Sharing ideas, teaching tips and resources for the homeschool journey.
Have you tried Charlotte Mason style copywork yet? I have used it in my homeschool for over 10 years and I think it is one of the most helpful tools for developing my children’s handwriting and writing skills.
Charlotte Mason Copywork is simply writing out by hand, or copying, from good quality written texts or models. Actually teaching writing this way was not invented by Charlotte Mason. It has been employed for centuries as a technique for teaching writing. This method is also recommended by Ruth Beechick and classical educators such as Laura Berquist and Susan Wise-Bauer.
Copywork is much more than a handwriting programme!
Copywork begins with simple letter tracing and then progresses to writing out more complex passages. Although copywork is used initially for developing good penmanship, it is also useful for teaching other language arts subjects. How can this be? This is because when we choose excellent literature as models for our children’s copywork, we are giving them a subtle lesson in spelling, grammar, punctuation and literature appreciation.
Since copywork is as much about children perfecting their handwriting style, as providing quality literature, we want to make sure that they also have a good model for their handwriting. This is a subject in itself, so I’ve written another article for you on choosing a handwriting style.
‘The earliest practice in writing proper for children of seven or eight should be, not letter writing or dictation, but transcription [copy work], slow and beautiful work...Transcription should be an introduction to spelling. Children should be encouraged to look at the word, see a picture of it with their eyes shut, and then write from memory.... A sense of beauty in their writing and in the lines they copy should carry them over this stage of their work with pleasure. Not more than ten minutes or a quarter of an hour should be given to the early writing lessons. If they are longer the children get tired and slovenly.’ Charlotte Mason
Practice handwriting with copywork— not composition!
Handwriting practice consists of copying, not creating, letters, words and sentences. Remember that composition requires students to focus on content, organisation, spelling and punctuation skills. If handwriting perfection is also required, the frustration may be overwhelming leading a child to avoid writing altogether.
After a child has been taught basic handwriting techniques, I find that the best way to improve their handwriting and writing skills is with lots and lots of copywork. Our children begin copywork at around 6 years old and continue using it as part of their homeschool day until they are around 12. At first they copy one or two sentences per homeschool day. Over time this becomes a paragraph per homeschool day. When they are transitioning to cursive writing I expect less until they regain confidence in letter formation.
Each copywork lesson takes less than 10 minutes to do. Their handwriting should be well presented and not sloppy.
Many handwriting books ask the child to copy a silly sentence while practicing their writing technique. What a wasted opportunity! Choose your copywork wisely. Use fine literature, from great authors with excellent technique.
Copywork selections can be from Scripture, classic literature, poems or famous quotes. You can also choose from books that are relevant to what you studying in your homeschool.
At first you will need to present the copywork in a way that children can easily copy the passage. I learnt this the hard way. When I first started using copywork I was having my son (age 7) copy from the Bible and classic literature. It was too hard for him. The small writing and layout of chapters meant that he was constantly losing his place and it became quite an ordeal. To add to his frustration a paperback book would close if it wasn't weighted down. I then ended up typing out a quote or making a mark in the book. Although this often worked, it was time consuming and I was ruining some books with my highlighter.
Finding suitable quotes and presenting them in a suitable format can become tedious. If this sounds like too big a job, you can use pre-packaged copywork, where passages have already been thoughtfully selected and are presented with a good handwriting model. This can save you a great deal of time and energy (something every homeschool mum needs!) It makes organizing your copywork simple and as the child grows in confidence and skill, you can introduce passages directly from books.
Our pre packaged copywork curriculums were developed just this purpose.
I use pre-packaged copywork books most of the time.
It’s so easy, it requires minimal forward planning and it is something they can do independently.
Australian & New Zealand Copywork Grades 1-6 $6.95 each
Classical Copywork Series Grades 1-6 $6.95 each
Math Copywork $2.00
You can use copywork for English but you can also use it for your maths drill.