Language Arts

"There is no money in poetry,
but then there's no poetry in money either."

~Robert Graves


I've had so many mixed feelings about copywork over the years. There was a time that I thought it was the best thing invented and times where I worried that it would be enough. I'm happy to say I have landed on the former thought and intend to stay there. Copywork has the ability to do several things - all at once and in a minimum of time, with little or no teacher preparation. While we are copying we:

are exposed to great literature
practice and improve our penmanship
practice and improve reading skills
learn correct spelling
learn proper grammar and sentence structure
strengthen hand-eye coordination
memorize large parts (if not all) of the chosen passage

I have a personal love for poetry and so we use it extensively for copywork. We use the Bible though foundationally (as in all of our studies) and I find the King James Version to greatly improve any child's vocabulary. Familiarity with "the King's english" also prepares them well for higher level literature studies. I don't recommend using a colorful children's Bible for copywork. Whatever version you choose to use, the colorful illustrations are very often distracting to beginning readers. Also, to help first year children keep their place while copying (which can be really frustrating for you both) highlight each line with a different color hightlight marker. You can use just 3 different colors even if you alternate colors.Works wonders. Buy a cheap printing (like the one below) so you don't mind marking in it. It helps your nerves knowing it cost just around $5 when the first peanut butter and jelly smear appears on the cover. :-)

Hymnals also hold wonderfully inspirational poetry. Even if you never sing the songs - read them! Also, hymns provide a wonderful spine for history studies, music appreciation and Christian encouragment. It has been my experience that the older the hymnal the better. Ask your church if they have an older copy in storage that you may borrow if you cannot afford to purchase one. Also, CyberHymnal is a great place where (for free) you can read and print classic hymns. Be sure to click on the author's name for a picture and brief biography.

For Austin (10) we use the books below for his copywork. He is in the midst of learning dictation right now and again, these are the books we use. Occasionally I will even include one of Robert Louis Stevenson's shorter poems for the younger kids to copy. We read aloud from these books during our afternoon tea time and sometimes they request a particular poem for bedtime reading as well. Austin's spelling has been "wobbly" since the beginning. He is an auditory learner and tends to spell everything phonetically. We tried many of the spelling programs on the market and landed once again on copywork. We gave up everything else a year ago and his spelling has improved dramatically - without those dull workbook pages to complete each day.

Our almost-6 year old is reading well, and I believe it is due in large part to his enthusiasm about copywork. As he copies short passages he is also practicing his phonics and sight reading skills. Another perk :-) Here's how we do it:
I purchased a blank hardback journal for $1 at our local Dollar Store. It had school items printed on the front and the background was blue so it was perfect for our 1st grade son. On each page I choose the copywork and print it out in Italic font. Up until now we have used only Scripture (yes, KJV) for these Copybooks. Joshua gets to cut it out and glue it on the top portion of the page, leaving more than half of the lined paper empty for his copying. We also choose a coloring page to go with the verse (there are TONS available online) and print it out scaled down to 50% original size. He then cuts it out and glues it onto the opposite facing page. He always colors last so as to not fatigue his hand before he begins his copywork.
We are doing the same thing with Abby (4 years old). She however, works on one word at a time rather than one verse a day like Joshua. It is working beautifully! We choose different verses and pictures so as not to encourage competition. In the end we will have a nicely bound book full of their copywork selections.

Here are some links to Christian coloring pages online. Many of them have condensed or re-phrased Scripture at the bottom. We just cut that part off. :o) Please note that we do not endorse nor necessarily agree with the content on any of these websites. I have linked to coloring pages directly so as to avoid any doctrinal obstacles.

Free Copywork

Here are a few selections that we have used for copywork in the past. I have found that these are generally a good length for students beginning copywork. Even though we start with a "line a day executed perfectly" I find that a shorter piece isn't so overwhelming for a beginner.

These little poems were taken from the 2003 Special Edition of Our Daily Bread devotional. If you are interested in having this lovely devotional delivered free to your home each month, check out their website: Our Daily Bread.

Note that there is a corresponding scipture to each poem and notice also that I have condensed the verses for space and clarity for young readers. Please feel free to do your Bible copywork directly from the source - the Bible - as we do. Forgive any typographical errors and please email me if you find any discrepancies.

