“An Appreciative Look or Comment”

How to Use the Right Books (according to Charlotte Mason)

“So much for how to tell which are the right books. The right way to use them is another matter. The children need to enjoy the book. Each of the ideas in the book needs to make a sudden delightful impact on the child’s mind, causing an intellectual awakening that signifies that an idea has been born. The teacher’s role in this is to see and feel for himself, and then to prompt his students with an appreciative look or comment. But he needs to be careful that he doesn’t deaden the impression of the idea with too much talking. Intellectual sympathy is stimulating, but we’ve all been like the little girl who said, ‘Mom, I think I’d be able to understand it if you’d stop explaining so much.’ One teacher said this about a student–‘I find it so hard to tell whether she’s really grasped the concept, or whether she just knows the mechanics of getting the right answer.’ Children are like little monkeys. All they usually get from a flood of explanations is the trick of coming up with the right answer.”
Charlotte Mason, Volume 3, pg 179

Sometimes when you are reading from Charlotte Mason’s books you have moments where it becomes clear that you are in need of some changes in your own attitude. We can agonize over what books to offer our children and then mess it up by explaining them too much or by trying to quiz them to see if they know all the “right answers”. We can train them to be like little monkeys….or so Charlotte Mason says.

We are currently reading Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I actually am reading this book for the very first time and trying to experience what my boys go through as they read a well written novel with wonderful characters and a plot that keeps you wondering what will happen next. I am making notes in the margins and marking sections to share at our meetings, not answering a list of predetermined questions with each week’s reading but rather just savoring the tale and talking it over on Fridays.

Here are some of the things we discussed last week.
1. Why is the book called Les Miserables?
2. Why does Jean Valjean reveal his identity to save another man only to be arrested? What would we have done?
3. What is Javert’s problem?
4. We talked about why Fantine gave up her hair and teeth to send money to Cosette and how a mother’s love is so strong that it compels them to do things that seem so heroic.
5. Jean Valjean makes some huge changes in this section of the book and we discussed how and what makes people change for the better.

These were topics that came from our hearts as we read through this section of the book. Without the need for questions and answers from TOG, we managed to have a really good discussion with things that had been on our minds as we read. As usual, I gained some insight into the character that is developing in my children. Homeschooling allows us more of an opportunity to see into their hearts and great books help us to see life’s struggles through another person’s experiences. We can intertwine our spiritual beliefs into our discussions this way too and to relate our life’s problems to perhaps a situation in the book.

This is a far better way to read and share a book with our children.

I am trying hard to develop the “appreciative look” and to make “appropriate comments”. Getting out of the way and letting the real learning happen is something that I will continue to work on as long as I have children that are at home.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

We are really enjoying this edition of the book with its notes for words that are either in French or are more difficult vocabulary.

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