Saturday, 26 May 2012

Boys and Copywork

Killer is my oldest boy; he's 9.  He follows the Ambleside Online curriculum (sort of) and, as it adheres to the Charlotte Mason method, he has a daily expectation that he does something called copywork.

In a nutshell, copywork is copying down an extract from another source, such as a good poem or a selection from a book or even from the Bible.  The idea is that a child can practice writing neatly, can learn from a good example about punctuation, spelling, and grammar, and can do so in context (in other words, in a realistic setting and not as a list of random words, or as a fill-in-the-blank workbook).

Recently, a friend of mine with a boy the same age was asking me about how much should be expected of her son, as she and her husband were nearly coming to blows about the number of words they were making the child write down every day, and the child was coming unglued because it seemed too much for him.

Try to make writing a pleasant experience
Just before I "reveal" my answer to her, let me just give a bit of background about Killer and his friend.  Neither one likes to write much.  In years past, Killer absolutely refused to write, unless perhaps it was a caption to one of his stick-figure montages.  His map-skills workbooks, which he loves, are filled with the first letters of all his answers, rather than the complete words -- so, for example, if the answer were "Red Bull Boulevard", his book says "R B B".

His older sister used to devour the Getty-Dubay series of handwriting workbooks, and Killer never touched them.

He finally agreed to some handwriting practice when I bought Teodorescu's excellent book called Write from the Start (though, if you look it up, you'll see there's much more about shapes and doodles and fluid lines than there is about letters per se).

Never the less, this year I decided to leap into AO properly and expect him to undertake copywork.  I decided to use Joyce Herzog's Bible Quotes, which I've owned for years but hadn't dusted off in a while.

I was slightly worried that she starts off in such a basic way, but considering my son was writing practically nothing last year, and was stuck in an all-caps rut, I decided softly-softly might be the best approach. Here, for example, is his first entry for copywork in September 2011.

Writing nearly every day, and letting his handwriting develop organically with, perhaps, occasional side-by-side discussions of how to make letters flow together more smoothly, this is how he's writing in May 2012:

Not only is he writing more fluidly, writing longer passages, and getting all the usual benefits from copywork, he is also doing so without any complaints, arguments, tantrums, or anxieties.

Therefore, I want to encourage you if you currently have a non-writer.  Little and often.  Patience.  It isn't about quantity, but about quality, and letting the child have a pleasant experience while he or she is doing it so they don't baulk at this amazing and wonderful opportunity to learn to write organically.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this! My 8 yo absolutely hates handwriting. He would negotiate with me on the number of lines he needs to write. Yes, little and often.


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