08 May, 2010

Prepping for a presentation on C. MAson & Foreign Language Learning Pt. I

I was asked to come speak to another local CM group which was started by a friend of mine. She had been visiting my CM bookclub but wanted to start a group on her side of town when she moved across the city.

It feels wonderful to be studying again, after a pretty long break during our daughter and son-in-love's engagement and recent wedding. There's just something about it that gets my adrenaline pumping and my motivation kicked into third and fourth gear.

This week, I have made some more possibly significant connections. This time regarding Charlotte Mason's process of fine-tuning (over her lifetime) Foreign Language recommendations. I told my hubby tonight that I need a copy of a first edition of _Home Education_ to compare it to the revisions made in the form we have now. It is noted in the preface that lectures VII and VIII and the appendix were moved to another volume and that part V was written at a later date. This note being dated 1905. This may be nothing at all new to some of you, but I just had a personal lightbulb moment during my studies. Seeing the original manuscripts from the first "Lectures for Ladies" would probably shed some light on my quest, as well, since revisions were likely made when it was first published into book form.

Gouin's work was published in French in 1880, then painstakingly translated into English by a friend of his in 1889. This work reads so much like Charlotte's own writing. I have a couple of other insights about the educational philosophers that Gouin drew from, and what Charlotte thought about their work; where she agreed with them, and where she didn't. Most people won't be interested in that, but if you are (my bookclub friends, especially) just let me know and we can discuss it over a virtual latte or iced coffee! I'd be glad to share, since we won't be studying from volume's I or III as a group again for some time, yet.

Charlotte seems to have a better grasp of M. Francois Gouin's work by Volume three than she had in Volume one, but I'd love to see the first editions in order to compare. This only occured to me studying these things this time around. It would make sense based on the samples of lessons in Volume three, which are very specific and true to Gouin's examples from his writings,
The Art of Teaching and Studying Language. Her Foreign Language suggestions and examples in Volume I don't conflict with Volume III, but they are a little different. Anyone who has read all Charlotte's Volumes and studied them carefully note how she seemed so idealistic in the earlier years, pre-World War I, and how her methodologies were fine-tuned over the decades of her lifetime as they were practiced and fine-tuned, even after her death in 1926.

Back to my new revelation, though. Charlotte seems to imply this incomplete understanding that I picked up on this time around (my third thorough reading over the last 13 years) when she writes, in a section presenting the method and the background of Gouin's FL 'research,' "But any attempt to quote [Gouin] gives an uncertain and unsatisfactory idea of this important work..." from _Home Education_ (also known as Volume I) pg. 304.

Then it struck me: That very quote reflects how I have observed so many CM moms and how we felt about reading CM herself for the first and second times; that first revelation of understanding, yet still being in wonderment and awe feeling, no knowing we'd only touched the tip of this educational iceberg and that there was so much more to read and drink of, to sift, let simmer, and slowly come to better understanding.

What's exciting about all of this information is that I first really cared about this information just a few years ago while reading with my own CM bookclub and it was timely to me, because I've been teaching Jr. High and High School Spanish for the last five plus years (including several summerschool sessions).

I won't linger over all the details, as I've shared them on this blog before. Briefly, modern and popular effective methods today reflect work by researchers named Dr. James J. Asher and also another researcher, Krashen, have written books and success stories about "Total Physical Response" methods. Imagine my joy when one of the main linguistic researchers they cite was not only a contemporary of Charlotte Mason, but they man she discusses most in her FL learning recommendations. In her time and country (England) that meant French, German, Italian. Latin was still taught the old classical, drill way, since it was not a conversational language like the others.

Other similar work and research still continues yearly in classrooms and seminars all over the country (and internationally) by the teachers and proponents of TPR Storytelling. I have described the differences and the similarities in previous posts before, if you are interested.

Most all corroborates with CM's intuition, philosophy of education and treatment of children as smart and capable persons. There are only a couple of minor, specific suggestions which differ from her own. As I organize the details, I will try to post them in simple form for those who are interested.

