A few months ago I started introducing copy work into our routine, and was determined to find a way to make it an enjoyable process for us. A couple of weeks ago my youngest confided that copy work was his favorite thing, and it is true – there has been complete joy when it comes time for copywork each day. I am so thankful that we have found what works for us, and I wanted to share the techniques and tips that I have found helpful to get where we are at. (I started copywork with my Kindergarten age son, the younger one jumped in himself soon after.)
We aren’t following a traditional pre-K or Kindergarten curriculum (whatever that means.) As we’ve journeyed through this year we’ve worked towards two goals – mastery and enjoyment. Building a solid foundation to grow on and finding ways to build passion for learning.
The most helpful and inspiring book I have read on this subject is The Write Start. I highly recommend it. It is written by an Occupational Therapist and mom and she works through the various stages of writing – starting with the importance of scribbles. She has activity ideas for each stage of writing. This is one of those books that I will be reading at the beginning of each school year to reassess and get inspiration.
A second book that has impacted me greatly is The Core. The author makes a convincing case for essential core pieces of knowledge that should be mastered by all children – it covers many subjects, copywork being one of them. This is another excellent book that is worth owning and reading over again.
With those two books serving as my inspiration I set about implementing copy work in our everyday life – basically, they are given their copywork piece (more on this below) and as they copy from a book, I copy everything from their copywork page.
My boys love this. They are very much into us doing things all together, and this time it works to my advantage. When we first started out I would sit beside them and copy l.e.t.t.e.r.by.l.e.t.t.e.r what they were copying from a book. It was incredibly exhausting as they were incredibly slow. But it eased the awkwardness for them – as they were learning to sit and commit time to the tediousness of copywork they were encouraged by the fact that their mom was sitting right there with them.
I would add little comments in to encourage them further or to make them laugh – compliment their hard work, wonder what might happen next in the poem, write, erase, rewrite and erase the same letter over and over lamenting over how badly the pencil was writing a certain letter. Whatever it took to make them giggle and feel like this was just another way for us to enjoy each others company.
As they eased into a natural rhythm of copywork I slowly eased back from copying exactly in the moment as they were copying. Now I copy the entirety of their work once they have completed their assigned piece for the day. They don’t seem to have noticed the transition, but I think the first stage of sitting and copying WITH them was a necessary stage to help build the joy. Now they enjoy presenting me with their 2-3 lines each day and teasing me about how much work I have to catch up on.
The Stuff We Copy
My ideal is that the boys copywork be from a board mounted on the wall that they need to look up at, read, look down, retain, and then write. A much more tedious task than the copywork writing sheets that are available all over the web with the copywork right above the lines to copy onto, but one that helps build mental muscles. (It’s talked about a bit in The Core.) We have just moved into our homeschool room that is equipped with a wall mounted whiteboard, so this idea will be implemented as soon as they’ve completed their current pieces they are working through. What they have been doing up until now is copying from a book.
Our copywork has comprised of poetry thus far. I frequently read them poetry, and they are free to choose any poem they would like to copy. They copy 2-3 lines each day and when they complete one poem they choose another one and the process repeats itself.
My favorite poetry books that I would recommend are Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne and Beatrix Potter’s Nursery Rhyme Book. I have gotten a couple poetry books from the library with selections from many authors, but so far these two books are my favorite.
When we start using the whiteboard I will let the boys choose their poem and I will write it on the board and they will copy from there.
The Unexpected Bonuses
1. They are naturally discovering the rules of grammar, punctuation and capitalizing through copywork.
2. They are becoming more creative. When I first started copywork with Judah way back in the fall I had him writing his own stories. He was deeply invested and enjoyed his story writing. He would dictate to me, I would write it down, he would copy it into his book. But as I thought more about it I realized I had it backwards – his creativity doesn’t need to be encouraged. His imitation of masters of the craft needs to be encouraged and then, standing on the shoulders of them, the creativity can soar to higher heights.
3. They have developed a love for poetry. There was no enjoyment of poetry before this process started. Now they walk around the house making up poems about everything.
4. They are being careful with their writing to ensure neatness. This part has been the trickiest for me to balance – I want them to do their best work, but I need to realize what their best work is and encourage them. I have at times had them start entire lines over again because of inattention to neatness on their part, and other times I let it go because I have seen the effort they’ve put out. It’s a delicate balance, but I have seen them exercise care while writing – redoing letters, or sometimes words, of their own accord. They are not the neatest writing children, but the beautiful writing will come in time. It’s a journey, and one we are going to enjoy.
5. There is an increase in their ability to focus. I have one boy who is a dreamer and thought wanderer. The simple act of focusing on copywork has helped increase his focus.
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