So before you read this, yes we do Language Arts in our jammies sometimes and yes, my daughter is eating Cinnamon Squares from Trader Joe’s while doing it. 😉 Just keeping it real for you guys.
Second thing I’d like to preface is WHY did I choose the CM way of home education/Language Arts specifically. Aside from the fact that her style, philosophy, and method gripped me in such a beautiful and “Yes, that!” way, I also in my personal life HIGHLY value the natural way of things. We love natural ways of living in the home. Home education, home-birthing (natural childbirth), natural ways of healing (essential oils, whole foods, and natural immunity), and so forth. As I started to read her volumes, Charlotte Mason struck me as an incredibly intelligent woman who also seemed to value the natural ways of learning for children, (ample time spent outdoors, and these very self-educating less-talk-from-the-teachers kind of way of learning.) Her method of teaching Language Arts is no different! Read on and I’ll explain.
This post is coming from two sources; my own personal experience with using this method with my daughter (for form I) and also from the introductory videos Julie Ross sends out to all her A Gentle Feast users.
Typically when teaching LA, there are so many parts and workbooks, but with AGF, it’s one cohesive and user-friendly unit. The basis of this method is consistently and diligently using Charlotte Mason’s components every day and not hampering the child with too much instruction and therefore providing crutches in a way. They are capable (when we respect their person-hood and trust the process, but this isn’t always easy!) of developing their own voice and style through the very powerful tool of narration and oral composition. We also focus on SINGLE readings, to develop that habit of attention.
So the Language Arts block for A Gentle Feast is considered the “Soup + Salad” (cute) and it’s found in the student packet. We do it right after Morning Time (hence, why we’re still in jammies sometimes). It is 20 minutes daily. Copy work is first and it’s around 10 minutes. Quality over quantity is emphasized. I do not have her rush to finish the phrase, I expect slow, focused work with careful letter formation. She will complete this over the entire week. Also, if they are not ready for copywork, this would be the time for a handwriting lesson. We use A Reason for Handwriting.
Dictation is next and this is how they will internalize grammar and learn spelling. The “French-style” dictation is words given to them to study each week. They see them from the CONTEXT of the phrase or passage (living ideas) they were working on for the copywork (brillant!). They are common sight words (with one or two more interesting words). It’s fill-in-the-blank and probably my daughters favorite part. Julie suggests reading the phrase and they write in the word, but every time we’ve done it, she completes it from memory. This was also our Hymn Study song so it wasn’t hard. 😉
In the Teachers Manual, there is a list of fun ways to practice/study the words during the week. We use salt trays, chalkboard, and wooden Montessori letters. It’s important that they visualize the word in their mind. If they spell it wrong, cover it up with a post-it (so they don’t learn it incorrectly) and move on, when finished return to the troublesome word and re-write it over the post-it.
Creative writing and drawing are done on another day and this is nice especially if you have older children you’re doing dictation with or something. For me, I might play the hymn or composer piece we are studying for the week. This is a time to let them write and draw freely! We do NOT correct them or hamper them with instruction.
Composition is all oral! (at least for Form I) In the CM Volume 6, page 190 you’ll find the section on composition. The Art of Telling is a very natural thing for children, and oral telling is composition! We seem to put so much pressure on children to write but it hampers them. This is a natural process (see why I love her) and we simply don’t need to add in all these different writing curriculum’s for our first and second graders.
Have I upset you? Ha. Don’t get me wrong. I have the All About Spelling curriculum and I’m not entirely opposed to using parts of it. I enjoy the “rule cards” they provide, but I am also REALLY trying to trust this method here. I’ve seen my daughter learn to spell from it (and from her little readers, simply seeing words over and over) and so I have faith it truly works, it’s just hard to trust the process and not whip out the flashcards and start drilling isn’t it? 😉