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7b. More on Language Arts

(This is a guest post from Wendi Capehart expanding on our last topic.)

There is more to language arts in Charlotte Mason's plan, but it's not actually doing more, it's how much of what you do with a CM education also contributes toward grammar and composition. Charlotte Mason said that nature study, and teaching the children the right words for things they saw at the time they needed those words is also teaching them skills they will later use in composition. For instance, she talks about a little game she has children play -- the children go look at something, a scene, and come back and describe it, and then Mom asks for a bit more detail. "Yellow flowers, Jenny? Were they buttercups, dandelions, or something else? Describe them to me, please. You can look again if you need to."

Jenny returns, and her description tells you, "Oh, they were on bushes, and they smelled lovely? I suspect you saw some yellow roses. Were there thorns? Did each flower have many, many petals, or only a few?" (I'm making up the example, but Charlotte Mason gives a similar example in her first book, "Home Education.")

And so on. This finding of the right word for the right thing based on a description is part of building skills they will use later. When your children spend thousands of hours reading printed words on the page, you notice that they start talking like their books. They use words like 'jolly' and 'aghast,' words that you never use in every day life. That's because they're internalizing the vocabulary and using it, and they do the same with the sentence structure.

Later you will introduce formal grammar, but at that point you'll be giving terms for things they mostly already know are true. They know that in English, the adjective usually goes before the word it's modifying (the red chair, not the chair red). They don't know that's what those classes of words are called, but they know how to use them properly. They know the verb is not usually the first word in the sentence in English (it is in some other languages) -- even though they have not yet learned what the term 'verb' means. They even know there is an exception or two -- and they use them properly. They just don't know the formal words for what they know and do every day.

Foreign language contributes quite a bit to grammatical understanding as well.

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