Composition: Charlotte Mason’s Methods Work, part II

composition charlotte Mason style 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.

In this post, I’m just going to give a fast overview of the things that go into Miss Mason’s approach to language arts in the years before introducing written composition work. I’m not going to give quotes or references in this post, but over the next couple of weeks, I’ll break it down and spend more time on each part in a separate post.  In those posts, I’ll explain a little more and provide the references as well as resources for further study. I’ve chosen this way because when I started collecting quotes to illustrate my points, I ended up with a post about the size of the New York Times Sunday edition.

One last point before I list the elements of Miss Mason’s method for language arts- please, don’t be discouraged. You may find you’ve skipped some or several or all of them, not realizing their importance, so now you think it’s too late and you’re kicking yourself for a failure. You are not. We are all busy parents with a lot of things on our plates. We maybe dealing with heavy burdens, much suffering, and complicated lives.  Many of us may go through a season where we cannot accomplish Miss Mason’s ideal. But all is not lost- if we understand what she recommended and why, then we can make informed decisions about how to compensate for our weaknesses.

So, without further ado, let us quickly romp through the building blocks of Miss Mason’s approach:

In the early years children are building advanced vocabularies, skill with language, joyfully playing with language, and learning to picture things in the mind’s eye.  There should be almost no screen time.

The children have immense time outdoors interacting with the real world and building up real life experiences. Sometimes you ask them to look at a scene hard, so they can see it with their eyes shut, and then you ask them to describe it to you- with their backs turned to it.  This is oral narration, the telling back, which will later lead to composition skills. It’s not formal narration.

You are telling them stories- again, developing the mind’s eye as they picture what you are telling them without external aids. They are also learning to associate stories with happy, pleasant, cozy times. Bible stories, early folk tales (Goldilocks, The Teeny Tiny Woman, the three little pigs, the Little Red Hen), and stories about when you were a little child are all part of this oral story telling.

You are reading them only the best in picture books- no twaddle. You are familiarizing them with the best in language, in story.

You are reading and reciting nursery rhymes, vitally important to further nurture both a love of language and a sense of the rhythm of language.

You are singing folk songs and nursery songs (thumbkin, itsy bitsy spider, etc).

When the child is ready to begin formal lessons (usually no earlier than 6), you continue with the excellent standard in literature. You add formal narration. This is simply not optional. The children must narrate their school readings. This is also oral composition. They do this for years before they begin writing them down. I will share more about all the wonderful things narration does for your children later in the series.

Copywork, or transcription. At first, this is simply teaching the children the mechanics of handwriting. But once they have mastered the correct formation of their letters, they begin copying from their reading. One mistake I’ve seen parents making many times is assigning the children’s own stories and written narrations for their copywork. If you do this, you are kicking an important prop out from under your language arts program. Copywork *must* be from well written models- nursery rhymes, folk tales beautifully retold, their history readings, and so forth.

Reading- as soon as they can, the children are to read their own books. Another mistake many parents make (this one included) is to rely overmuch on audiobooks. But Charlotte Mason’s methods are predicated on the children having years of exposure to seeing the written word- to seeing thousands of pages of well written books with proper punctuation and elegant syntax and complex vocabulary on paper. Audiobooks remove those experiences. I know sometimes we must rely on them, but there are ways to compensate if you are in just such a hard place. More on that later.

Dictation- around year 4 or so, Miss Mason added guided dictation to the children’s work.

Wide reading of many well written books over many, many topics over several years.

Narration, narration, narration.

Continued practice in observing things as they are through picture study, drawing, and nature study.

And then, a little more narration.

Patience, because this does take time.

Tomorrow I’ll go into more detail about the early years, before 6, and the tools that will stand the children in good stead when they are ready for composition later.

