More than a Charlotte Mason Moment
Charlotte Mason Recitation… So Much More Than Rote Memorization
Charlotte Mason encouraged recitation of beautiful poems, scripture, and hymns throughout a child’s learning. For twenty minutes each day, Charlotte’s schools planned for ‘Repetition.’ During ‘Repetition’ time, children would alternate between poetry, Bible, and hymns. Younger children recited a poem of their choice, a hymn, a Psalm, and several passages each six verses in length per term. Older children recited several longer Bible passages each about 20 verses in length, as well as three poems each term. Children also practiced hymns. As children matured, they memorized lengthier Bible passages and poems, and they added more hymns to their repertoire.
Charlotte Mason-style recitation differs from rote memorization.
Just as Charlotte Mason’s living books differ from dry textbooks, Charlotte Mason’s recitation differs from rote memorization of dry facts. Just as Charlotte Mason lovingly and carefully selected living books, she also lovingly and carefully selected recitation sources. Poetry, scripture, hymns – one can see the line of thinking Charlotte had about what was worthy of recitation. Recitation is often thought to be synonymous with memorization, but Charlotte differentiated between the two.
Charlotte Mason’s quotes regarding recitation of poetry, scripture, and hymns.
“Recitation and committing to memory are not necessarily the same thing, and it is well to store a child’s memory with a good deal of poetry, learnt without labour…. attempt only a little, and let the poems the child learns be simple and within the range of his own thought and imaginations” (Volume I, p. 224-226).
“The learning by heart of Bible passages should begin while the children are quite young, six or seven. It is a delightful thing to have the memory stored with beautiful, comforting, and inspiring passages, and we cannot tell when and how this manner of seed may spring up, grow, and bear fruit…” (Volume I, p. 253).
“Praise and thanksgiving come freely from the young heart; gladness is natural and holy, and music is a delight. The singing of hymns at home and of the hymns and canticles in church should be a special delight; and the habit of soft and reverent singing, of offering our very best in praise, should be carefully formed” (Volume III, p. 143).
Making Charlotte Mason’s Recitation Happen in Your Home
Many young mothers read Charlotte Mason’s thoughts on recitation and long for this kind of more meaningful memorization. In Charlotte’s type of recitation, we can all see context is king. Memorizing poetry, scripture, and hymns within the context of studying a certain poet, a particular book of the Bible, or a hymn study just gives depth to what is memorized. It gives what is being memorized meaning. However, successfully integrating meaningful recitation in the day-to-day of homeschooling on the fly isn’t so easy. Blessedly, Heart of Dakota already includes Charlotte Mason-style recitation in its guides in a balanced, meaningful way!
Recitation – already a beautiful, meaningful part of Heart of Dakota’s guides!
We include recitation of Bible verses within each of our guides, and we begin recitation of poetry each term in Preparing Hearts. Likewise, we include corresponding music in our guides. We keep things fresh by rotating the focus of our music. Sometimes we choose music based on scripture, and sometimes we choose it based on hymns. But either way, we always include recitation with it (often in the form of singing).
Furthermore, Heart of Dakota provides rich context for recitation. Children complete recitation of poems within the context of poetry study. So, children truly get to know the poet and the inspiration behind the writing of the poems. Children complete recitation of scripture within the context of a formal Bible study. So, children truly are immersed in a book (or books) of the Bible and its deeper meaning. Children complete memorization of hymns within the context of a hymn study. So, children truly get to know the hymn writer and the inspiration behind the writing of the hymns.
Recitation Recorded in a Charlotte Mason Common Place Book
Approaching recitation in a more meaningful way is taken even one step further by the keeping of a Common Place Book. Charlotte Mason refers to Arthur Burrell’s In Recitation: The Children’s Art, in which he recommends filling a copybook with beautiful passages and poems. Charlotte Mason encouraged children to keep their own Common Place Book for this very purpose. In Heart of Dakota, poems children memorize, Bible passages children memorize, and stanzas of hymns children sing are lovingly recorded, so students create a special keepsake of their recitation. As they look back at their Common Place Book, they remember – not just the recitation, but the poet, the author, the writer and their inspiration. Recitation done this way is more than words; it is someone’s life story. And because of that, those words are remembered, right along with the people who wrote them.