How perfect do you expect copywork to be?

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  • amwg2694

    I’m having a hard time with my ds(8).  He has very neat handwriting when he wants to.  However, a lot of his copywork does not show that.  He tends to try to get it done quickly which in turn means he has sloppy handwriting and lots of misspelled words.  What do you expect from copywork?  Should I expect perfection?  I am definitely a perfectionist myself, and I realize that at times I can expect too much from my kids.  So, I’m curious as to what everyone expects.  If there are mistakes in spelling, do you just make them correct that misspelled words, or do you expect it to be written over?  TIA!



    I expect best effort from copywork. Since he has shown that he is able to write neatly when he wants to, I would expect him to do his copywork neatly. And since he is copying from a model, I can’t see any good reason to let him get away with misspelled words either. Copywork is more than handwriting practice, it is also helping to internalize correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling so if he is rushing and doing his work carelessly he isn’t going to be gaining those benefits. If it was me, I would require him to rewrite the whole thing if I thought he wasn’t giving his best effort. I don’t know how long the passages you are giving him are, but if you suspect he is rushing because he thinks that “doing it nice” takes too long, I would temporarily cut back on the amount you are giving him to write – give him a shorter passage and expect him to do it well and then gradually build up to more. I forget the exact quote, but I know that CM talks about doing a little bit of handwriting/copywork well being more beneficial than a whole page done carelessly.

    Hope that helps some!



    Thanks Jen!  I felt like I needed to have him write the entire thing over.  However, like I mentioned, I’m a perfectionist so I tend to expect too much at times.  It helps to hear someone else say that it’s not expecting too much! 🙂  I don’t tend to give copywork passages that are all that lengthy.  However, I like the idea of doing something short and expecting him to do it well and then building up.  Why didn’t I think of that?? 🙂


    I agree with Jen as well. It also depends on your student. Both of my children are currently learning cursive. My ds8’s writing is beautiful, much better than I expected. However, dd7’s writing is not as nice, but it is HER best. As long as I know the children are giving their best effort, I am ok with less than perfect. The rule in our house for copywork (and everything else) is “Do it nice, or do it twice”. If I can see that excellent effort was not given, they are expected to repeat the task, re-copy the sentence or select words, etc. So you have to judge this by the child too. You know if they are really giving it their all or if they’re just doing the bare minimum to get by.


    I’ve had the same question at my house this week too.  Thanks for encouraging Charlotte’s high standards.  I needed the boost. Laughing


    I ditto Jen and Lindsey. We also say, “Do it nice or do it twice.”

    Sara B.

    I recently took Charlotte’s advice and am having my girls (ages 9, almost 8, and 5) make a certain number of “perfect” letters.  They are practicing either printing or cursive, so I have my 5yo do 4 perfect B’s, my 7yo do 6 perfect printed U’s, and my 9yo do 6 perfect cursive r’s.  And I watch them closely.  If they make the letter incorrectly, I make them erase and start over.  If it’s not as neat as I know they can do, they erase it and do it again.  Maybe I’m a mean mommy, but their handwriting is getting neater over time.  🙂


    I have been wondering about this. I think my kids do their best most of the time, if not it is really easy to decide to have them do over but I am wondering what to do when it is just one small mistake??


    I am almost always with my dd (7.5 yrs.) when she is doing copywork.  I might not be looking over her shoulder, but I am there.  Usually I am sitting right next to her getting ready for our next lesson.  If I notice her speeding up or getting sloppy, I stop her there and have her go back to where she left off giving me her best.  I have spent enough time being right there and seeing her best, that I am beginning to be able to walk away a little and still know what her best looks like when she shows it to me.  At this age, I don’t think I would leave her totally alone on a regular basis, but I think it is good every once in a while.  

    I have had to learn to lower my expectation in this area and keep the passages short for now.  As long as I see steady improvement and I know she is giving best effort she will get my praise.  I try never to pick apart the things that aren’t perfect.  However, if I know she has not given her best effort she will get to do it again after school is over.  That way it is on her time and it doesn’t throw off our schedule.  (This has only happened a couple of times.)


    On the topic of copywork, my 8yo is doing reasonably neat copywork (something we really struggled with until we changed programs in Sept.)

    But – it is so slow.

    I keep the selections short, and keep the time short (6 minutes usually on the timer).  It does seem like 6 minutes might be too long for him, as I have to redirect his attention to it….

    Today, his sister was almost finished her practice sheet (that she has been working on for several days) so I didn’t set the timer, and they have worked for about 13 minutes (with redirection.)

    This is what he wrote…  “Daybreak comes first in thin splinters shimmering. ~ Carl Sandburg”

    This would normally take him probably 3 sessions at 6 minutes each…  – in about 5 or 6 minutes he had written “Daybreak comes fir”…..   is this a reasonable speed?   

    Also, his sister (6) was doing fine with the pages that were learning a letter, then writing various words with the letters – this last practice sheet (now that the letters were done) is doing things like the months of the year, and a few phrases…. and her neatness has really gone down.  Now, with the previous program, she couldn’t write a single legible letter, and it has improved a lot – but it really got messier now that she is about to start real copywork….?   I’m not sure what to do?


    Suzukimom — sounds like your daughter might be just getting a little bored of the routine.  Maybe she’s not being challenged enough at this point.  I’d go a head and start regular copy work.  An interesting sentence to copy will probably solve much of the problem.  As for your son: he sounds a little like my youngest,  He will take all day to finish a sentence if I let him.  He’ll get two letters in and decide there is something of great importance to tell me, or something else will steal his attention away.  We started off setting the timer, but I wasn’t always getting much production out of him in 5 minutes.  For the most part I have always been happy with the quality of his work, just not his quantity.  I started assigning him completion to a specific point — like four lines of a poem.  Now he can complete most of his work well within three or four minutes.  This term I’ll start with slightly longer passages.  Having a clearly defined starting and ending point works much better for him than a set amount of time to accomplish “whatever” he can.  Perhaps your son would benefit from a clearer expectation from the beginning.  It might take him more than the five or six minutes starting out, but then he has to finish later.  That should help him to learn to stay on task better and be more focused. 



    Thanks for the advice!

    The next step for my daughter is actual copywork – and for my son, I transitioned him to the lines that my italic font on my computer uses (slightly different)….  I was a bit worried about the change in lines for her as that last practice she wasn’t following the lines much… but will give it a try like I have it for my son…  I may do what I did for my son in our other handwriting program…  keep an eye on her letters, and any causing problems needing more work, I’ll have her work on maybe once a week…. and the rest of the days are copywork…   I have problems getting her to keep her paper turned (she is left handed… her writing is much better when she tilts the page as recommended for Lefties… but I have to keep reminding her.)

    And yes, my son sounds likes yours.  He will write 3 letters, stretch, look around… talk to a toddler – then write another….. unless I’m redirecting him back to the paper constantly.   I do like the idea of assigning him a certain amount – I was just worried about him rushing and not donig his best work then…  hm…..

    just thinking – our old program had fluency/legibility tests….  You would have them writing something (at first just various letters, then words or sentances) in a timed situation, then work out the number of legible letters per minute…. there were other things to help assess neatness and legibility.  Maybe I’ll look and see if any of it is “transferable”….  now to think….

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