Part I is here
Part II

Part III

Part IV

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Free Books

Nature Writing:

The Mason-Bees
Excerpt: As the nests of the Mason-bee of the Walls are erected on small-sized pebbles, which can be easily carried wherever you like and moved about from one place to another, without disturbing either the work of the builder or the repose of the occupants of the cells, they lend themselves readily to practical experiment, the only method that can throw a little light on the nature of instinct. To study the insect’s mental faculties to any purpose, it is not enough for the observer to be able to profit by some happy combination of circumstances: he must know how to produce other combinations, vary them as much as possible and test them by substitution and interchange. Lastly, to provide science with a solid basis of facts, he must experiment. In this way, the evidence of formal records will one day dispel the fantastic legends with which our books are crowded: the Sacred Beetle (A Dung-beetle who rolls the manure of cattle into balls for his own consumption and that of his young. Cf. “Insect Life”, by J.H. Fabre, translated by the author of “Mademoiselle Mori”: chapters 1 and 2; and “The Life and Love of the Insect”, by J. Henri Fabre, translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos: chapters 1 to 4.—Translator’s Note.) calling on his comrades to lend a helping hand in dragging his pellet out of a rut; the Sphex (A species of Hunting Wasp. Cf. “Insect Life”: chapters 6 to 12.—Translator’s Note.) cutting up her Fly so as to be able to carry him despite the obstacle of the wind; and all the other fallacies which are the stock-in-trade of those who wish to see in the animal world what is not really there. In this way, again, materials will be prepared which will one day be worked up by the hand of a master and consign hasty and unfounded theories to oblivion.
best books orderly serving

Thirty-One Years on the Plains and in the Mountains, Or, the Last Voice from the Plains An Authentic Record of a Life Time of Hunting, Trapping, Scouting and Indian Fighting in the Far West

I’m inclined to think there’s a lot of exaggeration and tall tale telling here, which doesn’t mean it won’t be a fun read for a lot of boys.

Here’s a reader review: This is the true story of a boy who was orphaned at a young age and given to a farmer who treated him very poorly. In his early teens, he runs away and happens to meet Kit Carson, who takes him under his wing and treats him like an adopted son. (As he leaves, the revenge he takes on the housekeeper who had been so cruel to him is one of the highlights of the book.) He has many amazing adventures as a hunter, trapper, army and wagon train scout, indian fighter and so on. He barely escapes certain death on many occasions, rescues women captured by indians, etc. The book covers most of his life and shows his gradual development from an ignorant boy to a skilled and highly regarded frontiersman whose advice and assistance are sought by Army officers and others who have to brave the dangers of the “wild west.” I’ve read the book twice and will no doubt read it again. Considering his scarcity of formal education, he writes quite well and with humorous understatement when describing experiences that would have most of us soiling our clothes. A real “guy’s” book.

books are bees

Hunting the Grisly and Other Sketches
by Theodore Roosevelt

Reader reviews are four and five stars, and they are pretty much all very enthusiastic.

habit of reading books

Hunting with the Bow & Arrow
reader review: Excellent book!!! I read this book as a young man and it helped me then to appreciate the history and art of a traditional archery –a sport that I had already loved.Saxton Pope did everyone a great favor in writing of his friendship with Ishi(the last of the Yani tribe)and of his companions, trying to emulate and improve on what the native master had taught them.I ordered this again after losing my original copy years ago, and found it revived my appreciation of this wonderful sport yet again.I have started using the information and techniques this time around to make arrows and soon a bow with my son.
we must read to know

Hunting the Lions

R. M. Ballantyne

Reader Review: Written in the middle of the nineteenth century, this novel is more about African hunting than just about lions. Although entertaining, a great many details were left out such as the caliber and make of rifles used for the various game hunted.
All in all, a worthwhile book and an entertaining read.

we owe it to the children to let them dig knowledge out of fit books

Black Beaver The Trapper

Reader Review: More a sketch than an autobiography, this short book is none the less entertaining. Born too late for the height of the fur trade, the author still made a living and a life on his own terms.

caring for books

Bears I Have Met-and Others

I got this as a freebie, just to pass time reading something I’ve never read before. All of the stories are based on actual bear occurrences and both well known, highly documented along with “never heard by tenderfoot ears type” myths, legends and out and out bulls*** lies told by the rugged individuals who built the Wild West, the original American settlers of California, Nevada, adn all points southwest, and so on…if you’ve never heard a story told around a campfire, by a grizzled old prospector, who just wrassled a 2500lb Grizzly for a pastrami sandwich on the end of a 3 inch branch suspended 40 feet in the air, then you simply haven’t lived lol! By the end of Chapter One, I found myself engrossed in a highly entertaining read, with massive historical precedence to boot! For a free KIndle book, you just can’t go wrong…but, even if it were selling for $20 (or even higher if it were a hard copy), I would have been satisfied! It’s the perfect read for anyone who’s interested in American history, human nature, bear nature, and how they all interact…oh and don’t forget, most of these stories, although they’re being told as if they are the truth as pure as the driven snow in Alaska, are highly humorous! Come to think of it, they’re down right funny, actually…enjoy!

