Copywork is a cornerstone of our
English program in our home-based-learning. Many things have come and
gone over the years but copywork is a tried and true, effective tool
for us.

Copywork is not a Charlotte Mason invention.
Nor was it invented by Ruth Beechick. It is as old as old.  However, CM
elucidated upon the idea, incorporated it into her method, which
dovetailed with her philosophy of education and it is now very popular.
Ruth Beechick uses the idea of copywork/copywriting/transcription or
whatever else you'd like to name it. 'Learning Language Arts through
Literature', in which Ruth Beechick helped to form, uses copywork and
dictation as a cornerstone of their program. You might find it helpful
to know what both Charlotte Mason and Ruth Beechick have to say on the
why and wherefore's of copywork. Knowing that, you will be able to
*pick the meat and toss the bones*…taking what you need for your


Charlotte Mason style

Bear in mind that CM developed a philosophy of education and the
methods she combined were supposed to be used in conjunction with that
philosophy. I'll explain what I mean eh?

Mason liked the idea of short lessons. This served the purpose of
securing the child's attention totally, but for short periods. This
enabled a child to tend to all of his studies without boredom.
Similarly, Miss Mason would have preferred one line of perfect A's
rather than 5 lines of A's written sloppily. An idea behind this was to
have the child accustomed to doing his best work and not rushing
through a job just to get it done. Miss Mason was always focussing on
instilling and maintaining good Habits.

She had
young children start off with copying the alphabet, forming upper case
and the lower case. Later on, once they were proficient at that, they
would begin transcription. They would copy verse of Scripture, poetry,
speeches or selected passages of literature. CM did not have the
children copy their own stories or writing, rather she wanted students
to copy the 'best' works. Composition and editing were different

The helpful thing that I have found with
copywork is that the child is able to learn (by osmosis, almost)
correct spelling, grammar and punctuation, plus handwriting or
penmanship. But even more than that, is the idea that the child is
coming into direct contact with great thoughts or ideas, which is
another cornerstone of CM's philosophy.

Perfect Accomplishment.––I can only offer a few hints on the teaching
of writing, though much might be said. First, let the child accomplish
something perfectly in every lesson––a stroke, a pothook, a letter. Let
the writing lesson be short; it should not last more than five or ten
minutes. Ease in writing comes by practice; but that must be secured
later. In the meantime, the thing to be avoided is the habit of
careless work––humpy 'm's, angular o's.
Printing.––But the child
should have practice in printing before he begins to write. First, let
him print the simplest of the capital letters with single curves and
straight lines. When he can make the capitals and large letters, with
some firmness and decision, he might go on to the smaller
letters––'printed' as in the type we call 'italics,' only upright,––as
simple as possible, and large. Vol 1 pg 233-234


and further along there is:

Value of Transcription––The earliest practice in writing proper for
children of seven or eight should be, not letter writing or dictation,
but transcription, slow and beautiful work, for which the New
Handwriting is to be preferred, though perhaps some of the more ornate
characters may be omitted with advantage.
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
Children should Transcribe favourite Passages.––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.




Ruth  Beechick

Ruth Beechick uses copywork slightly differently. She generally
suggests that the child follow a pattern, which is also the same as
LLATL. Firstly, she would have the student copy a passage (or from
dictation-depending upon age and ability). Then, he would study that
passage and rewrite it from dictation or memory. Here, the parent
should go over the work with the student and point out any errors and
teach the child where he went wrong. Then, the child would read from
their copy. After this, the child would then write the passage again
but this time they proofread it as best he can by comparing it to the
original model. Correct and then dictate again while the child writes.
Continue as much as is necessary.

Step 2 would involve then
dictating a sentence that the child has not seen. The parent should
read this sentence with as much expression as possible, breaking the
sentence into parts, if necessary. Then review the passage..

If the student is a beginner, the parent should make a model of the
passage or sentence for the student to copy. If it takes the student a
long time, or if there are many errors after the first review, then you
might need to spend a few lessons or days on this passage.

More advanced students might be able to check their own work by comparing it to the model.

Ruth Beechick has, at other times, suggested breaking down the
components of English. eg: for a penmanship lesson, have the child
simply work on certain letter forms that may need improvement. This way
he can just concentrate on forming the letters correctly and neatly.
Ruth Beechick's books are "The 3 R's" and "You Can Teach Your Child
Successfully" Grades 4-8 are highly recommended.

This way of "whole learning"
is very beneficial as students come across concepts that while they may
not even understand at this stage they are becoming aware of them.
Eventually, students will learn about sentence structure, paragraphs,
whole sentences, grammar and punctuation. etc.

This is
only my understanding of what I've read – others may see it
differently. Copywork is a tool that has been used for centuries…it's
easy to see why. 

link1  This link will show you a sample of a Copybook in 1845.