28 August, 2008

"Beyond Narration, Then What?"

I promised you all that I would post some exciting notes from my last Charlotte Mason bookclub meeting. The reason it is exciting is because these are important details that have been overlooked or oversimplified too often over the decades, among too many folks who have talked or written about a CM education. That's sad, because then other hs moms miss out, perhaps thinking that CM is only for younger children in the early years, or that CM is too "child led" or even worse, they categorize CM as "Christian Unschooling," which couldn't be further from truth. I received questions based on some of these myths two or three times in the last week alone, and from people unrelated to my book club.

So, from Volume 3 Chapter 16, I share important notes ~

This volume focuses on children in what we call the "middle grades" around age 12. In her preface, Charlotte says that this volume contains suggestions for a curriculum for children under 12, but in the appendices, she includes samples from lessons and exams from ages 8 to age 16.5.

Did you notice what Charlotte said to do after a careful, one-time reading and narration of a book of high literary quality?

"But this is only one way to use books: others are to:

1) enumerate the statements
2) to analyse a chapter
3) to divide it into paragraphs under proper headings
4) to tabulate and classify series
5) to trace cause to consequence and consequence to cause
6) to discern character and perceive how character and circumstance interact
7) to get lessons of life and conduct

the living knowledge which makes for science, out of books

...all this is possible for school boys and girls, and until they have begun to use books for themselves in such ways, they can hardly be said to have begun their education."

Wow! That is rich and important!

This next bit, I do in my Spanish classes, and would do well to do it more consistently for my own children and HEO material, even though they become more independent in the older years:

Vol 3 pg 180-81

"The teacher's part is, in the first place, to see what is to be done, to look over the of the day in advance and see what mental discipline, as well as what vital knowledge, this and that lesson afford; and then to set such questions and such tasks as shall give full scope to his pupils' mental activity.

1) Let marginal notes be freely made, as neatly and beautifully as may be, for books should be handled with reverence.

2) Let numbers, letters, underlining be used to help the eye and to save the needless fag (fatigue) of writing abstracts.

3) Let the pupil write for himself half a dozen questions which cover the passage studied; he need not write the answers if he be taught that the mind can know nothing but what it can produce in the form of an answer to a question put by the mind to itself."

And then she closes chapter 16 with her caution regarding these devices or steps to help us learn the material from a good book:

"but let us be careful that our disciplinary devices, and our mechanical devices to secure and tabulate the substance of knowledge, do not come between the children and that which is the soul of the book, the living thought it contains."

One thing at the heart of her philosophy is that children should dig for the ideas from high quality books on their own, and also be encouraged by someone (another passionate author, or a teacher or parent) with passion enough for that knowledge that she gained from the original idea...so that now she shares it with enthusiasm with others. She believed the above thought so strongly, that we shouldn't let any of the tools or specifics on HOW to learn get in the way of WHAT we learn, see?

That is so important!! We will relate to information, ideas and remember things that resonate deeply in our souls more deeply than those random, and maybe even impressive facts that we memorize.

Comments, thoughts? What do you all do? Are you surprised by this revelation, that CM cared about writing, taking notes, and composition? She basically is saying, "make an outline" without spelling it out in those words, but also, analyze, compare, contrast, organize, check out the character and conduct, cause and effect, etc.

Nowadays, we have "post-it-note" tags and all, so we don't have to do as much marking in the margins, but I still do. I number points and highlight important things to share. Even for my book club. You should see my CM volumes all marked up...only the paperback ones. Any hardback volumes are left intact and unmarked. I mark up my Spanish Bible, too.

Textbook and classical folks really don't have an advantage over CM. But that may simply be my own personal observation, understanding, and opinion.


1 comment:

Headmistress, zookeeper said...

Excellent post!! I'm linking.