The Magic of Copywork (And Why Doing Grammar Isn’t Necessary)

It’s both fascinating and frustrating to go from the teacher in a classroom to homeschooling. Fascinating because so much we were led to believe (and I mean staunchly, don’t-dare-question-the-system believe) about how children learn isn’t true and it’s easier than we think, and frustrating because so much we were led to believe about how children learn isn’t true and it’s easier than we think.

Grammar is one of those things.

I was an English teacher after being an avid English student, thoroughly enjoying everything from diagramming sentences to detecting rhyme schemes in poetry.

And even as I loved the tedious parsing of sentences, with a little thought, I realized it wasn’t helping my students become better communicators–the sole purpose of teaching language. Which was good news, because most kids hate it anyway so it ends up being a huge waste of time.

Now as a disclaimer, I don’t discourage teaching grammar. I still teach some, though I don’t panic about sticking to a strict regimen of completing every exercise in a workbook. I try to ask, “what will help them become better communicators?” and work around that. But I’m also suggesting that copywork alone is a sufficient foundation for learning to become an excellent communicator. The focus should be on the use of language. If and when they need to put the proper names with it, that can be easily taught.

So what started in the classroom and has followed me to teaching my children at home, is a complete revolution in my thinking about grammar and language, confirmed by results that overturn a long-standing belief about grammar.

Another thing that confirmed we might be spending too much time on technicality and not enough on usage, is that few people I question as adults can tell me what different parts of speech are. They might be able to identify a noun and pronoun, a verb and adjective, but beyond that, we forget. That doesn’t mean, though, that they can’t craft great written works.

How to Do Copywork

Copywork is copying other well-written work. Just like artists once copied other artists, so did early scholars copy good writers. Even in Hebrew culture, the bulk of education was copying the Torah.

From a young age I let my children copy sentences from their books, from the Bible, from poetry or any other work they wish. A few sentences for the younger ones, moving to paragraphs for the older ones.

It is important that they learn to copy the text exactly as it written, including punctuation and capitalization. Over time, the habits they copy will become ingrained in their command of language.

What else?

One of my children’s favorite hobbies is becoming pen pals with friends. This is a great exercise in penmanship and practicing proper grammar. This is one of the first writing “assignments” my children have. I help them a little with grammar, punctuation, etc., encouraging them to use what they’ve learned in copywork.

As they get older, we do written narrations once a week. This is simply a short essay about a particular book they are reading. I check it for spelling, grammar, punctuation and have them correct  their mistakes.

With very little formal grammar, my children are all, so far, good writers and communicators. Interestingly, they know when they hear wrong syntax that it’s wrong. Like most of us. Most of us know when an irregular verb has been misused, or an objective case pronoun should be in the nominative case, even if we can’t name the mistake. The names aren’t important. Being able to recognize and use the proper language is.


To help your children know whether to use an objective or nominative case pronoun when multiple pronouns are used, just have them do a simple test:

For example, if they are writing the sentence, “Do you want to ride bikes with Amy and (I, me)?” Just leave out “Amy” and see which one fits.

Homeschool “Victim” Shares Her Story



“Six years have passed since I graduated from what I have been trained to call formal education. I was taught that education was about more than the books and grades, so we called our curriculum, our scheduled learning, “formal education”. It is all documented in those records we kept, just in case anyone accused us of not doing real school.

It took me most of the last six years to really understand what was done to me during those years of home schooling. Firstly, and most importantly, I was never allowed to stop learning.  How cruel is that?”

Read the rest of From a Homeschool Victim Who Obviously Survived

And the Real Feminism Steps Right Up

I’ve written for years on the damage I believe feminism has done to society though feminists are always ready to jump in and say I’m ignorant and don’t understand anything about feminism.

Thankfully, we don’t even have to “peel back the layers” of real feminism anymore. It gets uglier all on its own. Matt Walsh covered the recent shock-tactic by a t-shirt company/activist site and portrayed perfectly the deception of the feminist movement and how it’s hurting us. Be sure to read Feminism Has Nothing to Say But it Still Won’t Shut Up. (Warning: video has explicit language by children)

Super-Easy, Cheap & (sort of) Healthy Meals. You’re Welcome.

As a mom of many, one of my challenges is finding meals that take less time and money. We have tried several that we LOVE and I wanted to share them with you.

Brace yourself: this may be the easiest recipe in the history of EVER. And get this: it fed us twice and it cost around $5.

Crockpot Mexican Chicken

  • 1 jar of your favorite salsa
  • 3½ cups water
  • 3-4 chicken breasts
  • 1 lb. dry pinto beans, rinsed
  • 2-3 tablespoons taco seasoning (1 packet if using store bought)
  • 2 ounces or more light cream cheese (totally optional – just adds creaminess)
  • salt to taste
  1. Place the pinto beans, salsa, and water in a slow cooker or Crockpot. Stir to get the liquid in and around the beans. Place the chicken breasts on top. Cover and cook on high for 4-5 hours or low for 7-8 hours.
  2. After about 3 hours, remove the lid and check on the mixture. Stir to keep the beans from sticking to the bottom and add a little more water if necessary. Don’t open the lid more than once or twice – it adds to the cooking time.
  3. When the beans and chicken are cooked, gently shred the chicken with two forks. It should shred very easily. Add the taco seasoning and cream cheese (optional–I didn’t add it) and let the mixture sit for another 15-30 minutes. Serve with rice, tortillas, or chips. Top with avocado, cheese, and cilantro.
If you use canned beans, omit the water and reduce the amount of cooking time. Also, if you are worried about the chicken getting dry, remove the chicken breasts after 3 hours or so when they are fully cooked, store in the fridge, and add them back in at the end. I have tried it both ways and they’ve both worked fine. I haven’t tried black beans yet, but I think it would be wonderful. This fed our family of 12 twice, with a few left overs.
Secret ingredient: Serve with homemade guacamole (mashed avocados with sour cream and garlic salt).

