Charlotte Mason Language Arts Posts

CM style language arts cover no bylineI went through several of CM’s programmes and looked at what she actually did for grammar and punctuation grade by grade, and then shared my findings.
Part I is hereIntroduction: the methods work, and I share here in brief how they worked for those of my children with whom I actually used those methods.
Part II:

“I think that most people know Charlotte Mason’s methods include no formal curriculum for grammar and composition until middle school. That doesn’t mean, however, that you do nothing. It’s not enough to just skip the language arts workbooks- Charlotte Mason’s methods work best when you focus at least as much on what you and the children are doing instead of formal lessons in gradeschool….”

Part III–  (with a printable sheet of Mason’s pre-comp methods)

“Here’s the post where I will start really breaking it down piece by piece- beginning with the foundation laid from birth to six, whether there is almost no written work at all, and such paperwork as there is doesn’t begin until six.

Her composition and language arts program really begins back in babyhood, when you play with the baby, spend lots of time outside, sing songs, tell and listen to nursery rhymes and listen to stories.  The nursery rhymes and songs give children early experiences in the flow and rhythm of language.  They allow children to play with words, to connect language play with delight.  They are early helps for reading, since children will become familiar with word families through the rhymes of Mother Goose long before they ever need to know what word families are….”

Part IV ” includes another helpful printable chart, and…

“Composition” is not taught as a separate subject for many years with the Charlotte Mason approach, but when the children finally are assigned ‘composition’ as a topic, they are not coming to it raw, with no background preparation.  The skills and background experiences children will use for later compositions are woven throughout their activities and reading in their younger years.  Unless the child has a neurological or physical complication, you do not approach good health with the normal five year old by saying, “Okay, junior, today we will work on building up your abs.” You just encourage a wide range of healthy physical play. And that’s the approach Miss Mason takes to writing.  She doesn’t isolate skills and work on them outside of any meaningful context.  she’s speaking of something else when she says not to exhaust them and tire their brains by giving them the wrong kind of work, “the sort of work for which the present state of his mental development does not fit him,” but I think it applies very well to grammar and punctuation lessons for children this young…..”

Part V: Upper Years, What Not To Do ;

“What not to do is actually pretty simple, because Miss Mason gave us a very specific set of bad examples and horrible warnings in volume 1.  I repost it below, adapted, paraphrased, and even somewhat rearranged for my purposes to bring out some points I wish to highlight…:

An Educational Futility….”  (click through- you want to know how to avoid that!)

Part VI: Composition, Form II (grades 4-6)– learning by doing:

“In years 4-6 for Composition and grammar, Miss Mason had her students learn the parts of speech, and do some assigned writing.

The assignments and topics came from their reading, and were in addition to regular oral or sketched narration of all their readings.

The older children (fifth and sixth grade) might be asked to write stories from  Plutarch readings, the fourth graders from The Pilgrim’s Progress.  Young children who couldn’t easily write could narrate orally.

In other terms 4th and 5th graders might be asked to write compositions, or stories, from their readings in Citizenship and Reading, or, from events of the day, etc….”

The ‘Umbrella’ Composition Book, Mason’s Horrible WarningI found an online sample and posted page images of the book mentioned in part V, what not to do.

Prelude to Part VII:

overview of her approach to early Grammar Teaching:

“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….

Part VII: Grammar, Form IIB (Grade 4);

In searching for Miss Mason’s approach to grammar and composition after the for older children, I began by darting all over the place in the six volumes.  Like a hunting hound that has lost the scent, I amassed a good deal of unconnected and loosely connected material, blurred my vision and clouded my thinking and after weeks of this nonsense, I chucked it all and started afresh from a different perspective.

I finally realized that what I really needed to do was to go back and do what I had done the first year I really began to understand Miss Mason’s approach- look at what she actually did to see how that reflected what she said about the philosophy behind it….

What did I find out? I’ve shared some of it here.  That was composition.  This will be more about grammar proper….

Part VIII: Teaching the Parts of Speech– Grammar in grade 4, cont. by looking over a grammar text Miss Mason used.

One of the books Miss Mason used with 4-6 graders is How To Tell The Parts of Speech, by E. A. Abbott.  The book is dated enough that it is of limited use for today’s teacher/parent, unless you are confident enough in your knowledge of grammar to make adaptations and corrections as you go.  We can, however, still glean some useful principles and applications from it.  Miss Mason particularly recommended that her teachers read the preface, so I’ve been sharing it in this series.  I include the page images.  If interested, click on them to make them large enough to read….

Part IX: SHORTCUT!  Here’s a summary of all the most important ground covered for year 4-6- I called it the TL:DR post.