O Lord, You see my heart -
There's nothing hid from You;
So help me live the kind of life
That's loving, kind and true. -D.De Haan

Put on tender mercies, kindness, humility,
meekness, longsuffering. - Colossians 3:12

Lift up your eyes, discouraged one,
The Lord your help will be;
New strength will come from Him who said,
"For rest, come unto Me." - Anonymous

It is good for me that I have been afflicted,
that I may learn your statutes. Psalm 119:71

Let us be Christ's true disciples,
Looking to anothers need,
Making stony pathways smoother
By a gentle word or deed. - Thorson

Love your neighbor as yourself. - Leviticus 19:18

We're building up  or tearing down
In everything we do;
Are you on the construction gang
Or on the wrecking crew? - Anonymous

I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God
which was given to you by Christ Jesus. - 1 Corinthians 1:4

When you've given your best for the Master;
The best your life can afford,
He will say, "Well done, " to His servant;
"Now enter the joy of the Lord." - McCauley

Well done, good and faithful servant. - Matthew 25:21

I'll live so that I will be ready
With gladness my Savior to meet,
And feel no alarm at His coming
But hasten His heralds to greet. - Anon.

Abide in Him, that when He appears, we may have confidence ...
before Him at His coming. - 1 John 2:28

Can God trust you with sorrow,
With anguish and with pain,
Or would your faith soon falter
And faint beneath the strain? - Nicholson

God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted
beyond that what you are able. - 1 Corinthians 10:13

More like the Master I would ever be,
More of His meekness, more humility;
More zeal to labor, more courage to be true,
More consecration for work He bids me do. - Gabriel

Look now, I know that this is a holy man of God. - 2 Kings 4:9

If I can right a human wrong,
If I can help to make one strong,
If I can cheer with smile or song,
Lord, show me how. - Kleiser

You ... have neglected the weightier matters
of the law; justice and mercy and faith. - Matthew 23:23

I'm going home to Jesus;
My life will soon begin;
Earth's ties will then be severed
As heaven I enter in. - Anon.

Then I understand their end...You will guide me...,
and afterward receive me to glory. - Psalm 73:17,24

Have you tried to teach the children?
Do you daily do your part?
Little ones too need the Savior,
And they're close to Jesus' heart. - Taylor

He took them up in His arms ... and blessed them. - Mark 10:16

It matters not what others say
In ridicule or fun;
I want to live that I may hear
Him say to me, "Well done!" - Beers

The God of heaven will prosper us;
therefore we ... will arise and build. - Nehemiah 2:20

The vain regrets of yesterday
Have vanished through God's pardoning grace;
The guilty fear has passed away,
And joy has come to take it's place. - Ackley

I am ... not worthy to be called an apostle...But by the grace of God
I am what I am. - 1 Corinthians 15:9-10

I know not why God's wondrous grace
To me He hath made known;
Nor why, unworthy, Christ in love
Redeemed me for His own. - Whittle

One of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned,
and with a loud voice glorified God. - Luke 17:15

A careless word may kindle strife,
A cruel word may wreck a life;
A timely word may lessen stress,
A loving word may heal and bless. - Anon.

A wholesome tongue is a tree of life. - Proverbs 15:4

By Christ the sinless Lamb of God
The precious blood was shed,
When He fulfilled God's holy Word
And suffered in our stead. - Anon.

Grace to you and peace from...Jesus Christ,
who gave Himself for our sins. - Galatians 1:3-4

Just one little sin,
What harm can it do?
But give it free reign
And soon there are two. - D. De Haan

Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not
defile himself with...the kings delicacies. - Daniel 1:8

Mindful of our human frailty
Is the God in whom we trust;
He whose arm is strong and mighty
Still remembers we are dust! - Anon.

He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. - Psalm 103:14

Even while we're asking,
God's power and love can bless;
To praying souls He often grants
More than they can express. - Anon.

It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer. - Isaiah 65:24

To Jesus I will daily give
My love and grateful praise;
Because He gave His life for me,
I'll thank Him all my days. - Hess

While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8

Holy Spirit, faithful Guide,
Ever near the Christian's side,
Gently lead us by the hand -
Pilgrims in a desert land. - Wells

The anointing ... abides in you, and you
do not need that anyone teach you - 1 John 2:27

I once was an outcast stranger on earth,
A sinner by choice and an alien by birth;
But I've been adopted, my name's written down -
An heir to a mansion, a robe and a crown. - Buell

You are no longer strangers and foreigners, but
fellow citizens with the saints - Ephesians 2:19

God has a purpose in our heartaches,
The Savior always knows what's best;
We learn so many precious lessons
In every sorrow, trial, and test. - Jarvis

All things work together for good to
those who love God. - Romans 8:28a

Though freed from the law with it's stern commands,
No longer ruled by its harsh demands,
I'm bound by Christ's love and am only free
To live and to act responsibly. - D. De Haan

So speak and so do as those who will be
judged by the law of liberty. - James 2:12

When Satan launches his attack,
We must take heart and pray;
If we submit ourselves to God,
He'll be our strength and stay. - Sper

Submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. - James 4:7


You may have tangible wealth untold; 
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.

