Thursday, 21 September 2017

Written Work in a Charlotte Mason Curriculum

This is a week's worth of written work done by my 12 year old daughter who is doing AmblesideOnline Year 7. Each week is a little different, depending on what else is happening, but essentially after each reading she is required to do an oral narration or some sort of written account, which could be a notebook entry, a composition or creative narration or just a retelling. I sometimes leave this up to her to decide or ask her to do something specific if I think she needs more variety.
Besides this her written work includes weekly dictation (we don't always get to this) & daily (or at least a few times a week) copywork.


We've been reading through the Oxford Book of Poetry as well as doing lessons from the Grammar of Poetry. This week I chose a poem, The Lady of Shalott by Tennyson, read it aloud, and had my daughter tell me its rhyme scheme (AAAABCCCB). Then I asked her to write a poem of her own following the same rhyme scheme, which she almost did: 

 The War of Words

Once upon a time,
In a faraway clime,
In the season of springtime,
A princess sublime,

Was held prisoner by a knight.

Many a gallant knight
Offered for her to fight
 But their offers ended in flight,

And the evil knight still held the princess.

Her father did beg,
And he offered an arm and a leg,
And he did not renege,
But the evil knight was a prig,

And at the end of a year, he still held the princess.

Then one day,
The princess cried, ‘Hooray!’
For on the road, heading her way,

Came a tall knight, in silver armour.

He rode up to the door,
And kicked it on the floor,
‘Hi, evil knight,’ he said. ‘I’m here for war!’
And down he sat on a bucket of tar,

And waited for the evil knight to speak.

The evil knight drew forth his sword,
And they went out upon the sward,
‘But stop,’ said the tall knight, ‘I’m bored.

Why not have a battle of insults instead?’

To be finished...she's been sick and laid up with a fever and didn't get back to daughter, not the princess.

Architecture Notebook

An entry is done in her notebook once a week.


Shakespeare and Plutarch have often provided some fruitful ideas for narrations with their rich language and drama. I used this suggestion from the Cambridge School Shakespeare as a base for my daughter's narration below:
Imagine you are Caesar's intelligence agents who have shadowed Brutus and Cassius (in Act 1, Scene 2) and bugged their converstion in order to make a report on them to their master.

She typed this one & I copied it here unedited, except for the dialogue, where I used a different colour to make it easier to read:

Description of Brutus
Brutus is of middling height, with a stern gaze upon his countenance, and Rome in his heart.

Description of Cassius
Cassius has a lean and hungry look. He thinks too much, therefore he must forthwith be dangerous.


Brutus and Cassius standeth together, talking in low tones, glancing this way, and that way, making certain that no one doth intrudeth forth into their conversion.


‘How now, Cassius: what brings thee to converse with me?’


‘Oh, my dear Brutus, ‘tis nought but friendly talk.’

There arises a shout from the populace, in the direction of Caesar’s whereabouts


“Alack, alack, I fear me that honour hath been given Caesar. Alas for Rome! Ah me! We sinketh thus to the depths of d…. I mean, harrumph, ah, hooray!’


‘Thou needst not fear me, Brutus, I am one of those excellent and most trustworthy people, who . . .’
Cassius’s words fade unto the air, as in the distance they heareth the voice of Caesar, who sayeth unto Antony,
‘I want fat men about me, Antonius. That Cassius hath a lean and hungry look. He thinks too much. Sniff. Such men are dangerous.’


‘Ah, excuse me. . . now, as I was uttering, when so rudely interrupted, cough, cough, thou canst trust me, Brutus. Thou dost not approve of honours given unto Caesar?’


‘Aye, Cassius. Methinks, thee also . . .?’ 

Cassius (drawing Brutus aside)

‘Oh, the day, when men fall down in front of men, made up as gods, when once they were as equals! I, fearless before foes, the terror of mine enemies, reduced to this! I, who once had to draggeth Caesar out of the Tiber!’


‘Out upon thee! Explain thine self, eh?!’


‘Why, my dear Brutus, upon the banks of Tiber I stood with Caesar, who turned unto me, and spake, ‘Cassius, wouldst thou jump into that flood with?’ I up and spake, ‘Aye Caesar, that would I,’ and forthwith I jumped straightway into that roaring flood, and Caesar jumped in with me. I had reached the farther bank, when whereupon Caesar cried unto me, ‘Help, o noble Cassius!’ (see what opinion he had of me!’) I turning around, with all the goodness of my heart, jumped into that flood once more, and dragged him upon the bank, for, he was too weak, forsooth, to do it himself! And now, I ask thee, Caesar holdeth the laurels?!’

