In a Charlotte Mason paradigm, language arts are approached in a natural way. First, the child is exposed to high quality living books on a variety of topics. The child’s vocabulary and command of the language is strengthened through early exposure to the best writings from the best minds. After age six, the child’s earliest writing composition lessons come from oral narration of their literature. A passage is read to the student once and the student is to tell the passage back in their own words. Many students begin by narrating short passages and gradually increasing the passage length. Oral narration is continued throughout the first form although other forms of narration may also be used in this form including drawn narration, building a narration out of blocks or acting out a narration. Narration is the process by which the brain assimilates and remembers the ideas gleaned from a text and is not merely an assessment tool for reading comprehension.
The Charlotte Mason child learns to read by sight recognition of words and a focus on phonetic word families. The child may begin a passage by learning all the words by sight. The next day, the student may take letter tiles and phonetically build new words from the words learned in the previous lesson. The child may then record these new words in a word book. Once the student is able, he begins to read his own school literature so that he is exposed to fine language and vocabulary.
Writing instruction begins by slowly practicing each letter with perfect execution. With Charlotte Mason, there is an emphasis on quality over quantity in writing. Once the child is able to fluently form each letter, he may proceed to copy work and transcription from literature. Early principles of grammar are absorbed from copywork at this stage and spelling is strengthened.
In the second form, students progress to dictation. Charlotte Mason believed that the “royal road” to spelling was through the dictation exercise. A student prepares a passage from literature and makes note of words that need extra attention. Then the child looks at the word until he can see it with his eyes shut. Once he is ready, the teacher calls out the passage clause by clause as the student writes the passage. Usually, bad spelling is prevented this way. Nevertheless, if errors are made, the teacher rubs out the incorrect word and more time is spent studying what was missed. In form 2, grammar is also introduced. The student at this stage also begins written narration. Written narration is continued throughout the rest of the forms and gradually evolves to include the different types of writing including narrative, expository, descriptive and persuasive styles.
Furthermore, students learn several foreign languages in a Charlotte Mason model. Their understanding of language mechanics and vocabulary are increased by the exposure to Latin, Greek and other foreign languages.
As simple and natural as Charlotte Mason language arts are, it can be a lot to put together on the part of the parent. Literature readings are paced throughout the term to allow slow digestion of the ideas and language presented. A Modern Charlotte Mason also assists parents by providing copy work examples, dictation passages, variation of narration prompts, and printed recitation ideas. Grammar instruction is also laid out in the lesson plans for those in form 2 and above. Foreign language lesson plans are also outlined to provide short, multi-sensory exposures to foreign language throughout the week. These lesson plans decrease the prep work required of the parent but at the same time are flexible to allow for the individuality of the child and family schedule.