we love books bookshelf vintage

Wild Beasts and Their Ways, Reminiscences of Europe, Asia, Africa and America – Volume 1

Reader Review: A great book by Sir Samuel Baker from a bygone era of hunting. In the 19th Century Baker was one of the first to show some concern for the actual welfare of the big game he hunted across India and Africa. Fascinating technical details blended with exciting hunting tales. Not for the squeamish but a necessary read for anyone interested in colonial history and /or big game hunting. His descriptions of tiger hunts in the Brahmaputra deserve all 5 stars !
we must read to know

Two Little Savages Being the adventures of two boys who lived as Indians and what they learned
Excerpt: Yn turned very red. He thought of the scripture text, “Be sure your sin will find you out,” and he stepped back. Sam stuck his tongue in his cheek and followed. But he was his father’s son. He turned and said:

“Now see here, Mr. Clark, fair and square; we come here to ask a simple question about the woods. You are the only man that knows or we wouldn’t ‘a’ bothered you. I knowed you had it in for Da, so I tried to fool you, and it didn’t go. I wish now I had just come out square and said, ‘I’m Sam Raften; will you tell me somethin’ I want to know, or won’t you?’ I didn’t know you hed anything agin me or me friend that’s camping with me.”

There is a strong bond of sympathy between all Woodcrafters. The mere fact that a man wants to go his way is a claim on a Woodcrafter’s notice. Old Caleb, though soured by trouble and hot-tempered, had a kind heart; he resisted for a moment the first impulse to slam the door in their faces; then as he listened he fell into the tempter’s snare, for it was baited with the subtlest of flatteries.

no avenue to knowledge but knowledge

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Composition CM Style: The Method Works

composition charlotte Mason style IMy four oldest girls were reared largely on CM’s methods, particularly in composition and writing.  Three of them write exceptionally well, one of them writes better than most and quite clearly.  She doesn’t love it, but that’s okay.  Not every child must love every single thing.  Children are, as Miss Mason reminds us constantly, born persons.

The older girls took an online philosophy course in high school- their online tutors taught at a Washington university.  Their professors loved their writing so much that they invited the girls to participate in the next set of courses for free, because they felt my daughters’ online participation brought up the tone of the course, and their writing was a pleasure.  You’ve all seen the Equuschick’s posts here, so you know why.  I know that sounds like bragging, and I guess it kind of is, but… well…. you’ve seen her writing.  Part of this is, again, her special knack.  Children are, again, born persons.  But part of it is also due to CM’s methods.

Pip and the History Girl went to college, and they were both told they wrote very, very well.  Pip was specifically told that her teachers looked forward to reading her papers, that they were a treat.  Again, both knack, and also CM’s methods.

But there’s a catch here.

To say that CM’s methods work, we have to know what they are.

Knowing what they are is not enough.  We must also do.

We must apply those methods.

And that will be part II.

Part I is here (this post)

Part III

Part IV

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This Book is Too Hard

reading to themselves is their educationYou’ve chosen a curriculum, and you’ve hit a stumbling block- a book that is too hard. Your kids aren’t getting it, you hate it, and you think it’s obviously too hard.  What do you do?

The easiest thing in the world to do is just drop the book.  Put it on a shelf for later. Use it as a doorstop.  Sometimes, the easiest thing in the world is exactly what you need to do at this time for these children.

it is possible to make education too easy

But you also know in your heart of hearts that sometimes…. it’s not.

You chose the curriculum for a reason.  So think about those reasons.  Think about the track record that curriculum has with other books.  Maybe all the reasons that went into choosing that curriculum are also good reasons to go ahead and try the harder book after all.

 

You may think the kids will get more out of it if you wait, and you’re probably right, they will.  I got more out of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe as an adult than I ever did as a 12 year old.  But that doesn’t mean it was a waste of my time to read it at 12.  I got a lot out of it then.  I read it to my girls when the oldest was just 6.  Did she get as much out of it as she would have if I’d waited until she was 10?  Of course not.  But we never mine all treasure there is to find in a good book in the first reading, whatever age we are.  That’s the beauty of good books.

mental effort of telling again

But you hate it, so what can you do?  In no order whatsoever, here are some ideas:

If you’re not liking the book, that can be contagious. It can also alter the way you read aloud and discuss the book, so make sure it’s not your attitude that’s getting in the child’s way.  Give yourself a shake, smile cheerfully, and read cheerfully.  Don’t come between the child and the book.

