Friday, April 18, 2008

Moving Toward Independence in Copywork (Copywork: Part Nine)

Recently, I posted that Charlotte Mason urged mothers to allow their children to choose their own passages for copywork. In Home Education, Miss Mason writes:

"A certain sense of possession and delight may be added to this exercise if children are allowed to choose for transcription their favorite verse in one poem and another."

How, practically speaking, can we make this work on a regular basis? I am sure there are all kinds of interesting and creative ways to organize a child's copywork selections. In fact, if you have a post related to this topic, I'd love to know of the link! :) In the hopes that this may help someone encourage their children toward ownership and a degree of independence in copywork lessons, I'd like to share something that worked very well for us this school year.

Ambleside Online has a copywork project available through Yahoo Groups. We have used the Year One suggestions (although, we did have to carefully review for typos). I set aside one evening at the beginning of the school year to copy these selections into a Word document, proofread them, and add a few selections from other books (from our free reading list). Then, I printed the pages out, hole punched them, and put them into a folder for my daughter. Oila! A folder for the whole year! The folder was divided into sections like Literature, Poetry, Shakespeare, History, etc. Then, I wrote out each of these section titles on a little slip of paper and put the slips of paper in a small plastic container on SweetP's copywork desk. Each morning, when copywork lessons rolled around, I would tell her that it was time for copywork and she would go to her desk and draw out a slip of paper. If it said, "Nature Study", for instance, she would then turn to that section of her copywork folder and find pages of copywork options that I had printed out. After copying the passage of her choice, she then brought it down to me.

I suppose for a younger child or a child not yet ready to write neatly alone, Mama could still let him choose his slip of paper and then choose his passage. She would then stay beside him and help him with the mechanics of writing. The passage would be of his own choosing, though, which is a pleasant thing for most children :)This is basically what I have done on our cursive days. SweetP is not independent in cursive, yet.

For the very beginning child who has just learned to write his alphabet and is new to copywork, it seems like a good idea for the mother to write out the passage in the child's view before the child copies it. For instance, when Shug begins copywork in June, she'll have just turned six years old. She writes well, but still needs guidance and help at times. I will reuse the same Year One folder for her, but she will choose smaller selections than her sister wrote (who was older when beginning Year One). I may say something like, "Choose a phrase with five or so words". Then, I would write the phrase down while she watched, and finally she would do the copywork with me there beside her. As she grows in ease and ability, hopefully she will eventually be independent with the folder like SweetP was.

Depending on the child, this independence may be reached by the end of Year One or much later. There is no set goal of when the child should be able to write his copywork neatly on his own. Isn't it a blessing to be able, as homeschooling parents, to plan for our children's unique strengths and personalities? Please know that I offer these examples as a way to help those who want to think through applying their own copywork ideas to their own families. There are so many wonderful ways to personalize this method for our children :)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Peek Into A CM Preschool (Thanks, Wendy!)

Wendy, CM mom of four over at One Day at a Time, has given me permission to link to one of her recent posts. She has done a wonderful job of illustrating Charlotte Mason's principles for educating before age six. I hope you enjoy reading what she has to say as much as I did. As you read, may you be encouraged in your efforts to guide the minds and hearts of your little ones :)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Writing Worth Copying (Copywork: Part Eight)

"A certain sense of possession and delight may be added to this exercise if children are allowed to choose for transcription their favourite verse in one poem and another. This is better than to write a favourite poem, an exercise which stales on the little people before it is finished. But a book of their own, made up of their own chosen verses, should give them pleasure." - Home Education, pg. 238

After a child has learned to print his individual letters neatly, what should he write for copywork lessons? Several popular workbooks and educational approaches recommend writing the same sentence, verse, or short passage each day all week long, possibly using that same passage at the end of the week for a spelling or dictation lesson. It's easy to become confused about how CM copywork should look because our ideas of CM get all mixed up with these other "copywork-ish" approaches. What does Miss Mason have to say about what a child should copy?

By taking a close look at the quote above (and reading between the lines a little), we can begin to see why Miss Mason would not advocate the child writing the same sentences each day for his copywork lessons. In her view, the content of copywork should be kept fresh and interesting for the children, if for no other reason than to help alleviate some of the tedium that must so often accompany handwriting practice. Some children just really do not like to write, and variety in what they write can help them put forth a better effort as their interest is engaged. Miss Mason writes that the children should be allowed to choose their own passages; however, not lengthy ones. Less is, more often than not, more in copywork.

There are a few practical considerations to consider with this idea of letting the children choose their own copywork selections. For one thing, the book used should be a quality book - well written and engaging. It may be useful to narrow down the choices for the child. For instance, something like, "You may choose anything you would like to copy from Charlotte's Web... about six to ten words." Or maybe, "You may choose a Bible verse or one line of a de la Mare poem for your copywork this morning". Some children may need even narrower choices to keep the selection process from taking all morning long ;) An indecisive young one might benefit from something like, "Which book would you like? Good. Now then, you can choose one sentence from this page to copy this morning". I have looked for proof that Miss Mason required the copywork to be done from school books used during that term, but I have not found sufficient evidence. As far as I can tell, the book choices are fairly wide open. My girls have done copywork from free reading as well as from school books, and also from poems that were completely new to them.

I hope to write another post soon about how we have settled the "choosing" issue in our own home. There are, I'm sure, many creative ways to go about it. Ambleside Online offers copywork suggestions for each year of the curriculum, too, that may be printed out and quickly referenced. We've found a number of typos in the Year One copywork list, though, FYI. However each family goes about it, the point is that the material use for copywork be interesting, well written, and of the child's choosing.

As far as using the copywork for dictation, this was not Miss Mason's method. Spelling and dictation in the Charlotte Mason method depend upon the habit of giving full attention to a passage, a previously unstudied passage. There must be one time to study it only before the dictation exercise. This is similar to Miss Mason's insistence upon only one reading before a narration. Too many chances, too many reviews, in her opinion, developed inattentive children with lazy mental habits. Lindafay at Higher Up And Further In has a wonderful post about how dictation differs from copywork. Click here if you'd like to read it.

Well, I think I'm nearly finished this rather exhaustive look at CM copywork :) Can you believe I can get so many posts out of one little subject?! I sincerely hope you are all doing well and that this post is somehow a blessing to a few of you :)