The Habit of Perfect Execution: Copywork

I would like to write a little bit about this subject because I think it is a widespread concern among many mothers today. Children are capable of achieving much more than we give them credit for. In fact, it is often because of their incredible intellectual powers of manipulation that they are able to convince a mother they cannot complete a given task. And the loving mother, not wanting to overextend her child, falls into the trap set by her own little angel. Of course, sometimes the child has good reason to balk when he sees an empty page set before him from his well-intentioned mother, which must be filled with perfect writing within the next forty minutes. But, in my experience, nine times out of ten, a mother does not require enough effort from her student. Let us use the example of copywork. Many parents are convinced that their child just cannot form perfect letters with his little hand. YES, HE CAN.

Here is a quote from Charlotte Mason:

“A Child should Execute Perfectly. No work should be given to a child that he cannot execute perfectly, and then perfection should be required from him as a matter of course…Set him six strokes to copy; let him, not bring a slateful, but six perfect strokes, at regular distances and at regular slopes. If he produces a faulty pair, get him to point out the fault, and persevere until he has produced his task; if he does not do it to-day, let him go on to-morrow and the next day, and when the six perfect strokes appear, let it be an occasion of triumph. So with the little tasks of painting, drawing, or construction he sets himself--let everything he does be well done… Closely connected with this habit of 'perfect work' is that of finishing whatever is taken in hand. The child should rarely be allowed to set his hand to a new undertaking until the last is finished.”

She is right and I know she is because I have taught many, many young children to write perfectly by applying her principles. They are:

1. Expect perfection.
2. Choose a word or phrase or passage from a book or poem your child enjoys.
3. Do not give into whining.
4. Keep the lesson VERY short to avoid tediousness-5 to 10 minutes is plenty for young children.
5. Start with a stroke, not a letter.
6. Do not require a page full of strokes or even a line, just a few PERFECT strokes.
7. Do not go on to a new letter until it is perfect.
8. A job well done makes the doer happy.
9. The lesson immediately following should not be written work. Choose something different for a change of pace.

Here is an example of a piece from a seven year old:

one step at a time...