Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Furness Abbey*
Students in Charlotte Mason's schools studied architecture. Some of the PNEU programmes (Form III: 7th/8th grade) list a book titled Architecture by Jack, but after searching both Archive and Project Gutenberg, I came up empty-handed.

Architecture was studied under the umbrella of General Science. Different sciences were studied different terms, and from what I can tell, Architecture was a science studied in Form III or 7th/8th grade, and then in 10th through 12th in conjunction with the historical period that was being studied.
(Vol. 6, pgs. 177-178 explains that during 10th through 12th grades, the historical period determined the literature, Plutarch, poetry, art appreciation, architecture, etc. that was studied.)
In Volume 6, Mason writes, "We do what is possible to introduce children to Architecture...but there is nothing unusual in our work in these directions." (pg. 217) Pg. 220 does say, "[C]hildren shall observe and chronicle, but shall not depend upon their own unassisted observation."

If nothing unusual was done, what was a usual lesson like? In a Parents' Review article from 1903 (Vol. 14, pgs. 304-309), there is a lesson for Form IV (8th/9th grade, although the age of students was listed as 16 1/2). In this particular lesson, students were preparing for a trip to Furness Abbey. (I love field trips!) The objectives of the lesson were:
1)to prepare for a visit to the site
2)to form a relationship with the past and with art
3)to provide food for the imagination

The teacher prepared students for their visit by:
1)interesting students in the abbey's two types of architecture through comparison
2)giving students the opportunity to realize the beauty of the architecture
3)linking architecture with history

The lesson was this:
1)Find out whether students have been to the site and get them to describe it, or describe it to them.
2)Show pictures.
3)Tell the beginning of the history of the site. Make it interesting.
4)Ask questions. Get students thinking. (What buildings would have been necessary? What style do you think the church probably was? Etc.)
5)Draw pictures on the board.
6)Share more history.
7)Show a printed plan of the site.
8)Take an imaginary tour of the site using the plan. (Notice the important characteristics of the style of architecture.)
9)Place the site in context. (Who was king at this time? What was the name of the time period?)
10)Show pictures of other buildings built at the same time so students can compare.
11)Show more pictures of the site. Compare and contrast the site's two architectural styles.
12)Make a timeline.

For the timeline, there was a square for every ten years on the board. So for the 200 years between 1050 and 1250, there would have been 20 squares on the board. The teacher shaded the Norman period in one color, the Early English period in a second color, and the decades of transition a third color. Then four dates were added (when William the Conqueror, Stephen, and Richard I ascended the throne, and when the building of Furness Abbey began).

13)Students drew examples of architectural features they would see, such as arches.
14)Finally, the teacher showed them a large historical plan of the site.

An example of an architecture exam question asked to a Form III student (from Vol. 6, pg. 220): "How would you distinguish between Early, Decorated and Perpendicular Gothic? Give drawings."


Here are two fourth grade California art standards:
3.1 Describe how art plays a role in reflecting life (e.g., in photography, quilts, architecture).
3.3 Research and describe the influence of religious groups on art and architecture, focusing primarily on buildings in California both past and present.

In 4th grade, students study missions, and it's popular to have students build 3-D missions at home. I'm ambivalent about this project, so I don't assign it as homework. Sometimes parents do their children's work for them, and it's obvious. On the other hand, I do think parents should be involved and work with their children on projects. However, some parents complain when their children are assigned projects because they feel obligated to go to a craft store, which is time consuming and can be costly, or because they have to supervise the project's construction. Some students turn in nothing. Some turn in cardboard boxes or Lego buildings that look nothing like missions. Some turn in expensive kits from the craft store. Instead of making the project homework, I've had students build in-class missions (mini-missions that fit on 8 1/2" by 11" chipboard) using sugar cubes. I photocopied floor plans of missions, reducing the size to 8 1/2" x 11". Then students glued the floor plans to the chipboard, painted the area that would have been vegetation green, glued their sugar cubes on top of the floor plan, added a corrugated cardboard roof painted terra cotta, and put on their own finishing touches like farm animals or a fountain, etc.

I don't think either project - large or mini - actually teaches how the architecture of missions reflected life, or how Catholics influenced California's architecture. I'm reflecting on how I want to change things up next year. (I'm also - forever - thinking about all of the fun things I get to teach my own daughter someday, which brings me to the last part of today's post...)

Here's a post I love from Charlotte Mason in the Bluegrass. This is the architecture exam question for the author's grade 5/6 daughter (age 11):
Of the styles of architecture we've studied this term, which one is your favorite: Islamic, Italian Renaissance, English Tudor, French Renaissance, Baroque, English Renaissance, Early American Gothic or Georgian/Colonial? Describe why it is your favorite and give some examples of the architecture or the person(s) who introduced/influenced this style.


Out of all the architecture we studied, I think that English Tudor was my favorite. English Tudor is named after the Tudor family which was the line up to Queen Elizabeth. This architecture has horizontal and vertical lines.  The materials used in this architecture are plaster and wood.  A little girl once called Tudor architecture a zebra house because of the stripes.  People even today use this architecture as a modern cozy home. You can even spot one where I live in downtown Lexington, Kentucky.

*image in the public domain from wikipedia

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