October 31, 2020

Why We’re Skipping Spelling, Grammar, and Vocabulary This Year

It sounds like we’re committing homeschool treason, but allow me to explain why we’re skipping spelling, grammar, and vocabulary this year, and what we’re doing instead.

It goes all the way back to when I was our daughter’s age.

My parents started homeschooling when homeschooling was still very new in our province; they were one of a handful of families they knew that did it. My Mom was unsure of her abilities, and naturally did what she thought was best: follow the traditional Christian School curriculum in case homeschooling didn’t work out.

When it came to spelling, grammar, and vocabulary, that meant memorizing lists, rules, and definitions. For some of my siblings, this approach worked fantastically, but not for me.

It frustrated me and I cried a lot. My younger sister could easily out-spell me. I tried so hard to remember all the exceptions to “I before E, except after C” but I couldn’t make them stick, at least, not long enough for a test. Every week I had half a row of red X’s and a whole lot of corrections.

I was exasperated and my Mom was exasperated. She finally found the freedom to break from the traditional model and try new methods. Each year, I started a new spelling curriculum, but I still struggled and the results were more or less the same.

Eventually, Mom let me quit spelling as an individual subject. It brought nothing but tears, no matter what she tried.

The strangest thing happened: my spelling, grammar, and vocabulary improved! By simply reading and writing, the two things I loved to do most, I memorized how to spell words and understood what they meant because of the context in which they were used. I learned proper punctuation and capitalization by reading and copying what I read inside a journal.

It wasn’t until much later that we discovered this method of “teaching” spelling, penmanship, grammar, and vocabulary was not unique to me! “Copywork” was strongly encouraged by Charlotte Mason, a British educator from the 1800’s who believed in the gentle art of learning, and has heavily influenced homeschools all across the globe.

She encouraged young children to copy a simple, short (no more than 10 minutes), succinct bit of wisdom daily, using poetry, Bible verses, or quotes from great works of literature in order to teach beautiful handwriting.  In the process of learning proper penmanship, she believed several other language skills would be reinforced. Proper spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and memorization are learned when a child pays careful attention to the details of a quote they copy with their own hand.

Our oldest daughter learns very much as I do, so instead of trying to teach spelling, vocabulary, and grammar as separate disciplines this year, we’re going to be using a lot of copywork instead.

Their dad and I have spent the last week creating a series of copyworks from The Book of Proverbs for our children to use. Each one is based on a theme from Proverbs (Reverence For God, Fools And Folly, Wisdom For Boys, Wisdom For Girls, Knowledge, and Obedience), and is approximately 30 pages long – a good month’s worth. We’ve chosen verses that can be copied within a 10-minute time frame.

The first 6 of the 12 eBooks in the series are available as printable downloads for $4.50 each. Or, you can save 37% and get them all for $16.99!

These copyworks are recommended for children ages 5-8. A note of instruction for the parent is included in each printable. All quotations are taken from the King James Version.

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