vertical instead of slanted, for children in grades 2– 5+ to master tricky letter connections easily.
From there, we added a kindergarten readiness program, Get Set for School, so early numbers and letter sounds could dance across Pre-K classrooms around the country. We even introduced our favorite letterlearning hero, Mat Man, a loveable classroom character for teaching with music, building, playing, and storytelling.
To meet growing needs for innovative technology instruction in schools, Handwriting Without Tears added Keyboarding Without Tears, a web-based curriculum for grades K–5 that teaches typing, general computer readiness, digital citizenship, and online test prep. ISTEapproved and winner of a CODiE and a Teacher’s Choice Award, Keyboarding Without Tears offers a technology solution that blends digital literacy into instruction in a fun and engaging way to build successful digital communicators.
To unify our three programs and reach more teachers and students, we rebranded in 2018 to Learning Without Tears! Learning Without Tears now includes Get Set for School, Handwriting Without Tears, and Keyboarding Without Tears. Our company has grown to make sure all children (over 30 million to date!) have all the tools they need to express their thoughts, step by step and letter by letter.
 
We’re here to help you get to the heart of every letter and inspire a love of learning!