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A Classical Reading and Writing Copybook Covering Early Modern History (1600-1850) Review by Jill Hardy

Covering Early Modern History (1600-1850) (Beginning Grammar Stage)
(Beginning Grammar Stage)
Kimberly D. Garcia

Kimberly Garcia's classical copybooks are designed to provide writing practice for students based on the method of copying, well, classical material.

Many famous writers (Benjamin Franklin and Jack London, to name two) learned to write (at least in part) by copying works that they considered worthwhile. Devotees of copywork tout it as a streamlined way to absorb good grammar, eloquent phrasing, and style (hence the need for good models). Those who are pursuing a classical education for their children are probably the ones who would be most interested in this form of writing practice, but it could certainly appeal to anyone who is interested in examining historical writing with their students.

This book is geared toward students in the beginning "grammar" stage (the first of three stages of education, as divided by some classical educators). Garcia specifically recommends it for students who are reading confidently at a first to third-grade level, and the material that she uses for models come from sources dating back to the Early Modern period of history (1600-1850). For classical educators following the history schedule of The Well Trained Mind, this would be the third year of the first four-year history rotation.

This is a rich collection of quotations and stories from the time. There are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence and the writings of Thomas Paine, stories about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Washington Irving as boys, historical accounts of settlers and leaders like Napoleon--quite a bit of variety.

In the Introduction, Garcia suggests a general plan for using the copybook; students may look in the table of contents to find selections that fit their history lessons the best. If there is nothing in the copybook that addresses the student's current history lesson, then there are two chapters that contain poetry and folktales.

The suggested schedule calls for reading the selections on day 1 and then copying the models on successive days (space is provided to practice each model four times). But the author encourages individual families to use the copybook in a way that would benefit them most. She also has suggestions for incorporating dictation (the act of copying sentences after hearing them read) and the student's narration (retelling) into writing practice, as well.

If you are committed to the idea of incorporating copywork into your homeschooling, would like it to be tied to your history studies, and want to provide challenging models, then this would probably be a great program for you. The legwork has been done; Kimberly Garcia has found wonderful samples of Early Modern writing and stories (and modernized the grammar, to boot).

My only hesitation is a disagreement with the author's assertion that it is desirable for children to do copywork at a level beyond their reading and comprehension. This is a popular notion in many classical circles, but my personal belief is that it's best for children to be able to both read and comprehend what they're writing. No first grader in my house (thus far) would be able to read and understand the following statement by Thoreau: "I heartily accept the motto, 'That government is best which governs least'; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically." (A lengthy excerpt from On the Duty of Civil Disobedience is one of the selections.) In my opinion, even third grade would be a bit of a stretch if your goals include true comprehension and acquisition of some of the stylistic methods of the writing included.

Garcia's copybooks are a great resource for the home educator who needs copywork specific to a particular time in history. I plan to use them myself . . . but with children who are much older than the recommended age range.

Product review by Jill Hardy, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February 2007