If you’ve ever wanted to use an inexhaustible homeschooling resource, copywork may be your answer. The options for using it are as limitless as imagination and the occasions to use it are almost as vast. But what is it, where did it come from, and why should you consider adding it to your child’s education? Let’s start at the beginning.
Who Says Copywork Should Be Practiced?
Copywork is popular today largely due to the renewed interest in the teaching methods of Charlotte Mason, a British educator who lived in the late 1800s. One of the things that made her a unique educator was that she didn’t believe education was solely a means to an end, i.e., learn the facts, pass the test, and function reasonably well in society. She wasn’t interested in making children memorize long lists of facts. She believed children were precious treasures entrusted to us by God and deserved our help in enjoying a life-long journey and process of learning, growing, and maturing physically, mentally, and spiritually.
Charlotte Mason wanted education to be experienced. She despised “twaddle” or books that were nothing more than simple stories without meaning. She was an advocate of what she called “living books,” books that went beyond the words and brought the subject to life. She would have loved to see all the fantastic historical fiction books available to kids today!
What Is Copywork?
Copywork’s main purpose is to practice handwriting, spelling, and grammar. By copying a specific passage (often on lined paper or paper formatted with a handwriting font for a child to imitate), he learned the shape of the letters, how to spell a variety of words, and how to put the words together into complete and proper sentences. Quality copywork also helps children internalize what they are reading and think carefully about it.
When and Where Should Copywork Be Practiced?
How much material you have your child copy in one session varies greatly from child to child. Factors including age, attention span, and physical needs all influence your choice. Remember that in the Charlotte Mason method, the goal is not mindless repetition but quality time spent learning and perfecting a skill.
There are many subjects that can be studied just as well at a desk or table as they can be on a porch swing. However, I have found I rarely do my best handwriting while slouching on a couch or stretched out on the floor. Perfecting handwriting skills is one of those things that often requires us to discipline both mind and body, sit up straight at a table or desk, and simply practice the task until we have learned to master it.
Why Should I Add Copywork to My Day?
The philosophy behind teaching handwriting through copywork is that when a child spends time copying Scripture or great literature, they are learning far more than how to form letters and build sentences. They are learning the truth behind the words, the ideals behind the concepts, and the mastery of language exemplified in classic literature.
Let’s think for a moment about repetition. When we learn things well when we are young, we often remember them for the rest of our lives. The songs, phrases, and skills we learned as we were growing up become part of us. Charlotte Mason knew this. She knew that information transmitted by repetition and replication became part of children’s cores.
Copywork is a wonderful way to teach grammar, spelling, handwriting, and writing, but are there other subjects that can be taught through copywork? I think you can teach or reinforce almost every subject through copywork. Some may require a little more creativity and energy on the part of the parent, but consider the possibility to engage a child who hates practicing handwriting through a subject or topic he or she loves.
Do you have a child who loves horses? How about a copywork excerpt from a classic horse tale such as Misty of Chincoteague by Marguerite Henry or Black Beauty by Anna Sewell? Does your child love trolls and elves and mythical creatures? What about a copywork excerpt from Tolkien or C.S. Lewis? And since it’s not always possible to find premade copywork that fits your student’s needs and personality, there are a number of font programs available that will enable you to make your own at home. My favorite is Fonts 4 Teachers.
History is a subject that is easy to bring alive through copywork. Would you rather read about Lewis and Clark, Sitting Bull, Booker T. Washington, and Benjamin Franklin, or would you like to go deeper and read their words and hear their voices for yourself?
How about geography and encouraging a heart for the lost people of the world? Yes, you can do that, too! Your children can meet famous missionaries through practicing their quotes or explore the world with geography-based copywork.
What about math? Can you even teach math with copywork? Yes, you can! There are copywork printables that include basic number facts and word problems to practice.
Because copywork integrates multiple subjects into one lesson, it can simplify your homeschool schedule and allow time for deeper study, exploration, and just having fun. Do you use copywork in your homeschool? Let me know how you take advantage of this versatile teaching tool. If you haven’t tried it before, won’t you consider using it in the year ahead? Let me know what you think!