Part X: Form III:

An overview of the next step in composition for older students, and subsequent posts will break it down further:


habit of reading before 12Volume 3: “The sort of curriculum I have in view should educate children upon Things and Books. Current thought upon the subject of education by Things is so sound and practical, and so thoroughly carried into effect, that I have not thought it necessary to dwell much here upon this part of education. Our great failure seems to me to be caused by the fact that we do not form the habit of reading books that are worth while in children while they are at school and are under twelve years of age. The free use of books implies correct spelling and easy and vigorous composition without direct teaching of these subjects.”

Grades 7-9: Making progress each term.

There’s a lot to process (isn’t there always?), but I think the most useful information I gleaned from reading the programmes for this level is this: ‘making progress each term.’

Start where you are, and move forward. Progress may be slow, but what matters is that there is progress, improvement.

I looked over the programmes and exams we have which Charlotte Mason used for this age group, and tried to pull out assignments and applications and summarize the kind of work the students this level were doing.  Keep in mind, as we have noted before, that Mason’s approach is an integrated philosophy of education, and each year builds on the previous year- the children doing these things at this level have been doing the copywork, the reading, the studied dictation, the memory work, the parts of speech they learned in grades 4-6, the reading and narrations for previous years.

Grades 7-9: A Composition discovery for all ages:  The books are the curriculum.  More specifics on composition for this level:

You don’t need vocabulary lists and spelling lists and workbooks.  You don’t need to buy helps and tips for writing instruction.  You don’t need to have your child do scripted lessons.

Best of all, “The better the books he reads, the better will be his style,” and we must believe that the children really have minds!  It is deceptively simple, but it is so hard to do at the same time.

I skimmed through the Parents Review articles looking for any instructions on Composition.  I found the mandated use of good books emphasized over and over.  These things also came up as part of Miss Mason’s deliberate and careful approach to narration…

Grades 7-9- Meiklejohn and Morris, two of the texts Mason used and recommended.

Twitter?  Yes, twitter.

HIGH SCHOOL!  Finally, forms V and VI, what did Miss Mason actually do with these students?

———–

These posts were not originally part of this series, but they also, I think, have content that will be useful to parents thinking about their language arts approach to homeschooling:

Not directly connected to language arts teaching, but a Charlotte Mason, or liberal arts education, is for educating children, not prize pigs.

Study on effective lessons and teachers for the teaching of reading and language arts find results that Miss Mason was sharing over one hundred years ago.  For example:

did you know that there is “No reliable evidence to support” the educational effectiveness of ” test-preparation workbooks, copying vocabulary definitions from a dictionary, completing after-reading comprehension worksheets”?  But that’s what children are spending a lot of their ‘reading time’ doing.

Spelling Instruction the CM way:

First of all: Charlotte Mason differentiates between spelling and reading–and I think she’s right to some degree. Phonics rules help immensely with reading (and she does talk about this a little in the pages that lead up to her discussion of spelling in volume 1). They help a lot, but not quite as much, with spelling. Think of words like There and their–and is there really any reason why they shouldn’t be spelt thair or thare? Think of the ‘r-controlled vowels,’ er, ir, and sometimes ‘or’ (word, work)–phonics gets you to a point with those, but a little memorization is necessary after that.

 On teaching Writing.

Mason’s not the only one who knows you teach writing by reading good books:

One of our regular reader-friends here sent me this Atlantic Article, which I recommend in its entirety.  The author is writing about the pervasive self-help books which are essentially cookbooks for how to be a good writer.  He was asked to contribute an essay to one such book, and this is part of his contribution:

Finally, a word about this kind of instruction: it is always less effective than actually reading the books of the writers who precede you, and who are contemporary with you. There are too many “how-to” books on the market, and too many would-be writers are reading these books in the mistaken idea that this will teach them to write. I never read such a book in my life, and I never will. What I know about writing I know from having read the work of the great writers. If you really want to learn how to write, do that.

Some specifics of what I did with youngest children

Part I is hereIntroduction: the methods work, and I share here in brief how they worked for those of my children with whom I actually used those methods.

IA-
Part II:

“I think that most people know Charlotte Mason’s methods include no formal curriculum for grammar and composition until middle school. That doesn’t mean, however, that you do nothing. It’s not enough to just skip the language arts workbooks- Charlotte Mason’s methods work best when you focus at least as much on what you and the children are doing instead of formal lessons in gradeschool….”

Part III–  (with a printable sheet of Mason’s pre-comp methods)

“Here’s the post where I will start really breaking it down piece by piece- beginning with the foundation laid from birth to six, whether there is almost no written work at all, and such paperwork as there is doesn’t begin until six.

