Charlotte Mason Recitation… So Much More Than Rote Memorization

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.

In Christ,
Julie

A Literature-Rich Education Motto: Fewer Books Done Better

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

A Literature-Rich Education Motto: Fewer Books Done Better

Charlotte Mason’s slower, more thoughtful reading process encourages deeper thinking about what is read. Fewer books done better was her motto, and it has become my motto as well. A literature-rich education stretches students in many positive ways. It makes them readily able to read, appreciate, and take away something from almost any kind of reading material. This is because they have learned to appreciate a wide variety of authors with a wide variety of styles. Consequently, they often find delight in a wide variety of reading materials.

Would you like to lovingly reread your middle school textbooks?  Your answer shows why a literature-rich education is different!

My older boys choose to read everything from classic literature to magazine articles, to theology books to light reading – just for fun. When my younger sons move on to a new year of Heart of Dakota, my older boys jump right in with a desire to reread their favorite books from long ago just one more time. While my four sons are all very different from one another and all have very different strengths and weaknesses, the more years we travel down this literature-rich path the more convinced I become of its merit. If you ask yourself whether you would ever lovingly choose to reread your middle school textbooks, you will know why a literature-rich education is different.

In a literature-rich education, students learn to respond to their reading in a wide variety of formats.

A literature-rich education also makes students readily able to respond in a wide variety of formats to what they’ve read. This is because they have been exposed to so many good writers over time that good writing eventually pours out of their own pens. To begin with, the students mimic other writers. However, eventually, they develop their own style. Students might be moving through this process for years. However, it is a process you will see as being worthy when it comes to fruition!

My Oldest Son’s Experience with a Literature-Rich Education

My oldest son as a preschooler used to cry if he had to write more than one ‘A.’ In middle school, he always wanted to orally tell me answers rather than write them down. Only in his last years of high school did he actually turn into a writer. In college, this same son is majoring in history with emphasis in literature and leadership. He actually loves courses now that require a lot of written output. His Heart of Dakota literature-rich education has had such a good impact on him!

My Other Sons’ Experiences with a Literature-Rich Education

My next son who graduated is majoring in graphic design/digital media/web design. He has always loved to write. In fact, he used to copy a poem a day for fun when he was only 5. When my third son was 14, he was truly allergic to all things related to a pencil. Yet, now as a 17 year-old, he is growing and gaining so very much too, as he journeys through the guides. My fourth son loves all things logical, especially math and science. As he is nearing high school, I am taking deep breaths and trusting the process because I have already seen him make great gains in writing too. I can see a literature-rich education is having a good impact on all of my sons.

We especially saw the seeds sown in our sons’ literature-rich education come to fruition in their senior year of high school.

By the time a student graduates high school, the seeds that have been sown through years of an HOD literature-rich education come to fruition. For me, with each of my older two sons, the senior year of high school was a time of pure joy in this capacity. Meeting with the boys during their senior year, as they shared their thoughts, reflections, and narrations was just plain fun! During the senior year of each of our oldest boys, my husband and I got an opportunity to see how much each son had grown. As they animatedly shared with us, we got a chance to see the books that spoke to their hearts the most.

Students in their last year of high school often complete their work quickly and concisely, being able to do anything their HOD guide asks of them.

Honestly, by their final year of high school our boys were able to move through their work much more quickly and concisely and had become able to do almost anything that the guide asked of them. This made their senior year an easy one compared to previous years! Lest you think that it is only my own “brilliant” students of whom this is true, I will share that it is also true of so many of the families that we have talked to who are graduating their students through HOD this year. Their students have grown and changed so much! It is simply a product of years of a literature-rich education.

In Closing

So, in closing, I would encourage you to persevere with a literature-rich education. While students will have special strengths of their own (and areas of weakness too), their experience will be richer for the books they have read and the ways they have been asked to respond. Their education will also be deeper for the variety of authors they have pondered. When in doubt, compare your education with the one that your students are receiving, and you will often see a marked difference. While not easy, a literature-rich education is worth pursuing. I hope this encourages you as you journey. We only get this one chance to educate our kiddos!

Blessings,

Carrie

Tried and True Tips for Independent Readers to Improve Their Narrations

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Tips to Encourage Independent Readers to Improve Their Oral Narrations 

We all know oral narrations are an important part of a Charlotte Mason education. However, most of us didn’t grow up giving oral narrations ourselves. Instead, we grew up with fill-in-the blank, true/false, and multiple-choice quizzes and tests. As we more than likely promptly forgot everything we ‘learned’ after we took the quiz or test, we know this assessment method is often not very successful (not to mention not very enjoyable). So, while on one hand we may know oral narrations make great sense to do, on the other hand we may feel we don’t quite know how to help our children improve their narrating. Well, that is the topic of this blog post! Today, I’ll be sharing tried and true tips you can use to encourage your independent readers to improve their oral narrations!

