Friday, February 06, 2009

Something's Been Missing

It's true. Something HAS been missing around this blog. That would be posts! More specifically, homeschooling-related posts.

I am so blessed to still be homeschooling after 10 years! I have learned so much, and yet still learn more every day. It is an amazing journey, and I pray, one that we can continue until we start on our grand-children.

As most of you know, I love to follow the Charlotte Mason Methodology of education. I implement as much of her philosophies as possible into our school life. Actually, into all of our life. I am not the best at it, but what we do works for us and keeps our learning joyful most of the time.

I also begin to integrate some to the Classical Model as the children get older, typically around 7th or 8th grade. I feel that this really helps us to become better writers and thinkers as they enter the high school age. Without the CM method in the younger years, I have no doubt that the cognitive processes which need to occur before writing can be of any quality.

Another aspect of my life is working with children who have auditory processing difficulties. This translates into the academic world in the form of poor reading/writing/spelling skills. Most of the students that come to me are considered dyslexic or ADD and are doing terribly in school. When I implement the programs that we use to help re-train the brain, I can't help but see how brilliant CM was. One of the key components that CM used was the practice of Copywork/Dictation/Narration.

In today's world, all of us are using more and more visual skills and less and less auditory skills. Computers, tv, movies, iphones, text messaging... it's all visual. The auditory centers of our brains are not be utilized and therefore, often results with their delayed development.

I try to get the parents of my students to understand this. It is so very important to read aloud to the children, let them narrate back to you, and to actually LISTEN to what the child is saying. It is not important that they get each detail correct, but more, that YOU are listening attentively and that he/she is able to verbalize what they are trying to express. This is the surest way to excellent writing skills. One who can not express what they mean to say verbally, will NOT be able to write effectively. I have seen this theory proven time and time again, with my own children as well as the many that I have worked with over the last few years.

I am so passionate about the way our children are educated. When I see what is being asked of our young people in the public school setting, it makes me cringe. Don't get me wrong, I think the educators are trying in earnest to have our students be as well educated as possible, but I believe they are missing a key component. That is the normal cognitive and fine-motor development of a child.

I have seen assignments expected of these students that ask children as young as 5 to write stories. Never mind the spelling, the teachers tell them to just write. The problem with this is that the young mind is impressing upon itself the incorrect spelling of many, many words. This is just one example of the problems I see with the current method being used by many traditional schools. I could cite many more, but the point of this post in not to rip apart schools. Rather, I would like to present a different CM method that I use in my homeschool a small bit at a time.

Today, I would like to discuss Copywork. Please note that the way that I implement these methods may be slightly different than the way that Miss Mason actually practiced them. This is what has worked best for my family over the years. Feel free to comment about what you might do differently and how it works in your home.

Copywork is a wonderful tool for so many different reasons. It is a wonderful way to introduce in a gentle way, punctuation, grammar, spelling, memory skills, handwriting, and exposure to quality literature, biblical verses, and famous essays, quotes, and poems.

In our home, mom, (or dad, as you'll see below), selects a piece for copywork according to age and experience with the Copywork. In our home, we do not begin copywork until the child can comfortably handle a pencil, can form letters well, and is beginning to read. This typically ranges between 6 or 7 years of age. If the child is not ready, and you will know fairly quickly if he or she is NOT ready, (the crying, fitful, episodes of drama are usually a dead give-away), shelf the copywork until a later time.

If the student is ready, the selection should be short at first, one line is best. I usually start with Charlotte Mason's infamous quote, and our school motto,

I am;
I can;
I ought;
I will.

This is a wonderful exposure to punctuation, some tricky spellings, and introduces the high ideal that we as parents hold for our children.

I introduce to student to the selection by reading it aloud to them and then begin pointing out all marks of punctuation, teaching why a particular mark is being used and making sure that the child can recall the name of the mark if it is not new to them.

I also will point out indenting, stanzas, capitalization, new spellings, and other items of interest that may come up.

The child will then copy this phrase, in his very best handwriting, allowing no errors. This means that the teacher must be present as he does his assignment, carefully overseeing the process. If there is a misspelling, it must be corrected immediately. Do not allow the child to impress this error within his mind's eye. If the word is a particularly difficult word and the child continues to misspell it, we practice a visual spelling method of pointing to the letters in the air, spelling it out forwards until he knows where each letter is and then demonstrating true knowledge of the spelling by correctly pointing to each letter in a forward and then backward manner. I will try to post a video on this technique later.