Brutus (impressed)

‘Oh dear, Cassius. Of a truth, methinks thou art more fitted to hold the laurels than Caesar! I bear him no ill will, but the bettering of Rome is in my thoughts, O Cassius.'


‘I agree, Brutus. And, moreover, when Caesar had a fever, he asked for water.’

Brutus (horrified)

‘Oh horror! What a calamity. Oh justice, thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason.’


‘Yea, Brutus, I hear the trumpets this way come. Thine self I shall meet on the morrow.’


‘Aye. Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night ‘til it be morrow.’


A handwritten narration from Churchill's Birth of Britain. She is quite neat when she does her copywork and dictation but more haphazard when doing a hand-written narration.


This is from her Anatomy & Physiology book (see here & here for the books we're using for Year 7)

Sunday, 17 September 2017

The Singing Sands by Josephine Tey (1897-1952)

Josephine Tey is the pseudonym of Elizabeth MacKintosh, a Scottish author, who also wrote numerous plays under the name of Gordon Daviot. She was one of the great British writers who wrote during the Golden Age of Crime and is best known for her mystery novels.
The Singing Sands was published after Tey's death in 1952, and features Inspector Alan Grant of Scotland Yard who appears in five previous books by the author. The only other book I've read by the author is The Daughter of Time and in both books Tey delves into the psychological aspects of her characters, which makes for very interesting reading.
Inspector Grant, for example, in The Singing Sands, is on stress leave due to  overwork. He's been having panic attacks when in confined spaces and Tey cleverly weaves Grant's personal problem and an enigma he encounters to resolve both dilemmas. I really enjoyed how she did this and the way she created empathy for both the dead man and Grant's struggles.

The book begins with off duty Inspector Grant travelling to the Highlands by train to spend some time recuperating at the home of his cousin Laura and her husband. At the end of his journey he witnesses the train guard's discovery of a dead passenger. The police findings are that the man died of misadventure but Grant is haunted by memory of the young man's face and some cryptic poetic scribbling left on a newspaper in his compartment:

The beasts that talk,
Th streams that stand,
The stones that walk,
The singing sand...

This was such a well-written and engaging book to read, full of interesting characters, and with the added delight of being set in the Scottish Highlands and the Outer Hebrides.
Grant is a likeable, gruff, sort of character. Single, and happy to be so, in spite of his cousin Laura's attempts at lining up a female every time he visits; he is a canny judge of character, a quality that serves him well, especially in this particular case, where he pinpoints a character trait in an otherwise unimpeachable person that leads him to believe that the person could commit murder. The character trait was Vanity and here Grant expresses his thoughts to Tad, a friend of the deceased:

'I find vanity repellant. As a person I loathe it, and as a policeman I distrust it.'

'It's a harmless sort of weakness,' Tad said, with a tolerant lift of a shoulder.

'That is just where you are wrong. It is the utterly destructive quality. When you say vanity, you are thinking of the kind that admires itself in mirrors and buys things to deck itself out in. But that is merely personal conceit. Real vanity is something quite different. A matter not of person but of personality. Vanity says "I must have this because I am me". It is a frightening thing because it is incurable. You can never convince Vanity that anyone else is of the slightest importance; he just doesn't understand what you are talking about. He will kill a person rather than be put to the inconvenience of doing a six months' stretch.'

'But that's being insane.' 

'Not according to Vanity's reckoning. And certainly not in the medical sense. It is merely Vanity being logical. It is...the basis of all criminal personality...true criminals vary in looks and tastes and intelligence and method as widely as the rest of the world does, but they have one invaluable characteristic: their pathological vanity.'

Grant's obsession with finding out the truth behind the man's death takes him to the Hebrides where the 'singing sands' were said to be found. The wildness, the isolation and the 'barren water-logged universe' soaks into his soul and brings healing. He feels he has become something more than the young man's champion now: 'he was his debtor. His servant.'

A free kindle version of The Singing Sands is available here.


Thursday, 7 September 2017

An Educational Classic: Home Education by Charlotte Mason (1886)

Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) was the founder of the House of Education, a college established in the English Lake District in 1892 to train governesses for young children. Located in the town of Ambleside, it was renamed Charlotte Mason College in 1938.
Mason had already published some educational books for use in schools but in 1886, her first book in a series of six on the philosophy and practice of education, Home Education, was published. This book found an appreciative audience and the Parents National Education Union (PNEU) was established soon afterwards with branches in a number of towns and cities. By 1890, it was publishing its own monthly magazine, 'The Parents Review,' edited by Charlotte Mason. By the 1920s the PNEU had established a number of schools plus a correspondence school that supplied resources to parents and governesses, especially those living overseas.

