Archive for the ‘Dictation and copywork’ Category

Let’s do some math

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Try again

There are 180 days in the school year.

There are 36 weeks.

You have X number of children at writing age.

If you were to do one passage of copywork per week per child, you would have this equation:

36 x X = ______

So if you have 3 children at writing age, the answer is:

36 x 3 = 108 passages of copywork that you have supervised, corrected, and supported.

If you have a child who works to complete a single passage in a week by writing parts of it 2 or 3 times a week, that child is now working on handwriting and copying:

1 child x 3 days of handwriting (1 copywork passage) x 36 weeks = 108 days of writing 36 passages

3 kids x 2 days of handwriting (1 copywork passage) x 36 weeks = 216 days of supervising 36 passages (per child) of copywork

Can you see why you fall short sometimes? Can you see why adding a day of dictation or phonics worksheets or one more day of copywork can feel impossible, even though the actual daily practice is only 5-15 minutes at a time?

The hardest thing to do in homeschool is to sustain a routine without giving up when you don’t feel you’ve “hit the optimal practice.” Just like you wouldn’t abandon your daily math work just because you missed a week or a few days, you can take a similar approach to copywork and dictation. Get to it, as often as you can, within the weekly framework. When you miss, don’t let that derail you into *not* doing it at all.

Come back to the routine and try again. It’s better to have supervised 20 copywork attempts than 5. It’s better to have returned to the practice after being away from it, than to abandon it all together. Over years of time, you’ll see fruit from copywork and dictation, even if there are some (many) weeks you don’t get to it.

Sick Day

Friday, January 11th, 2013

DSCN5272 It’s that time of year where we all start sniffling and coughing. Shel Silverstein to the rescue! Use this poem for copywork or poetry teatime or just to read aloud for the sheer joy of it.

Sick, by Shel Silverstein

“I cannot go to school today,”
Said little Peggy Ann McKay.
“I have the measles and the mumps,
A gash, a rash and purple bumps.
My mouth is wet, my throat is dry,
I’m going blind in my right eye.
My tonsils are as big as rocks,
I’ve counted sixteen chicken pox
And there’s one more–that’s seventeen,
And don’t you think my face looks green?
My leg is cut–my eyes are blue–
It might be instamatic flu.
I cough and sneeze and gasp and choke,
I’m sure that my left leg is broke–
My hip hurts when I move my chin,
My belly button’s caving in,
My back is wrenched, my ankle’s sprained,
My ‘pendix pains each time it rains.
My nose is cold, my toes are numb.
I have a sliver in my thumb.
My neck is stiff, my voice is weak,
I hardly whisper when I speak.
My tongue is filling up my mouth,
I think my hair is falling out.
My elbow’s bent, my spine ain’t straight,
My temperature is one-o-eight.
My brain is shrunk, I cannot hear,
There is a hole inside my ear.
I have a hangnail, and my heart is–what?
What’s that? What’s that you say?
You say today is. . .Saturday?
G’bye, I’m going out to play!”

Follow up to yesterday’s post

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Hi everyone.

I heard from two of our instructors yesterday with excellent feedback related to our post and discussion about writing between parents and children. Here’s what Rita has to say:


I think one reason parents freak about spelling is they don’t follow the entire Writer’s Jungle process. They never take a child-selected writing piece once a month and work through the editing process you outline. That is where kids learn about all the picky stuff and they see that they can have a finished piece that people look at and praise.

Without the whole process over the course of months, parents give up on trusting the freewrite and kids don’t understand that a freewrite is about getting ideas on paper for a selected “big finish.” That big finish is where it all comes together and kids have an opportunity to care about how it looks or how it’s spelled–and to show it to someone with pride! The whole process encourages everyone to embrace and trust the freewrite. Parents whose kids are afraid to write are more afraid of that once a month editing process. Then everyone spirals downward again when the freewrite loses its steam. I hear this over and over again in Dynamic Revision (one of Rita’s classes that she teaches for Brave Writer).

