I found this definition of copywork from a website (www.homefires.com) under their “Dictionary of Homeschool Terminology for the Totally Confused”
This technique is used to help students learn to write — from the initial skill of forming alphabet letters, all the way through learning to write sentences, paragraphs, poetry and more. Once students have the ability to copy sentences and paragraphs, they usually copy excerpts from good/classic literature. The idea is that by copying, they learn the techniques of great writers that they can then apply to their own original writing.
I started adding copywork into my homeschool last year. Prior to that, we had never done any sort of copywork at all. I had heard about copywork and even read some classical education books, Charlotte Mason books, and articles about it. I became very interested for a few reasons.
- It would provide handwriting practice without having to “do” handwriting
- It was something my children could do on their own
- They would eventually learn/memorize the content they copied if it was copied over and over
- I liked the idea that they would read and copy quotes, pieces of literature, etc from sources greater than myself!
I researched a little on line and found so much information about it. There are wonderful websites that offer free copywork downloads, ideas, papers with handwriting lines, and more. I even downloaded a few ebook samples that had copywork that went along with our CC studies for the year.
I made a list of sources and ideas for copywork that I could look at each day to get ideas. I decided that my son would copy more (he’s older and could use the discipline and muscle development that it would require). Since our CC year was Cycle 3 (US History), I also decided that I would use copywork time to help my son memorize the first sentence of the Declaration of Independence. That was just something I thought would be cool. 🙂
Each day, I would write on the large whiteboard in our school room. I had a section for each child and wrote what their copywork should be. At first, I wrote out the entire thing just as they would. Later I simplified some items by just giving them the topic. For example, I would write out the entire first sentence of Declaration of Independence for him to copy word-for-word. Then I would also list something like “x8 multiplication facts” or “week 4 History Sentence.” He would either know what to write from memory, or know where to find it so he could copy from something.
For my younger child (she was 6 and turned 7 in May), I didn’t do that. I wrote everything out just as I wanted it to look on her paper. Sometimes I would even type it up and print out the page for her to copy from.
I also had them copy their CC Memory Work as copywork. At first my goal was to have them (especially my son) copy all the memory work EVERY day. That would be a sentence or list for each subject, each day. That’s a lot of writing when you combine it with the Declaration of Independence sentence and any other copy work. I changed it to copying certain CC memory work on certain days. Sometimes we would work only on a certain subject of our CC memory work.
There are many free resources online for copywork paper. You can print paper with decorated edges (maybe matching a certain theme you are learning). You can also print out paper with handwriting lines for different ages. Again, I kept it simple and just used notebook paper. I actually had a special spiral notebook for each child that I called their “Memory Books.” These spirals were only used for copywork and any other work that I wanted put to memory. For my son, he often did his Essentials charts (that’s the CC Language Arts class) in his Memory Book. I sometimes use First Language Lessons for my daughter. It has , among other things, poems that they are supposed to memorize. Those would be written out and put in my daughters Memory Book.
Benefits I saw:
At first my children complained and whined about the copywork. It would take them FOREVER. I didn’t give up. I found that they complained more and took longer if I was in the school room with them. I started getting all the copywork ready the night before. When we were ready for school, I had them go in and start their copywork. I would come back in about 10 min (I would check in to make sure they stayed on task during that time…but I wouldn’t actually go in). After 10 min I would check to see how far they got. If they got a lot done and had been working hard, then we stopped and started other things. If they sat there staring into space, I gave them more time to get done. They quickly learned that with copywork, just like anything else, it’s best to take it seriously, focus on the task, and work hard.
- After awhile, the complaining stopped and their ability to quickly complete their copywork improved! But that alone was not the only benefit.
- They were memorizing all that they were copying. Well, if I had them copy the same thing each day for a few days, they memorized it pretty quickly.
- They were being exposed to correct punctuation and grammar. Every once in a while, I was able to relate something we were doing in grammar to an example in our copywork.
- They were learning more spelling and vocabulary words than I would ever include normally.
- Their handwriting improved. I looked back at the beginning of the year and compared it to the end. It was amazing how much better they were.
Here is another person’s blog about the benefits of copywork: http://www.fruitinseasonblog.com/2012/04/16/10-days-of-copywork-and-dictation/