Thursday, January 22, 2009

Vocabulary, Spelling and Grammar

During this school year, I have been hosting Charlotte Mason Discussion Groups at my home once a month. The discussions are based on Karen Andreola's book A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning.
Our discussion this month was about Vocabulary, Spelling and Grammar.

I started with a quote from Karen Andreola:
"The Maker of Heaven and Earth chose words to make himself known to us. When a believer is 'in the Word' we are closer to Him (I John 1). We worship Him with our actions, our intenetions, aour hears, and with words. Words are wonderful!"

This tells us how important words are to God. Our discussion lasted almost two hours (as usual) and I can't get every detail here in this post, but here are some of my thoughts after the discussion was over.

Vocabulary development starts from birth. How we talk to our children is reflected when they begin to speak. Karen Andreola suggests that we "talk up not down to children". I take this to mean that we should expose children to language that is not dumbed down. We can do this by speaking to a child like he is a person (no baby talk) and by exposing him to quality literature.

What is meant by quality literature?
Junie B Jones, although funny, is what Charlotte Mason would consider "twaddle". The back of the book indicates that it is written for a 2nd grade level. On the other hand, Ambleside Online suggests reading books like The King of the Golden River to children who are about 2nd grade level.
Here are a couple of quotes from these books:
Junie B Jones: "After school was over, me and my bestest friend named Grace walked to the bus together."
The King of the Golden River: "Gluck was so perfectly paralyzed by the singular appearance of his visitor, that he remained fixed without uttering a word, until the gentleman, having performed another, and more energetic concerto on the knocker, turned round to look afer his fly-away cloak."
No matter how cute she is, do we really want our children talking like Junie B? These two examples are on opposite sides of the spectrum, but given a choice, I would rather hear "he remained fixed without uttering a word," from my children rather than "me and my bestest friend."

Karen Andreola suggests in her book to not introduce formal grammar lessons until about age 9 or 10. (4th or 5th grade). I couldn't agree more.

Exposing young children to good literature and speaking properly to them will increase their vocabulary and their use of the English language better than any language arts textbook will.

Without a textbook or a workbook, how will we get these subjects into our Pennsylvania mandated portfolios?

Pennsylvania Law states:
"At the elementary school level, the
following courses shall be taught: English, to include
spelling, reading and writing..."

As you can see, once again, the law allows for a great deal of flexibility. In the "English" section of your portfolio, you can include copywork. This covers the spelling and writing (it doesn't specify handwriting or compostion). The reading part is covered by the book list you keep.

If you do not have it, I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of Karen Andreola's book. You can skip around it and read just a chapter or paragraph at a time to be inspired. It's a book I refer back to often.


Mary said...

I really appreciate your advice on this. I have been discouraged over the last two or three years, as personal family circumstances -- mainly the loss of two babies early in pregnancy -- put our homeschooling on the backburner as I tried to deal with my loss and the physical and emotional implications. My daughter, now 10, had been making lovely progress and has now developed some poor habits in this area, which I have determined to help her overcome. I also brought one of four children back home from the public schools (dh is still praying about the others and is not yet convinced they should be home due to some learning issues). When my son came home, I found that he disrupted my daughter's lessons and progress, and encouraged her in some of the negative behaviors she has been exhibiting.

Because the last miscarriage was a mere few weeks ago, I have looked over that self-same section of Karen Andreola's book over and over and just have not been able to make more sense of it!

I was also appreciative of the portfolio advice. We live in Lancaster County. Although I have researched the CM methods, I have had some difficulty implementing many of them. When it came to the portfolio requirement I was concerned that I would not have enough information to include in the area of spelling and grammar. I did not really want to resort to workbooks merely to fill in, so the suggestion to include copywork is great!

Again, thank you. Your words are welcome encouragement.

Marbel said...

Great post! We have always "talked up" and "read up" to our kids. I read so much twaddle as a kid; I hope to steer mine away from it.