Also, introducing kids to electronic dictionaries–now on phones and easier than ever with Siri–can really help the kid who is picky about spelling. They are more willing to just underline words that they don’t know how to spell, while they freewrite, once they can see how easy it is to go back after and electronically “fix” their perceived errors–before anyone else sees it! Their need to be perfect is easily met, so they are able to trust waiting.

Lastly, be aware of this: kids who can’t deal with the misspelled word may have no strategies for spelling. Kids who rely on how words look and don’t attend to phonemes and the default graphemes have no clue how to “just write how you think it’s spelled.” They may have to be taught how to write what they hear. Again, the electronic/on-line dictionaries help here: write what you hear, then check it by inputting those letter choices into the search. Spell-checkers reward those efforts in a way the old tomes never could.

Just some thoughts.

I would add: The Wand (created by Rita) gives parents the tools to teach spelling strategies to your kids. For older kids, The Arrow and The Boomerang give your kids practice with spelling through copywork and dictation. Use someone else’s writing to work on mechanics.

For kids struggling with handwriting, one of our instructors, Susanne Barrett, recommends Dragon Speech-to-Text Software:

Hi Julie,

Keith bought me the Dragon speech-to-text software; he found it at Costco for half price ($40). It’s wonderful; I can speak into the headset, and my words magically appear on the screen; I can even punctuate, capitalize, italicize or bold, even open files all by voice commands. The advantage for me is that it saves my swollen hands from painful typing.

However, I was thinking that because it’s dictation-based, it might be an option to mention for some of our families, either with kids in the partnership stage of writing or for students with dysgraphia or dyslexia.

It took about half an hour to set it up and train it to my voice. And we’re off and running! I’ve had problems with dictating in e-mails (I’m typing this), but I wrote half my new fan fiction chapter in Word with it Saturday within an hour of opening the box, and I can dictate responses to students within Brave Writer after setting the cursor at the right place. Yay!! My hands have really been bothering me lately, so this software is helping immensely.

Just wanted to let you know….

And there you have it! Our instructors have great ideas to keep you and your families writing. You may want to sign up for a class this spring. Just sayin’! :)


What it means to be “brave”

Monday, September 20th, 2010

Hello everyone!

Summer is long over. However, fall is just beginning in the Bogart household. My middle child only moved to college on Thursday! Made it very hard to settle into a fall routine.

Now that we’re here, let’s explore a few thoughts about Brave Writer and writing that may support your coming school year. One of our Brave Writer moms said it well a few years back:

I saw the name “Brave Writer” and honestly didn’t even consider why the website was called that.  After reading what a friend had to say about The Writers Jungle on the Sonlight forums, I decided to check it out.  At first I thought…no, way…the price is too much!  Boy was I wrong! It has been one of the most valuable investments I have made on this homeschool journey.

Last week I finally realized the significance of the name “Brave Writer.”  It speaks not only to the bravery of putting your thoughts down on paper, but also to me as a homeschool mom.  I have been using several recommended curriculum including a spelling workbook. It has gone fine—my ds 8 has been getting great grades on the tests as well as learning some alphabatizing and proofreading skills. However, when he writes, he misspells some of those same words.  There is a disconnect with my ds between completing a workbook and memorizing a list of spelling words and actually being able to spell well. Another downside…the spelling workbook pages were taking way too long some days with a dawdling boy (but who could blame the kid! It’s not the most fascinating work!). And that’s when I did my first brave thing…I threw out the spelling workbook (gasp, and the $10 I had paid for it).

O.K…that may not seem that brave, but it was my security blanket! And now I am having these crazy thoughts concerning the Grammar book as well. You see, I want him to spend more time on copywork, dictation, narrations, reading great books and poetry and there are just so many hours in the day (especially productive hours where an 8 year boy is involoved).

I’m having trouble letting go of those nagging thoughts “Well, so-and-so is having her ds do the whole grammar book and talks about how much he is learning…what if we don’t?  Will he still get into a good college someday? What if he can’t diagram a sentence?” (As I write this, I realize just how silly that sounds, but deep down I still wonder).

So I’m starting with my first brave act…I’m throwing out the spelling workbook and trying a more natural approach using copywork and dictation.  Maybe soon I’ll be able to take the next brave step with a little encouragement!


