Just five minutes copywork everyday is all you need to begin teaching your child handwriting.

In our homeschool, copywork was a must have resource in the primary school years. It was an independent activity that exposed my children to great literature, got them writing daily, and only took ten minutes. But it did take me a while to set it up initially, but once I had my pre-done copywork organized it was a set a forget activity. Here’s the how and why of using copywork, and setting it up as an independent activity in your homeschool.


Have you tried Charlotte Mason handwriting copywork yet? I have used it in my homeschool for over 10 years and I think it is one of the most helpful tools for developing my children’s handwriting and writing skills.

Handwriting Copywork Is Successful And Simple!

Charlotte Mason Copywork is simply writing out by hand, or copying, from good quality written texts or models. Actually teaching writing this way was not invented by Charlotte Mason. It has been employed for centuries as a technique for teaching writing. This method is also recommended by Ruth Beechick and classical educators such as Laura Berquist and Susan Wise-Bauer.

Copywork is much more than a handwriting program!

Copywork begins with simple letter tracing and then progresses to writing out more complex passages. Although copywork is used initially for developing good penmanship, it is also useful for teaching other language arts subjects. How can this be? This is because when we choose excellent literature as models for our children’s copywork, we are giving them a subtle lesson in spelling, grammar, punctuation and literature appreciation.

A Good Handwriting Model

Since copywork is as much about children perfecting their handwriting style, as providing quality literature, we want to make sure that they also have a good model for their handwriting. This is a subject in itself, so I’ve written another article for you on choosing a handwriting style.

‘The earliest practice in writing proper for children of seven or eight should be, not letter writing or dictation, but transcription [copy work], slow and beautiful work…Transcription should be an introduction to spelling. Children should be encouraged to look at the word, see a picture of it with their eyes shut, and then write from memory…. A sense of beauty in their writing and in the lines they copy should carry them over this stage of their work with pleasure. Not more than ten minutes or a quarter of an hour should be given to the early writing lessons. If they are longer the children get tired and slovenly.’ Charlotte Mason

Practice handwriting with copywork— not composition!

Handwriting practice consists of copying, not creating, letters, words and sentences. Remember that composition requires students to focus on content, organization, spelling and punctuation skills. If handwriting perfection is also required, the frustration may be overwhelming leading a child to avoid writing altogether.

Handwriting Copywork – Less Than 10 Minutes A Day

After a child has been taught basic handwriting techniques, I find that the best way to improve their handwriting and writing skills is with lots and lots of copywork.

Our children begin copywork at around 6 years old and continue using it as part of their homeschool day until they are around 12. At first they copy one or two sentences per homeschool day. Over time this becomes a paragraph per homeschool day. When they are transitioning to cursive writing I expect less until they regain confidence in letter formation.

Each copywork lesson takes less than 10 minutes to do. Their handwriting should be well presented and not sloppy.

Handwriting The Charlotte Mason Way Teaches Much More than Letters

One of the things I love about Charlotte Mason was that she never wasted an opportunity. Handwriting was no exception. She wanted to make sure a child’s lessons were rich with learning literature without unnecessary busy work. She saw each handwriting lesson as the opportunity to teach spelling, grammar and literature. Teaching handwriting the Charlotte Mason way  makes a lot a sense. It saves time and children are taught using good models right from the start.

When Should I Start Cursive

You can really start teaching cursive when you think your child is ready. In schools they traditionally start in Year 4 and then complete teaching cursive around Year 6 when kids get their pen license (a term to say they were competent writers).

Some people like to teach cursive from an early age. In the days of inkwells and feather quills children were taught to write a cursive script as their initial writing experience. Children from the age of six were able to manage this handwriting script. When pencils became readily available many schools switched over to ball and stick printing because it was thought that this style is much easier for a child to learn.

Advocates of teaching cursive first believe that introducing printing as the initial handwriting script caused a range of other problems. These included less supervision when teaching cursive with some students never learning it properly, B and D confusion and other reading and writing problems because special sequences are lost with printing and fatigue in writing due to the disconnected strokes of letters.

What Should I Use For Handwriting Copywork?

Many handwriting books ask the child to copy a silly sentence while practicing their writing technique. What a wasted opportunity! Choose your copywork wisely. Use fine literature, from great authors with excellent technique.

Copywork selections can be from Scripture, classic literature, poems or famous quotes. You can also choose from books that are relevant to what you studying in your homeschool.

At first you will need to present the copywork in a way that children can easily copy the passage. I learnt this the hard way. When I started using copywork I was having my son (age 7) copy from the Bible and classic literature. It was too hard for him. The small writing and layout of chapters meant that he was constantly losing his place and it became quite an ordeal. To add to his frustration a paperback book would close if it wasn’t weighted down. I then ended up typing out a quote or making a mark in the book. Although this often worked, it was time-consuming and I was ruining some books with my highlighter.

Don’t Be Afraid To Use Pre-Packaged Copywork – It’s Such A Time Saver!

Finding suitable quotes and presenting them in a suitable format can become tedious. If this sounds like too big a job, you can use pre-packaged copywork, where passages have already been thoughtfully selected and are presented with a good handwriting model. This can save you a great deal of time and energy (something every home educator needs!) It makes organizing your copywork simple and as the child grows in confidence and skill, you can introduce passages directly from books.

I used pre-packaged copywork books most of the time.

It’s so easy, it requires minimal planning and it is something they can do independently.