The Mystery and Magic of Copywork

A friend recently asked me about any resources to help her daughter with spelling. I was eager to share all about Copywork with her!

I feel like Copywork has been the biggest secret withheld from the traditional school system today. It’s really like gold. I must admit, that as a high school English teacher in my past life, a grammar/word girl, and a person generally drawn to lists and workbooks, Copywork seemed like a shot in the dark. Or like jumping off a cliff and trusting that we would land all in one piece. I dropped all the other workbooks we used and committed to Copywork early on.

What exactly is copywork? Basically, it is a daily discipline and habit of finding and selecting a special sentence from what you read and copying it down exactly in your own special journal. That’s it. In our adult-world, digital version, it’s like clicking the highlight button on your Kindle. But actually, it’s so different, and its rewards are so vast. By copying a well-written sentence each day, a child is learning spelling, vocabulary, handwriting, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, etc. all in one fell swoop!! In just a 10 minute exercise!

Now that to me is magic! And it actually really and truly works. From 1st – 4th grade, in addition to reading great works and having your child orally narrate them, you really do not need to do much more around those early years of Language Arts. In 4th-5th grade, you can up the game a little more with adding dictation. And in middle school, they should begin writing their narrations.

But spelling, unless there are other deeper learning issues involved with your child, should be a non-issue if you are able to commit to the fun habit of Copywork. Stay committed to it. Don’t compromise on it daily. Let your child really own it. You’ll see an eagerness and focus grow in them while reading to seek out worthy sentences and great ideas to capture as they compile them in their special book.

Here are a few definitions and ideas about Copywork to leave you with. Let me know if you have any questions about how to make this happen practically!

“Children should transcribe favorite passages. ––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 or another…   But a book of their own, made up of their own chosen verses, should give them pleasure.”  ~ Charlotte Mason (1842-1923)

“The purpose of copywork is to get into the child’s visual (and motor) memory the look and feel of a sentence that is corrrectly composed, and properly spelled, spaced, and punctuated.” Jessie Wise Bauer, The Well Trained Mind

“It is a method, that when used consistently in your homeschooling studies, will improve your child’s penmanship, grammar, and punctuation skills as well as expose him to a variety of writing styles, structures, and techniques.” Debra Reed, {affiliate link}

“Its purpose is to improve the child’s handwriting, expose them to noble thoughts, good sentence structure, rich vocabulary and introduce basic punctuation and capitalization rules. Even grammar is incidentally taught but this is just an added benefit and not the purpose for copywork.” Linda Johnson,Charlotte Mason Help


Work is Good

Several years ago, I thought of a mantra to share with my middle child:

Work Is Hard.

Work Is Good.

Work Takes Time

He would repeatedly get frustrated when his schoolwork or chores were more challenging or time-consuming. I felt like it was because he had wrong expectations and beliefs. Most of our frustrations in life come from missed expectations.

Therefore, if he believed that work is inherently good (not bad), hard (not easy), and that it takes time (not always completed immediately and that there are trade-offs), he would be able to embrace life for what it really is. He could tackle the task at hand without adding the burden of an extra emotional layer of frustration.

Today, I ran up against this same myth with my youngest and was able to share this mantra. I heard her repeat it a few times and could really see a shift in her mindset throughout the day.

And then I knew it really sunk in when she wrote it out on her own as I was reading Little Women to her.


Ironically, this applies to the hard work of parenting as much as it does to our kids! It sure isn’t easy, but it is so good, and such a treat to see the reward of the commitment, love, leadership, and patience that was hard-fought and learned through it all!

Entering Public School

img_4666We have thoroughly enjoyed homeschooling our children for NINE years! I originally intended to just do Kindergarten to Gabe, but it went so well, and our family was grooving with it, so we kept going just one year at a time. I loved the richness of our content, the time in nature, the learning we could customize per child, and especially the freedom it afforded us as a family.

This freedom allowed us to embark on a three year trek as Freejourners around the country, mostly around the Western US, enjoying all the National Parks and beautiful sites and hikes it had to offer. We hopped around from city to city, living in many for a month at a time, meeting amazing people and learning so much along the way.

I feel like our kids were at perfect ages to do that. Honestly, though, any ages are perfect, depending on the desires of a family. But our oldest was 11-14 years as we traveled. We stayed connected to their long-time best buddies and joined sports teams wherever we went, so they were always around kids. But as they were getting older, like most kids, they need us parents less and need more time away from us to grow and stretch around others.

