Friday, August 29, 2014

Charlotte Mason on Language Arts....







Unfortunately, uttering the term "Language Arts" today among homeschoolers often brings mothers to tears.  It is a new term, not spoken in Charlotte Mason's day.  However, language arts is certainly not a new concept.  Language is the method of human communication either spoken or written.  Art is a branch of learning.  Therefore, the study of language arts is the act of learning to communicate. 

If we think in terms of communication, language arts has four components: listening, speaking, reading, and writing.  You've actually been teaching your child language arts since birth!   They listened to the sounds you made, watched your lips form words, and then started speaking. 

To begin our discussion, I'm going to focus on writing or composition since this is often the part of language arts that freaks people out...including myself before finding the Charlotte Mason method.   Much to my chagrin, I am guilty of getting out my red pen and going crazy on Angel's papers.   Truth be told, I also royally screwed up dictation.  Anyway, thankfully, I feel like I'm finally getting on the right track  :)

Composition comes by Nature. - In fact, lessons on 'composition' should follow the model of that famous essay on "Snakes in Ireland" - "There are none."  For children under nine, the question of composition resolves itself into that of narration, varied by some such simple exercise as to write a part and narrate a part, or write the whole account of a walk they have taken, a lesson they have studied, or of some simple matter that they know.  Before they are ten, children who have been in the habit of using books will write good, vigorous English with ease and freedom; that is, if they have not been hampered by instructions.  It is well for them not even to learn rules for the placing of full stops and capitals until they notice how these things occur in their books.  Our business is to provide children with material in their lessons, and, leave the handling of such material to themselves.  If we would believe it, composition is as natural as jumping and running to children who have been allowed due use of books.  They should narrate in the first place and they will compose, later, readily enough; but they should not be taught 'composition'.  - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 1, Home Education, p 247)

OK, so I don't know about you, but this was a huge relief to me!  Reading great books and requiring the child to narrate serves as composition lessons in the early years.  Charlotte actually did not start formal composition until high school.  She was able to encourage the elementary students to explore the four types of writing (narrative, expository, descriptive, and persuasive) via narration. 

Charlotte used copywork to teach handwriting....

Set good copies before him and see that he imitates his model dutifully: the writing lesson being, not so many lines, or 'a copy' - that is, a page of writing - but a single line which is as exactly as possible a copy of the characters set.  The child may have to write several lines before he succeeds in producing this. - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 1, Home Education, p 235)

An ah ha moment for several of us moms regarding copywork came while watching SCM's Learning and Living DVD series.  Charlotte did not encourage copywork until the child was able to read.   She also didn't encourage a full page of the letter "b", for example.  Rather, she required "a single line which is as exactly as possible a copy of the characters set".   In other words, the children were to produce one perfectly written line. 

Regarding spelling....

Early Spelling. - Accustom him from the first to shut his eyes and spell the word he has made.  This is important.  Reading is not spelling, nor is it necessary to spell in order to read well; but the good speller is the child whose eye is quick enough to take in the letters which compose it, in the act of reading off a work; and this is a habit to be acquired from the first: accustom him to see the letters in the word, and he will do so without effort. 

If words were always made on a given pattern in English, if the same letters always represented the same sounds, learning to read would be an easy matter; for the child would soon acquire the few elements of which all words would, in that case, be composed.  But many of our English words are, each, a law unto itself: there is nothing for it, but the child must learn to know them at sight; he must recognise 'which,' precisely as he recognises 'B,' because he has seen it before, been made to look at it with interest, so that the pattern of the word is stamped on his retentive brain.  This process should go on side by side with the other - the learning of the powers of the letters; for the more variety you can throw into his reading lessons, the more will the child enjoy them.  Lessons in word-making help him to take intelligent interest in words; but his progress in the art of reading depends chiefly on the 'reading at sight' lessons. - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 1, Home Education, p 203-204)

The above passage intrigues me.  I agree and disagree at the same time.  I totally get what Charlotte is saying here and in theory she has many good points.  However, my dyslexic kiddo would never read or spell if I solely relied on the sight method of teaching him because of the irregular patterns in English.  I believe in phonics teaching over the sight method. 