By the way, my ds doesn’t hate to write now that we do freewriting. I never realized how much pressure he was feeling because he thought everything had to be perfect!  Thanks, Julie!

What a great story! It’s true that being brave is not just about writing. It’s about taking calculated risks to trust that writing can be as natural a process as learning to speak was. Kay’s journey can be yours! Every day I hear from families who have completed the homeschooling journey. Here are a couple of their comments:

Hi Julie

We’ve been with Brave Writer for many years: have won a competition, participated in an on-line class, and my daughter is still loving her writing. She’s 17 now…

We’ve loved your stuff and continue to recommend your services to people everywhere we go.

God bless,

I thoroughly appreciated your blog, bravewriter manual and especially the “tuesday teatime” idea. We have enjoyed poetry with chocolate cake and have good memories for that. You helped me approach an area I did not have confidence in so THANK YOU.


Dear Julie,

As a homeschool family, we have been so blessed by you. I just want to thank you so much for what you have done for our family, over the past few years of our subscription.

As you know, children grow up. Our two are at the end of their homeschool journey, and we are using less and less homeschool curriculum, and more and more of community based learning prorams.

We have all ( me too) enjoyed the bravewriter lifestyle, and will always cherish special memories of reading aloud, and poems with our afternoon tea and candles. You are such a huge blessing.

Thank you for everything.


It’s great to be a part of these journeys. Hope Brave Writer can help you too!

From the Forums: When it works, it works!

Wednesday, October 28th, 2009

Last year we took the WONDERFUL copywork/dictation class and now we are slowly working our way through The Writer’s Jungle. Today my children did their first keen observation exercises.

Samuel, age 8, dictated the following to me with just a little bit of help:

It has a light-blue blade with streaks of white on it. It has a red button that you pull down to open it. It has six grips on it. One has a little, tiny, white streak on it. In the back of it, it has a knob with ridges going all around it with a dot the color of bronze in the middle of it. Right above that there is this thing that looks kind of like a little clothespin but you can not close it. And it has some black on the rim of it.

On each side of the lightsaber, it has two little bumps with a circle going around it. Above the red button I told you about there is a little silver circle. Above that is a black strip that curves in a moon shape, going out to the sides. On the sides, there is a hump that goes up, around the back, and back down on the other side. Then in the middle of the handle, there is more than 55 tiny, pointy studs going around the middle. It feels a little sharpish but it has a good grip.

It tastes like stale crackers.

In the middle of the left side of the lightsaber, there is a rectangle that goes a half-inch off the side of the lightsaber. On the top of that, there is a gold line about half-inch wide and two inches long and it has perpendicular and parallell lines carved on it and it has two little black spots on the top. And on the side of that rectangle, there is this little thing coming off of it that looks like a bed and it has a black spot at one tip. At the bottom of it, near the grip, is a black hook so you could hook it on your pants.

When the blade is coming out, it sounds like a fast-moving river. When it is going back in, it sounds like a brief drum roll.

The smell is like perfume. That’s why I don’t smell it that much.

Jane, 10 years old, wrote the following all by herself about a large multi-colored fake gemstone. (I corrected all of her spelling a punctuation errors as I typed this in):

This fake diamond is an amazing mix of colors. When I lean my head to one side, the sun relects on the little, triangular, tinted plates, creating a rose-blended lavendar, while some still remain an emerald green. The diamond-shaped, colored plates surrounding the outer edge can appear gold in some forms of lighting or lavendar, and in other cases emerald color. The inner plate can, too, appear a most majestic gold. Once I turn on the light the colors become deeper and darker like a dark, deep sea.

It feels cold to the touch, like icy metal. But it warms slowly as you keep your hand on it. The back is coated with a light metal surface.

It smells like a clear icy morning, so clear and airy almost like nothing. When I rub it on a wood surface, it sounds rocky and raspy like a not-so-clear voice coming over an old-fashioned radio. Sometimes when I touch it with a warm hand, it feels sweaty, the way it does when you grip a penny too hard and too long.