This was the year for our kids. So, we decided that it was a great time for them to head to school! Gabe, our oldest, entered 9th, and Isaac went into 7th grade. (Jadyn will be with us at least another year, learning at home.)

And so far, so good. We’ve survived the first week, with new sleep schedules, packed lunches, piles of papers to sign, weird schedules and deadlines, and even sports practices! Gabe made the JV soccer team, and we were so proud of him!

They lucked out, too, because this was the first year, the entire district went “paperless” – NO Textbooks! They each got a Chromebook and can easily function around Google Apps as they’ve been using it our whole homeschool life!

But it hasn’t been without hiccups. Gabe is fortunate enough to take 2 classes online as an academic athlete in anticipation for his upcoming snowboarding practices. He can just go to the library to work on them. But that first week, he should have been checking in with a teacher in a classroom first. Somehow we missed that detail. So he went 3 days without going. When he finally realized and checked in, the teacher told him he’d get an “unexcused absence.” There were 5 seconds of awkward silence when Gabe asked what that was. The teacher wondered if he was being sarcastic! Gabe was able to share that he’d “been homeschooled all his life,” and really didn’t know and had indeed been working in the library. I think he got off fine.

Other than that, though, the boys are having a great time for the most part, just tired. I love that they can experience school from the “outside-in.” They can observe the lunchtime/classtime dynamics and feel free inside, but noting how people group around. They are engaging with the teachers and are really eager to learn and participate. They want to hold onto their creativity, their deep thinking, and their boldness. I love it. But they also get to experience the “pressure” of deadlines and grades and social expectations. It’s all good.

I have to say, though, I’m still so grateful to be homeschooling another year. We juggle our business and life and schooling from home, so our days are always full and intense. But I still enjoy learning about science with Jadyn, reading about the Kings & Queens of England, watching her blossom into a creative writer, and especially being out in nature, taking in all that life has to offer.

Here’s to another year for us as a family, living and learning together. It looks a lot different for us this year, but we are really looking forward to it!

Best Way to Learn

…is to just jump in and do it. There are many people (myself included sometimes!) who are more comfortable taking their time, thinking about things, planning, and preparing for a situation.

And that is great. But honestly, the best way to learn how to do something is to just do it. I’ve seen this personally this month with a few things like tennis and snowboarding – and have seen this play out in business multiple times over.

I think it’s because the pressure makes us step up with a higher level of focus. When we do not have to “perform” or compete, we can be a little more lax with ourselves. In addition, reality is the best teacher. Everything is theoretical when we are in practice-mode. You discount real-time feedback or the various new emotions involved that can steer a situation.

Sure, there is that moment of fear or feeling like we are not ready yet – but once we get over that feeling, it really isn’t as difficult as we may have imagined. And really, what have we got to lose? Only much knowledge and new skills to gain!


Loving the Variety

I am privileged to engage with such a variety of reading and experiences each day as we creatively walk through this blended life of businesses, school, and life.

Today was one of those days – Podcast Recording, doctor’s appointment, running outside in 20 degree temps, newsletter publications, sent off some Arbonne samples to friends, tennis lessons for kids, speech & debate practice and tailoring a suit for Gabe. And in between those activities, I was able to enjoy audio books during the drives and great reads with the kids.

Here’s what stuck from what I read:

The Miracle Morning

Whether it’s our routines or our relationships, it’s our responsibility to actively and continuously make them the way we want them to be.

There are so many ways to make excuses or blame our circumstances on others. But if we take full responsibility, then we tend to have greater creativity, perseverance, and attitude to weather the difficulties. It’s up to us to make experiences and relationships meaningful.

This book has been a fantastic catalyst for waking up a couple hours before the family and taking care of the important things in life, while enjoying the quiet moments of silence and serenity. It’s really added a new, keen focus to business and life.

The Nightingale

These questions are not about them, but about us. Don’t think about who they are. Think about who you are and what sacrifices you can live with and what will break you. p 126

One of the characters in this book was working through deep regret during the time of Nazi occupation. She had shared a list of names, including her best friend’s, with a German Nazi. The above response was from her mentor as an encouragement on what was most important to focus on. I can only imagine being in her shoes and the internal conflict with every decision.

