Tuesday, January 15, 2008

One Tiny But Powerful Detail (Copywork: Part Seven)

Well, I can't sleep. So, here's part 7 :)

This whole series of posts on copywork really began all because of two little sentences in Home Education. I had been re-reading the section on language arts, trying to make sure I was on target, when I came across something I had never taken note of before. On page 238 Miss Mason writes the following:

"Transcription should be an introduction to spelling. Children should be encouraged to look at the word, see a picture of it with their eyes shut, and then write from memory." (emphasis mine)

Transcription, as you probably already know, is just another name for copywork. Here, Charlotte Mason is giving us a tiny little detail that, I think, can make a world of difference for the student. As the children copy their work, they are to write each word as a whole. They are to look at the word they are to copy, take a mental picture of it, and then write that word on their paper solely from that mental image! To illustrate, let me explain how SweetP had been copying her work with incorrect methods. She would look at the word, spell out the first two or three letters aloud to herself, write those letters in her neatest print, look back at the word, spell the last few letters out aloud, and finally finish carefully writing the word with those letters. As a practice in handwriting, copywork done in this way was perfectly fine. However, as an introduction to spelling, it was inferior to what Miss Mason had in mind (no pun intended). I believe that her distinction is an important one. Visualizing the whole word, and writing that word from memory instead of sight is a much more powerful spelling exercise than the bits-and-pieces approach of letter by letter.

Isn't that interesting? All of that in just two little sentences. Sometimes I wonder how many times I'll need to read through Volume One before I finally drain it dry. I've read this particular passage nearly a dozen times, I'd guess. Yet, I had never, before last term, picked up on the importance of copying each word in its entirety. It makes sense, really. Especially considering Miss Mason's stress on mental pictures when dictation is introduced later on. The mental visualization that is so key in her dictation methods is the same discipline she refers to here. It only makes sense that copywork done word for word instead of letter for letter sets the stage for solid spelling. Understanding this more completely has been an "a-ha" moment for Mama :) I love it.

Have a great day!