Tips for Setting Children Up for Success

These tips help us set our children up for success in narrating before they even begin! First, before they begin reading, we can give a very brief overview of what happened last time in the book. This jogs their memory and takes them back to where they left off in their reading. Second, we can simply tell them they will be giving an oral narration when they are done reading. It seems like a little thing, but children read more carefully knowing they will be narrating when they are done. Third, right before they are going to narrate, we can help by skimming the book ourselves. Let me stress the ‘skimming’ part of this tip. Rather than reading the entire book, we can instead skim the small section our children will be narrating upon right before they narrate. This helps us make sure they are on topic when giving their narration.

Tips for Encouraging Our Children While They Are Narrating

These tips are going to seem simple, but they are actually quite hard to remember to do. After our children have finished reading, the first thing we can do to help is just to remind them what an oral narration actually is. We can do this by simply saying, Okay! Remember, an oral narration is telling me in your own words all you can about what you just read. Second, we need to be holding the book in our hands, open to the first page that they read; children should not be holding the book and looking at it themselves unless assigned to do so (i.e. like in high school highlighted oral narrations).  Third, and this is sometimes the hard part, we should listen animatedly without interrupting. I find I listen most animatedly when I am sitting down, near my children, making eye contact and smiling encouragingly.

Tips for Encouraging Our Children After They Are Done Narrating

Once our children finish narrating, the first tip I have is simply to say something positive. I might compliment my children for sticking to the topic, for sharing a neat quote, for narrating in a good order, for using proper names of people/events/places, for using good expression, for starting strong with a good beginning, for ending well with a good concluding sentence, for sharing a really interesting or important part of the reading well, for sounding like the author, for being excited as they narrated, for ‘becoming’ the person in the story, for finding their own ‘style’ in narrating, etc. Being genuinely positive about narrating helps our children feel more positive about narrating.

Tips for Improvements

Next, I share a few things my children can improve on. For example, it’s important to get numbers right (i.e. millions – not thousands – died in the Holocaust), or names right (i.e. King Louis the 14th – not the 16th), or places right (i.e. New England – not England). Or, I might ask them to try to start their sentences with something other than “And then.” I might ask them to omit a word they are overusing or a poor word (i.e. ‘basically,’ or ‘stuff’, or ‘ummmm’). If the order was off, I might suggest they try to tell something from the beginning, middle, and end next time. Or, if they narrated in a monotone voice, I might narrate a few sentences myself in a monotone voice and then in an animated voice to show the difference. If they were off topic, I might have them read the key idea for help next time.

In Closing

In closing, even though we may not have grown up orally narrating, we can still help our children learn to narrate well. These tried and true tips help children gain confidence and gradually improve their narrating. Often times, when we choose to be positive, our children respond positively in return. We set the tone, and it is important to share more positives than negatives, especially at the start. These tips help set the stage for a positive narrating experience.  Try some of them, and see how they go! Happy narrating!

In Christ,
Julie

 

Breathe Life into History by Meeting ‘Its’ People

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Breathe Life into History by Meeting ‘Its’ People

Oh, it is cold outside! Why don’t you come right in? Let me take your coat, and please do have a seat. Yes, right here, by the fire! Here is a cup of cocoa, and one for me as well. Oh, and what’s that I hear? Ahhh, a knocking on the door. Our guest has arrived! Let us see who it is we will meet today, shall we? Oh my! You will never believe who it is!  _______, come right in and join us! Today is the day we make each other’s acquaintance! I daresay at the end of this time spent together, we may remember each other – always. You see, it’s time once again in this Heart of Dakota, Charlotte Mason education to breathe life into history by meeting ‘its’ people. Oh, let’s DO begin, shall we?!?

People matter, in life and in history – just ask Charlotte Mason!

Let him, on the contrary, linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period, until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the ways of that period. Though he is reading and thinking of the lifetime of a single man, he is really getting intimately acquainted with the history of a whole nation for a whole age. – Charlotte Mason (Home Education, Volume 1, p. 280)

People matter, in life and in history – just ask Carrie Austin!

The Charlotte-Mason style of learning is based on getting to know people and/or events in history. This is accomplished through the sharing of interesting stories of people’s lives or interesting anecdotes. Often times, these stories or anecdotes stay with a child over time. This Charlotte Mason approach to history allows children to make connections between people and events over time, rather than having us as parents make the connections for them. In Heart of Dakota‘s guides, your children learn people matter, in both life and in history!

Let me introduce you to so-and-so!

