Highlights of Charlotte Mason’s Volume I, Part V, Reading and Writing

Two weeks ago, I read and focused on the first section of Part V for my notes.  This week, I will focus on the middle section, which is all about reading and writing.

Five points that struck  me:

Magnetic letters on a cookie sheet- fun!

Magnetic letters on a cookie sheet- fun!

1. Play to Learn

For learning the alphabet by looking at letters and naming them: “…this kind of learning is no more than play to the child…” (p 201)

For making simple words with letters (such as cat, and then bat, fat, hat, pat): “Exercises treated as a game, which yet teach the powers of the letters will be better to begin with than actual sentences.” (p 202)

My older two learned their letters with no real effort from me.  We have a rhyming alphabet board book that comes with a musical CD that the kids really enjoyed.  We also have the LeapFrog fridge phonics magnetic letter set (sadly now discontinued, it seems) that the kids played with a lot.  They have also watched several of the LeapFrog videos that teach letters (and simple and complex words).  Now we will use the foam magnetic letter set to build words on cookie sheets and it is still like a game.  Things learned with games and without effort are so much more pleasant, I think.

2.  Slow and Steady Progress

“The teacher must be content to proceed very slowly, securing the ground under her feet as she goes.” (p 204)

“At this stage, his reading lessons must advance so slowly that he may just as well learn his reading exercises both prose and poetry as recitation lessons.” (p 204)

“But here is another advantage of slow and steady progress- the saying of each words receives due attention and the child is trained in the habit of careful enunciation.” (p 206)

This idea of slow and steady progress has been a theme for me this year- not just with teaching the kids to read, but in all areas.  In our memory verses, hymns, learning our address and phone number, and in math and our nature studies, I have found that the key to happy learning is patience.  When the Lord instructs parents to teach his commands to their children, He says, “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.”  (Deuteronomy 6:7)  The method He prescribes for teaching children his commands is to speak of them often and repeatedly.

So the key for me here is to remember to have patience and not worry about how long this process takes but be sure to review what they have learned as I move forward at a snail’s pace.

Reading from the Victory Drill Book

Reading from the Victory Drill Book

3.  The Key to Learning to Read is Joyous Interest

“…alternate days- one for reading, the other for word building- and that is one way to secure variety, and, so, the joyous interest which is the real secret of success.” (p 214)

“The child cares for things, not words… But the thing he learns to know by looking at it, is a thing which interests him… the number of letters in the words is no matter; the words themselves convey such interesting ideas that the general form and look of them fixes itself on the child’s brain…” (p 216)

In my short experience in teaching reading, variety and interest are indeed to key ingredients to success.  We have done many different types of reading lessons: we’ve used The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading where I use index cards and phonics rules and choose words in the family that I think my children will enjoy reading, we’ve done a few “Charlotte Mason inspired” reading lessons from poetry, we’ve watched LeapFrog Talking Words Factory and Code Word Caper, and we are currently using the Victory Drill Book (a book my mother used with me when I was young)- and the fact that it is a game or a test with a timer is extremely fun and motivating for my competitive young son.  Two days ago, he finally “graduated” from page 1 and he was so excited!

I also let the children choose a few books when we go to the library.  They are always very interested in books they choose themselves.  My son will seek out any book that has to do with Star Wars (though I make sure these books are age-appropriate) and my daughter loves books that are “beautiful.”

4.  A Child Should Learn Poetry

“…it is well to store a child’s memory with a good deal of poetry, learnt without labour.” (p 224)

Charlotte Mason then describes a system she saw done where the aunt read the verse to her niece several times throughout the days and her niece easily picked up the verses and was able to recite them beautifully.  I employ this method for verses and hymns and whatever else I want them to learn.  We all pick up songs easily this way- we quickly begin singing along to songs that played over and over on the radio.  So it is a great thought that I should also give them a beautiful poem to feast their minds on.

Cuddled up with a favorite book

Cuddled up with a favorite book

5.  Reading with Narration

“The points to be borne in mind are, that he should have no book which is not a child’s classic and that it must not be diluted with talk or broken up with questions, but given to the boy in fit portions as wholesome meat for his mind.”  (p 232)

“In every case, the reading should be consecutive from a well-chosen book.  Before the reading for the day begins, the teacher should talk a little (and get the children to talk) about the last lesson, which a few words about what is to be read, in order that the children may be animated by expectation… Then, she may read two or three pages, enough to include an episode; after that, let her call up on the children to narrate–in turns, if there be several of them…. The book should always be deeply interesting, and when the narration is over, there should be a little talk in which moral points are brought out, pictures shown to illustrate the lesson, or diagrams drawn on the blackboard.”  (p 232-233)

The description of this lesson is for children older than what I have currently.  But, for my own future reference, I really like the structure of the lesson described here.  Review, anticipate, learn, summarize, expound.  This gives me something to look forward to and word toward in my preparations.  I am enjoying where we are now with homeschooling and I am excited about the days to come!


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