We have covered many school subjects so far in this series, talking about the methods Charlotte Mason used to teach each one. I hope you are feeling a bit more confident with teaching history, geography, spelling, Bible, handicrafts, science, foreign language, and music.
And you remember that you do not have to teach every subject every day. In fact, you should welcome variety; your children will gain much by it.
We have just a few subjects left: art, English grammar, literature, poetry, beginning reading, math, and writing (which we will talk about today). Ready to dive in? Let’s go.
When we talk about writing, we usually have one or both of these aspects in mind: handwriting and composition. Let’s look at each and outline how Charlotte Mason approached them. Charlotte taught handwriting through the method of copywork and composition through written narration.
Copywork is pretty much what the name implies: the student copies something. In Charlotte’s schools that “something” was interesting quality poetry or quotes or Scripture or excerpts from literature that the child would copy to practice good penmanship. You would not find a whole page of lowercase b‘s on a worksheet. No, the selection gave the child a living idea to ponder even as he worked to copy it in his best handwriting.
Lessons were short, with an emphasis on quality over quantity. In fact, when the children were just learning how to form the letters, one perfectly executed letter was the goal of the lesson. As their proficiency grew, that goal could be expanded to three or six perfect letters and then a line or a sentence. But mindless repetition had no place in Charlotte’s handwriting lessons.
Young ones, who were just beginning to learn their letters, were encouraged to draw in sand or on the chalkboard, learning a simple stroke and then the letters that used that stroke. As soon as possible, those learned letters were combined into words so the writing exercise would have more interest and communicate an idea. For an example of how those beginning writing lessons might look, take a look at Delightful Handwriting. The free sample includes Charlotte’s own words on the subject.
See the announcement below for some exciting new resources to help you with copywork!
Since the majority of composition is mental work, Charlotte focused on that part of the process during the earlier grades, while the children were still learning how to form their letters and practice writing with ease. We already discussed the method of narration when we talked about teaching history. Charlotte used that method for many subjects; and while it is a fabulous tool for learning, it is also a solid foundation for composition. In fact, oral narration can also be called oral composition.
Once the children were proficient and comfortable with oral narration, Charlotte began introducing some written narration, usually around the age of ten. They were already experienced in the mental process of organizing and expressing their thoughts, now they just needed to take the next step and put those organized thoughts on paper.
She was a firm believer in letting the children develop their own unique styles, because she knew they would be well acquainted with a variety of wonderful writing styles from the great literature they had been using throughout their school years. They would pick up a little from one author and a little from another and mix it together with their own personalities. Such a method is consistent with her priority of respecting the child as a person. Formulaic writing was eschewed.
When the children were comfortable and proficient with getting their organized thoughts on paper, she would help them polish their writing skills by focusing on just one or two points that they needed to improve on. That point was explained and corrected in their work, then they focused on mastering it in future written narrations. Once it was mastered, they worked on another point or two. In this way, composition was not taught as a separate subject, but was intertwined with other subjects’ narrations.
This article on Composition the Charlotte Mason Way may also be helpful. And if you would like a more in-depth look, our CM language arts handbook, Hearing and Reading, Telling and Writing contains all the fascinating details we found in Charlotte’s writings, including sample written narrations.
New! Copybook Readers and Learning Cursive
We’re excited about two new copywork resources to help writing lessons go smoothly!
The new A Child’s Copybook Reader series combines reading practice and writing practice using quality selections from classic children’s poetry, Aesop’s fables, the Bible, and more. The clean, attractive layout provides a short paragraph or stanza from the selection for your student to practice reading aloud, then that same portion is given in a beautiful handwriting model for him to copy. The combination of reading and copying provides wonderful reinforcement and review in a gentle and interesting way. The entire selection is presented later in the book for your child to read aloud with confidence and expression. Provides great reinforcement between Delightful Handwriting and Hymns in Prose!
Print to Cursive Proverbs is a great way to help your child make the transition from printing to writing in cursive—all centered around the wisdom of Proverbs. This copybook is a wonderful combination of printing the proverbs, learning new cursive letters, and gradually making the shift to writing more and more of the words from the proverbs in cursive. With Print to Cursive Proverbs your student will practice printing, learn cursive, and gain wisdom!
Both Print to Cursive Proverbs and A Child’s Copybook Reader in three volumes are available at a special introductory price through August 23. Download the free samples and see how these new resources can help you with writing in your home school!
This is part of the series: Subject by Subject
How to teach each school subject in a Charlotte Mason way.
- A Generous Curriculum: Subject By Subject,
- Three Basic CM Principles: Subject by Subject, Part 2
- Teaching History: Subject by Subject, Part 3
- Teaching Geography: Subject by Subject, Part 4
- Teaching Spelling: Subject by Subject, Part 5
- Teaching Bible: Subject by Subject, Part 6
- Teaching Handicrafts: Subject by Subject, Part 7
- Teaching Science: Subject by Subject, Part 8
- Teaching Foreign Language: Subject by Subject, Part 9
- Teaching Music: Subject by Subject, Part 10
- Teaching Writing: Subject by Subject, Part 11
- Teaching Literature: Subject by Subject, Part 12
- Teaching Grammar: Subject by Subject, Part 13
- Teaching Beginning Reading: Subject by Subject, Part 14
- Teaching Art: Subject by Subject, Part 15
- Teaching Poetry: Subject by Subject, Part 16
- Teaching Math: Subject by Subject, Part 17