Tag Archives: Charlotte mason

When Narration Inspires: a ghostly retelling

Part of my New Year’s Day was spent on the floor of my basement while seven-year-old G scrunched down behind the sofa manipulating his stuffed animals to perform Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This season we have all been exposed to heavy doses of the redemptive ghost story. My family and I have watched three or four versions, including our favorite, the 2009 Disney one with Jim Carrey. We visited our local theater downtown with some friends and enjoyed a live performance. And probably most memorably we pulled out colored pencils and drawing paper while Patrick Stewart dramatically read to us the story on Audible. Thank you, Mr. Stewart! Do you remember when we were right behind you in the Starbucks line this summer in New York? At the one in Park Slope?

We began our immersion into Scrooge’s Christmas transformation in late November or early December, but it wasn’t until New Year’s Day when G invited me to our basement for his impromptu theater that I realized how much he had been internalizing the language, the story, and the message.

I attribute his burst of creativity to the steady practice of narration.

Narration is simply a retelling. Charlotte Mason, the British educator from the late 1800s to early 1900s, utilized narration in the earliest forms. Children as young as four or five were taught to retell a story, fable, or science lesson. We have practiced this a good bit in our home.

Although not in a strict Charlotte Mason manner, G has grown accustomed to hearing a story, then relating it back to me. This youngest and most verbose child of mine was not only an early reader but an eager listener. I now see the benefits coming to fruition. Even when I lack the patience to hear another story – and, believe me from this guy it happens daily – he reminds me with the words of Susan Wise Bauer, the author of our writing book, “But wait, Mom. I’m just getting to the ‘skeleton of the plot.'”

Narration does not just aid the eventual writing process, but it is writing at its rawest form. Unedited, unrevised in most cases, it allows the teller to recognize and create and verbalize his own thoughts. Never underestimate a child who realizes her ability to communicate.

And so, once it had been decided who of G’s stuffed friends would play Scrooge, and who would be ol’ Fezziwig,  I followed him downstairs as he adjusted the basement lighting and, surprisingly, managed a spotlight on “Mr. Monkey” as a lamplighter (never mind the fact that the light was imaginary and the “lighter” was a knitting needle). Thus, began his version of the familiar tale. I admit I was shocked at how well he remembered the story, how easily he moved the plot along. He had memorized large chunks of the dialog. “Bah. Humbug” was there, but so also were more obscure lines like, “Spirit, are they yours?…They are man’s…Beware them both.”

Although he left out chunks of the book and created a couple of extra scenes, they all seemed in the spirit of the novella. My favorite sections were when the stuffed tiger appeared as Jacob Marley sporting several glow stick necklaces as his “ponderous chain.” G’s Scrooge scoffs and amusingly adds to the famous line,

There’s more custard than cuss,

more gravy than grave about you.

Later, as the Ghost of Christmas Present bids a Teddy Bear version of Scrooge from his chambers, the miser looks around and asks, “What is all of this feast?” The Ghost answers, “It is the fruit of generosity. Something you have never shared.” This is a paraphrased line from Mickey’s Christmas Carol.

I applaud. I know this voluntary form of narration will tie the message even closer to his heart.

 

Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim. “Julius” was chosen as Tiny Tim for his size and because he had recently sustained a serious arm injury by the teeth of our six month old puppy. Dad saved the day by stitching him back up, but there remains an obvious scar. G explained, “Just like Tiny Tim has to walk with a crutch, it doesn’t matter if his arm looks different.” God bless us, everyone!

In the event that my narration of this puppet performance seems too impressive for a seven year old, rest assured, there was plenty of flipping back and forth off the couch, dead pauses while he changed characters, and some hand motions that I only assume were unclear due to the actors’ lack of thumbs. And yet, the meaning was there. He narrated what he remembered and what had stood out to him.

I learned a great deal about his memory that day, but even more about his heart.