Read slowly.  I’m talking mostly about a book you’re reading aloud, of course, and perhaps if you weren’t reading it aloud, you should start.  Pause slightly longer than normal after a sentence so your brains have a chance to process, and catch up.  If you have any experience with singing, think about how much more slowly you sing a song when you are first learning it.  If you have tried to learn another language, think about how much more slowly you have to hear the words and sentences pronounced to understand them.  If this book is a challenging book because the language and/or ideas are a step up in complexity, think of it as a new language, and give yourselves a slower pace so you can work towards fluency.

we must read to know

Keep in mind too, that children’s receptive language is a couple steps above their expressive skills- that is, as we all know, they understand more than they can say. This is especially true when they are quite small, but I think it is also true when they are making a step up in meeting the complexity challenge ofa more advanced book.

DRAW- stick figures are fine.  You and your children can do the drawings- stick figures with brief notes and a couple sketched details for identification. Example:  President Harding, with a teapot and a hill over his head to denote the Teapot Dome scandal; or Hamlet with question marks all around his head to denote his ‘to be, or not to be’ soliloquy.  Personally, I found the most success when the children themselves draw the stick figures and choose the identification details.  Keep it as a bookmark and briefly review it before you begin each reading.

More Advance Preparation work: One other tip for approaching a harder book is to look it over in advance and look up just two or three words with your children- there may likely be a dozen you think she won’t know. Just choose two or three. Look them up first, help her define them in her own words. With one or two of my daughters, I wrote the words and she wrote definitions on an index card.

It also helps if you begin the reading with one or two sentences about what you read last time- ‘What happened last?” Pause a moment, and if she can’t answer, you review the previous reading in one sentence (or refer to the bookmark mentioned previously)  It need not be detailed at all- just a sentence or two of context for reminder. Then give a ‘wonder,’ “I wonder if …?”

best books orderly serving

But Don’t over-explain: that gives the child the idea that the book is too hard already.  It’s also a way to make a child sick of a book before she ever gets to the meat of it.  You know how when somebody tries to explain a complicated game to you before you play, and the explanation is tedious and maddening and confusing and you just want to scream “Let’s play already!” Or maybe, “Forget it!  Let’s just watch a movie!”

The key is for your remarks to be short, but to stir up just a bit of interest.  Read just so much as can be narrated- this may be a paragraph, it might be what Miss Mason called ‘an episode.’  If it is a book that has been a struggle, do not keep reading just because the child is interested- even if it is a book that has never been a struggle- stop while interest is still keen.  This is so important.

The reason is because if you stop while the child is still interested, they want to hear more.  You close the book, but they do not close their thoughts.  They keep thinking about the book, processing it over in their minds, cementing the ideas, and when you come back to it, they come to the text with a sharper appetite.  Reading too long just because they are enjoying it is like giving them lots of snacks before lunch, just because they love them.  It makes them full and less interested in their dinner when it comes.


no avenue to knowledge but knowledge



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Some People’s Parents

We’ve all been there- watching parent child interaction that makes us want to shake the parent and insist that they actually *be* a parent, and, on our bad days, makes us want to tie the kid to the roof of a car.

Lots of times, that is exactly what we are seeing.  But sometimes, an effective parent may not appear so to an outsider who doesn’t have enough information about child and parent to make an accurate assessment of the situation. 

For example, two of ours have asthma.  Asthma
medication can make some children extremely hyper. One of ours was
particularly vulnerable to the hyper making tendencies of most asthma
medications. For a short amount of time this particular already energetic
child was nearly bonkers with a new medication. We worked with her, trying
to avoid extra stimulation and explaining that she would need to work extra
hard to make sure that she was in control of her behavior rather than allow
her medication to be in control. But she was only around 7 years old, and
she’d never experienced anything like this medication before. I have seen
this child literally run into the walls and bounce off them and run into
them again just to try to handle the excessive adrenalin in her system. She
found it nearly impossible to stop moving.
Had an outsider witnessed her behaviour, he would have thought her wild and out of control. But as her parents, we could see how hard she was trying and we knew how much she was struggling against. We also could see that this was
not an indication of her lifetime behaviour pattern. We knew she had been
given a shock to her system and was working with that.

