Archive for the ‘Copywork Quotations’ Category

A Conversation with Rita Cevasco

Working Memory and Copywork

Working Memory and Copywork:
A Conversation with Rita Cevasco

I’m excited to share Rita with you! You will love her. She’s worked for over 25 years with kids who have learning challenges, she homeschooled her own kiddos, and she is a good friend of mine (and Brave Writer’s!).

In this conversation we talk about the power of copywork to enhance the working memory! When our kids become proficient in copywork, they become efficient in handwriting which frees space for original thought in writing.

Rita walks us through a variety of practices and the brain science that validates a rich life of copywork and reading!

Grab 5 Tips by Rita in this FREE Working Memory and Copywork download
then watch our conversation below!

Connect with Rita!

Rita Cevasco

Sick Day

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!”

Copywork and Dictation: How often? (Revisited)

HomeworkImage by Alastair Vance


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). Mothers can learn to do it themselves, if they like.

I included only one passage per week for several reasons:

1) Discouragement: 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) Length of passage: 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) Personal preference: 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) Stress: 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.

Tired of Writing? Make a List!

Writing Lists

Writing wears kids out, have you noticed?

Children may get that burst of linguistic energy working for them (when the inspiration strikes, they’re hard to stop!), but when they’re done, they’re done. Sometimes after a successful writing project, all anyone wants to do is lie about doing nothing.

While taking some time off, or while your kids aren’t quite proficient enough to write lengthy passages of prose, you might try writing lists. Lists can be an incredibly therapeutic way to interact with language. For one thing, there is no shortage of topics for lists.

Here’s a list (ha!) of what you might list:

  • birds
  • roller coasters
  • Lego sets
  • favorite lines of poetry
  • seeds to plant in the garden
  • items to purchase for a bedroom redesign
  • hairstyles to try
  • funny jokes
  • not-so-funny jokes
  • words that rhyme with…
  • famous lines of Shakespeare
  • the original old English vocabulary in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (with translations)
  • items in a junk drawer
  • all the vocabulary needed to sew a quilt
  • favorite TV shows
  • past American Idol contestants and when they were voted off
  • types of tanks used in WWII
  • American Girl trousseau items

As you can see, there is no limit to what can be listed!

Lists allow your kids to continue to work on handwriting, vocabulary development, categorizing, ordering, and information gathering. They also offer a place to house disparate thoughts or ideas or fantasies. It’s nice to keep a list of all the things you’d buy if you had $100.00. Cheaper than spending the dough-re-mi!

Lists can be kept in notebooks, on white boards, on sheets of paper. My daughter kept a list on her bedroom wall (all the friends she had and something funny about them).

Lists often mushroom into sub categories too: birds in my backyard, birds I saw on vacation in Florida, birds I saw at the zoo, birds that live at the beach.

So get out a notepad and start a list.

P.S. I love the little moleskin notebooks that fit inside a purse for listing, jotting down words, keeping my thoughts together so that anywhere I am, I can write them down. Your kids might like that too – a portable list!

The Homeschool Alliance

April: National Poetry Month

Did you know that? Old hat for Brave Writer fans, right?

One of the funny things about being in the “hot seat” for writing and language arts is that I’ve become a confessor of sorts. Mothers like to corner me at conferences or in the hallways of our co-op to ask me their questions and to tell me their guilty tales of failed writing attempts. One question I get frequently is: “How do I teach poetry? Do I have to? I’ve never liked it and don’t understand it. Truth is: we never read it.”

If that’s you, if you’re wondering how to give a lesson in poetry to your kids when you never spent much time with it yourself, I’ve got some ideas for you! April is obviously just the right month to tackle it.