In the front there is a flat, circular, clearish plate, which is surrounded by the diamond plates I told you about. I think it is very complex and interesting to think about.

I’m pleased with their results. We’ve read good books & they’ve done narration for many years. For the past year, we’ve done copywork, dictation & freewriting regularly. We just completed the Farmer Boy Arrow that caused us to discuss and notice descriptive details, especially for my daughter. We also recently played the communication game, which really helped my son notice & describe details. I think all those things helped prepare them for this valuable exercise. I LOVE this approach to language arts! It’s so natural, fun & productive, too.

–Betsy R

Copywork/Dictation class starts on Monday! Don’t miss it.

Tuesday, September 29th, 2009

Brave Writer Fall Classes still OPEN for registration!

Don’t miss the Copywork and Dictation class! It’s our most popular, innovative class for moms looking for depth instruction in how to teach language arts naturally (spelling, grammar, handwriting, punctuation and literary elements). This course will revolutionize your understanding of how to use the natural practices of copywork and dictation to accomplish all your best intentions for language arts instruction. Don’t miss it!

“This has been an INCREDIBLE class! I learned SO MUCH and I am very thankful for your experience, encouragement and information. I love the fact that you just about buried us with advice & information.  I was still able to keep on top of it even though we’re brand new to copywork.” Betsy R

“This makes copywork/dictation as a practise truly personalized, which I love. It grows with the learner and incorporates ownership. You’ve provided so many new and specific activities to explore, I feel prepared and confident to keep making this one of our major language arts activities.” Kara

Check out the class descriptions by clicking on the links above.


P.S. Registration for Fall Classes stays open as long as there is space in a class (any time from today until the start date of class, as long as there is space).

The Arrow and the Boomerang start August 1

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

You can sign up any time and unsubscribe any time too. However, if you’re wanting the full year of issues, now’s the time to get that going! The Arrow and the Boomerang are our language arts products designed to make copywork and dictation spring to life. We give you four passages per month from a living book with detailed notes about grammar, spelling and punctuation, as well as noting literary style. Read more by clicking on the Arrow and the Boomerang.

We have several options for subscription or year long payment possibilities. You can purchase either of these as part of the Platinum package with The Writer’s Jungle as well.

Email: Spelling

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

Hello, Julie.

I have some samples and questions regarding my son’s horrid spelling that I was hoping you would not mind giving me some guidance with.  My son, Clay, just turned 9 in March and he says he hates to write (and read).  He reads at grade level (3rd) or a little below.  He enjoys stories ~ he says he hates reading however because he stresses himself out regarding the length of the story and the amount of writing per page.  He does plenty of copy work and has very neat writing.  He is struggling with creative writing because he is challenged to get his thoughts out of his head and onto paper.  We don’t do a lot of creative/freewriting becasue he is young and I don’t push him.


Language Arts for everyone

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

Brave Writer has launched its new year of the Arrow and the Boomerang, our tailor-made tools to help you execute your best intentions with regard to grammar, spelling, punctuation and writing mechanics. These tools feature a terrific, classic work of fiction while highlighting passages that assist you in teaching these language arts elements to your kids in the context of real writing.

Sometimes I’m asked if these tools are sufficient for teaching grammar, in particular. What I’ve noticed over the years of home educating five kids myself as well as the thousands of students we’ve now taught through Brave Writer is that the best education for the mechanics of writing is reading real writing. Some parents complain, however, that their kids read a ton and aren’t making the connection between what they read and what they write. It worries them! And of course it does! These are your kids.

What the Arrow and Boomerang do (and likewise, the high school already-published issues of the Slingshot) is to give you the ability to feature language arts elements in the context of great writing! Your kids naturally come to adopt the mechanics of writing in English through the soothing, repetitive practices of reading, pondering, copying and writing the passages in their own hand.

