a SYLLABUS for a normal child

3 points - (a) He requires much knowledge, (b) varied, and (c) communicated in well chosen language

This is exactly the title of the next Charlotte Mason Carnival that will be presented on 9/18 at Charlotte Mason in the City. 

Just two years of reading these type of well chosen language books and it has already been an incredible challenge for all of us. One that I will not trade for anything else in the world of curriculum. One that has enriched my two young girls inmensurably.

There has been some moments in which I have mentally made a pause and said to myself, what on earth are you doing reading this book that seems to be a tongue twister, a book that you do not even grasp in its fullness? And an evil inner voice whispers quiiiit, quiiiiit... ha ha ha. The beginning of this year 2 of school books with the girls was brutal. We had a few old friends, but everything else seemed so much, so complex, too rich. Sometimes the feast appears to be more a potential indigestion than something to look forward to.

Many of our books have people who speak using the thou and hath. The words that Hawthorne picks, for example, are many times Spanish cognate words, but I have long forgotten they exist in my language, let alone had I known they were English words as well. Are we sure this is the SYLLABUS for a normal child? I have thought many times that a normal child of the 19th century is nothing like a normal child of today. This Charlotte Mason is for sure a method for elitist and snobbish people. The funny thing is that some children of today hit it right away with these books. So, why is it that my child is not as normal as the neighbor's?

A teacher friend told me this whole Charlotte Mason thing I was trying to explain to her, telling her how the teacher should abstain from those explanations or books with simplified language, she said it seemed feasible for children like mine (little did she know I do not consider we do as well as we should with this whole enchilada). She said it will not work with those who have poor language, or a difficult school and life background. I thought those are the children who would probably need this the most. But I know they will have to drop the testing and exams, that is the true impossibility of this syllabus in a public school that has to abide by the laws of the state regarding education.

So if I think this would be the best method for those children who are so deprived, if I am selling it so well to my friend as our thing, what is my problem then?, why do I have to have one? It is simply that I do not see fruits immediately or when I wish to see them. Impatience, impatience kills me! 

We all know deep down there that much of it is a matter of time. A matter of faith if you want. That is what keeps me going. That is why I continue with those books and principles week after week. Waiting. Some days with more patience than others. I keep adjusting, reconsidering, and getting at it again and again. Because there is no other thing I can do, or I want to do, or I should do. And I stop waiting and start to simply enjoy it all.

Why is it that we, "Charlotte Masoners", hold on to these old and rancid public domain type of books relentessly? Why do we insist on our children listening to sections of these books and narrating from them? Why do we care about nature walks when children are too old to be at the park on a week day morning? Why do not we get serious and buy a grammar book for our second grader? 

For those into the Ambleside selections, why don't we abandon Little Duke on the second or third reading when it is apparent that the names and events overwhelm our short term memory, and get tangled up in our mind? What makes us keep coming back to Parables from Nature, or to open up week after week all the hard books even when last reading was sighed upon, complained about, or not welcome with enthusiasm?

I think of many reasons why we do all the above.

  • Because we know much knowledge, varied, and in well written language is the only possible syllabus for ALL children.
  • We hear our children at the least expected moments say something like 'it is adequate to use your fingers when eating chicken', when they recall some of the readings, make some of this knowledge truly theirs, and it is something hard to describe, but we all see true learning then, and no matter how little this may seem, we know all the efforts are worth it.
  • Some time passes and these books start becoming old friends. Our children start to connect with them. The readings become more fluid. Then we start enjoying Nathaniel Hawthorne to the point you hear your seven year old girl speak of the Wonderbook for Girls and Boys as if it were the last best-seller, and you hear your five year old tell your guests about the triple head of Quimera, or they recognize a Pandora inspired Mickey Mouse comic.
  • We discuss history with our spouses at dinner just because we love it so much we have to talk about it.
  • And once you have tasted a small portion of this SYLLABUS, you would have hit a point of no return.

13 opinion(s):

Lisa said...

I love this post, Silvia! And I sooo needed to hear this right now - my 2 sons (in yr4) and I are reading Robinson Crusoe..or shall I say "struggling through" Robinson Crusoe. The AO schedule says to read 2 chapters per week - which is alot when it's the unabridged version! And so many times, I've wanted to substitute it for something easier. But you have given me the encouragement to hang in there for the duration. Many thanks to you, my friend. :)

Ellen, the Bluestocking Belle said...