As a teen, she mastered her behaviour as she could
not do when she was 7 and the medication was new to her. But she _hated_ the nebulizer and would rather be nearly blue before using it. When she did
use it she actually vibrated. I expect if we stood her in a stiff wind
she’d have twanged.
She got upset when her youngest sibling required the nebulizer a few times, because she knows how it makes her feel. But we have found that he does not react the same way. Her heart rate goes up, she immediately gets big dark circles under eyes, and she looks pale and she’s jittery. The only reaction he had is that he starts breathing normally.

Had he been our first or only child to need the nebulizer, we would have found ourselves feeling a bit smug- “our child can control himself when he’s on the meds, why can’t yours?!”

The point is that we, as parents, know things about our children that outsiders wouldn’t know. Parenting is a continuum.  Sometimes we are
judging as ineffective parenting a situation where we simply don’t have
enough facts or we are seeing the parents at one part of a journey they have just begun and they are on the upward swing.
It may take more time with one child than another to discover what is
effective, so we might be looking at a situation where a parent is in the
process of discovering what is effective with his particular child. What is
effective may change, and it may be that a parent is in the process of
reevaluating what works.

And what appears to be lazy to one parent may simply a difference in
parenting style.

Which is not to say there are no lousy, lazy, bad parents out there.   Of course, there are.  But most of the time, we need more of a relationship with them to know if we’re seeing a pattern or a one-off.  Even if we are witnessing bad parenting in the round, rolling our eyes, huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf, and making comments about it in sotto voice aren’t going to improve the situation.

Better to offer to help, if you can (May I hold your bags while you fetch your preschooler out of the busy street?  I’ll watch your cart for you if you want to accompany Junior to customer service so he can apologize for stealing that package of doughnuts), and quietly pray.

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Copywork

writing with quill vintageThis is from when my middle kids were somewhere between years 2 and 5:

My children have 15 minutes for copywork, and they quit at the end of that fifteen minutes whether the selection is finished or not.
Our schedule for copywork for my year 4 child is:
Monday: selection from her nature study book;
Tuesday:Shakespeare;
Wednesday:Literature (Robinson Crusoe was our most recent choice);
Thursday: Bible;
Friday: poetry.

I make selections for them until somewhere around middle school/jr. high. Then they start choosing their own. However, if they don’t, then I continue to make choices for them.

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The Crying It Out Argument in…. 1894

Rock-a-bye baby vintage“First of all,  a baby ought to be happy; and no silly fables about crying being good for it, and expanding its lungs, can explain the fact that crying means hunger or pain, and that the former must  be fed, and the latter relieved as quickly as possible.  A cross baby exists either in the brain of its mother, or is a testimony to her wretched mismanagement.  Lungs are best expanded by the sweet nature plan of comfortable breathing, happy cooing, and later, laughter, shouting, and singing.”

 

A Child’s Leisure, By L. Ormiston Chant, June 1894 Parents’ Review

 

I believe this must be Laura Ormiston Chant, one of the many Victorian lady reformers.  Her own parents were so strict that she ran away from home at 15 and became a nurse. Her father disapproved of ladies being nurses, so he disowned her.

She married a man she met through her work and they had four children- Thomas, Emmeline, Olive and Ethel.

The full article is at the Charlotte Mason Digital Archives here.

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Shakespeare With Young Children

shakespeare kidsWhen my youngest two were 6 and 8, this is how we did Shakespeare:

We read from Lamb’s Tales of Shakespeare- I tried other versions, and whiel they seemed simpler to me, the children narrated best from Lamb’s. I think the others leave out too many details and so the children missed too much with the others.

I read for 10 – 15 minutes, and then I had the children narrate. I found it helpful to do Shakespeare with a whiteboard in hand. I sketched (and I do not draw at all well, so this is not lovely, just functional) out each character as he is introduced, writing the name beneath the figure.

The children could use my white board stick figures to narrate back.
At other times I have used paper doll figures we printed out from a book of historical costumes.
And still other times, the children themselves sketched the Shakespeare characters and used them to retell the stories. Once they got the hang of Shakespeare, they did better with their own stick figure drawings.