One thing to be noted about Home Education is that it is not principally a book dealing with 'Home' as opposed to 'School.'
Its main concern is with the training and educating of children under nine and Mason stresses the responsibility of the home in regards to this. This is a very refreshing approach from the more modern attitude where teachers are often expected to do for children what should have been done by parents, or where the State assumes we are incompetent and that they would do a much better job if only they could get hold of the child early enough. In fact, Mason said in regard to thinking mothers that, 'the education of their children during the first six years of life is an undertaking hardly to be entrusted to any hands but their own.'

Considering this book was written over a hundred years ago, Home Education is incredibly relevant to our modern times, despite a few parenting practices that suited the conditions of Victorian England society but are outdated now.
Reading Mason's words in in the twenty-first century, it's apparent that she was far ahead of her time, and that her ideas are still applicable because they address universals. Children haven't changed even if our methods of parenting and teaching have, and throughout Mason's writing she presents principles that work because they take into account who the child is and where our responsibility lies in regard to them. The educational method she proposes is life-giving. It has a framework, but it isn't rigid and confining. It is based on truth but it isn't tied to the past therefore it can be adapted to different situations and locations. It can be used with gifted children and it can be used with children who have learning difficulties.

People are too apt to use children as counters in a game, to be moved hither and thither according to the whim of the moment. Our crying need to-day is less for a better method of education than for an adequate conception of children, - children, merely as human beings, whether brilliant or dull, precocious or backward.
Charlotte Mason

What Home Education covers:

•    Mothers owe their children 'a thinking love.' Parents are to supply their children with what is     wholesome & nourishing in all areas: books, lessons, playmates, food.

•    The difference between a 'method' and a 'system' of education
•    The Gospel's view of the child
•    Health aspects: outdoor life, brain activity
•    Habits - 'Habit is Ten Natures' - laying down lines of habit; the physiology of habit; brain plasticity:

Given, that the constant direction of the thoughts produces a certain set in the tissues of the brain, this set is the first trace of the rut or path, a line of least resistance, along which the same impression, made another time, will find it easier to travel than to take another path. So arises a right-of-way for any given habit of action or thought.

If it is so easy for ourselves to take up a new habit, it is tenfold as easy for the children; and this is the real difficulty in the matter of the education of habit. It is necessary that the mother be always on the alert to nip in the bud the bad habit her children may be in the act of picking up...

•    Habits of Mind and Moral Habits - the habits of attention, application, thinking, imagining, remembering, obedience, truthfulness & reverence

•    There is a section of the book devoted to Lessons as Instruments of Education in which the author firstly discusses the idea of the Kindergarten. Her view was that the success of such a school demands rare qualities in the teacher so the mother would naturally be better than any commonplace person who would personally influence the child.

'...mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them.'

•    She also thought that there were myriad teaching opportunities in the home that in the Kindergarten would likely become wooden and stereotyped. Mason thought that the 'garden' analogy of the Kindergarten, although attractive, is a false one and breaks down when applied to a person as it meant 'undue interference with the spontaneous development of a human being.'

•    Mason covers the teaching of reading in a very practical and helpful way as well as other lessons at home including narrating, writing, spelling, composition, Bible, mathematics, and history.

•    The final section of the book deals with the Conscience, and contains excellent ideas on the Instruction of the Conscience and The Way of the Will. She describes the blunder we make when we describe a child as being 'wilful' when in reality they have no control over their will. This error leads the parent to neglect the cultivation and training of their child's will.

•    The conclusion of this part of the book discusses the spiritual aspects of the child's life: parental responsibility and influence; the correct view of God i.e. not portraying Him as an exactor or a punisher. There is much wisdom and richness in Mason's ideas regarding the Divine Life in the Child and I highly recommend this section for anyone concerned with the spiritual life of a child.

Here is a thought to unseal the fountains of love and loyalty, the treasures of faith and imagination, bound up in the child. The very essence of Christianity is personal loyalty, passionate loyalty to our adorable Chief.

Let us save Christianity for our children by bringing them into allegiance to Christ, the King. 

How? How did the old Cavaliers bring up sons and daughters, in passionate loyalty and reverence for not too worthy princes? Their own hearts were full of it; their lips spake it; their acts proclaimed it; the style of their clothes, the ring of their voices, the carriage of their heads - all was one proclamation of boundless devotion to their king and his cause.

Home Education had been out of print for nearly thirty years and was republished by Living Book Press, an Australian company, earlier this year. This is the copy pictured above. The complete Charlotte Mason series has been available free to read at Ambleside Online (AO) for many years.

For information on Charlotte Mason, the PNEU or the Parent's Review Articles see the AO website and Charlotte Mason Timeline.

