I was really fortunate that I found out about Charlotte Mason
within the first few weeks of our home schooling adventure.
I immediately fell in love with her methods and knew that I wanted
to teach my son using her educational philosophy. If you
are new to home schooling and haven't really read anything about
Miss Mason, I would encourage you to read a bit of her own words,
Miss Mason recommended the practice of daily narration as a means
of developing comprehension. To many modern day educationalists,
this notion seems out-dated and outmoded. Most children
today are tested for comprehension using the Socratic method (question/answer).
While the Socratic method is certainly a valid way to ascertain
comprehension, it is really not the most efficient way to determine
how well a child has understood a passage of text. Narration,
or the telling back of what has been read, is the easiest and
most accurate way to check for comprehension. Miss Mason
knew this as did her contemporaries. Narration has been
the primary tool for comprehension assessment for hundreds if
not thousand's of years.
How to do it. It is quite simple. First begin by
reading a short passage to your child. This could be a short
story, a paragraph or even one or two sentences. Ask your
child to tell you what you have just read to them. Your
child should be able to tell back to you, using their own words,
part if not all of the story just read to them. When introducing
children to narration, start off slowly and understand that it
will take several weeks to several months for your child to begin
to offer back substantial narrations. It is not uncommon
to hear one sentence replies. Do not judge your child using
Adult standards. A child's mind is not as developed as an
Adult's and therefore while they are quite capable of telling
back a story, it will not be as vividly detailed as that of an
older student or Adult. Practice makes perfect when it comes
to narration. Don't expect too much -- but strive for complete
understanding. Miss Mason believe very strongly in teaching
young children how to pay attention. Narration, when appropriately
used, will help develop your child's habit of attention.
Other ways to encourage narration include oral telling back,
sketching or drawing of scenes or characters, acting out events
in the story, buddy narration (taking turns), tape recording,
or written narrations (in poem form or essay). Parents should
type up their child's narrations for inclusion in a portfolio.
Written narrations should begin after the child has had significant
practice in oral narration. Usually this is around 4-6th
grades (ages 10 and up). A good written narration would
be one well-written paragraph, detailing some or all of the chapter
or story read.
Miss Mason believed that children could learn basic grammar and
composition simply from being exposed to classical literature.
It is often misquoted that she didn't believe in formal grammar
study. This is not true. Formal study was begun when
the student was in her upper Forms or around Junior High age.
Basic instruction in sentence composition, punctuation, capitalization
should begin once the child is ready to write. Any grammar
instruction should be kept to a minimum, no more than 10-20 minutes,
2 times a week. Composition begins once the child has mastered
oral narration, usually at 10 years of age. Spelling instruction
should be taught using examples from books read. Parents
may wish to pre-read stories and note spelling words for their
children to practice writing. No formal spelling instruction
is necessary. Miss Mason believed that children would learn
vocabulary through the systematic reading of excellent books (living
books). In addition to grammar, composition, spelling, etc.
Miss Mason also believe strongly in the practice of Copywork (penmanship
practice) as well as recitation (memory work). Copywork
should begin when a child is first learning to write. Focus
on forming perfect letters and choose just one or two letter with
which to begin. Older students may write words or sentences
until they are able to write longer passages. Memory work
can be anything from poetry, bible verses, or passages from books.
Memorization of key passages is a gift you can give your child
that will last a lifetime. Practice daily memorization to
help them sharpen their memory, focus their attention, and practice
Miss Mason taught her students Latin along with modern languages
(French, German and Italian). Latin study should begin early
on but may be started at any age. There are numerous Latin
programs designed for children; choose one that fits your budget
and overall language goals. As far as a modern language,
choose a language based on your family history, physical country
of origin, or simply your child's desire. There are many
CD-Rom based language programs that cost less than $40.
Do not feel that you have to purchase some of the more expensive
programs (ex. Rosetta Stone) -- use what works for your family
and is within your budget.
Next: Teaching CM Subjects
Copyright 1998-2010. Carol Hepburn.