I think much of life is like this though – we cannot always control the circumstances or the people around us, but we can control our decisions and responses to it. “Who am I?” is the main question to always ask. Continue reading Loving the Variety


There’s been an AWESOME video going around social media from a TED talk on an 11-year old boy, sharing about his life experiences, namely around his schooling. He shares impressive insight for a young man his age. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” he’s often asked. “I want to BE happy,” he answers. And so he’s intentionally structuring his life and current pursuits around things that have been proven to lead to happiness:

  • exercise
  • diet and nutrition
  • recreation
  • relaxation
  • religion and spirituality
  • relationships
  • contribution and service
  • time in nature

He is homeschooled. But it’s not just “school at home.” He is filling his time with things that have meaning now as well as in the future. He calls it hack-schooling. I love it!

It’s what I’ve always wanted for our kids. Homeschooling allows us the freedom to fill our days with ANYTHING. We have the gift of time. For any who know me, you know I HATE to waste time. I think I got that from my mother. She’d even rally us to get up and do something during commercials on TV and made sure that we were at least completing one other thing while watching TV.

So, as a homeschool teacher, I’ve always wanted to make sure my kids were using their time wisely. I detest busy work and mindless repetition or superficial regurgitation. I’ve chosen a Charlotte Mason curriculum because I believe it focuses on content and methods that are rich, meaningful, and life-lasting. So, we spend a lot of time reading great literature, searching for and discussing memorable, wise or witty quotes, and retelling everything we read (because if we don’t, we just don’t remember it as well). We make math as fun as it can be, covering basics as slowly or as quickly as needed, adding in great books like Life of Fred or online games like or Kahn Academy. Continue reading Hack-Schooling

Recognizing Patterns

Do you remember learning pattern sequences like AABB or ABCABC as a young child? To me, those activities were fun exercises. Finding patterns was like figuring out a puzzle. If you could figure out the pattern, you could predict the next sequence.

As an adult, I still enjoy recognizing patterns and have come to realize just how beneficial that strength is when trying to understand people, business sales cycles, and any other important process. By nature, I am a “refiner,” meaning that I can quickly see how something is and then think of a few ways to change and make it better.

For moms, a lot of us recognized the “witching hour” pattern pretty quickly. If we were at home with toddlers, inevitably, just about the time that we started cooking dinner and were ready to wind down our day, it seemed like everything fell apart – kids were hungry, tired and grumpy. Some of us figured out how to change that pattern by deciding to make that the hour our kids could watch television. Or eat a snack. Or head outside with neighbors. Or order take-out. 🙂

In our businesses, I have noticed that the weeks tend to follow predictable rhythms. Mondays and Tuesdays are always full with emails, project engagement and meetings. But by Wednesday afternoon, the activity starts to wind down. Thursdays and Fridays continue to decline with professional demands as well. So, for me, I’ve learned to start getting ready for the week on Sunday night, making sure my inbox is clear and lining up the projects for the week. I don’t expect much free time on Mondays and Tuesdays during the days, so I’m not frustrated when the day is packed. I just go for a walk or run at the end. I’ve also learned to use Wednesday afternoons thru Fridays to catch up on longer articles I’d like to read and to write those of my own.

With my kids, I try to keep my eyes wide open to notice new patterns and ask myself important questions. Why did Jadyn start deliberately blinking her eyes all of a sudden? Why is she always curious about all of the details when someone is hurt and goes to the doctor? Why does Isaac always light up when he hears about animals or sports? Why does Gabe gravitate so easily to movie, book and software release dates and is always on Wikipedia when I ask what he’s doing on his phone? Why do they tend to work harder and more focused when I stay out of their way instead of interrupting them with verbal affirmation? Their hearts are so dear to me, so I want to be able to recognize any new patterns to give me a clue as to what’s going on inside.

And with my husband, man, I’ve earned a PhD in Don Dalrymple patterns. I’ve figured out too many patterns to share here. 😉  But here’s one – I’ve recognized that for some reason, he gets very frustrated when I schedule too many things (or even one thing!) for our family on Saturdays. So, after several years, I figured out that our family enjoys the most fun together when we just wake up on Saturdays, see what Don is in the mood for, and follow his adventurous idea. I often have a back-up plan idea, but I never divulge that information until after breakfast on Saturday.

I also am keen to notice patterns in myself. The hormonal cycle pattern is obvious, but less and less predictable unfortunately as I’m getting older! But I try to be aware of any emotional patterns – what tends to get me down or what really lifts my spirits. Then, I feed into those positive patterns like exercising, writing, calling dear friends, or going on walks with Don.

The key is not just to recognize the pattern, but to be able to ask, what thing – little or big – if changed could influence the pattern in a positive way and change the script.

Do you easily recognize patterns in your business, family, or friendships? How does that help you?