Classical Writing Primer

A gentle introduction to Classical Writing • 1st - 4th grade


Copywork, Spelling, and Grammar The Primer Series of Books
Narration What to Buy
Nature Study Frequently Asked Questions
Picture Study Preview a Sample Week

In antiquity, formal and rigorous education was begun around age eight.  Before that, lessons would be short and simple.  Storytelling, music, and outdoor play were the primary means preparing for that formal education. In that spirit, we present these Primers.

Kathy's primary inspiration for the Primer series came from the works of Charlotte Mason, a highly respected educator of the late 19th and early 20th century. Charlotte Mason brought back the ideas of short lessons, copywork, narration, nature study, and picture study to the homes and schools of her day. She knew that young children needed ample time to play and dream each day and that short lessons were the most effective means of preparing the child for the more rigorous education to come in later years. Charlotte Mason's ideas have been rediscovered by many home and private educators in recent years.  These are the basic principles we have followed in developing our Primer series for primary grade students.
The aim of the Primers is to help teachers establish and maintain a simple and consistent weekly routine of copywork, narration, nature study, and picture study with primary grade students.  We have done all the preparation work for you so that you may spend more time engaged in instruction with your student.  There are also exercises each day which most students will be able to complete on their own. The Primers  are an invaluable aid to keeping young students on track as they prepare for more challenging academics in years to come.

Copywork, Spelling, and Grammar

Copying, the earliest written form of imitation, has always been an important part of a classical education. Copywork is a very simple exercise where the student reproduces a well-written literary selection in his best handwriting with careful attention to correct spelling, punctuation, and capitalization.

Each of the three Primers is divided into twelve weeks and organized around a brief selection from a children's book, poem, hymn, or Scripture. Each day has a short copywork exercise from the weekly selection. The daily grammar and spelling lessons are generally drawn from the weekly selection. Capitalization, basic punctuation, making plurals, letter writing, contractions, homonyms, antonyms, and making verbs past tense are a few of the topics addressed in the daily lessons. Please note that Primer spelling lessons are meant to review and apply what is learned in your primary phonics/spelling program.
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Two narration lessons are included in each week.  Again, the concept is simple.  The student listens to a short narrative or reads it himself, then tells the story back to the teacher. We provide a list of vocabulary words to assist your student in comprehension and as an aid to memory in retelling.

In each Primer, the narration selections come from one classic children's book which is available for purchase through Classical Writing. These books are also available free online as an e-text.
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Nature Study

Our weekly nature study lessons invite the student to observe the natural world with his five senses, then draw, write, or talk about what he has observed. These lessons are simple and brief, but powerful, as the student begins to classify and categorize what he is seeing in the world around him. Nature topics in the Primers include telling direction, identifying clouds, understanding the water cycle, identifying moon phases and simple constellations, and observing and classifying birds, mammals, flowers, and insects.

We provide you with information to teach simple nature study lessons in the Teaching Helps booklet for each Primer, as well as links and resources on a website available to purchasers only.
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Picture Study

Picture study is done each week by simply looking at and describing paintings done by famous artists.  We have chosen pictures that are appealing to younger children in their subject matter and use of color.  Students may reproduce what they see by drawing with color pencils, or they may simply narrate orally what they see.  Artists featured in the Primers include Mary Cassatt, Vincent Van Gogh, Jean-Francois Millet, Pieter Breugel the Elder, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Winslow Homer.

Images of the paintings needed for picture study are included on the free Picture Study PDF download for each Primer.  For each Primer, we also provide very brief artist biographies in the Teaching Helps booklet, as well as links and resources on a website available to purchasers only.
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The Primer series of books:

The Primer series is designed for the primary student who has completed at least one year of phonics instruction, and can copy a few sentences without too much difficulty.

The Primers can be used in any order. Each one has a seasonal focus: choose Primer–Autumn for your autumn studies, PrimerWinter for your winter studies, and Primer–Spring for your spring studies. In the What to Buy section below, you will find details about what copywork selections, nature study, picture study, and grammar and spelling lessons are found in each book.

The books in the Primer series are in a workbook format and have space for each written exercise or drawing. Each Primer also has:

You will also need access to the children's book from which the narration selections are drawn. 

View the Scope and Sequence for the Primer series.

View a sample week from Primer–Autumn.

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What you need to buy:

• consumable workbook format, twelve weeks of lessons
• seasonal focus on early autumn through Christmas
• copywork selections from A.A. Milne, Lucy Maude Montgomery, Beatrix Potter,
    poetry, hymns, Christmas music, and the Bible
• nature study examines telling direction, tree leaves, and mammals
• picture study looks at artists Winslow Homer and Pierre-Auguste Renoir

Additional Materials Needed:
Primer–Autumn Teaching Helps (print version, non-consumable)
Primer–Autumn Teaching Helps (download or e-book version)
Primer–Autumn Picture PDF (free download)
Primer–Autumn Resource webpage (link given in Primer–Autumn)
The Aesop for Children, illustrated by Milo Winter (also available as a free e-

• consumable workbook format, twelve weeks of lessons
• seasonal focus on winter through Easter
• copywork selections from A.A. Milne, Beatrix Potter, C.S. Lewis, a hymn,
   poetry, and the Bible
• nature study examines the night sky and birds
• picture study looks at artists Vicent Van Gogh and Jean-Francois Millet

Additional Materials Needed:
Primer–Winter Teaching Helps (print version, non-consumable)
Primer–Winter Teaching Helps (download or e-book version)
Primer–Winter Picture Study PDF (free download)
–Winter Resource webpage (link given in Primer–Winter)
Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin (also available as
   a free e-text


• consumable workbook format, twelve weeks of lessons
• seasonal focus on early spring through Memorial Day
• copywork selections from A.A. Milne, Beatrix Potter, Rudyard Kipling,
   Jean Henri Fabre, poetry, a patriotic hymn, and the Bible
• nature study examines flowers, weather, and insects
• picture study looks at artists Pieter Bruegel and Mary Cassatt

Additional Materials Needed:
Primer–Spring Teaching Helps (print version, non-consumable)
Primer–Spring Teaching Helps  (download or e-book version)
Primer–Spring Picture Study PDF (free download)
Primer–Spring Resources webpage (link given in Primer-Spring)
The Adventures of Danny Meadow Mouse by Thornton Burgess (also available
   as a free e-text

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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I know if my student is ready for Primer?

The Primer student should have beginning spelling and phonics proficiency, and be able to copy a sentence without too much difficulty.  View the sample week to get an idea of the level of reading and copying ability required.

What else should my student be studying along with Primer?

You will also need: 
    a spelling program - we recommend a systematic phonics approach
    a handwriting program

And most importantly, read to your student daily from quality children's books!

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