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Learning Without Tears History

In 1977, Jan Olsen set out on a mission to make handwriting easier to learn for her son John.

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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.


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 letter-learning 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. ISTE-approved 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!