When it was time to continue our Shakespeare reading, I pulled out our
whiteboard or our paper dolls from before and asked the children, “Where were we again?” Then they would (usually) quickly bring us up to speed, and I’d begin where we left off- again, just reading for ten to fifteen minutes because they were so young, and Shakespeare is such strong, heady stuff.

vintage books in vines b&w

For simple help on putting together a printable script with assigned parts for your family, see here.

Shakespeare with young children?  See here.

Shakespeare with gradeschool and up?  See here.

Appropriate academic goals when studying Shakespeare, see here.

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Sample Charlotte Mason Bible Lesson, CM Style

Charlotte Mason and BibleCharlotte Mason believed in using the Bible directly with children, and not through paraphrases, but through what she called ‘Bible English.’

She also wrote that children:

Should know the Bible Text.––Children between the ages of six and nine should get a considerable knowledge of the Bible text. By nine they should have read the simple (and suitable) narrative portions of the Old Testament, and, say, two of the gospels.”

children should know the bible

She recommended going through the stories (and the gospels) by ‘episode,’ and then narrating.

As with other books, the Charlotte Mason method does permit teachers to add  such little helps as might be necessary, so long as the ‘helps’ don’t come between the Book and the children, and don’t drown out the lesson through the flow of overmuch teacher (mom) talk.

 

Here’s a sample Bible lesson for Acts 1: 1-9, the KJV

Notes are for parents’ use at their discretion.

Vocabulary:

Treatise- When somebody wants to write down an explanation of something, and that explanation is very detailed and tells us almost everything about it that we need to know, that is called a ‘treatise’ Luke has written a treatise to his friend explaining the beginnings of the church.

Theophilus- (The with a soft th, as in the-ater), ophilus ‘awful-es- listen to it here)

The name of Luke’s friend. It means ‘friend of God.’ Luke wrote the gospel book we call Luke and the book of Acts to
Theophilus, telling him about Jesus’s life and the deeds, or acts, of the apostles after Jesus’ return to Heaven.

infallible- something certain, true. It cannot be wrong.

Passion has several meanings. The meaning here is another word for the crucifixion story

Baptize/baptized: Theological minefield. There is an interesting discussion of the meaning of this word here. (regrettably, the link is gone.  This link is just to Vine’s Expository Dictionary page on the word)

Introduction:  Ask the children to tell you anything they know about Luke.

Background: Luke was a doctor who believed in Jesus. He went with Paul on many of his missionary journeys. When he wasn’t able to be with Paul, he talked to Paul and other Christians about what they did and what happened to them. Then he wrote about it to a man named Theophilus. Whenever we hear the word “I” as we read, that is Luke talking to us about himself. Whenever we hear “We,” that is a time that Luke was with Paul. When Luke stops saying ‘I’ and ‘We’ and starts using ‘they,’ those are the parts of the journey that Luke learned about from others.

The first book, or treatise, he wrote to Theophilus was the book of Luke. Do you remember what happened at the end of that book? Jesus had risen from the dead, and then ascended to Heaven while his disciples watched. They had to stay behind. Now we are going to find out what happened to them next!

Acts 1:1-9

The former treatise (or explanation) have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence.

When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.

And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

Narration questions: These are just for examples, you may think of other, better ones, and you should not do all of these- just pick one. If you like, have your child pick a number between 1 and 6, and that’s the narration he’ll give:

  1. Tell me what we read about.
  2. Draw a picture of something from this story.
  3. Use your blocks or legos to set up a scene from this story.
  4. What can you tell me about Jesus, Luke or Theophilus from this story?
  5. What did Jesus tell His disciples to do?
  6. What do you think Jesus meant when he said that his disciples would be witnesses?
    ——————-

Mapwork (also optional, more for older children): Find Jerusalem, Judea, and/or Samaria on a map.

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Why Narration?

vol 1 pg 173
“It is not too much to say that a morning in which a child receives no new idea is a morning wasted, however closely the little student has been kept at his books.”

daily ideas

“It is not too much to say that a morning in which a child receives no new idea is a morning wasted, however closely the little student has been kept at his books.” Charlotte Mason, v. 1

 

“I am anxious to bring this idea of a discovery before the reader because our methods are so simple and obvious that people are inclined to take them up at random and say that extensive reading is a “good idea which we have all tried more or less” and that free narration “is a good plan in which there is nothing new.” It is true that we all read and that narration is as natural as breathing, its value depending solely upon what is narrated.”
Volume 1, page 233, the lessons are always read “with a view to narration;”

From In Memoriam, a description of the class:
“The way this habit of close attention is acquired is really very simple. The teacher takes a subject which interests the children and reads part of a page in a clear and interesting manner. All listen, for they know that the next step will be that one of them will be called on to stand up and narrate to the others what all have just heard read.”

