Have you ever heard of copywork? If you have been around anyone who uses the Charlotte Mason approach, you have probably at least heard the term. But do you know what it is? In a nutshell, copywork is copying written text. That sounds simple and obvious, doesn’t it? What is the big deal about copywork?
Well, copywork helps with “handwriting, spelling, punctuation, grammar, vocabulary, great ideas seeping into growing minds, reading skill and comprehension, and even thought leadership. Your leadership, guiding your child’s thought life through carefully chosen verses and quotes in copywork.”
Are you surprised that it helps with so many things? I was. I didn’t think that any good could come from it the first time I heard about it. I had an aversion to any kind of copying. I just saw it as busywork. But as I heard others describing all of the benefits of copywork, I began to understand the concept. Now I’m a true believer in the benefits of copywork.
Now that you’re convinced that copywork is important and beneficial 😉, how do we do copywork?
We can find good things for our kids to copy that will instill good values and character traits. Things like Scripture or passages from great literature or quotes from great people. You can have your children copy poetry. They can copy lists of famous inventors or favorite dinosaurs.
When we copy written words, especially of great writers or from inspirational literature, our thinking is inspired, and we learn it on a deeper level. It helps with memorization too.
It also helps with building our vocabulary, spelling skills, handwriting, grammar, and information retention.
Here are some of the benefits of using copywork in your homeschool:
1. A Focus on the Mechanical Skills of Handwriting
Children can practice writing without having to come up with original content.
2. Gently Teaches Grammar
By copying great writing children learn the natural flow of language. They start to grasp the syntax of composition. They learn about capitalization, punctuation, and spelling.
3. Builds Vocabulary
By giving your students quality sentences, quotes, living books, and poetry that contain rich vocabulary, you will be challenging them to learn the meanings of and to broaden their use of various words.
4. Grows the Skill of Spelling
Every time you write a word correctly, you are improving your spelling. Doing copywork for spelling strengthens our neural pathways through the repetition of writing.
5. Builds the Habit of Attention
When your kids write words (copy them) they have to pay attention to each letter. They begin to realize and understand how words are put together. They learn the phonics and grammar rules intuitively and without having to go through and memorize a boring list of rules.
Developing the habit of attention will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
6. Exposure to Literary Geniuses
Copywork allows us to build relations with great works of literature and the talented authors who wrote them. It gives them experience with significant concepts, deep ideas, and the beauty of written words.
Copywork, the act of writing those words, allows the reader time to digest the thoughts, ideas, and words of these great authors.
As Charlotte Mason said:
Thought breeds thought. Children familiar with great thoughts take as naturally to thinking for themselves as the well-nourished body takes to growing; and we must bear in mind that growth, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, is the sole end of education.
She also said that ideas are mind food. The mind lives and grows and is nourished upon ideas.
Put your children in touch with great thinkers and great authors.
Another great Charlotte Mason quote that can help us choose good books to read aloud to our own children and to read for themselves, and to use for copywork is:
The children’s lessons should provide material for their mental growth, should exercise the several powers of their minds, should furnish them with fruitful ideas, and should afford them knowledge, really valuable for its own sake, accurate and interesting, of the kind that the child may recall as a man with profit and pleasure.
7. Short, Effective, and Concise Lessons
Charlotte Mason advocated using short lessons to keep children from getting exasperated with lessons and to easily keep their attention. Copywork is a simple task that can be accomplished within 10-15 minutes and yields good results in the areas of handwriting, grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and literacy.
8. Information Retention
When we write things down we remember them better. The brain-to-writing connection that we get from copywork helps us to remember the meaningful things that we choose to jot down.
And one more quote from Charlotte Mason that I find so inspiring:
To introduce children to literature is to install them in a very rich and glorious kingdom, to bring a continual holiday to their doors, to lay before them a feast exquisitely served. But they must learn to know literature by being familiar with it from the very first. A child’s intercourse must always be with good books, the best that we can find.
To make the most of copywork, we should provide our children with high quality literature, quotes, and inspirational materials that will build their character as well as their Language Arts skills.
Here are some good quotes about how copywork can be a blessing to your homeschool.
“Children should transcribe favourite passages. ––A certain sense of possession and delight may be added to this exercise if children are allowed to choose for transcription their favorite verse in one poem or another… But a book of their own, made up of their own chosen verses, should give them pleasure.” ~ Charlotte Mason (1842-1923)
“Its purpose is to improve the child’s handwriting, expose them to noble thoughts, good sentence structure, rich vocabulary and introduce basic punctuation and capitalization rules. Even grammar is incidentally taught but this is just an added benefit and not the purpose for copywork.” Linda Johnson, Charlotte Mason Help
This site Practical Pages is a great place to get some good copywork and other notebooking pages.
Another good source is homeschoolcopywork.com
I really like to use Character Handwriting, too. I prefer teaching my kids Italic handwriting, so I use the Italic version of these Character copywork books. But they also have workbooks in D’Nealian and Zaner-Bloser.