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.