Thursday, October 13, 2016

Charlotte Mason vs. Ruth Beechick

I have intended to publish a post, for months now, regarding a very widely-held misconception regarding Sonlight curriculum. There is a mistaken belief that the curriculum is based on methods developed and used by the late Charlotte Mason.
One could, if they are so inclined, mesh the philosophies together in the way that best suits them. Certainly the educational philosophy of Miss Mason is very lovely and appealing, and there are a few aspects between the two that are similar — such as the use of living books (though I do feel Miss Mason may have wrinkled her nose at some of the younger level Sonlight readers) and a timeline-in-a-book. However, the resemblance stops there.
Charlotte Mason did not teach grammar through dictation as is commonly believed. She did use dictation, however, for spelling. Miss Mason utilized copy-work for handwriting, but never for grammar, spelling, or composition. For composition, she used narration. In fact, narration, according to Charlotte, *is* composition, right up until high school. In Miss Mason’s plan, composition skills were learned and reinforced — naturally — through the use of copywork and dictation, though specific skills were never targeted or planned. Rather they were simply absorbed. Also, she never asked discussion questions after readings for comprehension or quizzing of the children.
I know. Surprising, isn’t it? Now that you know Sonlight is most assuredly not “Charlotte Mason”, let me introduce you to some methods of Ms. Ruth Beechick.
Ruth Beechick used copy-work and dictation to teach not just handwriting and spelling, but also grammar and composition. That’s right! She has developed lesson plans for using her integrated methods, by drawing them out from the copy-work and dictation selections. You can find very similar lessons, in your Sonlight Language Arts Instructors guide, as well as in the Parent-Teacher Guide for the McGuffey’s Readers, and The Three R’s – both written by Ms. Beechick.
Ms. Beechick cites Benjamin Franklin and Jack London as great authors who used the “copying” methods to learn how to write well. On the other hand, Charlotte Mason, did not tap into this method of copying with the explicit intention of producing great writing. In her schools, copy-work was simply used to practice handwriting. She did choose excellent, literary passages because she would not have allowed twaddle to creep into any school subject, no matter how mundane the subject itself. Her use of excellent models for copy-work did, most likely, contribute to her students’ writing skills, but it was never her purpose in assigning the copy-work. Her students benefitted from the same principle that Franklin and London had stumbled upon and that Beechick expounded upon in her little book A Strong Start in Language (now included in The Three R’s Series), but she never mentioned or used copy-work and/or dictation as an aid to learning the skills of composition or grammar. Ever.

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