Charlotte always taught spelling in context, again using good literature.  First the children looked at words and recreated them, "word-making" as she called it.  Then the children did 5-10 minutes of copywork, eventually transitioning into transcription of longer passages.  Finally, Charlotte used prepared dictation to teach spelling. 

Steps of a Dictation Lesson. - Dictation lessons, conducted in some such way as the following, usually result in good spelling.  A child of eight or nine prepares a paragraph, older children a page, or two or three pages.  The child prepares by himself, by looking at the word he is not sure of, and then seeing it with his eyes shut.  Before he begins, the teacher asks what words he things will need his attention.  He generally knows, but the teacher may point out any word likely to be a cause of stumbling.  He lets his teacher know when he is ready.  The teacher asks if there are any words he is not sure of.  These she puts, one by one, on the blackboard, letting the child look till he has a picture, and then rubbing the word out.  If anyone is still doubtful he should be called to put the word he is not sure of on the board, the teacher watching to rub out the word when a wrong letter begins to appear, and again helping the child to get a mental picture.  Then the teacher gives out the dictation, clause by clause, each clause repeated once.  She dictates with a view to the pointing, which the children are expected to put in as they write; but they must not be told 'comma,' 'semicolon,' etc.  After the sort of preparation I have described, which takes ten minutes or less, there is rarely an error in spelling.  If there be, it is well worth while for the teacher to be on the watch with slips of stamp-paper to put over the wrong word, that its image may be erased as far as possible.  At the end of the lesson, the child should again study the wrong word in his book until he says he is sure of it, and should write it correctly on the stamp-paper.  - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 1, Home Education, p 241-242)

I did try prepared dictation last year with RileyAnn and it was much more successful than I thought it might be.  I do plan to continue at some point with her. 

Lastly, I want to touch briefly on grammar...

Grammar a Difficult Study. - Of grammar, Latin and English, I shall say very little here.  In the first place, grammar, being a study of words and not of things, is by no means attractive to the child, nor should be hurried into.  English grammar, again, depending as it does on the position and logical connection of words, is peculiarly hard for him to grasp.  In this respect the Latin grammar is easier; a change in form, the shape of the word, to denote case, is what a child can see with his bodily eye, and therefore it's plainer to him than the abstract ideas of nominative and objective case as we have them in English.  Therefore, if he learns no more at this early stage than the declensions and a verb or two, it is well he should learn thus much, if only to help him to see what English grammar would be at when it speaks of a change in case or mood, yet shows no change in the form of the word. - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 1, Home Education, p 295)

Charlotte postponed grammar until around age ten.  She used a text book for teaching.  Then followed with living books/literature for practice.  Charlotte was very straight forward in her teaching of grammar as she believed grammar was abstract knowledge, which is difficult for young minds.  She talked specifically about being careful not to dumb down the lessons. In fact, she said....

But a child cannot dream parts of speech, and any grown-up twaddle attempting to personify such abstractions offends a small person who with all his love of play and nonsense has a serious mind. - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 6, A Philosophy of Education, pg 210)

Hopefully, I've given you some food for thought regarding teaching language arts using Charlotte's methods.  For further interest, a while back, I posted some notes regarding Ruth Beechick's philosophy on teaching reading here and writing here


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Terrible Two's...Really?






They say two's are terrible.  Yeah, we have our days.  But really two is my favorite age.  Just look at this little stinker who is not supposed to be playing with the telephone! 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Living Books for Learning - Part 2

This post is a continuation about subjects in which Charlotte Mason used living books.  You can read Part 1 here, which covers Bible, History, and Geography.  Today's post will cover Science, Literature, and Poetry.