Advertisements

Teaching the Bible story

While I want my children to desire to know God and connect with people on a heart level, I also feel it is crucial for them to have a solid, textually-based knowledge of His Word, the Bible. Even though our morning routine looks slightly different from year to year, it always includes some form of Bible study or learning. In the past, it has been as random as opening the Bible to read a few verses together, to something more systematic like a reading and study of a particular book. One year we covered the Gospel of Luke, another the epistle of James, or enjoyed random readings from Psalms and Proverbs using our Bible verse box. The box is still hanging around on an end table in our basement, but it hasn’t been used in awhile.

This year I have accepted the encouragement from Sonya Shafer from Simply Charlotte Mason to keep key verses written on notecards and file them in an index box. We use no methodology for memorization. I simply read the verse each morning and my kids say it along with me as they become familiar with it. There is no pressure to memorize quickly. Some familiar verses we have learned pat in 2-3 days. Others, less familiar or lengthier passages, have taken us a couple of weeks or so. Sonya Shafer has an easy system of reviewing old verses so nothing is lost over time. Look here for her easy to implement Bible memory verse system. Oh, and if you are tempted to to shorten the length of Scriptures for the younger ones, refrain! The six-year-old, with his agile memory,  is our leader in this. G usually keeps us on track when we forget a phrase or mix up translations. (The King James version was the go-to translation when I was younger.) Regardless of how well we have memorized the text, I feel good that they are hearing beautiful words, words that they can hold on to for life.

I have also been searching for a way to teach my guys the Bible in a ‘big picture” format. I want them to see the overarching story line through history, to see the Bible as a cohesive text as well as a collection of histories, poems, letters written in their own contexts. I want my boys to see how they also fit into God’s story, and I think I have found one way to do that through Bible book summary cards. This group has Bible study curriculum for both a homeschool or home use setting, as well as a classroom setting. The cards are colorful 8.5″ x 11″ sturdy stock cards with graphic and mnemonic devices to help you and your child learn (and remember!) the main focus, doctrinal points, or narratives for each of the 66 books of the Old and New Testament. While they don’t take the place of reading the text itself, it is a wonderful way to give your child a thorough overview. Because there is a brief explanation on the back of each card, even those of us who can’t remember the main point of Haggai, can still learn and teach our kids. Some of the cards look like this.

img_7054
Hopefully, the skull and cross bones don’t distract from Bible learning. Come to think of it, I think we talked about Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones that day!

Can you guess which book this card represents?

img_7120

We are only a couple of minor prophets away from completing the Old Testament. I am amazed at how they have already connected with the story lines.

On the back of each card are five or six questions to help review. Each day we name the books already completed and I randomly choose a few for them to narrate back to me based on the pictures. We can’t do all of them every day; it would take too long! Then, we read and learn the next one. All in all, it takes us 15 minutes or so to say our memory verse, and learn our Bible book summary cards. In this way, my boys and I are able to start the day with God’s Word.

img_7118

Back to School

There was a great deal of complaining last year.  Math was too difficult.  We had too much work.  The dreaded ‘B’ word was bandied about.  You know, as in, This is (gasp) boring.  

After addressing each subject separately, I began to gain some clarity: the problem did not lie with the challenging subject matter, nor the words my kids – one of them in particular, let’s be honest- chose to use.  It didn’t even primarily pertain to the unwanted behaviors.  It was a deeper, yet simpler problem.  A problem of the heart.

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight,  LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19:34

I have often wondered why David mentions his words before his thoughts.  Jesus calls out his would-be followers, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks,” and “where your treasure is, there the heart will be also.”

DSC_0040

My children needed to change their thinking.  Controlling my heart, my tongue, and my thoughts are not easy for me as an adult.  How much more difficult will it be for my children? They need to see me model a desire to do so, however.

Our first week of school has passed slowly, with low expectations, incrementally adding topics and subjects.  We have read, journaled, watched the news, completed some map work, and generally re-introduced the habit of sitting down to work again (as well as introduced what it will look like in our new house.  We moved in less than two weeks ago.)