I wonder, would Charlotte have tweaked her recommendations a bit with our modern tools such as the computer (I think of power-point type programs), animation, DVDs, etc? What do YOU think? Since oral lessons were a hallmark recommendation, I think audio lessons would be approved, *but* they must fit her philosophy, and Gouin's, which is based on immersion, or how we all learned our first language, not on twaddly, mixed language, dialogues that some recommended "programs" provide, and not the drill and kill of grammar and vocabulary-heavy programs, nor what I call the "chopped-up," and "parts-to-whole" programs that are also popular.

Just keep in mind "whole-to-parts" learning and *common*, *daily*, useful chunks of language with all-important, most common verbs. Just a few a day, and keep building on those.

Until next time,



Katie said...

Me, I want to know about Gouin's philosophers, and how CM agreed and disagreed!

I have often wondered how CM would have applied today's technology, if it had been available in her day. She wasn't too excited about photos or movies, although both were in their infancy and not very high in quality, and since she tended to refine her opinions as she went (don't we all?), she may have eventually seen value in certain uses of the visual media. Or maybe not. Audio recording was in its infancy as well, but I don't recall that she ever made mention of it.

Javamom said...

Katie, Are you ready for this? It was Pestalozzi, Froebel, and H. Spencer!

I completely relate to fine-tuning methods over time. Who knows what I'll be doing in five years after the last one graduates, but I do think I might still be involved in homeschooling somehow, which I did not believe last month or even last week!

I think that makes it harder to pin-point a complete view of CM until one has 1) read and *understood* her own words (don't we know it), compbined with the examples and schedules to which we have access. Make me more picky about curriculae out there , or more specifically, how I use (or recommend using) those tools.

There is a difference in what CM recommended on pg. 80 and then on that section from 300 @ Gouin. But she still did not share firm examples until the specifc lesson examples in Vol. 3. I would so love to know the timing of all that more clearly.

But no matter. What it really helps me see is how everything that she recommended can be applied over many years (if the students begin young) to really get in all the suggestions and a beautiful manner (not crammed into a couple years).

Those words seem obvious, I know. But to truly see them for what they represent, and what they convey...powerful, powerful method.

I'm still amazed at how things can pop out so distinctly after a decade or more of reading her writings. Hmmm, what does Teresa say? :-) Inspired by God? I believe so.

Javamom said...

The difference is subtle, and it does not rule out the example completely. No, it fits well enough, especially for younger students who may have a French governess. ;-) (or a Spanish house cleaner. But if a person only read that, they might think that's all they need to apply.

Javamom said...

p.s. Gouin also recommended / showed grammar charts, parsing, etc...some of which shows up in the appendices!! Okay, no one talks about that when talking about FL and CM...they only talk about the oral lesson or recommend our modern curriculae or program choices. I myself have struggled with juggling the workbook exercises, but some of them are not anti-Gouin, and if CM really sets Gouin up as the philosphy/method of choice, then we can see that grammar charts and conjugation were not taboo! (Especially after PLENTY of what is not called "Comprehensible Input."

The "steps in a series" are not the end-all of G's method. Then we must remember to add in the other recommendations of Folk songs, poetry, history, etc.

How's your latte? :-)

Javamom said...

That would be CM's other recommendations... sorry about that. I wonder who else she bounced ideas off of. We do have PR articles and the schedules, but which came first, her ideas or theirs? I know it really doesn't matter, except in the case of Gouin! Very interesting stuff.

The Glasers said...

I just stumbled on your enlightening post while blogging our plan for Spanish this year. My husband and I are trying to teach our daughter (who is 21yo and autistic) Spanish using Mason's ideas by focusing on building her ear with series stories and nursery songs. After three weeks, she is enjoying it and picking up new vocabulary, phrases, and even sentences.

amy in peru said...

I read this PR article about using phonetic training in the teaching of French... I found it interesting in my study of teaching language and even more so in light of my latest Gouin findings and your related comments to him using charts and such. :)

very interesting stuff.
thanks for this post.

amy in peru

Spanish Mama said...

I am so glad I found your site! I heard you on a Circe podcast and was so excited to hear you making connections between Gouin, CM, and TPRS. I teach Spanish and am working hard to revamp my curriculum to be more comprehensible-input-based. Two of my classes are reading Piratas del Caribe right now, and I LOVE having my students reading real stories.

The Spanish teaching world right now is all abuzz, talking about throwing out the textbook and using novels. None of these are new ideas, of course-- CM followers have been advocating living books for decades. :) Funny how ideas circle around!