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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) (Upper Grammar and Early Logic Stage)
(Upper Grammar and Early Logic Stage)
Kimberly D. Garcia

Copywork as writing practice is an old idea. Students in ages past kept "commonplace books," volumes in which they wrote down sayings they wanted to remember. Charlotte Mason, whose ideas are so popular with modern homeschoolers, spoke often in her writings about the ideas presented to children. With copywork, home-educating parents have a way to present some of the best ideas from history to their children through selections written by some of the best writers of that particular age.

Kimberly Garcia has compiled several famous (and lesser-known) stories, speeches, and documents from the Early Modern period of history (1600-1850) and put them into copybook form. There are books available for both beginning grammar stage (early elementary) and late grammar/early logic stage (late elementary and early middle school), with the models to copy being in either manuscript or cursive. The book reviewed here is the late grammar/early logic stage book with models in cursive.

The selections range from historical narratives about people (such as Captain John Smith and Sir Isaac Newton) to text from actual speeches and documents of the time (such as Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty, or give me death" and the Mayflower Compact). There are also two chapters of poetry and folktales specific to the time period.

Followers of the classical model of education will appreciate the use of primary source documents, and lovers of good language will be pleased by the inclusion of such writers as Thoreau, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson.

The author suggests that students look in the table of contents to find selections that correlate with their history lessons. But she also stresses that individuals should use the copybook in a way that best suits their homeschool. Space is given to practice each model four times, and there are also suggestions for incorporating dictation (the student writing the sentence as it is read to him) and the student's narrations (retelling) of a story. The first practice space is on the same page with the model. Subsequent practice areas are on the following pages, encouraging the student to develop the skill of copying mostly from memory.

Some of the material from the early elementary book is repeated in the later book but with greater detail. This is good for those who are using both books, one after the other, for the same child, since what is repeated has fresh meaning. It's also helpful for those who are using both books simultaneously with two children in different grades, because you can cover one event with both of them on their individual levels.

Kimberly Garcia recommends that children using this book read at least on a fourth to sixth-grade level, but she points out that some of the material will exceed that. Specifically, chapter 2 contains such weighty writings as the Bill of Rights and Thomas Jefferson's famous letter to the Danbury Baptists (from which the phrase "separation of church and state" has been taken). The author's opinion is that copywork beyond a child's reading and comprehension level is beneficial. Although I don't share that opinion for younger grades, I do believe that logic stage (middle school) students could benefit from reading and copying material that stretched them in the comprehension department.

Garcia has assembled some of the best thoughts, writings, historical happenings, and stories from this era. Not only that, they're already arranged in chronological order (with applicable dates given), saving homeschooling parents even more time. I have to admit that I was skeptical at first, upon learning that the book was produced through a self-publishing website, but I was impressed with its professional appearance and easy-to-understand layout.

For those who aspire to make the most of copywork as a homeschooling tool and to provide challenging writing examples from this period of history, this would be a tremendous resource.

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