Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Imparting Knowledge, Part 2, Including the Arts....

Continuing on from Imparting Knowledge, Part 1, where we are studying...

Principle 13: 

In devising a syllabus for a normal child, of whatever social class, three points must be considered: -
     (a) He requires much knowledge, for the mind needs sufficient food as much as does the body.
     (b) The knowledge should be various, for sameness in mental diet does not create appetite (i.e. curiosity).
     (c) Knowledge should be communicated in well-chosen language, because his attention responds naturally to what is conveyed in literary form.

The Knowledge of Man

According to Charlotte Mason, various subjects are interrelated.  Composition is no exception.  Charlotte believed the art of composition was the art of telling, or more simply, narration.  Composition was taught through narration, not as a separate subject until the very upper Forms, but not too muchlest the young scholars be saddled, with a stilted style which may encumber them for life (Vol. 6, p. 193).
Composition is not an adjunct but an integral part of their education in every subject.  The exercise affords very great pleasure to children, perhaps we all like to tell what we know, and in proportion as their composition is entirely artless, it is in the same degree artistic and any child is apt to produce a style to be envied for its vigour and grace.  But let me again say there must be no attempt to teach composition.  (Vol. 6, p. 192)
Composition in the form of narration was started orally around age six and was continued orally throughout the child's academic career.  Narration started paragraph by paragraph, building up to chapter by chapter. In Form II, oral narration slowly changed to written narration or transcribing thoughts.  Charlotte believed great narration/composition was built from reading a feast of great books.  A couple other key points to remember about narration/composition are...
Corrections must not be made during the act of narration, nor must any interruption be allowed.
Children must not be teased or instructed about the use of stops or capital letters.  These things too come by nature to the child who reads...From their earliest days they should get the habit of reading literature which they should take hold of for themselves, much or little, in their own way.  As the object of every writer is to explain himself in his own book, the child and the author must be trusted together without the intervention of the middle-man.  (Vol. 6, p. 191-192)
They should be asked to write upon subjects which have interested them keenly. (Vol. 6, p. 193)

In this section, Charlotte refers to teaching English grammar as well as foreign languages.  Regarding English grammar, she says....
English is rather a logical study dealing with sentences and the positions that words occupy in them than with words and what they are in their own right.  Therefore it is better that a child should begin with a sentence and not with the parts of speech, that is, he should learn a little of what is called analysis before he learns to parse.....Every sentence has two parts, (I), the thing we speak of , and (2), what we say about it.  (Vol. 6, p. 209)
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.  (Vol. 6, p. 210)
Charlotte doesn't give a great deal more in how to instruct English grammar, saying, But these are matters familiar to all teachers and we have nothing new in the teaching of grammar to suggest; but we probably gain in the fact that our scholars pay full attention to grammar, as to all other lessons. Charlotte finished off this section briefly mentioning the teaching of French grammar, among other foreign languages.

Art & Music
Here, Charlotte describes picture study...
There are few subjects regarded with more respect and less confidence in our schools than this of  'Art.'  Of course, we say, children should have their artistic powers cultivated, especially those who have such powers, but how is the question.  (Vol. 6, p. 212)
We recognise that the power of appreciating art and of producing to some extent an interpretation of what one sees is as universal as intelligence, imagination, nay, speech, the power of producing words. But there must be knowledge and, in the first place, not the technical knowledge of how to produce, but some reverent knowledge of what has been produced; that is, children should learn pictures, line by line, group by group, by reading, not books, but pictures themselves. A friendly picture-dealer supplies us with half a dozen beautiful little reproductions of the work of some single artist, term by term. After a short story of the artist's life and a few sympathetic words about his trees or his skies, his river-paths or his figures, the little pictures are studied one at a time; that is, children learn, not merely to see a picture but to look at it, taking in every detail. Then the picture is turned over and the children tell what they have seen,––a dog driving a flock of sheep along a road but nobody with the dog. Ah, there is a boy lying down by the stream drinking. It is morning as you can see by the light so the sheep are being driven to pasture, and so on; nothing is left out, the discarded plough, the crooked birch, the clouds beautiful in form and threatening rain, there is enough for half an hour's talk and memory in this little reproduction of a great picture and the children will know it wherever they see it, whether a signed proof, a copy in oils, or the original itself in one of our galleries.   (Vol. 6, p. 214)
There is no talk about schools of painting, little about style; consideration of these matters comes in later life, but the first and most important thing is to know the pictures themselves.  As in a worthy book we leave the author to tell his own tale, so do we trust a picture to tell its tale through the medium the artist gave it.  In the region of art as elsewhere we shut out the middleman.  
...these picture studies do not afford much material for actual drawing; they are never copied lest an attempt to copy should lessen a child's reference for great work.  (Vol. 6, p. 215)
Toward the end of the section Charlotte quotes from an address by Mrs. Howard Glover at the Ambleside Conference of the Parents' Union in 1922 regarding music appreciation.  In part of that speech, Mrs. Glover states, "Musical Appreciation, of course, has nothing to do with playing the piano."  

In her other volumes, Charlotte associates music study/appreciation with composer study, being similar to an artist study, in that, you choose one composer for each term, of which, to read a short biography.  At the same time, incorporate the composer's music into your life.  This should not be contrived as in, "OK kids, today we're going to listen to Johann Sebastian Bach's Magnificat."  Rather, play the artist's music throughout the day in your home.  Let it be in the background while you're washing dishes, sorting laundry, or mopping the floor.  Start with short catchy tunes as children love to dance and make merry. Singing hymns was also a part of music study.

Given the nature, length, and breadth of Chapter X, I will conclude here today, continuing with the final installment tomorrow, covering The Knowledge of the Universe.  

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