Copywork as Consequence

January 4, 2007 @ 7:56 am | Filed under: ,

Jeanne wrote:

I admit to being curious about your giving copywork to the oldest
sister as a consequence. It sort of surprised me. Maybe it’s because I
have boys, for whom copywork-as-consequence would pretty much cement in
their brains writing-is-punishment. Have I not read enough Charlotte
Mason to get some underlying connection, or is this just something that
you don’t have to be concerned about because the proclivity-to-write is
so strong in your kids? (Which wouldn’t surprise me a bit).
Copywork-as-consequence is one of those things that would never cross
my mind as appropriate for our family — while totally respecting that
if it works for your family, you surely know and use it wisely and well.

Ooh, Jeanne, that’s a really good question. No, I’m not drawing this particular idea from Charlotte Mason, and in fact it does run a bit counter to her views on habit-training. (I admit to finding her total optimism a wee bit amusing; while I TOTALLY AGREE that proactive habit-training is the best way to cultivate pleasant behavior, I do also find occasion for some remedial measures!)

But back to your question. Yes, my girls—the two oldest only, so far, mind—are enthusiastic enough about writing that I do feel comfortable assigning the occasional passage of copywork as a consequence for inappropriate behavior. It doesn’t happen often; perhaps twice a month. ("No dessert" as a consequence is much more common around here.) Like you, I wouldn’t dream of assigning punitive copywork to a child if I thought it would give that particular child a bad taste in the mouth for ALL writing.

The reason I like it as a once-in-a-while measure for Jane and Rose is because I can choose a passage related to whatever incident merited the consequence, and I really think they benefit much more from the quiet, reflective act of copying out someone else’s words (perhaps a passage from Louisa May Alcott) than listening to a lecture from me. (Not that a lecture is the only alternative, but there are times a mom does need to get a certain point across.) I try not to make it a big "in-your-face" thing, just something subtle, a paragraph or two in which a fictional character is dealing with a similar fault.

As I write it, it sounds awfully smarmy, but I can honestly say it has never felt that way in practice. It seems to work very well for Rose in particular, and usually afterward there will come a time later in the day when she—my most reserved, introverted child—gets very chatty with me about whatever incident precipitated the copywork. We’ve had some great talks this way, and I think the copywork helps her cool off and get outside the emotional storms she struggles with, if that makes sense.

By the way, Jeanne and everyone, I really appreciate the thoughtful questions and comments you all contribute here! Thank you for keeping the conversation rolling!

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6 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Mary Beth P says:

    Thank you for responding to Jeanne’s comment. I, as you know, also have boys, only one of whom is as of yet literate. Writing is close to torture for Richard, so I would also not be able to use it as a consequence. I think this post is great, because it emphasizes how important it is to know the child when correcting inappropriate behavior. This is another reason why hoeschooling is so great. I shudder to think what the old days of writing your spelling words 20 times each, which we had to do as detention, would do to my reluctant writer.

  2. Jeanne says:

    What you say makes sense to me. Thinking back, I was probably the kind of little girl for whom copywork-as-consequence would have “worked,” also, especially with careful choice of the passage. But oooooh, woe, it would not work with my particular guys!

    Thanks for taking the time to elaborate.

  3. Meredith says:

    OOh, the word smarmy is so perfect here!! Great idea, my Violet is due for some copying as a consequence, must be our New Years stupor we still seem to be locked in!! Thanks for the great idea by the way!! Blessings to you and yours!!

  4. JoVE says:

    I like this explanation and think it might also work witih my daughter. However, my memory is not up to easily coming up with appropriate passages in this way. Got any good cheat sheets? Or fancy producing one?

  5. monica says:

    i dont have kids old enough to write, but i do remember being a first grade teacher and giving a version of this as a “reminder” for good behavior. we would make a list together as a class of how to be a good friend, (ie, talking nicely, sharing toys, etc) and when i saw that someone had forgotten how to be a good friend, i helped them remember by having them copy that list during recess time. didnt have to use it much, as it got the message home. i also used writing apology letters to the wronged party. it was short, simple and didnt use brainless copying words, but useful skills.

  6. Jeanne says:

    Unfortunately, this is one of the things that really upset my son when he was in school. When he was in first grade, his writing was laborious. When teachers tried to convey “other” messages thru writing, it just got all mixed up for him — because the writing was so difficult for him. He couldn’t think about good things if the list was about good things, because the writing experience was so horrible for him. He couldn’t think about “doing better” if writing was being used as a consequence, because it was all he could do to try to squeak out the required amount of writing. There were a few times when a well-meaning teacher assigned him writing as punishment for not completing his writing on time. Her take was that he was not diligent enough and also that he needed more practice. Like Mary Beth, I’m grateful that homeschooling provides us with the opportunities to address these things individually. And, I’m grateful to the person who loaned me the Moores’ books when I was just starting out as a homeschooler.