How to Incorporate Copywork into Your Homeschool
A few days ago, the parents in my homeschool co-op starting discussing copywork. A new homeschool mom wanted to know more about the purpose. Here are some of the main questions and concerns she had:
- Why did some of us make our kids do copywork?
- And, at what age did we stop?
- What were we making our kids copy?
- How long and how many times?
- How to use copywork and dictation?
- How much time should children spend on copywork each day/week?
- Can I count this as spelling and vocabulary work?
Whew! That’s quite a lot of questions with a lot of different answers.
The goal of this post is to provide an overview of the ways that a variety of different homeschoolers use (or don’t use!) copywork.
Is it spelled copy work or copywork?
I’ve seen several homeschoolers get confused because copy work and copywork are both used in Facebook groups, message boards, and some blogs. Furthermore, auto-correct frequently has issue with the spelling of “copywork.”
99% of the time, if someone says, “copy work” they mean “copywork.” Copywork is extremely popular among Charlotte Mason homeschoolers. Here is an excellent article about understanding and implementing Charlotte Mason Copywork.
Do non-Charlotte Mason homeschoolers utilize copywork? Yes! In fact, none of the parents at my co-op take a purely Charlotte Mason approach.
Benefits: Why do we make our kids do copywork?
I have used copywork over the years to improve handwriting. This goes for both printing and cursive. It is an easy way to work in extra handwriting practice.
Copywork also teaches children to pay attention to detail. Specifically, it’s an easy way to pay close attention to grammar.
Most parents report that copywork results in significant improvements with handwriting, spelling, and memorization.
Copywork should lead to dictation. Middle school ages should listen to a paragraph and write it down with little help while using proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar. The progression leads to better writing and the ability to take notes in class.
If your children have higher education goals, this is especially important. Yes, many university professors require that notes be taken on paper. Even more professors require written segments on exams to be done with pen and paper. Tests like the SAT have hand-written sections.
Real world applications? Many work meetings require transcriptions or notes and a portable computer may not be available.
Other parents have told me:
- They see hand-eye coordination benefits from copywork.
- Penmanship is important no matter what the education experts say.
- It helps their minds learn to receive and accurately pass on information. This is why copywork should not be mindless!
- It is a fantastic visual processing exercise.
Creative ways to incorporate copywork
There isn’t a right or wrong answer! Lots of homeschools use copywork for different reasons and incorporate it in various ways.
Here are several different ways I’ve heard of integrating and using copywork:
“Copywork is part of our grammar curriculum, they copy down a sentence or paragraph from the book they're currently reading with the curriculum. The purpose for me is for them to practice their handwriting and their grammar - such as remembering to copy the commas, quotation marks, periods, and pay attention to capitalization and word spacing.”
“We don't do it for grammar, writing, or spelling. It's our combined poetry study and handwriting practice. Dictation makes them listen carefully. We ditched handwriting books because I didn’t want my children copying down some nonsense [in a handwriting book] when they could be learning something! They do one stanza of a poem most days.”
“We used copy work for memorizing grammar and kept it to a minimum. Honestly, it was just too painful for my daughter, even at age eleven.”
“We only do a little bit of copy work each week. I strongly believe in copying our spelling words each week! Worldy Wise or spectrum workbooks.”
“I don't do copy work. It would frustrate my son too much and defeat the purpose of teaching what good writing should be. We still do spelling work in early high school because it is something my daughter really struggles with it. If your kids get it [spelling] easily, I wouldn't worry about it.”
What ages should start copywork? At what age can we stop?
As you might have noticed, the previous section touched on this question already. Here are a few additional insights into what different families are doing:
“We do copy work at all ages. As my children get older their copy work also becomes their journal prompt for the day. We take a quote or verse for copy work and then they write about what they think the person was trying to say. It's great for critical thinking.”
“Our copywork through spelling lessons lasts until I deem them to be proficient spellers. This varies greatly. My oldest could stop in 5th grade, while the other is still working on it in the 9th grade. However, don’t confuse spelling lessons with vocabulary! We never stop learning new vocab!”
“I don't have an age where I stop using copywork. It is based on the child. I have a fifteen-year-old who still does copy work all year long. It really helps him pay attention to details. For instance, crossing the T’s, dotting the I’s, and ending each sentence with punctuation.”
What should my children copy?
As many of the examples above have already pointed out, options are limitless. But, you might notice most people lean towards one of these two camps of thought:
- Copywork is for memorization, repetition, attention to detail, and practice.
- Copy poetry and great literature
Camp #1 is practical and camp #2 is usually Charlotte Mason influenced (sometimes indirectly). To explain #2 in further detail:
“Copying poems and excerpts from literature gently teaches proper form, grammar and language. Being exposed to great writing helps people become better writers and I believe that written communication is important.” – Sharon B.
How are you using copywork in your curriculum? What benefits have you seen? Comment below!