Science

"Books dealing with science as with history, say, should be of a literary character, and we should probably be more scientific as a people if we scrapped all the text-books which swell publishers' lists and nearly all the chalk expended so freely on our blackboards." - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 6, A Philosophy of Education, p. 218)

Charlotte used books such as Life and Her Child by Arabella Buckley and Madam How and Lady Why by Charles Kingsley with younger students in her schools.  The children narrated after each reading.  Charlotte also used nature study as a means for children to connect with natural science and the out of doors.  One day per week, the students went outside for the afternoon and "notice for themselves" natural things in their surroundings.  Students kept nature journals/notebooks of their findings.  Charlotte wrote the following on nature study...

"Science - In Science, or rather, nature study, we attach great importance to recognition, believing that the power to recognise and name a plant or stone or constellation involves classification and includes a good deal of knowledge.  To know a plant by its gesture and habitat, its time and its way of flowering and fruiting; a bird by its flight and song and its times of coming and going; to know when, year after year, you may come upon the redstart and the pied fly-catcher, means a good deal of interested observation, and of, at any rate, the material for science.  The children keep a dated record of what they see in their nature note-books, which are left to their own management and are not corrected.  These note-books are a source of pride and joy, and are freely illustrated by drawings (brushwork) of twig, flower, insect, etc.  The knowledge necessary for these records is not given in the way of teaching.  On one afternoon in the week, the children (of the Practising School) go for a 'nature walk' with their teachers.  They notice for themselves, and the teacher gives a name or other information as it is asked for, and it is surprising what a range of knowledge a child of nine or ten acquires.  The teachers are careful not to make these nature walks an opportunity for scientific instruction, as we wish the children's attention to be given to observation with very little direction.  In this way they lay up that store of  'common information' which Huxley considered should precede science teaching; and, what is much more important, they learn to know and delight in natural objects as in the familiar faces of friends.  The nature-walk should not be made the occasion to impart a sort of Tit-Bits miscellany of scientific information.  The study of science should be pursued in an ordered sequence, which is not possible or desirable in a walk.  It seems to me a sine qua non of a living education that all school children of whatever grade should have one half-day in the week, throughout the year, in the fields.  There are few towns where country of some sort is not accessible, and every child should have the opportunity of watching week to week, the procession of the seasons.   

Geography, geology, the course of the sun, the behaviour of the clouds, weather signs, all that the 'open' has to offer, are made use of in these walks; but all is incidental, easy, and things are noticed as they occur.  It is probable that in most neighbourhoods there are naturalists who would be willing to give their help in the 'nature walks' of a given school.

We supplement this direct 'nature walk' by occasional object-lessons, as, on the hairs of plants, on diversity of wings, on the sorts of matters taken up in Professor Miall's capital books; but our main dependence is on books as an adjunct to out-of-door work - Mrs. Fisher's, Mrs. Brightwen's, Professor Lloyd Morgan's, Professor Geikie's, Professors Geddes' and Thomson's (the two last for children over fourteen), etc., etc. In the books of these and some other authors the children are put in the position of the original observer of biological and other phenomena.  They learn what to observe, and make discoveries for themselves, original so far as they are concerned.  They are put in the right attitude of mind for scientific observations and deductions, and their keen interest is awakened.  We are extremely careful not to burden the verbal memory with scientific nomenclature.  Children lean of pollen, antennae, and what not, incidentally, when the thing is present and they require a name for it. The children who are curious about it, and they only, should have the opportunity of seeing with the microscope any minute wonder of structure that has come up in their reading or their walks; but a good lens is a capital and almost an indispensable companion in field work." - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 3, School Education, p. 236-238)

Literature

"As for literature - to introduce children to literature is to instal them in a very rich and glorious kingdom, to bring a continual holiday to their doors, to lay before them in a feast exquisitely served.  But they must learn to know literature by being familiar with it from the very first.  A child's intercourse must always be with good books, the best that we can find." - Charlotte Mason ( Vol. 6, A Philosophy of Education, p 51)

I think using living books and narration for the teaching of literature is a no brainer.  Living books are beautiful and speak to our soul.  Again, I've written more here regarding living books. 