The power of this methodology came clear to me again just this week. My 14 year old son, Liam, who has struggled a lot with writing (has dysgraphia and was delayed in writing), has suddenly blossomed. His last year of copying passages from Redwall (his previous obsession) has borne fruit! As he started writing his own reviews of novels he’s reading, the flair to his natural writing voice, his “knack” for punctuation and his spelling are startlingly accurate. Sure he’s got some run-on sentences and occasional fragments. We can address those. But the heart of his writing is pure flair and personality, mixed with terrific spelling and a reasonable grasp of basic punctuation.

I did no formal teaching of grammar with this child. I’ve just continued to trust the process of reading aloud, read to self, talking a lot about the novels and stories and then copying the passages. We haven’t even graduated to dictation yet! Still the results are impressive.

To take a look at the Arrow or Boomerang, go to their website pages. Download the free samples and try them this month. Then if you like them, feel free to sign up for the monthly subscriptions or order back issues tailored to the books you’re reading. You’ll be glad you did.

Copywork and dictation: How often?

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008


Could you briefly share with us how copywork and dictation look in your home and include the highest grade you’ve had at home? I’ve shared your arrow and boomerang (the concept) with several friends and the common concern is that it doesn’t appear to be enough. Many believe that copywork and dictation should be daily not weekly. I would love your insight on this matter!


Hi Lisa.

Sure, I can share.

My oldest kids are in college (the oldest two are 21 and 18). I homeschooled both of them through high school, though the second one went part time to our local high school as well. Our third child is a junior in high school and goes full time. He was homeschooled through 9th grade. We have two more kids: 8th and 7th grades – all homeschooled.

Copywork and dictation can be done more frequently than weekly. The Arrow/Boomerang are designed to support the homeschooling parent, not to replace her own good judgment and her skills as a home educator. In fact, when I first designed the Arrow (which came first), I used to always say that the goal was to model how copywork and dictation can be done (how to select passages, how to teach them, how to make them more meaningful). I fully expected that mothers would then learn how to do it themselves and not need the Arrow any more.

I also included only one passage per week for a couple of reasons:

1) Many mothers set out to do copywork/dictation more than a couple times per week and then when they fail to hit their target, they give up and stop doing it all together. I’ve found that copywork/dictation once per week is way better than not doing it at all while holding the ideal of doing it twice or three times or every day of the week. In fact, I’ve found that once a week adds up to a lot of copywork/dictation if done all year.

2) Some of the passages in the Arrow and particularly the Boomerang are long. They benefit from being broken up into multiple days of work.

3) Kids like to pick their own copywork. Not all copywork has to be selected for them. By offering only one passage per week, your have the freedom of selecting other passages to copy (song lyrics, poetry, passages from a beloved book, refrigerator magnets, a religious text). If I give you more than one per week, you will feel you must impose those passages on your kids to get your money’s worth. :) But this way, you focus on one passage, really teach it, and then can allow your kids to select the ones that they want.

4) For reluctant writers, it is a lot to ask them to do handwriting work (in a book, for instance), copywork, dictation, freewriting, and any writing project all in a week. The Arrow and Boomerang allow you to feel that you are covering the material necessary to a good language arts program without putting your child through too much pencil trauma.

Brave Writer is different than other programs. I believe firmly in a parent’s role in the homeschool. We are supports to what you do. We offer products that teach you how to teach. Of course you can do more copywork and dictation if you like. I have a son (14) who copied things every day and did special handwriting therapies for his dysgraphia. Yet two years ago, he could hardly write even one passage a week. I have an 11 year old daughter who doesn’t like the passages I pick who writes in her journal and her Greek notebook every day, even in summer. We talk about grammar over lunch or in the car. She is learning spelling through Facebook status updates!

My older kids credit their years of dictation with their punctuation skills (the ones in college). They feel like they learned mechanics painlessly. My junior in high school has successfully gone straight into Honor’s English without having ever done a formal grammar or spelling program. He’s learned it all through less than once per week dictation over his lifetime.

Pay attention to your kids. Do what you believe nourishes them. Let them tell you what is working and what is not. Kids don’t learn as well when they are numb to the subject matter, when they feel obliged to fulfill your expectations without their buy-in. If once a week copywork/dictation is tolerable (even enjoyable) for you kids, they will learn a lot! There’s no reason to think that more is necessarily better.