Grammar and Comp High School

composition charlotte mason style form V and VIIt strikes me, perhaps because it is 1 a.m. as I write, that all we CM educators really need to know about the teaching of composition can be found in a single scathing review Miss Mason wrote about a book purporting to teach children how to write them:

“English Composition (Part I.), by Amy Kimpster (Norland Press). Here is a book, admirable in its thoroughness and method, which sets forth with much completeness all that, according to our experience, ought not to be done in teaching children to write and speak their own language. The book is written from what we have called the point of view of the imbecility of children, and indeed it might be useful in teaching actual imbecile children. But what the ordinary child, of whatever class, wants is a vocabulary to be got from a copious supply of books. Given the right book, he is perfectly able to narrate what he has read or heard in complete sentences and in good English. By-and-by he writes his narrative, and has learned the art of composition. The better the books he reads, the better will be his style; and he can do infinitely well without sentence-building on the blackboard, or the meagre, wretched little sentences drawn out of him by way of “summary.” Education would advance by leaps and bounds if we could believe that children have minds which act upon knowledge as their digestive organs act upon food.”

Composition skill is really the natural result of reading excellent books (this is why reducing twaddle is so very important), and hearing good oral speeches and story-telling- helped along more or less by innate talent.  Some children will write better than others just as some will jump higher, run faster, or sing more beautifully.  But the basics are all already there with a CM education, mainly, reading excellent books, NOT reading twaddle, and lots of narration, copywork, dictation, etc.

I’d love to just finish here. I think this is plenty good enough to go on. But I know many want to know specifically, really, what did Miss Mason do for these upper years?

We can take a look at this, but first a couple of clarifications.

Forms V and VI are the last years of high school.

Mason wrote out specific booklists and assignments for each form, every term.  These are called Programmes. and Redeemer college have the two largest online depositories of CM information, including programmes, that I know of.

Problem 1: there are not many programmes available for the upper years.

For a very long time it was not until I got to Programme 115 in 1929 before I could find one where forms V and VI weren’t missing- and Mason died in 1924.  I prefer programmes from when she was still alive. AO has one from 1921- or rather, an edited recap of one.

Then somebody else pointed me to one from 1922 in the Redeemer archives, stored and labeled slightly differently from the others, which is why I overlooked it.   I’ve put the grammar and composition sections of the programmes I know of in order.  Another day I’ll summarize this with excerpts from the specific books.  For today, Charlotte Mason wonks, read on:

Here are the grammar and composition sections (slightly edited for clarity):



VI and V

A good precis. Letter to The Times on topics of the day. Essays on subjects taken from the term’s work in History and Literature and Economics; or, write on a picture studied, or on some aspect of nature.

Essays on ethical and economic problems and on events and questions of the day, or on any subject that interests you. Occasionally, twenty lines of blank verse on some deed of heroism or aspect of nature.

English Grammar

English Lessons for English People, by Abbot and Seeley pp. 190-219, with questions set. Both forms parse and analyse every week.

English Lessons pp. 96-125. Trench, On the Study of Words pp. 224-285


From Programme 94, sept-dec 1922

Composition: forms VI & V.
~A good precis.
~Letters for the PUS Magazine on occurrences in nature.
~Essays, in the style of Macaulay, on subjects suggested by the term’s work in Early Stuart Literature, or, write on a picture studied, or on some aspect of nature.
~Occasionally, 20 lines of blank verse or sonnets on events that stir general feeling, or on historical or living personages. These must scan (see Abbott & Seeley, Part III).

Form VI: Letters from a correspondent’ for The Times on events and questions of the day, or on any subject that should interest the public.

English Grammar:
Form VI:  English Lessons for English People by Abbott & Seeley, pp 190-219, with questions set.
Both forms parse and anayse every week.
Form V. English Lessons, page 1-35

Here are the grammar and composition sections from that 1929 Programme, five years after Mason died)- again, very slightly edited, mainly by line breaks, for clarity:


VI. & V. (See Abbott & Seeley, Part II.)


~A good precis.

~Essays on subjects suggestions by the term’s work in Literature, History, Science, or, on topics of the day.

~Occasionally, write verses, these must scan (see Abbott & Seeley, Part III). ~The daily “reports” also come under this heading. Third Leaders from the Times (Arnold, 2/6) will be found useful.

English Language.

Both Forms, parse and analyse every week.
VI. & V. English Lessons for English People, by E.A. Abbott & J.R. Seeley (Seeley, 5/-), (VI.), pp. 190-216, (V.), pp.96-125, with questions set.
VI. The Art of Reading, by Sir A. Quiller-Couch (Cambridge Press, 5/-), pp. 1-106.
V. The Art of Writing, by R.L. Stevenson (Chatto & Windus, 1/6). (Trench will be continued next term.)

Forms V & VI, Composition and English Language, Programmes 116-118



Programme 116


VI. & V. (See Abbott & Seeley, Part II.) A good precis. Essays on subjects…(exactly the same as 115)

English Language

Both Forms, parse and analyse every week.

VI. & V. English Lessons etc., this term VI. does 217-258, V. does 125-159.
VI. The Art of Reading, as in 115, this term they read 107-216.
V. Trench’s On the Study of Words, Lecture VI., “On the Distinction of Words.”

Programme 117

Composition–same as in programmes 115 and 116.

English Language

Parse and analyse etc.

VI. & V., Seeley, VI. does 255-282, V. does 159-190.
VI. does not have any extra book this term.
V. Trench’s Words, Lecture VII, “The Schoolmaster’s Use of Words.”

Programme 118

Composition–same as 115.

English Language

VI. & V. Seeley, VI does 190-216, V does 1-35.
VI. does not have an extra book.
V. Trench’s Words, Lectures I & II, “Introductory Lecture” and “On the Poetry of Words.”

My conclusion is:  composition lessons for the upper two forms are mainly just…. writing, and then more writing, and then a bit more.

See?  We could have stopped  with that scathing book review.





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