Charlotte Mason emphasized continuous work through the recitation, that is, reading by sight out loud, of beautiful poems, scripture, and hymns throughout a child’s learning. Charlotte Mason’s Recitation Method, as described in Home Education, Volume One, is below. These continuous lessons, from age 6 on up through Form VI (12th grade) can be used with any beautiful piece of literature.
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Recitation, or Reading by Sight
Charlotte Mason sandwiches her three reading lessons (Reading, Sound, and Spelling) with notes on Recitation in her Home Education, Volume One. According to Mason, there are two approaches to Recitation:
- I believe that her method for Recitation can be used as a simple and succinct Sight Lesson — as illustrated by her choice of poems, seen below.
- Or this method could be used in the long term, whereas a child has a set work of poetry to practice reading out loud steadily throughout a term, using her suggestions, also below. This form of recitation certainly can become memorization, though that is not the end-goal.
When a child learns new sight words for reciting, the teacher must be patient and “point to each word… and expect the child to pronounce each word in the verse…. then, when he shows that he knows each word by itself, and not before, let him read the two lines with clear enunciation and expression: insist from the first on clear, beautiful reading, and do not let the child fall into a dreary monotone” (204).
The example she uses to start is:
“Twinkle, twinkle, little star,
How I wonder what you are,”
“It is unnecessary to put twaddle into the hands of children” and she suggests this method with prose such as from Parables from Nature. She always insists on rendering the words with “delicate precision…. [and] the saying of each word receives due attention, and the child is trained in the habit of careful enunciation” (206).
Every day, the child “increases the number of words he is able to read at sight” and there is indeed no such thing as “snail’s progress” as the child is working slowly and deliberately. She emphasizes that the whole child is being fed with the richness of beautiful text, and there is no room for monotony of driveled repetition; each word learned is in context of a lovely rhyme or story! The passages chosen relate to his life and to that of beauty, as compared to the ordinary method of “deadly weariness” (206).
“The child should speak beautiful thoughts so beautifully, with such delicate rendering of each nuance of meaning…. treasure troves of new joys (such as), ‘Winken, Blinken, and Nod’…. would compel any child to recite…. I hope that my readers will train their children in the art of recitation” (223-224).
Long term recitation practice
We have our current recitation pieces in a Charlotte Mason Recitation Binder. I aim to update this monthly, or by term, with poems, hymns, scripture verses, and Latin chants that are worthy of Mason’s approval. Ms. Mason’s quote below, I think, sums up how we should choose these passages.
“Recitation and committing to memory are not necessarily the same thing, and it is well to store a child’s memory with a good deal of poetry, learnt without labour…. attempt only a little, and let the poems the child learns be simple and within the range of his own thought and imaginations” (224-226).
Ms. Mason emphasized the important work of reading aloud, particularly reading poetry, “to accustom him to the delicate rendering of shades of meaning, and especially to make him aware that words are beautiful in themselves, that they are a source of pleasure, and are worthy of our honour; and that a beautiful word deserves to be beautifully said, with a certain roundness of tone and precision of utterance” (227).
In that, a child should not simply imitate a teacher’s reading of a text. Instead, “the child must express what he feels to be the author’s meaning; and this sort of intelligent reading comes only of the habit of reading with understanding” (227-228).