I recently read an article by a Classical homeschooler who claimed that Charlotte Mason didn’t require writing (pick up a pencil and write) till age ten. To me that is not what the method is at all. There is lots of writing required from a child before they are ten.
With Charlotte Mason the emphasis for the first ‘writing’ is on copywork. Transcription as she calls it from an early age. Writing and copying quality copywork, getting it perfect,getting the punctuation perfect. Then leading on to dictation when you again focus on getting the punctuation perfect because you spend time examining the dictation passage before you are required to write it.
‘The earliest practice in writing proper for children of seven or eight should be, not letter writing or dictation, but transcription [copy work], slow and beautiful work…Transcription should be an introduction to spelling. Children should be encouraged to look at the word, see a picture of it with their eyes shut, and then write from memory….Double ruled lines, small text-hand, should be used at first, as children are eager to write very minute “small hand”, and once they have fallen into this habit it is not easy to get good writing. A sense of beauty in their writing and in the lines they copy should carry them over this stage of their work with pleasure. Not more than ten minutes or a quarter of an hour should be given to the early writing lessons. If they are longer the children get tired and slovenly.’ Charlotte Mason from Home Education
Now before you can copy you must also be able to write your letters and hopefully read the words (CM expected the kids to be able to read before they started school)
Narration is only one aspect of ‘writing’ in the CM method. Narration is to help the child think through the passage they are narrating and then take out as much as they can from it. It is a memory, comprehension and concentration skill. A six year old can tell you a lot more during an oral narration than they can if they had to write it and ask you to spell every word.
I also think it is a common misconception that this is the only writing instructions that children had in a Charlotte Mason education. Charlotte Mason also set questions for children to study. You can see this in her geography series and when she set her end of term exams.
I personally like Ruth Beechick’s opinion on writing. Just get them writing something every day. Form the habit of writing in your children. She is practical and realises that some kids have a ‘story in their head’ and seem to be an author in the making- while others wont but you can still get them to write something even if it’s send a card to Grandma. Sometimes my theories match up with what I see and other times they don’t and then I have to go looking for something that will work for my child even if GULP(a confession coming) it doesn’t really suit how I think I should be doing it. Children are so individual.
Even with grammar it is implied that you don’t teach grammar but you do-although it is more subtle in its approach. Her emphasis is on sentence structure ie. predicate and subject and then working on the verbs. Grammar and punctuation are taught in the midst of quality literature and how they are used in a sentence. The child is taught to become confident in constructing a good sentence using correct punctuation and word usage. Specific rules for commas, capitals, contractions, abbreviation and initials are also identified during their copywork and dictation. They know that; this is a comma, that is a capital, and that is a full stop ect. Emma Serl also thinks this way.
“English is rather a logical study dealing with sentences and the positions that words occupy in them than with words and what they are in their own right.
Therefore it is better that a child should begin with a sentence and not with the parts of speech, that is, he should learn a little of what is called
analysis before he learns to parse. It requires some effort of abstraction for a child to perceive that when we speak, we speak about something and say something about it; and he has learned nearly all the grammar that is necessary when he knows that when we speak we use sentences and that a sentence makes sense.” Charlotte Mason
Whist I have an eclectic approach to my homeschooling I definitely have Charlotte Mason leanings. Many of her suggestions are inspirational and have worked for me and brought a great deal of enjoyment into our homeschool.
For more information on Teaching Handwriting using the Charlotte Mason method. Kindergarten to Year 2
Also see Designing Your Own Language Arts Curriculum Year 3 to 8