And this explanation of narration’s importance (though it is not the only way to use books):

“It is such a temptation to us ordinary folks to emphasise some part at the expense of the rest and so turn a strength into a weakness. There is only one way to avoid this danger. That is constantly to read and re-read Miss Mason’s books, constantly to remind ourselves of her first principles–for from now onwards Miss Mason’s work is in our hands; we dare not leave un-made any effort to keep the truth.

May I take Narration, the corner stone, as an example?

In such a book subject as history, does P.N.E.U. teaching consist merely in reading a set portion once through and then allowing a certain number of children–out of perhaps a class of fifty–to narrate as best they can? Is it not possible that such a lesson, repeated ad infinitum would result in a rigid system?

What is narration? Miss Mason tells us it is “the answer to a question put by the mind to itself.” Then might there not be times when narration might be a drawing or even a sketch map?

Are we perhaps in danger of systematising the method by insisting that reading and narration are in themselves for ever all-sufficient? We know we may never omit that part of the lesson in which the child puts to his mind a question and answers it, in which he himself performs the definite act of knowing, in which his mind is fed. But should we, for example, never also set questions for the older children of a thought-provoking type? Let us see what Miss Mason says. In “School Education” after giving an account of narration she adds: “But this is only one way to use books; others are to enumerate the statements in a given chapter, to analyse a chapter, to divide it into paragraphs under proper headings, to tabulate and classify series, to trace cause to consequence and consequence to cause, to discern character–and perceive how character and circumstance interact . . . The teacher’s part is, among other things, to set such questions and such tasks as shall give full scope to his pupil’s mental activity . . . Let the pupil write for himself half a dozen questions which cover the passage studied. These few hints by no means cover the disciplinary uses of a good school book.”

So we evidently may require–at least from our older pupils–something more than narration. But, we must never forget that without narration the mind will starve; whatever disciplinary exercises we use, they should be in addition to and never instead of narration.”

And here:

“If they read but once, and then must narrate, concentration is intense. You can see the children thinking. And what is read once and then narrated becomes a part of the child s knowledge, and is usable thenceforth.”

And here:
“Of late years, Miss Mason, in her far-seeing wisdom, laid more and more stress on narration, for she had discovered in it the foundation stone of learning, which provides, when the right books are used, the food without which the mind cannot grow or thrive. But we cannot reduce Miss Mason’s method to lowest terms; we cannot say “P.N.E.U. teaching is narration”; for though it is not possible to do Miss Mason’s work without it, it is eminently possible to practise narration of a sort and yet be far indeed from her ideal.”

Volume 6, page 212 about a French lesson: “Miss Mason’s methods… were exactly followed during the lesson. There was the book of recognised literary merit, the single reading, and the immediate narration.”

Volume 6 again, page 260-1:

“Now we have proved that children, even children of the slums, are able to understand any book suitable for their age: that is, children of eight or nine will grasp a chapter in Pilgrim’s Progress at a single reading; children of fourteen, one of Lamb’s Essays or a chapter in Eöthen, boys and girls of seventeen will ‘tell’ Lycidas. Given a book of literary quality suitable to their age and children will know how to deal with it without elucidation. Of course they will not be able to answer questions because questions are an impertinence which we all resent, but they will tell you the whole thing with little touches of individual personality in the narrative. Perhaps this is the key to the enormous difficulty of humanistic teaching in English. We are no longer overpowered by the mass of the ‘humanities’ confronted with the slow process of getting a child to take in anything at all of the author he is reading. The slow process is an invention of our own. Let the boy read and he knows, that is, if he must tell again what he has read.

This, of telling again, sounds very simple but it is really a magical creative process by means of which the narrator sees what he has conceived, so definite and so impressive is the act of narrating that which has been read only once. I dwell on the single reading because, let me repeat, it is impossible to fix attention on that which we have heard before and know we shall hear again.”

See also We Narrate and Then We Know

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