Developing Strong Writers through Copywork and Notebooking

homeschool child learning writing with copywork

Let’s talk about how to teach copywork so that your children will actually develop the skill of natural, fluid writing. All of my children left home with the skill of writing. One was naturally drawn toward language and writing while the others gravitated to math and science—not surprising as they grew up watching their mom author Apologia’s elementary science curriculum. Yet even the math/science-oriented children became strong, capable writers.

Writing is simply the ability to think clearly with pen in hand—to produce clear, concise, cohesive thoughts on paper. As I’ve said before, narration is an important part of this process. Truly, to speak well is to write well. And that’s what a Charlotte Mason education does. It teaches children to think and write well in an organic, natural way. As with most things in a Charlotte Mason education, it feels too easy. 

Shouldn’t it be harder? Shouldn’t our children be laboring over writing assignments as children in traditional schools do? 

The fact is, traditional schools do not produce writers. College professors complain about incoming freshmen and their inability to write. After after 12 years of formal education filled with inorganic and unnatural writing assignments, students enter college as underdeveloped writers. 

It’s not surprising that almost every university, especially the top ones, requires a remedial writing class for all students entering their freshman year (unless they scored well on the writing portion of the SAT or ACT).

There was a time in history when people could write well, when all educated people had the ability to compose long, very eloquent letters to one another. They were able to write not only their personal thoughts but thoughts about their studies articulately. All educated people of our past could write well.

How did they train all those great thinkers? What was the secret to putting pen to paper with eloquence and ease? How were they trained to write? 

Through copywork.


Charlotte Mason knew this and used a very effective methodology for teaching writing through copywork. It’s a strategy that works. And if you employ her methodology, your children will become excellent thinkers and communicators. They’ll understand grammar, punctuation, syntax, parts of speech, sentence structure, vocabulary, spelling—and most importantly, writing.

Some writing programs on the market are fun to do. We enjoyed IEW. It’s great for helping children learn to write about what they are reading in other subjects. But, as I’ve said many times, through copywork and notebooking history, science, geography, literature, etc, this skill develops organically. 

Copywork is hands down the best way to develop writers.  

It’s how all my children learned to compose easily and well. In fact, all four of my children shared with me that whenever a college professor would tell the class the test was going to be an essay exam, the entire class would groan. 

But not my children. They were greatly relieved.

Why? Because they knew the material and they knew they could easily and eloquently explain their learning with pen in hand. It was so much more natural for them than having to memorize a certain set of facts not knowing which of those facts would show up on the multiple-choice test. 

So for my children, the college writing exams were a breeze. That’s because of the years of training through copywork and notebooking. 


So how does one use copywork to teach all these skills? 

First, by choosing the right passages for your children to copy. Choose beautifully written passages. Find passages that include the correct punctuation, eloquent phrases, and beautiful thoughts that use refined vocabulary. It is especially effective to choose passages they are coming across in their reading.

It’s nice to have that done for you. So, let me introduce you to the only truly Charlotte Mason living language arts curriculum that is set to be released in June but can be pre-ordered on my website here


Living Verse Language Arts in Poetry is a beautiful and lifegiving curriculum that employs the best of Charlotte Mason’s methods of language learning. Children learn all of the elements of speech, writing, and grammar through the beauty of poetry. All the copywork is taken from carefully chosen poems.

Students focus on one poem over two weeks while learning the key language concepts and poetic devices used by the poet. Living Verse teaches poetry the way Charlotte Mason suggested through marking the poem, creating visual and written narrations of the poem, interpreting the poem’s meaning, and copying sections of the poem. The children end with modeling the poem by creating their own poetry based on the important language arts elements they learned through the beautiful poetry they studied.

If you choose to use Living Verse as your language arts curriculum you won’t need to add more copywork. You’ll have a complete curriculum that teaches poetry, language usage, grammar, vocabulary, writing, punctuation, copywork, handwriting, dictation, spelling, recitation, literary devices, and of course, memorization of the poem.

Living Verse Language Arts in Poetry teaches all of these things in a very peaceful, gentle way. The author, Shiela Catanzarite, a Charlotte Mason veteran homeschool mom, is working on the second volume in the series and plans to release a new volume each year. The lessons are designed in a way that allows all of your elementary aged children to learn together.

Charlotte Mason had a method of making sure that copywork was being used not only for syntax, punctuation and grammar, but also for vocabulary and spelling. You can use the copywork activities in Living Verse as your spelling and vocabulary program because your children will learn new words through the poems they will be studying and copying.

To make things simpler for you and your children, we’ve integrated the instructional manual and student notebook into one easy to use volume. To introduce you and your family to the curriculum, we’re offering three weeks of Living Verse lessons for you to enjoy free of charge. Reply to this email to receive your free download.


Something also to consider when choosing copywork is that character and the spiritual life can be deeply affected by the passages you choose. 

We prioritized copying Scripture throughout our children’s childhood. They would copy verses based on what we were memorizing or what I felt was foundational to a strong faith. These included verses that taught solid doctrine and verses that would bring comfort and strength in times of trouble or stress. Occasionally, we copied verses of poetry or a profound and wise quote. 

Charlotte Mason believed that Scripture was the highest and most important thing your children could be studying. Our most important goal as homeschool parents was to usher our children into a relationship with God—to develop the Divine Life within them. 

Charlotte Mason tells us, 

“The learning by heart of Bible passages should begin while the children are quite young, six or seven. It is a delightful thing to have the memory stored with beautiful, comforting and inspiring passages, and we cannot tell when and how this manner of seed may spring up, grow and bear fruit.”

The mere act of focusing on, considering, remembering, and transcribing the Word of God fills your children with a deeper spiritual knowledge and opens their heart and mind to the influence of the Holy Spirit. He is their supreme teacher and the Lord tells us that His Word never returns void. 

By choosing Bible passages for copywork, you are not only training important writing skills, but are also training the hearts of your children.

Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. Psalm 119:11

When your children hide God’s Word in their heart through Bible copywork, the Holy Spirit will bring to their remembrance what has been put to pen and committed to memory. 

Next week we’ll learn the specific methodology Charlotte Mason used to ensure copywork is training good habits, spelling, and writing skills.