Years after beginning home- schooling, I read about 19th century educator Charlotte Mason and realized I’d found
a kindred spirit. Charlotte’s methods
matched ours, and soon I was writing
Charlotte Mason-inspired curriculum.
This approach to language arts consists
of four levels.
Level 1: Reading Aloud
“Living books” bring subjects “to life”
and open doors to new ideas, people,
and places. Examples include historical
fiction, biographies that leave you feeling like you know the subjects personally, and books that “take you away” to
Choose fiction to stretch the imagination and nonfiction to stretch knowledge. With even young children, read
from a non-picture book daily. This encourages them to create the pictures in
Though my children do much of their
schoolwork independently, we read together daily, looking forward to this time
of fellowship over a specific subject.
Never underestimate the power of
Level 2: Narration
Charlotte Mason describes narration as
“to tell back.”
Nothing kills a child’s love of reading
faster than a “reader” program in which
a story is read each day followed by comprehension questions.
Here’s an example of narration at
work: Mom reads today’s chapter of
Rosalie’s Good Shepherd aloud. Later, Mom
prompts, “Luke, tell Dad what happened
today in Rosalie’s Good Shepherd.” Luke
ponders the details of Rosalie hearing
music, peeking in the church window,
and responding when she heard the Gospel message, and shares the account with
Dad. See how natural this is?
Narration is a tool to determine how
well your children understand their reading. Start by practicing narration several
days in a row, using material easy for the
child to read and understand, asking him
to tell back something specific afterwards.
Some will jump right in and give lengthy
descriptions; others will stumble along.
Narration is not so much for the child as
for the parent. You are learning how well
he retains, comprehends, and expresses
himself. Once you engage his abilities,
take a break from regular narration and
allow him to read for reading’s sake.
I love reading. Books are my friends.
But if I had to stop and describe every
chapter I read, every day, I’m sure my enthusiasm for reading would wane. Allow
your child to “park” at his comfort level
for a while. Once he tastes that reading
is fun, challenge him with books from a
different genre, or above “comfort level.”
Now narration begins anew until you are
confident with his comprehension.
Level 3: Copywork
Copywork is the act of copying some-
thing over into a notebook. To me, that
sounded like something Charlotte Ma-
son would’ve called “twaddle.” Thus,
copywork, sounding overrated, was the
element of this style I held off on. One
year, I tried it. After experiencing how ef-
fective it was, we spent three years doing
only copywork for language arts! One of
my children, who always struggled with
by Dr. Sandi Queen, ND
The Language Arts:
the power of reading