Her composition and language arts program really begins back in babyhood, when you play with the baby, spend lots of time outside, sing songs, tell and listen to nursery rhymes and listen to stories.  The nursery rhymes and songs give children early experiences in the flow and rhythm of language.  They allow children to play with words, to connect language play with delight.  They are early helps for reading, since children will become familiar with word families through the rhymes of Mother Goose long before they ever need to know what word families are….”

Part IV ” includes another helpful printable chart, and…

“Composition” is not taught as a separate subject for many years with the Charlotte Mason approach, but when the children finally are assigned ‘composition’ as a topic, they are not coming to it raw, with no background preparation.  The skills and background experiences children will use for later compositions are woven throughout their activities and reading in their younger years.  Unless the child has a neurological or physical complication, you do not approach good health with the normal five year old by saying, “Okay, junior, today we will work on building up your abs.” You just encourage a wide range of healthy physical play. And that’s the approach Miss Mason takes to writing.  She doesn’t isolate skills and work on them outside of any meaningful context.  she’s speaking of something else when she says not to exhaust them and tire their brains by giving them the wrong kind of work, “the sort of work for which the present state of his mental development does not fit him,” but I think it applies very well to grammar and punctuation lessons for children this young…..”

Part V: Upper Years, What Not To Do ;

“What not to do is actually pretty simple, because Miss Mason gave us a very specific set of bad examples and horrible warnings in volume 1.  I repost it below, adapted, paraphrased, and even somewhat rearranged for my purposes to bring out some points I wish to highlight…:

An Educational Futility….”  (click through- you want to know how to avoid that!)

Part VI: Composition, Form II (grades 4-6)– learning by doing:

“In years 4-6 for Composition and grammar, Miss Mason had her students learn the parts of speech, and do some assigned writing.

The assignments and topics came from their reading, and were in addition to regular oral or sketched narration of all their readings.

The older children (fifth and sixth grade) might be asked to write stories from  Plutarch readings, the fourth graders from The Pilgrim’s Progress.  Young children who couldn’t easily write could narrate orally.

In other terms 4th and 5th graders might be asked to write compositions, or stories, from their readings in Citizenship and Reading, or, from events of the day, etc….”

The ‘Umbrella’ Composition Book, Mason’s Horrible WarningI found an online sample and posted page images of the book mentioned in part V, what not to do.

Prelude to Part VII:

overview of her approach to early Grammar Teaching:

“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….

Part VII: Grammar, Form IIB (Grade 4);

In searching for Miss Mason’s approach to grammar and composition after the for older children, I began by darting all over the place in the six volumes.  Like a hunting hound that has lost the scent, I amassed a good deal of unconnected and loosely connected material, blurred my vision and clouded my thinking and after weeks of this nonsense, I chucked it all and started afresh from a different perspective.

I finally realized that what I really needed to do was to go back and do what I had done the first year I really began to understand Miss Mason’s approach- look at what she actually did to see how that reflected what she said about the philosophy behind it….

What did I find out? I’ve shared some of it here.  That was composition.  This will be more about grammar proper….

Part VIII: Teaching the Parts of Speech– Grammar in grade 4, cont. by looking over a grammar text Miss Mason used.

One of the books Miss Mason used with 4-6 graders is How To Tell The Parts of Speech, by E. A. Abbott.  The book is dated enough that it is of limited use for today’s teacher/parent, unless you are confident enough in your knowledge of grammar to make adaptations and corrections as you go.  We can, however, still glean some useful principles and applications from it.  Miss Mason particularly recommended that her teachers read the preface, so I’ve been sharing it in this series.  I include the page images.  If interested, click on them to make them large enough to read….

Part IX: SHORTCUT!  Here’s a summary of all the most important ground covered for year 4-6- I called it the TL:DR post.

Part X: Form III:

An overview of the next step in composition for older students, and subsequent posts will break it down further:

Volume 3: “The sort of curriculum I have in view should educate children upon Things and Books. Current thought upon the subject of education by Things is so sound and practical, and so thoroughly carried into effect, that I have not thought it necessary to dwell much here upon this part of education. Our great failure seems to me to be caused by the fact that we do not form the habit of reading books that are worth while in children while they are at school and are under twelve years of age. The free use of books implies correct spelling and easy and vigorous composition without direct teaching of these subjects.”

Grades 7-9: Making progress each term.

There’s a lot to process (isn’t there always?), but I think the most useful information I gleaned from reading the programmes for this level is this: ‘making progress each term.’

Start where you are, and move forward. Progress may be slow, but what matters is that there is progress, improvement.

I looked over the programmes and exams we have which Charlotte Mason used for this age group, and tried to pull out assignments and applications and summarize the kind of work the students this level were doing.  Keep in mind, as we have noted before, that Mason’s approach is an integrated philosophy of education, and each year builds on the previous year- the children doing these things at this level have been doing the copywork, the reading, the studied dictation, the memory work, the parts of speech they learned in grades 4-6, the reading and narrations for previous years.