Your children will meet many people in history, as they journey chronologically through time, and these meetings are memorable! This approach to history is a staple of a Charlotte Mason form of education. One comment I never grow tired of hearing, that I have heard often, is parents’ sharing their children who formerly disliked history have had a complete turnaround to become children who now absolutely love history. They credit switching to Heart of Dakota‘s approach to history as being the turning point. Rather than dry textbooks with endless lists of dates, events, and names to memorize and forget, Heart of Dakota says ‘Let me introduce you to so-and-so!’ People go down in history for many different reasons, good and bad. But no matter why they have made their mark on history, learning history with a focus on ‘its’ people is both fascinating and memorable.

In Closing – An Endearing Charlotte Mason Quote

Children of seven are promoted to Form IA in which they remain for a couple of years… while the readings in IB are confined to the first third of the book embodying the simpler and more direct histories, those in IA go on to the end of the volume and children learn at any rate to love English history. “I’d a lot sooner have history than my dinner,” said a sturdy boy of seven by no means inclined to neglect his dinner. – Charlotte Mason (Home Education, Volume 6, p. 171)

In Christ,
Julie

 

A Charlotte Mason Reading Guideline for Children Ages 9 and on Up

More Than Charlotte Mason Moment

Children Ages 9 and Older Should Read Their Own Books

Charlotte Mason said children ages 9 and on up, who were able to read their own books, should do so. At Heart of Dakota, we follow this Charlotte Mason guideline, with the exception of Storytime. Charlotte Mason recognized not all 9 year-old children would be ready to read their own material. At Heart of Dakota, we recognize this too! This is why our placement chart includes age ranges. It is also why 9 year-old children might place in Bigger Hearts, Preparing Hearts, or Creation to Christ. Preparing Hearts is the first time “I” independent readings are assigned for science and part of history. These independent readings are fitting for this age, and the number of pages read are kept short. This helps children successfully take on reading their own books. Of course there are exceptions to this (for children who have special learning challenges), but this is a general guideline.

To understand this better, let’s imagine we are attending a class together!

To understand this Charlotte Mason guideline better, let’s imagine you and I are attending a class together today. As the class begins, the teacher holds up a book. He tells us this is the first of a handful of books we will read in class. We will be expected to share what we have learned each day from the readings in this book. Some days we will be expected to share what we remember orally. Other days we will be expected to share what we remember in written form. These oral and written responses will determine whether we pass or fail the class. Now imagine the teacher sitting down on a chair to begin to read aloud the book to us. A collective gasp goes through the class. One brave soul raises her hand and asks, But where is my book? Don’t I get to read my own book?!? 

Why should children, who are able, read their own books at age 9?

The panic most of us would feel rising if we attended a class such as this is the very reason it is so important our children begin to read their own materials. We just remember what we read ourselves better. Not only that, we remember how to spell words better. Imagine the book our teacher read aloud to us was about Charlemagne. When asked to give a written response, who will spell ‘Charlemagne’ right? The person who read it themselves, looking at the word ‘Charlemagne’ over and over? Or, the person who heard someone else reading it aloud? Even for the child gifted in auditory learning, how practical is it to think everything will be read aloud to him/her? This is why Charlotte Mason believed in having children read their own materials as soon as they were able, with a guideline of beginning at age 9.

But, what about the value of reading aloud?

As homeschool moms, we often especially enjoy reading aloud to our children, and there is real value in doing so! However, once children can read their own materials, our reading role changes. The Storytime read-alouds are usually a grade level or two above the target age range. This is because read-alouds are meant to be a higher reading level with more difficult vocabulary. So, these books can be read aloud all the way through 8th grade, if we as moms (and our children) so desire! Likewise, books that focus on more mature concepts, such as devotionals, Biblical worldview topics, etc., work well to read aloud. I have to say, it has been refreshing that my reading aloud has kind of ‘grown-up’ right along with my kids!

What is the big deal if children don’t read their own materials?

It actually is a pretty big deal if children don’t begin to read their own materials, but why? The reason (other than those shared already) is fairly simple. It really is just a matter of time. Children will eventually have to read their own materials. Certainly by middle school and high school. The amount of time it would take to read aloud all that material (if it was truly grade appropriate) would be all day! For this same reason, having a child read aloud the material is no better (not to mention the child has to think about his fluency/pacing/tone, rather than just focusing on comprehending what he reads in his head). By following Charlotte Mason’s guideline of having children read their own materials, they can slowly learn to do so successfully – so much better than just handing it all over to them in high school!

In Closing

In closing, there will always be exceptions to the ‘rule.’ If a child has special needs and is unable to read his own materials, then a parent reading aloud with the child following along in the book is very appropriate. Using audio book options, as long as the child is still following along in a book, is very appropriate in this situation as well. This More Than a Charlotte Mason post is meant to explain the reasons behind her guideline of having children at the age of 9, if able, read their own materials. I hope this helps explain her guideline, and I also hope you enjoy how Heart of Dakota has planned to gradually help this transition be successful – for both child and mother!

In Christ,

Julie