Inside the Mommyvan

Homeschooling & Life Inside the Mommyvan - an old dog learning new tricks


Sometimes that big shopping trip just can’t be put off any longer. Yesterday was the day. I know my kids need something to keep them occupied when it’s a giant fill-the-cart trip. I know that copywork is usually about the most tedious, boring schoolwork ever, but it’s one thing that requires very little of my attention, so I can focus on little things like expiration dates and sale prices.

To my surprise, this exercise went over really well. I did offer an incentive, the one who created the “best” (note my careful use of weasel words here) list would get to pick out a package of cookies. Beyond that, though, the kids seemed to have fun with the freedom to choose their own words to copy and the time to do a little exploring of their own in the aisles.

We started out with our wonderful clipboards from The Trip Clip. Disclaimer: I am acquainted with the proprietor, but that makes these no less marvelous. These are sturdy kid-sized clipboards with attached 4-color pens, and customizable activities that you can print from the website.

supermarket copywork

For this trip, I cut a stack of early-writer paper in half to fit the Trip Clips. I told my little students that they could copy any words they could find, on signs, packages, or anywhere else — yes, even in the meat case. I let them know when I was stopping to study prices or pick up several items from one aisle, then alerted them when I was about to get moving again, so they weren’t trying to write and walk at the same time.

To my surprise and delight, even my most reluctant writer put down over twenty words, and not just short ones or easy letters!  They read some of the words on their own, and asked me to pronounce the ones they couldn’t (sugar… how am I supposed to explain that spelling, right on the heels of learning to read ‘sh’ words?)

In the end, they all won the cookies — can’t ever have too many cookies in the house, right? 😉 — and I won a great new teaching tool to add to my bag of traveling tricks.

I often fall into the trap of thinking that we have to do something out of a textbook, workbook, or curriculum schedule. I forget that there are myriad ways for children to add knowledge to the little sponges that are their brains; and that the more fun they’re having, the more likely they are to retain the material.

This afternoon, one of my girls is creating a work of art on the chalkboard. She started labeling each of the items she drew. Realizing that she was not only having fun, but also practicing her spelling and handwriting, I encouraged her to continue. Her brother wandered over after a while and read all the words she’d written — bonus!

So, a reminder (I know I need it): learning really is everywhere. In the elaborate field trips, and in the simplest of games at home in pajamas. If they pick up an activity that uses any of their newfound skills, go with it! Encourage them! And don’t forget to add it to their portfolio! 🙂

A fun activity that exercises many different skills and ends up with a nice portfolio piece! The level of the work can be easily adjusted from preschool on up.

You need:

  • 2 (or more) sheets of sturdy paper or cardstock
  • Old magazines
  • Glue or glue stick
  • Pencil
  • Ruler or straight edge
  • Binding materials (see below)
  • Enbellishments (optional – see below)

Lay the paper in front of you with a long edge nearest you, and fold it in half from left to right, making a sharp crease. Place one piece of folded paper inside the other and secure temporarily with one or two small pieces of tape. This is the basic ‘book’ that I used for my kids (K – 1st grade level). For older students, you might use a cardstock cover with multiple inside pages of plain paper, and adjust the number of pictures and length of story sections to match.

Have your child cut out several pictures from the magazines, thinking up a story to go with the images as they work. Next, they will decide on one picture for their cover, along with a title for their story. Glue the selected picture onto the front page of the book, and have them write the title. Below the title goes ‘by Child’s Name‘. This is a good time to reinforce title, author, illustrator and the parts of a book.

Next, your budding author will think about their story’s beginning, middle, and end. They will glue onto the first inside spread (two pages) the pictures that go with the beginning of the story, leaving room for writing. Using a ruler or straight edge, make light guidelines for writing, working around the pictures. The child will then come up with one to three sentences (again, adjusting for level) to write on these pages. I had my children dictate their sentences to me, I wrote them on a portable white board, and then they copied the words into the book. As we worked, we also reviewed sentence structure, capitalization, and punctuation.

Repeat this process for the middle of the story (center spread) and the end of the story (last two pages). The back cover can be left blank or decorated. One of my children wrote Easy Reader on the back of her book, just like the tags on their library books. This is a project that allows for a lot of creativity and imagination!

For the book’s binding, there are numerous options. You can simply tape or (with a long-reach stapler) staple the pages together. We chose to sew our pages: I punched holes every 1/2″ or so down the center fold, the kids sewed using embroidery floss and a tapestry needle. There are other options as well, consult some scrapbooking resources or come up with your (or your children’s) own ideas!

Finishing touches can now be added. Embellishments, anything from colored markers to stickers to glue-on beads and baubles, can be put on the cover. Inside, your young authors may want to add some extra color to their pages or erase guidelines (if they have written in pen or marker).

Once the story books were finished, we made a show of sitting in the living room and having each child read their book aloud, showing the pictures on each page as they read. They had so much fun making the books and were so proud of their creations, I’m not sure they even realized they were “doing school” much less exercising their fine motor skills (cutting, gluing, sewing), creative expression, organizing thoughts, grammar & punctuation, handwriting, and reading & presentation skills all in one project!