(Recipe and photo from Pinch of Yum.)


Ham and Potato Casserole

Photo from: I Can Teach My Child

(Note: For this and similar recipes, I don’t really measure ingredients in order to simplify things. I gauge the amounts by what I know will feed our family.)

This a fantastic way to use left over ham. I purchase a whopping ham at Aldi (approx. $18) and divide and separate it into small ziplock bags. One ham contributes to about 7 meals in the form of casseroles or soups.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cube 4-5 medium potatoes, and boil until soft, but still firm.

Combine the potatoes with 2 cups of frozen corn, 2 cups of cooked ham in a large casserole dish and set aside.

In a saucepan saute 1 tablespoon chopped onion in 1/4 cup of butter for 2 minutes.  Stir in 1/3 cup flour until blended well. Gradually add 1 3/4 cups milk, 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. (I add some chicken broth and bacon grease, if I have it, to this mixture.) Bring the mixture to a boil and stir for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and pour over the ham mixture. Mix well.
Cover with aluminum foil and cook for 25 minutes.  Then remove foil and cover with 1 1/2 cups of grated cheddar cheese.  Re-cover, and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes to melt the cheese.

Secret ingredient: bacon grease

(This recipe was found and modified from

Creamy Chicken Soup

Any recipe I do, I prefer to not actually have to follow a recipe. I’m random like that. And this recipe is my favorite “impromptu” recipe.

It is versatile, you can add or subtract, using the ingredients you have on hand, and it ends up being yummy every time.

Here are the basic ingredients:

  • chicken breast (1-3)
  • fresh garlic
  • onion
  • bell pepper
  • mushrooms
  • chicken broth
  • cream or milk
  • cheese (pepper jack, cream cheese, parmesan, cheddar–the more the better!)
  • (Optional: add corn, beans, rice, etc.)

Sear/cook the chicken breasts in olive oil all the way through and lay aside. Add more oil if necessary, and saute onion, garlic, mushroom and bell pepper. Amount of ingredients depends on size of dish you wish to prepare. Chop chicken and other stuff in food processor until semi-fine.

Put everything in a pot and add about 2 cups of chicken broth. Make a quick roux (butter and flour) separately and pour in to thicken. Add milk if more juice is desired. Melt cream cheese and add, as well as other cheeses. Basically, just keep adding yummy stuff until it’s perfect. This soup is so good, you can serve it to guests.

To My Friend, On Seasons of Change

Winds of change: my daughter and her fiance, Kyle

We might as well just get some things out in the open. It will make life so much easier for both of us.

I know life is about change and that some change is very good, but it’s still change and so, can I just say, “I don’t always like it”?

And I see that your life is changing too–that’s just how life works–but I’m guessing that sometimes you don’t like it too, but maybe you’re just smiling because everyone else is and maybe, you just want to say, “I don’t always like it.”

You and I, we’ve built our lives around rhythms and seasons and we grow in the cadence of an ordinary day. Like sunrises and sunsets, our days wrap us comfortably in their habits and routine.

But wait, the seasons are changing. Our routines are getting interrupted by driver’s licenses and engagement rings and now a reading of “Goodnight Moon” isn’t quite enough to hold everyone’s attention. Can we just sit again on the floor, all of us, and stay there?

No. The answer is, “No, we can’t.” Because a life that doesn’t ebb and flow becomes stagnant. A routine that doesn’t stretch and change is a routine that prevents people from growing.

The truth is, I don’t like change, but a parent who wants healthy children must be flexible (and selfless) enough to bend with the inevitable. Do I want what is good for my children, or do I want to keep myself comfortable?

So if you see me crying as I plan a wedding or watch my son growing into a man, know that I know this is all good and right. Change just hurts sometimes. And it’s OK to cry.

And when I see you looking wistfully back at a nursery full of toddlers, I’ll understand your tears, and gently nudge you on, the two of us reminding each other that life is full of good things, even the change.

“I have no greater joy than to hear my children walk in truth.”

If King David Had an I-Phone (Technology Threatens Creativity)

We mused over the Psalm of David this morning, and I stopped mid-sentence, because that’s when it came to me, and said to my kids: “Aren’t you glad David didn’t have an I-phone!”

Imagine it: Selfies with sheep. Status updates about how bored he is. Tweets about what a rough life he has. No doubt photos of the lion he killed WITH HIS BARE HANDS, the perfect makings of a narcissistic hot-head.

Despite all that we’ve gained with fast-paced technology, I’m afraid much has been lost. Having the world of information in the palm of our hands, alerting us to every message, update and Tweet, tempting us to record each moment instead of live it, does something tragic to our creative side: it distracts it away.

Not only are we too distracted to create and produce meaningful things, we lose the very ability as the world of instant, fast and byte-sized, short-circuits the mental inertia and stamina great creations require.

King David produced some of the most magnificent literary works in the world because he had time, quietness and focus. Those are important things. Important enough to fight for in this era where “newer and better” fiercely compete.

Perhaps expression and creativity will simply evolve and adapt to this new challenge. But still I wonder if the great works like the Psalms will become fewer and farther between.

My challenge to you as a parent, as I combat this technology over-load myself, is that we would resist the pressure to let our children hop on the hamster wheel of social media, especially at young ages, in an attempt to give them plenty of room to create, think and become. They won’t die without a device, or with hefty restrictions, or whatever you choose. They WILL thank you when they’re older, and they recognize what a gift they have been given by your taking.

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