Charlotte Mason’s motto has helped us in approaching this new school year with positive guidelines.

I am.. I can… I ought… I will…

I am hoping to instill in my children a proprietary sense of their education and spiritual life. You can read here for more information about Charlotte Mason’s motto and educational philosophy.

Each day we have added to our understanding of the motto with the Bible verses suggested here.

 

I am….a child of God.  I am a person of great value because God made me.

Ephesians 2:8-10  “…For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

I can…do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  I am capable of accomplishing all I need to do.

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

I ought…. to obey God, my parents and all those who are in authority over me.

Mark 12:30-31 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.”

I will…decide to keep watch over my thoughts and tongue and choose what is right even if it is not what I want.

Psalm 119:30 “I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws.”

We have discussed the significance of each of these points and used the verses as copywork.  We are slowly incorporating them as memory work as well.  The heavy responsibilities and expectations of the school year lighten when we are reminded how loved we are, along with an encouraging reminder that we are, indeed, capable.

Of historical importance

photo

It seems peculiar that I should feel the need to write something in defense of spending so much time with history.  There has been such a push in education, however, in recent times to concentrate almost exclusively on “necessary” academic subjects, the three Rs, that is reading, writing and arithmetic.  Even science and foreign language take priority over history, cursive and art, which seem relegated to extras, or even worse.

For us, however, history seems to be at the heart of our academic day.  And I don’t mean the memorization of dates, quotes and people, but the love, deference and analysis that we give to the study .  I do not pretend to know enough to speak intelligently about educational philosophies, although I researched them heavily before beginning our home education.  If pressed into explaining what I am attempting to do with my guys I guess I would say we are definitely eclectic, influenced most by unit studies and Charlotte Mason.  As you can see in the blurry photo above, we happily make use of Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World and supplement periodically, trying to find “living books,” which fit best into our current study.  Although Bauer is closely associated with classical education, her history works well with narration and my own ideas about literature-based learning.  I am not necessarily concerned that my children remember every important detail, but more that I am able to point the way for them to educate themselves, not merely while they are “of school age,” but far beyond. I want to teach them to teach themselves, to learn how to learn, and to love learning.

The question is not, -how much does the youth know when he has finished his education- but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and therefore, how full is the life he has before him?

Charlotte Mason in School Education

What follows are a few simple reasons we find history significant to our studies:

1.  It is a means of incorporating multiple disciplines, such as reading, narration, writing, and geography, as well as developing other skills like note taking.

2.  It is easier to appreciate art and literature through the ages as it relates to major historical events and shifts in thought.  Not convinced art is significant in and of itself?  Some argue it is what defines us as human.

3.  It is a built-in venue for teaching writing and thinking.  Beginning with narration (or retelling stories) we can make use of historical events as a natural springboard for writing summaries, analyses and eventually drawing important connections.

4.  Closely tied to number three, the careful study of history teaches us to think.  There are no obvious or objective answers in history.  We glean from it what we will.  A proper study of history forces us to be critical in our view of world events.  Learning how events are interconnected, or how one event may precipitate another, is an important exercise for growing minds. Particularly important for middle schoolers who are naturally black-and-white in their thinking, history provides a way for us to discuss the morality, meaning and potential consequences of major decisions, thoughts and events.

5.  It helps us appreciate where others have been and where we are all going.  It is difficult to understand the present, and project appropriately about the future, if we do not have a grasp on the past.

6.  It helps us to appreciate different cultures, foods, languages and peoples.  Training our children to accept others begins early.  History is a natural way to cultivate this.

In spending our days looking through books on the Vikings, Napoleon or what precipitated the Great War, we are not merely looking up a date or a concise list to satisfy the requirements of an essay question.  Rather, we are the ones asking the questions.  We are drawing pictures and maps.  We are questioning who we are, and are learning to express it.

*Does your family enjoy history?  Is there a beloved subject you and your family find yourself defending?*