Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Week in Review: Combining Classical Conversations with Charlotte Mason

This week, I attended a Classical Conversations Practicum. While I was with the adults, Gemma was having fun in the "Play Camp" classroom, or outside, with the 3 to 5 year olds.

This was my second Practicum (I attended one last year), and like last year post-Practicum, I have a lot of thoughts swirling around in my head.

My main thought concerns the combination of Charlotte Mason homeschooling with Classical Conversations. In short: CMing CC.

Many Charlotte Mason homeschoolers claim that combining CM with CC is not possible; the philosophies/goals are different. However, some claim it is possible to use CM with CC - in the younger years - but as children get older, CC takes over. I have yet to find someone who has continued to use CM with CC in the upper grades, but if there is someone who does this, I'd love to hear from them. 

I think that one of the biggest difficulties in combining CC with CM in the later years is that CC is considered to be a comprehensive high school program, which means there isn't room in the schedule for more. For example, in English, students read a book and write an essay every three weeks, so there may not be a lot of time for students to read additional literature - a problem for those wishing to follow CM. 

But, I'm not going to worry about it right now. Right now I'm going to think about "kindergarten," for which we're doing nothing formal.

I was probably the person who spent the least money in the Practicum bookstore. I bought just 3 items: 1)this cycle's audio CDs, 2)this cycle's dry-erase map, and 3)this cycle's flash cards. If I had a non-reader, I would not have purchased the flash cards, but because Gemma can read, liked using the cards last year, and asked for them, I got them. If I had a non-reader, I would have purchased only TWO items.

If you're just starting CC with a 4 year old, and want to CM CC, you only need 4 items: 1)a Foundations guide, 2)a tin whistle, 3)the current cycle's map, and 4)the current cycle's audio CDs (I consider the CDs the most valuable of the 4 items). Other resources are nice - for example, last year I bought the timeline cards, the Song School Latin book, the cursive letters coloring book, and the Trivium at the Table placemats - but they aren't necessary, and they definitely aren't needed for someone who is CMing CC.

This year, I restrained myself. I considered the Story of the World CDs. I picked them up, turned them over in my hand, looked up the price on Amazon, flipped through the book, but I reminded myself that I am not starting formal history lessons until next year.

Also, I don't love Story of the World, the preferred history text of CCers. I like it. I think it's very good. But I don't love it. I also don't love Hillyer's, the preferred history spine of AOers. Right now, for a history spine, I'm leaning towards the M.B. Synge books.

I prefer Synge's writing to the writing of Hillyer and Wise. In her chapter on Martin Luther, she uses the words alms, scanty, henceforth, and remonstrate, and doesn't define the words for her reader. She expects her reader to a)understand them, or b)understand them from the context, or c)wonder what they mean enough to find out. 

Someone on the Simply Charlotte Mason forum decided not to use Synge because Synge was too "convincing" and her child would "cry over the detailed descriptions of the deaths" because "he felt like he truly knew the figure we were learning about from the narrative." I think that's actually a reason to use them.

I'm not saying we should make our children cry, but I'll get to that later.

Because I'm CMing CC, I'm never going to purchase the Story of the World activity book. A CM education does not include hands-on history activities, and this exclusion is supported by current research. Current research shows that a child remembers what the child spent the most time thinking about. So, if a child making a shepherd's crook of the pharaoh's, the child is thinking about how to construct a crook, not about pharaohs.

I'm not saying these activities are bad. I've done many hands-on history activities because they were fun. And I now understand that this is the only reason to do them. So if my daughter wants to make a shepherd's crook from paper and tape, I will get her paper and tape. If she wants to mummify a chicken, I will get her a chicken. I'm not going to plan my child's education around things that can be done as playtime activities.

Okay, so back to making children cry...

My friend Lorraine, whom I've been friends with since high school, played Belle in a production of Beauty and the Beast
Lorraine is an amazing singer and performer. She's played Belle four times, so she knows the character inside and out. I saw her in the first production she did 11 years ago and I thought she was excellent. This week, I got to take Gemma to see Lorraine perform, and Lorraine was better than excellent. She understands Belle so deeply that Belle isn't a cartoon character. She's real. 

So when Belle told the Beast, "You didn't even let me say goodbye," my daughter burst into tears and said, "But she's never going to see her father again!"

Now, it's not like Gemma's never seen the movie. She knew the Beast would become human, and that Belle and the Beast would marry and live happily ever after, but Lorraine had made Gemma believe she was Belle on an emotional level. That's what skilled actors can do, and that's what makes good theatre.

Here's where I confess to something: I didn't tell Gemma, "Don't worry." I wanted her to worry. I wanted her to think that someone being separated from her father forever is devastating.

Whether we're watching a play or movie, or reading a book, when we tell children, "Don't worry, everything is fine," we help them detach from the story. We should want them to connect, to worry, to believe the Beast is causing Belle to suffer, and to feel that is wrong.

(If a child wants to stay in a theater, or keep reading a book, stay, keep reading. But if a child asks to leave or asks you to stop reading, do; they're not ready.)

After the show, Gemma had fun playing tag with the actor who played Gaston. 
We got to spend time with family...
...which included spending all of Friday morning drinking coffee and solving the Think Fun Houdini puzzle with my dad.
I got the puzzle for Dad at Christmas. It's actually 40 puzzles in one, and we solved puzzles one through twelve. So. Much. Fun. I look forward to us solving the rest.

Saturday, our friends Anita and Julia took us out for a special treat . (A couple of months ago, when Gemma turned 5, Anita told Gemma she could choose a birthday adventure, so Gemma chose King Arthur.) The adventure began with breakfast...
Then, we went to Theatricum Botanicum  for King Arthur.
We finished our adventure with a magical walk in the woods.

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