Poetry

"Poetry. - Poetry is, perhaps, the most searching and intimate of our teachers.  To know about such a poet and his works may be interesting, as it is to know about repousse work; but in the latter case we must know how to use the tools before we get joy and service out of the art.  Poetry, too, supplies us with tools for the modelling of our lives, and the use of these we must get at for ourselves." - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 4, Ourselves, Book 2, p 71)

"Poetry takes first rank as a means of intellectual culture.  Goethe tells us that we ought to see a good picture, hear good music, and read some good poetry every day; and certainly, a little poetry should form part of the evening lecture.  "Collections" of poems are to be eschewed; but some one poet should have at least a year to himself, that he may have time to do what is in him towards cultivating the seeing eye, the hearing ear, the generous heart." - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 5, Formation of Character, p 224)

In Charlotte's schools, poetry was read aloud and enjoyed frequently.  The students narrated occasionally, but not after every reading as in other subjects.  A variety of poets were studied, perhaps one, for a period of time - "at least a year".  The children memorized and recited poetry each term.  Poetry was used for copy work and dictation.  Charlotte believed the students could deepen their character from studying heroic and noble poems.  Poetry teaches to speak beautiful words in a beautiful way.   I was surprised to learn that Shakespeare was studied as part of poetry.  I was thinking of it as an entirely separate subject. 

"And Shakespeare?  He, indeed, is not to be classed, and timed, and treated as one amongst others, - he, who might well be the daily bead of the intellectual life; Shakespeare is not to be studied in a year; he is to be read continuously throughout life, from ten years old and onwards.  But a child of ten cannot understand Shakespeare.  No; but can a man of fifty?  Is not our great poet rather an ample feast of which every one takes according to his needs, and leaves what he has no stomach for?  A little girl of nine said to me the other day that she had only read one play of Shakespeare's through, and that was A Midsummer Night's Dream.  She did not understand the play, of course, but she must have found enough to amuse and interest her.  How would it be to have a monthly reading of Shakespeare - a play, to be read in character, and continued for two or three evenings until it is finished?  The Shakespeare evening would come to be looked on as a family festa; and the plays, read again and again, year after year, would yield more at each reading, and would leave behind in the end rich deposits of wisdom." - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 5, Formation of Character, p 226)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Living Books for Learning - Part 1

Most people who've heard of a Charlotte Mason education have heard the term "living books".  I recently wrote this post using Charlotte's quotes to illustrate what a living book is.  Today, I will focus on the subjects Charlotte taught using living books.

"History, Geography, the thoughts of other people, roughly, the humanities, are proper for us all, and are the objects of the natural desire of knowledge." - Charlotte Mason

History

History Books - "It is not at all easy to choose the right history books for children.  Mere summaries of facts must, as we have seen, be eschewed; and we must be equally careful to avoid generalisations.  The natural function of the mind, in the early years of life, is to gather the material of knowledge with a view to that very labour of generalisation which is proper to the adult mind; a labour which we should all carry on to some extent for ourselves.  As it is, our minds are so poorly furnished that we accept the conclusions presented to us without demur; but we can, at any rate, avoid giving children cut-and-dried opinions upon the course of history while they are yet young.  What they want is graphic details concerning events and persons upon which imagination goes to work; and opinions tend to form themselves by slow degrees as knowledge grows."  - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 1, Home Education, p 287-288)

History readings afford admirable material for narration, and children enjoy narrating what they have read or heard.  They love, too, to make illustrations.  Children who had been reading Julius Caesar (and also, Plutarch's Life), were asked to make a picture of their favourite scene, and the results showed the extraordinary power of visualising which the little people possess.  Of course that which they visualise, or imagine clearly, they know; it is a life possession. - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 1, Home Education, p 292)

Charlotte used living books and narration for history.  Around age 10, children also started to keep their own Book of Centuries

Geography

"Geography is, to my mind, a subject of high educational value; though not because it affords the means to scientific training.  Geography does present its problems, and these of the most interesting, and does afford materials for classifications; but it is physical geography only which falls within the definition of a science and even that is rather a compendium of the results of several sciences than a science itself.  But the peculiar value of geography lies in its fitness to nourish the mind with ideas, and to furnish the imagination with pictures.  Herein lies the educational value of geography."

