Copywork and Dictation: How Often?

Copywork and Dictation: How Often?

Common questions from homeschooling moms: what did copywork and dictation look like in your home and how often should it be done?

My response:

My oldest kids are in college (ages 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.

The Arrow language arts program

4 Responses to “Copywork and Dictation: How Often?”

  1. JoVE says:

    Hmm. I never assumed that the one passage meant once a week. In fact we often used that passage several times in a week. Particularly when just starting out, dictation feels like a big thing to do with a completely new passage. So we would do the passage as copywork first, possibly in two chunks if it was long, and then do the same passage as dictation on Friday. That way you can actually teach the passage, stopping to talk about anything that might be complicated as it occurs.

  2. teddiebear_hugs says:

    JoVE, what a great idea! My son is almost 10, and has only been doing copywork off and on for about a year. I feel he is not ready to move right into dictation. My plan was to do copywork for the next 6-12 months, move to French dictation, and do French dictation for about 6-12 months, and then dictation. I think I might have him use copywork Mon and Tues, French dictation Wednesday and Thursday, and dictation on Friday for the passage used in Arrow. He has been also doing free copywork two or three days per week, where he gets to choose what he would like to copy.

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