Grades 7-9: A Composition discovery for all ages:  The books are the curriculum.  More specifics on composition for this level:

You don’t need vocabulary lists and spelling lists and workbooks.  You don’t need to buy helps and tips for writing instruction.  You don’t need to have your child do scripted lessons.

Best of all, “The better the books he reads, the better will be his style,” and we must believe that the children really have minds!  It is deceptively simple, but it is so hard to do at the same time.

I skimmed through the Parents Review articles looking for any instructions on Composition.  I found the mandated use of good books emphasized over and over.  These things also came up as part of Miss Mason’s deliberate and careful approach to narration…

Grades 7-9- Meiklejohn and Morris, two of the texts Mason used and recommended.

Twitter?  Yes, twitter.

Coming in January!  More what and how of  precis writing.

———–

These posts were not originally part of this series, but they also, I think, have content that will be useful to parents thinking about their language arts approach to homeschooling:

Not directly connected to language arts teaching, but a Charlotte Mason, or liberal arts education, is for educating children, not prize pigs.

Study on effective lessons and teachers for the teaching of reading and language arts find results that Miss Mason was sharing over one hundred years ago.  For example:

did you know that there is “No reliable evidence to support” the educational effectiveness of ” test-preparation workbooks, copying vocabulary definitions from a dictionary, completing after-reading comprehension worksheets”?  But that’s what children are spending a lot of their ‘reading time’ doing.

Spelling Instruction the CM way:

First of all: Charlotte Mason differentiates between spelling and reading–and I think she’s right to some degree. Phonics rules help immensely with reading (and she does talk about this a little in the pages that lead up to her discussion of spelling in volume 1). They help a lot, but not quite as much, with spelling. Think of words like There and their–and is there really any reason why they shouldn’t be spelt thair or thare? Think of the ‘r-controlled vowels,’ er, ir, and sometimes ‘or’ (word, work)–phonics gets you to a point with those, but a little memorization is necessary after that.

Comparison of Hillyer and Mason’s approach to spelling:

“Some people are ‘eye-minded,’ some are ‘ear-minded,’ some are muscle-minded,’ and some have little mind of any kind….”

So says Calvert’s headmaster V. M. Hillyer in the 1944 version of the Calvert Speller.

According to the preface of this little book, The Calvert School made a statistical investigation covering several years to determined the words most often used as well as those most often misspelled by children and adults. They combined their results with those of others who had looked into the same topic, and then divvied them up by order of frequency and produced a little speller which the Calvert school used for grades 2-6.

 On teaching Writing.

Mason’s not the only one who knows you teach writing by reading good books:

One of our regular reader-friends here sent me this Atlantic Article, which I recommend in its entirety.  The author is writing about the pervasive self-help books which are essentially cookbooks for how to be a good writer.  He was asked to contribute an essay to one such book, and this is part of his contribution:

Finally, a word about this kind of instruction: it is always less effective than actually reading the books of the writers who precede you, and who are contemporary with you. There are too many “how-to” books on the market, and too many would-be writers are reading these books in the mistaken idea that this will teach them to write. I never read such a book in my life, and I never will. What I know about writing I know from having read the work of the great writers. If you really want to learn how to write, do that.

Teaching Poetry- Mary Woodis article from a PR  (also see the embedded link in the article to ‘poetry with your little peasants’)

Reading and literature- or choosing the right books.

Slow reading– why you stop while the child is still interested and begging for more.

See also:
Books and Literature in The Common Room  (March 27, 2010)
Reading and Literature in The Common Room (March 20, 2010)
Books Build Character, Part One, April 23, 2005, edited and reposted in 2008.Part 2, April 27th, 2005
Part Three, Horrible Warnings and Bad Examples, Why We Need them,

 

Narration for beginners

All kinds of stuff about narration

More about narration

But isn’t this too easy?

Miss Mason explains why narration

To the narration, extras are allowed, but in severe moderation.

OTher ways of using books 

More than narration

Power of narration- it begins in the mind of the learner

Narration- how to take turns (there is a wrong way, and it’s the one most of us use)

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One Comment

  1. SallyT
    Posted November 16, 2015 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this series. I’ve been reading through it for the last couple of days, and really just came to say how much I appreciate having it all coordinated like this. (and then got sidetracked by the Little Prince post . . . ) I’ve somehow found myself talking a lot, lately, to a lot of people, about how we do and don’t do language arts at our house — and this series has both helped me encapsulate my thoughts, and spurred me to improvement on several fronts. So, thanks again!

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