"...the child's geography lesson should furnish just the sort of information which grown-up people care to possess.  Now, do think how unreasonable we are in this matter; nothing will persuade us to read a book of travel unless it be interesting, graphic, with a spice of personal adventure.  Even when we are going about Murray in hand, we skip the dry facts and figures, and read the suggestive pictorial scraps; these are the sorts of things we like to know, and remember with ease." - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 1, Home Education, p 271-273)

"There are two rational ways of teaching Geography.  The first is the inferential method, a good deal in vogue at the present time; by it the pupil learns certain geographical principles which he is expected to apply universally.  This method seems to me defective for two reasons.  It is apt to be misleading as in every particular case the general principle is open to modifications; also, local colour and personal and historical interests are wanting and the scholar does not form an intellectual and imaginative conception of the region he is learning about.  The second which might be called the panoramic method unrolls the landscape of the world, region by region, before the eyes of the scholar with in every region its own conditions of climate, its productions, its people, their industries and their history.  This way of teaching the most delightful of all subjects has the effect of giving to a map of a country or region the brilliancy of colour and the wealth of detail which a panorama might afford, together with a sense of proportion and a knowledge of general principles.  I believe that pictures are not of very great use in this study.  We all know that the pictures which abide with us are those which the imagination constructs from written descriptions. 

....vivid descriptions, geographical principles, historical associations and industrial details, are afforded which should make, as we say, an impression, should secure that the region traversed becomes an imaginative possession as well as affording data for reasonable judgments.  The pupil begins with a survey of (insert particular country) followed by a separate treatment of the great countries and divisions and of the great physical features."  - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 6, A Philosophy of Education, p 227-228)

Charlotte started geography with young children out of doors much like natural science. "A pool fed by a mere cutting in the fields will explain the nature of a lake, will carry the child to the lovely lakes of the Alps to Livingstone's great African lake, in which he delighted to see his children 'paidling'...."

"Give him next intimate knowledge, with the fullest details, of any country or region of the world, any country or district of this own country."  Charlotte preferred living books and travelogues giving personal experiences to texts that give "dry facts and figures".  These books were read aloud to younger children followed by narration.

In our homeschool, geography is tied to Bible, history, literature, etc.  As we read about people, we study the places they lived, worked, and traveled.  "Great attention is paid to map work; that is, before reading a lesson children have found the places mentioned in that lesson on a map and know where they are, relatively to other places, to given parallels, meridians."  It's important that students relate people to places, not just memorize facts about places.

"Then, again, geography should be chiefly learned from maps.  Pictorial readings and talks introduce him to the subject, but so soon as his geography lessons become definite they are to be learned, in the first place, from the map."  After introducing children to geography in their natural environment outdoors and reading books about people relating geography to those people, Charlotte used map work.  This Simply Charlotte Mason blog post on teaching geography describes map drill more in depth. 

Bible

"Of the three sorts of knowledge proper to a child, - the knowledge of God, of man, and of the universe, - the knowledge of God ranks first in importance, is indispensable, and more happy-making."  - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 6, A Philosophy of Education, p158)

"We are apt to believe that children cannot be interested in the Bible unless its pages be watered down - turned into the slipshod English we prefer to offer them.  

