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Home School Curriculum: Copywork

Technically, copywork isn’t a curriculum, and my spellcheck doesn’t even consider it a word. However, we have been using this practice for many years now and I think it has been beneficial. I can’t remember where I got the idea, but I do remember why I started using it. My first two children learned to read very quickly and easily. My third and fourth child have not learned so easily. Both of them have taken longer to speak clearly, and this has contributed to having a harder go at learning to read. Which in turn, made a harder go at writing. Not penmanship, but spelling and sentences and such.

Even though this was mainly for my younger two, I had all my children do it. It is as simple as having them pick a page from their library book. or whatever story book they are reading, and copy a section of it. It is to be copied exactly as written, so I mark missed punctuation, misspelled words, incorrect indentation, etc.

Sometimes I designate a specific section that they must copy, but more often we set a timer for ten minutes and they just start where they want to and copy until the timer goes off. Now that my two oldest are in highschool, they no longer do copywork, but my younger two still begin each school day with it.

Not only is copywork super simple, it causes the kids to notice things they usually don’t pay as much attention to when simply reading. When we cover things like commas or quotation marks in Language Arts, they have picked up on using them because of the awareness they have from copywork. It has also helped with spelling. Isaac hates spelling words incorrectly and often asks how a word is spelled because he isn’t confident in his own ability. When he asks, though, I ask him how he thinks it’s spelled and he gets it correct 9 times out of 10. We don’t do a spelling curriculum, and I believe his ability to spell is because of having to pay attention to spelling during copywork. (I do plan on having him do a spelling curriculum next year, but that’s more for his own confidence than anything else.)

Copywork has helped my daughter with her reading as well. Having to go slower and spell out the words has caused her to more clearly distinguish the sounds within the word. Her “decoding” abilities have strengthened. To make sure she in’t just copying without actually understanding the text, I make her read it to me after she is done while I read her paper.

Here’s the thing about copywork; it isn’t going to solve your problems overnight. The purpose of copywork is the repetitive awareness of grammar in their storybooks over much time. Then, when parts of grammar are introduced as they grow, they can grasp it better having seen it used over and over again. Copywork is not a comprehensive curriculum, but beneficial as an add on.

To check their copywork, I simply have them read aloud the section out of their storybook while I read along on their paper. If there are any discrepancies between what they read aloud and what they have written down, I check the storybook to see if they just read it wrong or if they wrote it wrong, and then point out the error to them so they can be aware the next time. They aren’t required to correct anything or redo anything. We keep it as simple and stress free as possible.

Sometimes, my daughter lets her mind wander and doesn’t get very much copied during the ten minutes. I will then require that she copy a certain amount more, without being timed. This is usually enough to get her attention, and motivate her to focus and finish the task. If she was to consistently copy only a few lines in the ten minutes, then I would just assign a certain section that must be completed no matter what. This is what we do with her timed math facts tests. I time her so she can see the progress she is making, and we record how far she got, but she still must finish all the problems even after the timer has gone off.

For myself, I have found that starting our day with copywork is a helpful transition into school. They are starting with something easy, and it gives me ten minutes to ease into teaching. We’ve begun, but I’m not required instantly.

So, there you go. That’s how and why we use copywork in our home school, and the benefits we’ve experienced from it.

Have you ever used this practice with your kids? If so, what was your opinion of the experience? If not, what do you think of the idea from what I’ve written?

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