Life in this house has been more tilting than lilting during our settling-in time, but now the new year is almost upon us, and we are all ready to shift from settling-in to settling-down. Starting next week, it’s "high tide" time. We are going to begin a twelve-week Charlotte Mason-style term. I have assembled reading lists for Jane (age 11 1/2, Year Six) and Rose (age 8 1/2, Year Three), drawing ideas from Ambleside, Mater Amabilis, and my own overcrowded bookshelves.
As described in A Philosophy of Education, the Charlotte Mason method is quite simple—so simple that I think many homeschoolers, including me at various times, can’t resist the urge to make it more complicated. When Jane was younger, I monkeyed with the narration concept, and I wound up turning narration into something that was more about product (nice neat notebook of history narrations) than process.
Says Miss Mason:
Oral teaching was
to a great extent ruled out; a large number of books on many subjects
were set for reading in morning school-hours; so much work was set that
there was only time for a single reading; all reading was tested by a
narration of the whole or a given passage, whether orally or in
writing. Children working on these lines know months after that which
they have read and are remarkable for their power of concentration
(attention); they have little trouble with spelling or composition and
become well-informed, intelligent persons.
—Vol 6 pg 15
Read it, narrate it. That’s it.
But, it will be said, reading or hearing various books read, chapter
by chapter, and then narrating or writing what has been read or some
part of it,––all this is mere memory work. The value of this criticism
may be readily tested; will the critic read before turning off his
light a leading article from a newspaper, say, or a chapter from
Boswell or Jane Austen, or one of Lamb’s Essays; then, will he put
himself to sleep by narrating silently what he has read. He will not be
satisfied with the result but he will find that in the act of narrating
every power of his mind comes into play, that points and bearings which
he had not observed are brought out; that the whole is visualized and
brought into relief in an extraordinary way; in fact, that scene or
argument has become a part of his personal experience; he knows, he has
assimilated what he has read. This is not memory work. In order to
memorise, we repeat over and over a passage or a series of points or
names with the aid of such clues as we can invent; we do memorise a
string of facts or words, and the new possession serves its purpose for
a time, but it is not assimilated; its purpose being served, we know it
—Vol 6 pg 16
Here are the books Jane will be reading and narrating this term. Some of them, she has already begun; others are new to her. Most of them will be continued through the spring and into the fall.
School of the Woods by William Long.
Augustus Caesar’s World by Genevieve Foster.
Story of the Greeks by H. A. Guerber.
The Story Book of Science by Jean Henri Fabre. (We loved Fabre’s Insects.)
Ivanhoe by Walter Scott. (We may read this one together, reading parts out loud. Jane and I feel affectionate about this book, although she has never read it and it took me forever to get through, because Charlotte Tucker reads it in one of my Little House books. I came across a news item in a period newspaper announcing the publication of the book, and it seemed like fun to have the family read it together. Ivanhoe also plays a key role in one of the Betsy-Tacy high school books, which are great favorites of ours. So Jane has a lot of context for this famous novel, and I think it will be great fun for her to actually read it.)
The Gospel of Luke.
I am still deciding upon a biography related to geography or science. I had thought to use Albert Einstein and the Story of Relativity as suggested by Ambleside, but Jane spied it on the shelf and wolfed it down (quite in opposition to Charlotte Mason’s recommendation to take it slow when reading meaty books—this post at Higher Up and Farther In makes an excellent case for slowing the pace of a child’s reading). She has already read and enjoyed biographies of Louis Pasteur and Marie Curie, as well as the well-known Jeanne Bendick books about Archimedes and Galen. Got any other suggestions?
I am also considering Story of a Soul, but I may hold off on that until Lent.
In addition to the six books listed above, we shall read (together) Plutarch’s life of Marcus Brutus, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, and (with her sisters) finish Holling’s Tree in the Trail, mapping the latter. We’ll also keep doing our usual thing with poetry, picture study, nature study, and music—which is to say, pegging those pursuits to other parts of our day.
For math, she is working in the Harold Jacobs Algebra book this year. (In part because I can’t find the Math-U-See Algebra materials I ordered before we moved—and here I thought I was being so clever! Sales tax is much higher in California, so I bought them in Virginia and put them on the moving truck. I have not seen them since. Argh.)
And that just leaves Latin and piano. She continues to enjoy Latin for Children, interspersed with lessons from Latin Book One. (We found a cheap used copy of this book last year, and both of us like its format. It’s fun to be reading simple paragraphs in Latin right from the first lesson.)
That’s about it. It sounds like a lot, but broken down into weekly or twice-weekly readings (remember, the point is to take these books slowly), it’s quite manageable. We began gently easing into the routine during the weeks before Christmas. I’ll let you know how it goes once we begin in earnest; if the booklist is a flop, I’ll say so! But I don’t think it will be.
I can share Rose’s reading list as well (most of which I’ll be reading to her) if you’d like to see it. I’ve also got a big long post underway about narration (addressing some very good questions raised in the comments, such as what to do with a reluctant narrator like my 8-year-old) and another about Waldorf education and how some (but by no means all!) elements of that philosophy have influenced my approach to education. There’s also so much more to say about Charlotte Mason!