...But let the imagination of children be stored with the pictures, their minds nourished upon the words, of the gradually unfolding story of the Scriptures, and they will come to look out upon a wide horizon within which person and events take shape in their due place and in due proportion.  By degrees, they will see that the world is a stage whereon the goodness of God is continually striving with the wilfulness of man; that some heroic men take sides with God; and that others, foolish and headstrong, oppose themselves to Him.  The fire of enthusiasm will kindle in their breast, and the children, too, will take their side, without much exhortation, or any thought or talk of spiritual experience."  - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 1, Home Education, p 248-249)

Method of Bible Lessons - Read aloud to the children a few verses covering, if possible, an episode.  Read reverently, carefully, and with just expression.  Then require the children to narrate what they have listened to as nearly as possible in the words of the Bible....Then, talk the narrative over with them in the light of research and criticism.  Let the teaching, moral and spiritual, reach them without much personal application.  

....The learning by heart of Bible passages should begin while the children are quite young, six or seven.  It is a delightful thing to have the memory stored with beautiful, comforting, and inspiring passages, and we cannot tell when and how this manner of seed may spring up, grow, and bear fruit; but the learning of the parable of the Prodigal Son, for example, should not be laid on the children as a burden.  The whole parable should be read to them in a way to bring out its beauty and tenderness; and then, day by day, the teacher should recite a short passage, perhaps two or three verses, saying it over some three or four times until the children think they know it.  Then, but not before, let them recite the passage.  Next day the children will recite what they have already learned, and so on, until they are able to say the whole parable." - Charlotte Mason (Vol 1, Home Education, p 251-253)

The Bible is the ultimate living book!  Charlotte believed in reading directly from Scripture having the children follow with narration.  She then had discussion, often times based on a reliable commentary.  The children memorized and recited God's Word daily.  I just love the way Charlotte talks about studying Scripture!  I'm intrigued and looking forward to trying Simply Charlotte Mason's Scripture Memory System this year with Riley and Ruben.

Since this post, is getting much longer than anticipated, I will continue with Part 2 covering Science, Literature, and Poetry

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thursdays of Thanks....

Riley's flower planter; Hometown parade, Charcoal chicken; A husband for Liz; Safe travels to and from ND; Being able to fix my washing machine; Phone call from Tara.....

Monday, August 11, 2014

Haymaking....

John Clare (1793-1864). “Haymaking”
from The Later Poems (1984).

Among the meadow hay cocks
'Tis beautiful to lie
When pleasantly the day looks
And gold like is the sky 


How lovely looks the hay-swarth
When turning to the sun
How richly looks the dark path
When the rickings all are done 


There's nothing looks more lovely
As a meadow field in cock
There's nothing sounds more sweetly
As the evenings six o' clock 


There's nothing sounds so welcome
As their singing at their toil
Sweet maidens with tan'd faces
And bosoms fit to broil


And its beautiful to look on
How the hay-cleared meadow lies
How the sun pours down his welcome heat
Like gold from yonder skies 


There's a calm upon the level
When the sun is getting low
Smooth as a lawn is the green level
Save where swarths their pointings shew


There the mother makes a journey
With a babbie at her breast
While the sun is fit to burn ye
On the sabath day at rest


There's nothing like such beauty
With a woman ere compares
Unless the love within her arms
The infant which she heirs.



Saturday, August 9, 2014

Books For Sale...



I am a homeschooling mother with a real passion for books.  It's my mission to rescue great living books and get them in the hands of families that cherish books as much as we do.   Many of the living books I have for sale are duplicate copies of books in our personal library.  Many of these books are no longer in print, have disappeared from the public libraries, and are getting harder and harder to find.  Some of the books are new, most are used, and some are ex-library copies with the usual markings.  We are a smoke and pet free home. 

There is no minimum order.  I accept PayPal.  I use media mail shipping and ship anywhere in the U.S.   Actual shipping is figured by weight on larger orders.  Please send questions or desired book list to m.greenebalts@yahoo.com for a shipping quote.  

Thanks for looking,

Melissa