Wednesday, March 12, 2008

In Praise of Copywork

Texts of Laws and Regulations of the Pennsylvania School Code

Act 169
Section 1327.1

(1) At the elementary school level, the following courses shall be taught: English, to include spelling, reading and writing; arithmetic; science; geography; history of the United States and Pennsylvania; civics; safety education, including regular and continuous instruction in the dangers and prevention of fires; health and physiology; physical education; music; and art

My focus this morning is on language arts.

Confession: In our homeschool last fall, I attempted to get a boxed curriculum and apply it to my children. This turned out to be stressful for both the children and me. We started right after Labor Day and I finally threw in the towel at the end of October. I couldn't do it anymore. The children came to the table each day rolling their eyes with slumped shoulders and trudged through the list of assignments for the day.
Even though my daughter requested doing a spelling list each week, it turned into tears every time I had her copy or practice her words. And the weekly test - well I won't even get into that. After lots of reflection and prayer, I decided that Charlotte Mason was the only way to go. Even though I strongly believe in Charlotte Mason and her methods, I don't know what possessed me to go elsewhere.

I poured over books discussing the CM method as well as the original 6 volume set and our household was back on track.

As a certified teacher in the state of Pennsylvania, I am approved to do the required testing for grades 3, 5 and 8. I have the testing supplies with me all the time. I test my own children annually even though the tests for them are considered invalid since I am their mother. I test them anyway so I can see where they are.

Yesterday, both of my girls (ages 10 and 9) tested at or above their grade level on the entire test. I am thrilled because I was a little worried about the spelling part. This is just another affirmation for me that CM methods are very good and they work.

Copywork covers language arts, handwriting, and spelling. There are always opportunities for mini language lessons in copywork. Anytime a child makes a mistake in his copywork, be sure to have him correct it and briefly mention the rule. For example, if the child forgot a capital letter, be sure to mention why a word needs to be capitalized. (Is it at the beginning of a sentence? A proper noun?)

When doing your portfolio, be sure to keep the copywork. Make sure you have samples from the beginning, middle and end of the year to show progress. In the part of the law that I quoted above, it states that we need to cover "writing". It doesn't specify handwriting or composition. If you want to cover both, remember that narration is the perfect opportunity for compostion. The child may simply write the narration for you. (I'll talk more about that in a future post.)

One more note: Did you know that Benjamin Franklin used copywork as a method to become a better writer?

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