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

What is one key of a Charlotte Mason education?

Teaching Tip:

What is one key part of a Charlotte Mason education?

Today’s tip has to do with one key part of a Charlotte Mason education that is often overlooked or misunderstood. Charlotte Mason advocated that a child aged 9 or older who can read his/her own material should. This doesn’t mean you should never read aloud to children past the age of 9! It does mean that for subjects where the child is reading to “know,” the child should be doing the reading if he/she is able.

Why is it important for children who can read their own school books to do so?

Training a child to read to “know” is an important part of any child’s education. This is because reading one’s own books exercises a child’s focus and power of attention in a unique way. Asking children to read their own material encourages them to savor what they read and make their own connections.

Reading aloud books meant to be read by the child means we are getting between the book and the child.

Once a child can read fluently, we need take care not to get between the book and child. Instead, we need to “get out of the way” and let the child read assigned books without interference. This doesn’t mean we don’t discuss books. It just means the child should be allowed to read those books without our ideas in his head already as distractions. In this way, children can make their own discoveries and connections.

Often when we read aloud, we make the connections… rather than the child making the connections.

When we read aloud, we often share our own personal connections and reflections. It is true a child may learn much from our perspective he wouldn’t otherwise learn from reading alone. But, is that learning his own, or ours? Who is doing the hard work of thinking, drawing conclusions, and making lasting connections? Is it us, or is it the child?

Reading one’s own books is a skill that takes practice.

Charlotte Mason wanted children to develop the skill of reading their lesson books for themselves. This is why our Heart of Dakota guides gradually introduce children to this important skill. Beginning with Preparing Hearts for His Glory, we start having children read part of their history and science books on their own. Each subsequent Heart of Dakota guide hands more of the reading over to the child. Graduating learners who can and will pick up higher level books and tackle them with ease takes practice.

It’s easier to sit and listen to someone read than to grapple with a book yourself.

While it is great to be read to, it is also easy to get spoiled by the ease of listening to someone else read aloud. Consider how easy it is to do other tasks while listening to an audio. Then, think about whether the same is true when you are reading words on a page. Paying attention to a voice is a very different mental skill than paying attention to thoughts written on a page. A child will never develop fluency, proficiency, or ease in reading for himself unless he practices the skill often with a variety of materials. This is why our guides begin practicing this skill as soon as children are able.

Charlotte Mason taught that when children are old enough, much of their reading is done on their own.

While reading aloud to our children is extremely important, it should never take the place of children learning to read independently. We need to be sure that we are allowing our children to read, savor and make connections for themselves. Try it today! Just follow the ‘I’ boxes in your HOD guide and allow your child to read his own material if he is able.

Blessings,

Carrie

Habit Training for Children Using Visual Aids

From Our House to Yours

Habit Training for Children Using Visual Aids

Charlotte Mason was an advocate of training children to have good habits in all areas of life, including personal hygiene. I have tried to train our sons to have good habits in this area from a young age. Rather than sporadically asking whether they have done something or not, I have found it is better to have a more planned way of checking this. I have also found it is helpful to have a visual, printed reminder of the habits expected. This way, I know there is no confusion what habits are expected. Likewise, I can have different expectations for good habits based on each child’s age. Below, you can see one of my first charts for our sons when they were little. I laminated the chart and posted it in the boys’ bathroom. They checked it off each day with a dry erase marker. The pictures really helped!

A Tear-Off Pad for Personal Hygiene and for Chores

One year, I made a tear-off pad of colored notes for our sons’ habits of personal hygiene. I also added their chores to the list. Each son had his own pad of paper to check off, with his own age appropriate hygiene and chore habits. I took the pads of paper to a local office store and had them compile them like sticky-note tear-off pads. I gave each son a pad with a different color of paper. Each day, I had them check off their tasks as they were completed. When their tasks were done, they tore off their papers and handed them in on the counter before breakfast. I loved not talking about these things every day! It was easy for me to see if they had completed their tasks or not. Either their paper was on the counter, or it wasn’t!

Charts to Encourage the Habits of Good Personal Hygiene and Picked-Up Bedrooms

As our children grow, I found I wanted to encourage them in other habits, like keeping their rooms picked up. Little ones can just begin with putting their toys in a basket in their room. They can also be taught to pull their blankets on their bed up and smooth them. These little things make a big difference in how picked up a room looks! As children get older, they need to take on more responsibilities for keep their rooms neat. If they are sharing a room, I have found this habit of picking up even more important to teach! Invariably it seems one child is neat, and the other is not. Sharing a bedroom can be a real source of frustration! Below you will see one of the charts I used to encourage both good personal hygiene and picked-up bedrooms.

Charts on the Fridge with Magnets 

One year, I posted charts on our fridge.  I included personal hygiene, chores, and bedroom clean-up habits. All of the magnets were placed on the right “DO” column before I went to bed. Then, the next morning as the boys completed their tasks, they moved their magnets from the right “DO”column to the left “DONE” column. They enjoyed the magnets, and I liked being able to see at a quick glance what still needed to be done. Now that our sons are older, I just have a quick chart we use. Some days I use the chart, but many days our sons take turns grabbing the chart and being the checker. I think all the previous years of visual charts for personal hygiene, chores, and room clean-up have made this task super easy!  Hope one of these ideas can help you instill the habits you want to in your children!

In Christ,

Julie

Spend time in the society of great minds to form good writing style

A Charlotte Mason Moment:

“Having been brought up so far upon stylists the pupils are almost certain to have formed a good style: because they have been thrown into the society of many great minds, the will not make a servile copy of any one but will shape an individual style out of the wealth of material they possess; and because they have matter in abundance and of the best they will not write mere verbiage.”

(Home Education by Charlotte M., Vol 6, p. 194)

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