Thursday, August 10, 2017

School Education: The Appendices

I did it! I finished reading School Education yesterday, 29 days after starting. Some of it was hard going (Chapter 14, I'm looking at you!), and much of it was surprisingly repetitive. This is something you don't notice as much when you're reading through Charlotte Mason's works slowly, as I've always done. Still, the very repetition shows what was the most important to Charlotte Mason. It's as if she is continually saying, Before we focus in on this one principle, let's step back and see what place that principle has in the whole philosophy of education. Before we dig in to the details of one aspect of education, let's remind ourselves of the principle that informs it. Charlotte Mason was an unusual person, I think. She was a big picture person, a visionary who was yet eminently practical.

The appendices of Volume 3 are pictures of what happens when you apply Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education.

Appendix 1 is a study guide for Volume 3 intended for people who wanted to become "Qualified Members" of the P.N.E.U. by taking the "P.N.E.U. Reading Course." As I was reading very quickly, I did not make use of these questions, but I notice that they seem like narration questions for adults.

Appendix 2 contains samples of answers to exam questions from students in the Parents' Review School. There are answers from children age 6 through 15. Impressive as the answers are, Charlotte Mason assures us that it is "average work." As my own children are 9 and under, I can only compare their exams with the answers of the younger students. I find our results quite similar, with a weakness in nature study (I knew that already...). The work of the older children impresses and intimidates me, but no doubt we will grow into it.

Appendix 3 tells us what a child should learn in the six years between the ages of six and twelve. I will quote the list here in full. 

"a. To grasp the sense of a passage of some length at a single reading: and to narrate the substance of what they have read or heard.
b. To spell, and express themselves in writing with ease and fair correctness.
c. To give an orderly and detailed account of any subject they have studied.
d. To describe in writing what they have seen, or heard from the newspapers.
e. They should have a familiar acquaintance with the common objects of the country, with power to reproduce some of these in brushwork.
f. Should have skill in various handicrafts, as cardboard Sloyd, basket-making, clay-modelling, etc.
g. In Arithmetic, they should have some knowledge of vulgar and decimal fractions, percentage, household accounts, etc.
h. Should have a knowledge of Elementary Algebra, and should have done practical exercises in Geometry.
i. Of Elementary Latin Grammar; should read fables and easy tales, and, say, one or two books of 'Caesar.'
j. They should have some power of understanding spoken French, and be able to speak a little; and to read an easy French book without a dictionary.
k. In German, much the same as in French, but less progress.
l. In History, they will have gone through a rather detailed study of English, French, and Classical (Plutarch) History. 
m. In Geography they will have studied in detail the map of the world, and have been at one time able to fill in the landscape, industries, etc., from their studies, of each division of the map.
n. They will have learned the elements of Physical Geography, Botany, Human Physiology, and Natural History, and will have read interesting books on some of these subjects.
o. They should have some knowledge of English Grammar.
p. They should have a considerable knowledge of Scripture History and the Bible text.
q. They should have learned a good deal of Scripture and of Poetry, and should have read some Literature.
r. They should have learned to sing on the Tonic Sol-fa method, and should know a number of English, French, and German Songs.
s. They should have learned Swedish Drill and various drills and calisthenic exercises.
t. In Drawing they should be able to represent common objects of the house and field with brush or charcoal; should be able to give rudimentary expression to ideas; and should be acquainted with the works of some artists through reproduction.
u. In Music their knowledge of theory and their ear-training should keep pace with their powers of execution." (p. 301-302)

My oldest son is halfway...just starting Year 4. We have three of those six years left. I can definitely see areas that I have neglected (drill, drawing), areas where I need to buckle down (French, Nature Study), and areas that my student is lagging behind (writing). (Also, of course, areas of study that we will just begin this year.) However, overall I am encouraged to keep on offering this wonderful feast. It is good to know the ideal I'm aiming at. Without that I, for one, would not expect (and therefore not get) work of this level at this age.

Appendix 4 shows a term's work for a twelve-year-old: first the programme including all the books used, then the exam questions (2-4 per subject), then exam answers received from a typical (not exceptional) student. My main take-away at this point (since my children are a few years younger) is that I want to find geography books like the ones Charlotte Mason used! 

Appendix 5 shows how oral lessons are used. In general, the Charlotte Mason teacher's role is to "read with" her students, not lecture them. However, oral lessons were also used in Charlotte Mason's schools, "a channel for free intellectual sympathy between teacher and taught, and a means of widening the intellectual horizon of children." (p. 329) The oral lessons were always supplementary to the book-work of the students. Here are some ways they were used:
- to introduce a course of reading
- to bring certain readings to a point
- as an opportunity to read from several books on one subject in order to interest the student in learning more.
- to teach subjects that require oral lessons: languages, math, science
- to expand, illustrate, or summarize some part of students' book-work.

I found this appendix fascinating! I think I've shied away from oral lessons almost entirely because of Charlotte Mason's many warnings against too much talk from the teacher. And we do have to be careful of that. However, I see now that there are times when oral lessons are appropriate. Some of these examples depict what I've always heard referred to as "scaffolding" (introducing a reading in such a way as to capture a child's interest and remove obstacles in the way of his understanding). Read this appendix if you want to learn how to scaffold well. Others are just plain oral lesson plans, often with built-in discussion, and it's helpful to see how the teachers always kept their object (the science of relations...that students would form a relation with the subject/person/place) before them as they gave these lessons.

And that's the end of this series! I'd love to hear from you if you've been reading along, or even if you have just dipped into volume 3 as topics interested you. What do you think of the picture Charlotte Mason paints of her results in the Parents' Review School? Does it intimidate you? Encourage you? Prod you to work harder or in a more balanced way?
Let's talk!