CM 3 Audioblog #10 Language Arts Overview with Min Jungh Wang
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Charlotte Mason said -
and I paraphrase – we ought not offend the mind of a child by asking her to produce writing when we have not yet allowed her to feast upon living ideas and build up a store from which to draw.
CM EP 10 Fall
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Language Arts Overview in a Charlotte Mason Education
Charlotte Mason said, and I paraphrase, we ought not offend the mind of a child by asking her to produce writing when we have not yet allowed her to feast upon living ideas and built up a store from which to draw.
I recall many times during my elementary school years when I was asked to write something without having first received some wonderful truth or delicious story to draw from. But in a Charlotte Mason education, we receive a vastly different understanding of language arts. Here is the process I envision in my mind, based on Ms. Mason's discoveries according to God's natural law.
One. The child is born with a hungry mind, perfectly formed to receive truth and beauty from the Creator, for she is created to be in relationship with Him.
Two. The duty of parents is to spread a feast of living ideas from authors and creatives who have firsthand knowledge and experience of said living ideas. Nothing diluted or regurgitated. Only the best.
Three. The child listens and reads as he grows stronger in the habit of attention. All the while, the Spirit converses with his spirit. He chooses what he needs at that moment.
Oral Narration. The child narrates orally. A powerful skill of internalizing, assimilating, and making the living ideas her own. She will always have this wonderful skill, using it throughout the rest of her life.
Charlotte Mason says narrating is an art because it is there in every child's mind, waiting to be discovered, and is not the result of any process of disciplinary education. A creative fiat calls it forth. Let him narrate, and the child narrates. Fluidly, copiously, in ordered sequence, with fit and graphic details, with a just choice of words, without verbosity or tautology, so soon as he can speak with ease.
Copy work, or transcription too, has begun at age seven or eight. Through copy work, the child is learning handwriting, vocabulary, grammar, spelling, and living ideas. Copy work ought to be chosen wisely because the child ought to be given autonomy in some areas. I like to choose a few options of school books which she may then choose from for her copy work excerpts.
Charlotte Mason says transcription should be an introduction to spelling. Children should be encouraged to look at the word, see a picture of it with their eyes shut, and then write from memory. A certain sense of possession and of light may be added to this exercise if children are allowed to choose for transcription their favorite verse in one poem, and another.
Written narration. Beginning around age ten, the child adds the skill of written narrations, aka, composition. By this time, after several years of oral narrations, it becomes quite easy, with only minor grammatical corrections needed. Also by this time, the child is reading some of his living school books independently.
Recitation. Recitation is a multifaceted diamond in the treasure trove of the children's education. Though rarely more than ten minutes are spent in this subject per day, a great many processes are happening at once. The mind is feeding upon living, nourishing ideas, the mind's only rightful food, assimilating and digesting them. The hardest stirring with the beautiful thoughts of the author and he is learning to interpret those beautiful thoughts to his listener while considering his manner of speech, nuance, tone, annunciation, and expression. Communication is an essential skill since we are relational creatures made in the image of the triune God who communicates with us.
Charlotte Mason says there is hardly any subject so educative and so elevating as that which Mr. Burle has happily described as the children's art. All children have it in them to recite. It is an imprisoned gift waiting to be delivered. The first step in the acquisition of the children's art is the fine art of beautiful and perfect speaking. The child should speak beautiful thoughts so beautifully, with such delicate rendering of each nuance of meaning, that he becomes to the listener, the interpreter of the author's thought.
The child is led to find the just expression of the thought for himself. Never is the poor teacher allowed to set a pattern. The ideas are kept well within the child's range, and the expression is his own.
The pieces given here for recitation are a treasure trove of new joys. I hope that my readers will train their children in the art of recitation in the coming days. Will it behoove every educated man and woman to be able to speak effectively in public and in learning to recite, you learn to speak.