The child will continue with the copywork selection, copying each day for several days, typically in our home 4 - 5 days, eventually moving to a new selection of copywork.

I really like to use Spelling Wisdom from the website Simply Charlotte Mason The selections are graded from beginner to advanced ability. Honestly, you can use any good quality selection you would like. In the past, I have used the poem that they might be working on memorizing at the time, a scripture passage that we are instilling, or even a passage from one of their favorite books.

Keep in mind, CM allowed for short lessons, so for a young child of 7 or so, no more than 5 minutes should be expected. Older students, I would say, no more than 10.

One more thing regarding copywork in our home. With the young/beginning copywork student, the selection is copied onto the same paper that he will be writing on, placing his work directly below the copied lines.

As the student becomes more comfortable with the method, he will transition into copying from a separate typed selection, possibly even directly from the source such as the Bible or the novel itself. This helps with the visual skills necessary for copying from books and chalk boards for eventual note-taking and other needed study skills.

When the child can demonstrate his very best work, be sure to praise him and even place the best copy into a notebook for safe-keeping. I try to put ours into page protectors in what we call their Commonplace Book.

Below are two examples of copywork that were done by our 7 year-old, Fish.

The first was Dad's choice. (I find it humorous to see what Dads pick over what Moms pick!) This was a very early attempt at copywork as you can see that the selection was printed onto the lined paper for him to refer to.

The second example is his first attempt at true copywork, copying from one sheet to his copywork book. This was also the first selection that he was able to transition into dictation with. Dictation will be a topic covered in another post.

Please feel free to comment how this works in your home. I love hearing new ideas and trying them out on my guinea pigs... I mean children!!


Mira Dessy said...

Thanks for sharing this. I too believe that "whole language" theory is responsible for messing up more kids when it comes to spelling, grammar, punctuation and understanding.

On a slightly different topic, D's recent spelling words at her new school included the two longest words in the English language. The technical one is pneumonoultramicroscopicsiliconvolcanoconiosis and the non-technical one is flocconauccinihiliplification. They had to know how to spell them, what part of language they were and how to use them in a sentence. Awesome!!!

Mira Dessy said...

sorry the second one is supposed to be


Andrea said...

Ok, we totally need to get together! I will trade dog treats for your time and wisdom... :)

I love this concept and could totally see how it could work. I plan on trying to implement it with our 4th grader but does it take the place of or coordinate with regular spelling and writing lessons? Maybe I'm missing the point completely?

We are currently doing Wordsmith Craftsman with our 10th grader but it's so confusing to me and although I love to write and understand good writing technique, it is a challenge for me to understand this curriculum and teach him. Would this copywork concept work on the 10th grade level?

K said...

Hi Andrea,

I do use this method alone for younger students when addressing spelling and writing.

The actual WRITING comes into play when the student is older and can begin to do written narrations (another topic for another day). I will admit, however, that I am using a program called Just Write for my 5th grader to gently encourage writing (creative) I am also asking her to answer questions in her science and history courses in complete sentences. This is helping her to develop the habit of completing a full thought.

For the highschool student, I do love Wordsmith. I would also encourage him to do written narrations, but only after he is able to easily do oral narrations.

This is not pure CM, but it is what works for us.

Copywork is wonderful for all ages, including parents! Keep a commonplace books to copy favorite scripture verses, poems, sayings, mottoes, passages from books that you are reading, etc.

I would pick the first few selections and then allow him to pick his own, as long as they are challenging enough. I was flipping through "The Spirit of America" with a foreword from William Bennett last night and saw many wonderful pieces that would make for excellent copywork. One in particular that you might like is by Benjamin Franklin. It lists his 13 virtues.

Along with copywork which focuses on the beautiful art of handwriting, it also incorporates spelling, and I like to add in memory work. Having a teen memorize this work would be excellent.

I'd be happy to talk more about this with you. Do you still have my number??

Andrea said...

Good stuff! I'll be doing a lot of thinking over the next few days.

I do have your number. Thanks!!