The Original Home Schooling series published in 1989 by Charlotte Mason Research & Supply includes a foreword by John Thorley, Principal, Charlotte Mason College that was most helpful in providing information on Charlotte Mason's background.

Linking this to The Classics Club; Back to the Classics 2017 for the 19th Century Classic category and Cloud of Witnesses Reading Challenge 2017


Friday, 1 September 2017

What Some Days in a Girl's Year 7 Week Look Like

Any time I've attempted to set down what we do in a day I've tried to write things up as we do them. I started off quite well most days this week but then got sidetracked. We're using AmblesideOnline Year 7 with some modifications. (I posted this year's plans here). This is what I managed to record of the week:


Wonder of wonders, I woke up about 7am and went for a walk - the first time I've done this in about two or three weeks.

8am - woke up Moozle (Monday is not her favourite day.) Breakfast and some morning jobs.
We started lessons about 9am:

* Picture Study (John Constable)
* Literature (Watership Down, which she reads herself)
* Devotions, memory work, I read a poem or two
* Read Aloud: The Gift of Music - listened to a piece by Corelli and then Vivaldi - Moozle draws while I read. She's using Draw 50 Buildings & Other Structures as part of her Architecture studies:

* Short cello practice

At about 12.15pm we go to cello lessons. She has an hour and a half's lesson and practices about an hour or more a day as she's preparing for an exam in late October. We use the time in the car to listen to our folksong, hymn & French song.

2.30pm - We had lunch & did our own individual reading. I checked emails, put on some washing, hung some out & brought some in...

When she finished lunch she continued her work - this week she did Geography.
We don't do maths on a Monday or much written work.

I started making dinner around and 4pm Moozle went outside to build "Queen Eleanor's bower," and after dinner she went to ballet. After doing Highland Dancing for many years we had to stop lessons when her teacher changed her hours so since the middle of last year she's been doing ballet, which she also loves. I listened to this Circe podcast while I was making dinner; it was very good:

"On Cultivating Wise Movie-watchers" - When to let kids make their own decisions about movies, why the MPAA ratings aren't useful guidelines, why the philosophies in films are often more important to avoid than things like s*x, violence, and language, movies and filmmakers that will help students learn to watch wisely, & much more.


I managed to fit a walk in again.

* French (watched half of the video for the week's lesson)
* Read Ivanhoe
* Cello Practice
* Ten Fingers for God - devotional reading on her own
* Devotions, memory work, Plutarch

* Churchill's Birth of Britain - reads this herself. This is her written narration from the book:

* Swimming in the afternoon - we do this in rain, hail & shine, all year - unless there's an electrical storm.

* Maths in the evening after dinner

Wednesday & Thursday - I forgot to write down what we did but it would have included science readings & notebook, French, Latin, Maths, Cello, History, Century Chart, Copywork.
We did a lesson on similes from The Grammar of Poetry and discussed some notable examples from 'My Family & Other Animals.'

 Century chart - free download from here


Today was the first day of spring here in Australia . We have a tradition of going for a walk on this day to check out what signs of spring we can see so we headed off at 8am.

Freesias in flower

 A male Brush Turkey arranging his nest

Home for breakfast...and then:

Moozle did Copywork, French, and a Literature reading. Oral narration followed, then we both got out our nature notebooks and listened to Vivaldi while we did our entries. Moozle wrote down the 'firsts' of the season and then tried out some crayons & watercolour:

 This was my attempt at drawing the brush turkey & a freesia...

Benj has Fridays off from university and teaches swimming in the morning. After lunch all three of us went to an appointment which took about an hour and then we returned home.

Afternoon work for Moozle:

* Reading on her own & then oral narration afterwards
* We took turns reading a section of Beowulf aloud
* Cello practice
* I read The Wonder Book of Chemistry aloud while she continued her work on "Queen Eleanor's  bower."

The boys took Dad out for dinner & a football game tonight for an early Father's Day gift so Moozle & I watched Ann of Green Gables, the Sequel, together.
In one of the scenes Ann told her class to open up The Oxford Book of Verse, a book we're using this year, and when Marilla & Mrs Lynde were having tea together we noticed that the tea set they were using looked just like ours:

Five weeks into AO year 7 and I'm still juggling our schedule. Cello and musicianship take up quite a bit of time and they're high priority at present which means that some other areas are getting squeezed out or slowed down. That has happened in the past with my older ones as they all studied an instrument.
I don't regret the time spent in nurturing the arts. I've observed that the discipline of music study and the appreciation of beauty that comes with spending time with great art has extended into all areas of our children's lives. It has paid rich dividends later on as adults, not to mention the pleasure they gain and give by being proficient with their instruments.

Linking up with Weekly Wrap-up,  Keeping Company and Finishing Strong.