Richer than I you can never be —
I had a mother who read to me.

by S. Gillilan

    When I first began to use narration as the means of testing my children's knowledge on a given subject, I was very nervous. I was anxious about the lack of a multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank test form that I could point to and "see" that they had mastered a given subject. While their retention of the material soared, my confidence in the method swayed. I researched Miss Mason's theories further and came up with a couple of ideas that gave me the reassurance I needed to continue with narration.

    While there was an absence of written "proof" of the kid's knowledge, our conversations on the various topics we studied was awesome! In an attempt to capture some of these conversations, I began transcribing their oral narration's.
Initially I used the traditional hand-written method that Miss Mason employed, but since my time was at a premium I switched to typing them. At last! I had something to put my hands on, something Daddy could enjoy, something for our portfolios!

    As Austin has grown older he now does written narration's. They are so precious. Precious too are the oral narration's that he shared with us 2 and even 3 years ago. If you are at that crossroad of trading in narration for something more tangible, try transcribing. Type their narration on the bottom half of the page and then let your child illustrate it on the upper half. If he or she isn't prone to drawing let her cut and paste a collage that will illustrate the topic. However you choose to display it, taking the time to transcribe an oral narration even once a week will add wonderful dimension to your school days and provide a lasting memory of fleeting childhood.

    For beginning narration - which is the hardest stage I think - I've ran into the following scenarios. I've included teaching tips that have worked for me in these situations.

Junior remembers every single detail and repeats almost verbatim the entire passage.
In this case, you will have to train him to condense a reading into just a few self constructed sentences. This can be difficult so be patient. Start by asking for a narration of just  one sentence first, then two, slowly building up to entire passages. Starting with short poems for narration's has worked well for me in this situation. Poetry naturally requires the reader (or listener) to reprocess the words into regular speech.  Very few people can quote a poem after only one hearing!
Junior looks at you dumbfounded and has no clue how to do what you're asking him to do. Explain gently that you want him to listen carefully to a sentence, and then say the same thing back to you using different words. It might take a bit of time, but build up his confidence by taking it slowly!
Turn narrating into a game. Ask your child to tell you a short story (or even just one sentence). Then you narrate it back to him!  Take turns until he is comfortable with the mechanics of narrating.
Junior mumbles something very short and very vague, though it does capture some of the passage's meaning.
A great place to start! Some of our boys' first narration's were along the lines of,
Mary Had A Little Lamb is about a girl named Mary who took her lamb to school with her and got into a lot of trouble." This is wonderful!

Both of the above teaching tips work well for these children. The challenge is to train her to include only the main themes in her narration. For instance, Mary Had A Little Lamb can be more accurately narrated by saying "It's about a girl named Mary who had a lamb that followed her everywhere. It went to school with her one day and got her into trouble."

living books

I have had so many people ask me, "What is a living book?" I always laugh and say, "Well, picture a hardback book with little legs on the bottom and an arm sticking out of each side. Imagine it speaking to you just like you and he were best friends. That's a living book."

Of course a living book isn't REALLY alive, but it reads as though it is.  I created the chart below for further explaining the differences between a regular ol' textbook and a living book.  The one attribute that gives me the thumbs-up when choosing a book for our library is the "friendliness factor". If I get the sense that the author is/was a real person speaking directly to me on a something important to her - I buy it! A living book is just like reading a letter from an old friend.

Living Book
Text Book
Written by one author, a real person who once existed.
Written by several authors, usually unknown.
Has a very personal feel. Touches the heart, emotions & intellect.
Impersonal tone and feel - stirs
only the intellect.
Author speaks to the reader as an intelligent thinker.
Looks down on the reader and speaks in a condescending way.
Ideas are presented in a creative and stimulating way.
Facts are presented without any creativity - deadens  imagination.

click here for a
Living Book List By Grade Level

In addition to those books listed at the above location, there are MANY living books from which to choose. More than I could possibly list on this website! If you drop by the Kindergarten, Grades 1-3, Grades 4-6 and Grades 7-12 pages you will see  a huge list for each grade level. If you choose to buy from the links there - THANK YOU! Every little bit helps! 

If you are looking for any books other than the above, consider supporting our website by purchasing them through our link. Again, every little bit helps!
-Midkiff Family


Coming Soon!

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