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What is recitation? “The Children’s Art” according to Charlotte Mason

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In her first volume, Home Education, Charlotte Mason shares her thoughts regarding recitation; she refers to it as “The Children’s Art,” and her intention is that children “may be taught the fine art of beautiful and perfect speaking.” I am including several passages here because she explains it so much more eloquently than I ever could.

what is recitation children art Charlotte mason homeschool

“The child should speak beautiful thoughts so beautifully, with such delicate rendering of each nuance of meaning, that he becomes to the listener the interpreter of the author’s thought.”

“I hope that my readers will train their children in the art of recitation; in the coming days, more even than in our own will it behove every educated man and woman to be able to speak effectively in public; and, in learning to recite you learn to speak.”

“Never is the poor teacher allowed to set a pattern––’say this as I say it.’ The ideas are kept well within the child’s range, and the expression is his own.”


Ms. Mason continues in explaining the difference between recitation and memorization:

“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.” She prefers a child to hear a poem or scripture over and over than to rotely say it aloud over and over. 

“The child must not try to recollect or to say the verse over to himself, but, as far as may be, present an open mind to receive an impression of interest…. The gains of such a method of learning are, that the edge of the child’s enjoyment is not taken off by weariful verse by verse repetitions, and, also, that the habit of making mental images is unconsciously formed.”


The reciting of passages should be spoken out loud with intentional beauty and clarity, 

“Let the child lie fallow till he is six, and then, in this matter of memorising, as in others, attempt only a little, and let the poems the child learns be simple and within the range of his own thought and imagination. At the same time, when there is so much noble poetry within a child’s compass, the pity of it, that he should be allowed to learn twaddle!” Charlotte Mason, Home Education

recitation and memorization Charlotte mason

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