Five Reasons Why Older Kids Need Copywork Too..And a Great Copywork Curriculum We're Using

When I first discovered Charlotte Mason and her principles and methods of education, copywork is one of the learning tools that I loved most. I remembered growing up with and then teaching with a handwriting curriculum that had children practice handwriting by copying isolated letters and meaningless words. I hated our handwriting practice when I was in school, and I really didn't like having to use the same handwriting curriculum when I later taught in the same private school.

As I began homeschooling, I turned once again to the same handwriting curriculum. I didn't like it, but I didn't know how else to teach and to have kids practice handwriting. And then I discovered copywork.

Copywork for older kids

With copywork, children copy real, meaningful sections of writing. They can copy poetry, Scripture, or passages from great living books. When children use copywork, they're not only getting the opportunity to practice handwriting, they're also filling their minds with the vocabulary and writing patterns of great literature.

Copywork isn't just for younger children, though. Even though many handwriting curricula focus on young kids learning manuscript or cursive, copywork can be used for older kids- even up through high school. In fact, I use copywork myself, often copying portions of Scripture for my personal Bible study.

So, why should you be using copywork with your older kids? Here are five good reasons why, and I'm sharing the copywork my older kids have been using.

Copywork can aid in learning to spell more complex words.

Have you used long spelling lists that teach kids to spell isolated word? Many kids struggle to learn spelling this way. When they are given a list of words to memorize, they may be able to practice them and regurgitate them for a spelling test, but chances are, they won't know how to spell that word in context when they come across it. However, when even difficult words are a part of copywork, kids are more likely to learn to spell them by using them, helping them to be able to use and spell the words correctly in their own writing.

Copying passages of Scripture or literature gives the writer opportunity to think about the passage instead of just skimming through it.

I know that when I'm reading, I can easily zone out and not focus on the content that is in front of me. It takes diligence and concentration to really pay attention. Our kids are the same way. When they read passages of literature, poetry, or Scripture, their minds may wander. But if they're copying a passage, they're training their minds to focus, to concentrate, as they write each word. I use Scripture copywork for my own Bible study for this reason. I find that when I'm writing the words, I'm taking more time to really think about them. 

Copywork can help even older kids increase their vocabulary.

Just as with spelling words, having kids memorize a list of vocabulary words out of context doesn't really help them to understand and internalize the words as part of their vocabulary. But when kids are copying a passage with complex words they don't know yet, they're more likely to figure out the meanings of words in context. And, because they've learned the word in context, they're better able to take the word and use it in their own writing.

Copying passages from great literature gives kids exposure to books they might not normally read.

No matter how diligently we try to fill our kids' reading lists with great books, they won't have time or opportunity to read everything wonderful that we may wish for them to read. But, if you use passages from great literature for copywork, the kids will at least have some exposure to these great works they may not have had the opportunity to read. Great literature, as well as Scripture, is rich in language, and often has beautiful, meaningful passages that our kids can experience as they copy them.

Copywork can help kids develop and practice good writing skills, including correct grammar and punctuation.

Almost any writer will tell you that to become a great writer, you need to learn from models of great writing. Instead of trying to teach writing skills, grammar, and punctuation in isolated lessons, out of context, give kids great writing to copy. As they copy, they'll learn through context the sentence patterns; they'll begin to pick up on grammatical conventions; they'll see how punctuation is used. Through copying passages of quality writing, kids will pick up on the style of the writing and begin to translate that into their own writing assignments.

If you've noticed in my explanation of these benefits, copywork is an awesome tool for helping kids to learn in context. Spelling, vocabulary, writing skills, grammar, and punctation are all better being taught in context. 

I know from my experience as a traditional teacher using traditional methods that a child can memorize a list or words or a list of grammar rules and can get them all correct on a test. But, that doesn't mean they'll use the correct spelling or the grammar rules in their own writing. In fact, it doesn't mean that their own written communication will improve at all. But when children are constantly exposed to great writing that they copy, paying attention to detail and focusing on their copying, they'll learn these things in context, and their own writing will become better because of it.

Copywork for older kids

The Westminster Shorter Catechism Copybook

If you're looking for some great copywork that can be used by all ages, my middle school girls have been using the Westminster Shorter Catechism Copybook from Brookdale House. This has been a great tool for us because it's giving my girls an introduction to the catechism as well as an opportunity to practice handwriting, spelling, and writing skills.

What is the Westminster Shorter Catechism?

The Westminster Shorter Catechism is a series of 107 questions that presents the Reformed doctrine. The questions cover who God is, man's beginning and original sin, Christ and His redemption, the Ten Commandments, baptism and communion, and the Lord's Prayer.

In some churches, children memorize all 107 answers and recite them, section building upon section, until they recite all 107 at the same time. Our church had a children's catechism program at one time. I was pretty diligent in helping the two older kids memorize it when they were younger. But the program dwindled out, and I didn't continue with my children. At one point I did use a discussion of the catechism in our homeschool Bible time, and we covered each question and its answer. I wanted the kids to at least be exposed to the doctrinal statements and to understand what they meant.

Using the Westminster Shorter Catechism Copybook

When I saw the Westminster Shorter Catechism Copybook from Brookdale House, it was the perfect resource for my middle schoolers to use this year. I knew I wanted them to continue copywork for all of the reasons I shared above. And I loved that they would have opportunity to once again be exposed to the catechism questions and answers.

This copywork can easily be used with younger or older children. There are options for manuscript as well as different cursive forms. And you can choose wider, ruled lines for younger children or more narrow lines for older students. There are digital versions of the copywork as well as print versions. So you have plenty of options.

Explore the benefits of copywork for your older children. You can check out the Westminster Shorter Catechism Copybook here.

Do you use copywork with your older kids?

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