Living and Learning in the Pacific Northwest
Continuing the series by explaining how we do history, geography, map work, narration and copywork.
History: We are reading George Washington’s World by Genevieve Foster. This book has short narratives about famous people who lived at the same time as George Washington. Liz is doing a nice job finding quotes and printing visual materials to go along with the reading. Liz is reading the narratives of three people each week so we can get through the book this year. After 8 weeks, the problem for me is that it feels like we are just trying to get through the book. I have stopped listening and my kids aren’t interested. The feedback from the children range from disinterest to wanting to hear more about George Washington.
I feel that GWW is not a good choice for group learning when you only have one-half hour per week to read. This book is a better choice if you are able to read about one person each day and then follow the rabbit trails that the book inspires.
I’d like to pick a longer biography about George Washington, such as “George Washington: True Patriot (Heroes of History)” by Janet Benge. We can purchase multiple copies and have the kids take turns reading too. I will see what the other moms in the co-op think about this idea. We can also read other biographies in this series (or another) instead of trying to follow one period in history. Each family is doing a chronological study of history at home and none of us are in the same time period.
History Method: Print or write key facts about that day’s reading and post them where the children can see it. Also take a couple of minutes to find the location on a map. Read aloud from the book, then ask for oral narration. The children can color or write during the reading.
Geography: We have a map on the wall and Meg has some great laminated, topographical maps that we can put on the floor. We are reading “Minn of the Mississippi” as a living geography book. We are following Minn on his journey down the Mississippi. He is moving very slowly, too slowly. In the meantime, we have looked at the Mississippi River Watershed and the basins in the United States. We will likely start covering other geography topics, as the reading is not providing enough map work.
Map Method: The kids can draw on the map with dry erase markers. They like tracing the states and making notes on the map. We are still developing our geography plans for the year.
Narration: Honestly, oral narration is the hardest part of group learning the Charlotte Mason way, at least so far. In our little co-op, we started with one child who narrates easily and thoroughly. It is amazing how many facts she can remember and tell back. We have two children who didn’t want to narrate at first. One would refuse and the other shrugged a shoulder. After a few weeks, we did get more participation from the younger students and less from the eldest student. We found that the oral narrations are better with “Minn of the Mississippi” than with “George Washington’s World.”
Narration Method: Narration IS challenging. It requires assimilating the information, organizing thoughts and then speaking in complete sentences. It is a higher order of thinking. To get an idea of how hard this is to do, parents should read a chapter (listening is even harder) and then try narrating. If this is too difficult, then read a couple of paragraphs and try again.
We start beginners with a short paragraph and work up to more. When children are learning to narrate, it is important to resist the urge to prompt them or ask questions. The children like tossing a squishy ball around as the “talking ball.” When someone wants a turn speaking, they ask for the ball. This works pretty well and even the reluctant children want a turn. Children need plenty of time to explain what they are thinking and when holding the ball they can have all the time they want. We do not interrupt them. I want to use the “talking ball” more often if we switch to biographies.
The older children also write their narrations for “George Washington’s World” while the younger students do copywork.
Copywork Method: Each week, Liz prints a paragraph from the reading along with lines for writing. We set a timer for 15 minutes and allow 5 extra minutes if needed. With children who are beginning copywork for the first time, or learning to write, you can start with one letter or one word, then work up to one sentence. Add more until they are copying a whole paragraph or more.
I explained to my boys that writing requires muscle strength and the only way to work the muscles is to write a bit more each day until they can write more easily. I told them how I learned to knit a couple of years ago. My arms, hands and fingers ached at first. I knitted more each day and now it is easy for me to knit for long periods of time.
Written Narration Method: We set a timer for 15 minutes and allow 5 extra minutes if needed. The time limit might be the reason that the written narration is lower quality than when we started, or the book is failing to inspire the students. For beginning writers who have plenty of experience with copywork, ask them to write one short sentence and work up from there. For younger students, help them with spelling unless you are comfortable with invented spelling. I would rather my children ask me how to spell a word than spell it phonetically. When a child completes their written narration, it is important NOT to get out a red pen and correct their work, make only one or two suggestions and remember to encourage them!
Tomorrow is the final post in this series. I will write about composer study, Shakespeare, handicrafts, and our daily schedule.