We add dictation around fourth grade. Charlotte Mason wisely capitalizes upon the child's natural ability to visualize and provides ample opportunity to strengthen it in her method throughout many subjects, like a golden cord. From geography to nature study to reading lessons, to dictation, picture study, and more, we see this skill being reinforced. With prepared dictation, the child studies the excerpt, keeping careful notice of unknown words and visualized them in his mind's eye. The teacher then reads the text to the child. As he writes, while the teacher keeps careful watch over his writing. She notices he is about to misspell a word. She covers it with a small piece of paper, such as a sticky note. We do not want the incorrect spelling of a word seared upon the retina. Otherwise, he will continue to vacillate between the two spellings. He will study the word again, possibly writing it in the air before writing it correctly on the small sticky note.
Charlotte Mason says a child at 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 he thinks will need his attention. He generally knows, but the teacher may point out any word likely to be 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. Then she puts, one by one, on the blackboard, letting the child look ‘til he has a picture, and then rubbing the word out. Then the teacher gives out the dictation, clause by clause. Each clause repeated once. She dictates with a view to the pointing of the punctuation, which the children are expected to put in as they write. But they must not be told, comma, semicolon, etcetera. After the sort of preparation I have described, there is rarely an error.
Spelling is therefore not taught as a separate subject. There is no need, because of this photographic sense that is cultivated from the first reading lesson onward.
Grammar is learned using various resources, but I find that by this time, the child is fed upon so many wonderfully rich works that she has an internal barometer, sensitized toward grammar, all done painlessly. She does still need to learn the terms and modern-day punctuation because it keeps changing. We have used Simply Grammar and upon completion, simply added Charlotte Mason's Using Language Well to help with this.
Composition lessons. No separate lessons are given for composition alone. Provide the material, leave the handling of it to themselves. In fact, the oral and written narrations your child has been engaging in is composition. Charlotte Mason says composition is not an adjunct, but an integral part of their education in every subject. But let me again say, there must be no attempt to teach composition. Again, she says, 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 the 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. Our business is to provide children with material in their lessons and leaving 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. Only once they reach form five or six does Charlotte Mason prescribe a little teaching in the art of composition.
In these forms, some definite teaching in the art of composition is advisable, she says, but not too much lest the young scholars be saddled with a stilted style which may encumber them for life. Writing is not an elite activity, says Alison Fallon, an author, and coach. Writing is communication. Writing is spirituality. Writing is self-discovery. Writing is curiosity. Writing is exploration. Writing is human instinct.
At the time of this writing, I can already attest to this. All three of my school-aged children read much and enjoy writing, whether it be for school narrations, creatively for their own pleasure, or in their personal prayer journal. Provide ample and free access to rich literature and poetry, and they will be bursting to compose pieces of their heart. Be prepared to find notes on your bed, and scraps of writing everywhere you turn.
Poetry is native to humanity. The form is used all throughout the Scriptures. As early as possible immerse your infant and child in poetry. Read to her, sing to him. Songs are poetry put to melody, are they not? And when formal lessons begin, do not skip the poetry lesson. Simply choose a term poet and read a poem per lesson. If the child wants to tell you what he thinks about or what the image the poem brings to mind, that is wonderful, but do not dissect the poem. Simply enjoy it. Outside of lessons, read from poetry anthologies together.
My children love what has come to be known among the homeschooling community as poetry teatime. We gather in the afternoon with a favorite drink or tea and a simple snack, nothing complicated, and each of us take turns reading aloud a poem of our choosing. Sometimes, we will also read excerpts from free reads they want to share. Poetry is so natural to children, you might soon find your child writing you poems or orally improvising at all times of the day.
Charlotte Mason says many children write verse as readily as prose. Rhythm and accent take care of themselves in proportion as a child is accustomed to reading poetry.
Research Writing and Essays
What about the different forms of writing such as research writing and essays needed for college? Please do not fret, this is just a matter of learning structure and format. And, in fact, the written narrations your student has been doing for years is the best preparation for essay writing. Most likely, she can not only write essays with ease, she can also write poetry and prose of different styles. The most important and challenging aspect of writing, the treasure trove of rich content your child shall already possess, stored up within her fertile mind, in heaps upon heaps. Maneuvering around this rich store to fit into specified structures and formats can be learned in just a handful of lessons. It is like putting on a coat one time or a jacket next. The all-important body is already present.
So tell me, friend. What do you find to be the most wonderful aspect of Charlotte Mason's methods on language arts? And what do you find to be the most challenging?
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