Hi Silvia! I know *exactly* what you mean. :-) We are beginning Year 6, and I find it's best to continue reading most selections aloud, which is contrary to AO's suggestion that they should be reading independently by now. It seems they retain the information better if I read it aloud. Yet I try to wean them a bit at a time. For example, this year, I'm going to begin reading some books aloud and then transition to independent reading. Others I'll continue to read aloud.

By the way, we ended up loving The Little Duke! It is one of our past favorites.

Silvia said...

Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Yes. We are now liking Little Duke, his kidnapping is coming close. Since I told the girls, they cannot wait for it! LOL.

I see me where you are. This of reading out loud the important books for retention will last long, I predict, ha ha ha. But I do not mind. It is our final call what to do for our families respecting our children and being consistent as well.

Silvia said...

That is a challenging book. Take your time, do not hesitate to take longer. It is what it is (grin)! What matters is what sips through and the impression the books leave. We do not want to abandon them just because they are challenging, but we do not want them to be torture, when we can get off the schedule that the AO ladies just wrote as a guidance but that I am the first one wanting to follow it by the letter, LOL.

Christie Scibior said...

Wonderful post!! This is my first year and I was starting to wonder the same things. Thank you for giving me the courage to go on!

...they call me mommy... said...

Excellent questions and food for thought!!!! Thank you!

Kristine said...

Wonderful post, wonderings that many if not all of us Ambleside followers question at different times.
Lisa, we took a whole year to get through Robinson Crusoe and two terms for Oliver Twist, which we are not quite done with, but it is a rich time. I love the fruit that comes with sticking with these "antiquated" or rather non-modern classics. I just started Little Duke for the third time, and I wondered what was so difficult about it that first go around. I must be improving my reading too.

Sara said...

We are just starting year 1 but looking ahead can be very overwhelming. Thank you for the encouragement !

Silvia said...

Thanks, Christy, Kristine, and Sara for commenting for the first time. And thanks Amy for stopping by.

I am glad it encouraged you. I find it difficult at times to keep perspective, to take a step at a time. I tend to confuse the ideal with the norm.

Stopping and writing about life with CM and AO suggestions for our books, forces me to take a distance and gain perspective. And when I do so, I realize how rich our life is, even in the middle of adjusting, reshuffling, and things going in a different than envisioned way.

As Kristine says, a rich time is the goal. I also identify with you with the Little Duke, not with that title, but with other books when you come back (because I postpone, but rarely drop cold), and I say, what was so difficult about it the first time? Unfamiliarity, many other books in the midst. That is why the more we stick to these type of books, the easier they become in time, and the more ENJOYABLE.

For Sara, remember. Most of these books carry on for two or three years at least. If you slow down or postpone, at a different time in another year, the book can go from challenging to very familiar and enjoyable from start.

Christie. You will see fruits soon... not when you need them the most, maybe, ha ha ha, but look closely, they will come.

For all, I remember that CM said children get about 10 percent maybe of what we read to them. I am greedy. I want them to soak on everything and soak well. Remember the power of ONE single powerful idea?

I am very glad you are all coming and reading my thoughts. I was a bit lonely lately in the blog. Thanks for inspiring me to keep sharing.

Charlotte Mason in the City said...

You wrote: "Why is it that we, 'Charlotte Masoners', hold on to these old and rancid public domain type of books relentlessly?"

That made me smile, Silvia. When next asked what curriculum I use with the kids, I am going to answer, "Old and rancid." :)

Silvia said...

LOL, that sounded funny, didn't it? You know I meant what the world considers old and rancid, it is not so to me. Though if you think about it, I love old, and rancid, and even some rotten things, such as cheese!

And now thanks to you, I can say that we use an old and rancid curriculum because it fosters good writing, wink!

Nancy said...

Oh, this was fun to read! It is so true - this wide room is most nourishing to their minds! I think everyone has doubts at certain points, but Mason tested things for over 40 years on thousands of children so she speaks with wisdom from experience. Keep sharing from your heart, Silvia. It is an encouragement to everyone.

From joy to joy,

Silvia said...

I guess for families like yours and Lisa's or Pam's, with many children, this truth that Mason experienced as you teach us she did, over forty years with thousands of children, may come pretty fast, although as you say, things take their time in a CM inspired education, the beauty of it is to me in how things unfold. But our moment in time does not help us with bombarding us and wanting us to be efficient and proficient from moment one. There is a repose and a mystery to all this, and the magic of discovering little 'aha' moments in us, in our children, in other moms.

I love seeing each of you glow.

Thanks for your sweet comment. It is a special friendship that we all have, isn't it?


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