One of the highlights of our homeschool week is a gathering of a few friends to study art and culture in a rather interesting way that is part of the Charlotte Mason method. We call it Charlotte’s Way Thursday, because I like to name things. The girls come over in the afternoon and we spend about ninety minutes on our cultural studies gathered around the Dining Room table, culminating with tea and cookies.
I follow the Art Study, Composer Study and Shakespeare rotation on Ambleside Online, because the AO volunteers have already done a lot of helpful preparation selecting paintings, and compositions and researching notes. I don’t always use what they select and I will probably not always use their rotation, but it has worked for us this year. If AO doesn’t have notes for the composition or painting, I do a quick search online for insight. CM is a sort of soaking up method that minimizes boring or heavy “teacher talk.” So, a few brief comments will more than suffice.
For the Winter our term artist is the Parisian Edouard Manet (b. Jan 23, 1832 – d. April 30, 1883) . We started in January with his painting which is all about looking and perceiving, The Bar At Folies Bergere. We studied the painting for a minute or two (on my laptop) and then I minimized it, and each girl took a turn telling what she remembered, or what struck her about the work. There was quite a bit of discussion about where the mirror starts and stops, the perspective of the painting, and where we are as the viewer. Each girl received a black and white outline copy of the painting to color in (with colored pencils) while we listened to our composer.
For the Winter we are listening to Peter Illyich Tchaikovsky. We started with his powerful Piano Concerto No. 1 in B minor. It’s so fun to see the girls recognize bits of the piece, but of course, they didn’t know what it was. This video has lovely closeups! Enjoy!
Excess teacher talk is the bane of Charlotte Mason. She is more interested in the student seeing and hearing and then, responding. Responding is what locks in the knowledge, and it is not to be interrupted by a teacher blathering on. Much of the CM method involves responding in various types of applied journals, but there is also an emphasis on oral narration. This is one reason why I like The Daughter to gather with others once a week. It is interesting to hear what others are seeing, or to see what others are hearing; and this narration time offers each girl the opportunity to freely articulate opinions and observations in a group.
For poetry, I gather a few poems related to the weather, season or holidays. We go around the table and take turns reading. Then briefly discuss rhyme scheme, and look for metaphors and similes, eventually we’ll look at meter. Next we sing! We sing through a hymn and a folk song weekly. Not enough to memorize, but enough to get a sense of the song. I find a good clear recording on Spotify, and then we listen and sing along. In the fall we learned Be Thou My Vision, Of The Father’s Love Begotten and Harvest Home; and Three Ravens, The Bold Peddlar and the Cherry Tree Carol. This month we are working on In Christ Alone by Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, and for our folk song, The Outlandish Knight.
Our Nature Study focus has been identifying native trees. In the fall we learned Sycamore, Tulip Poplar, Maple, Sweet Gum and a few varieties of Oak. For the winter we will look at native evergreens: Magnolia, Pine, Cedar, Holly and Live Oak. We take a walk, we look at the trees, we bring home leaves, pine needles, seed pods. The girls will sketch or do rubbings and identify the items with common and Latin name.
Each week we finish up spending about thirty minutes reading through a few scenes of a Shakespeare play. The girls divvy up parts and plunge in. Our Fall term play was Twelfth Night, and the girls really rose to the occasion improving their reading, their pace, their acting (!) and getting an ear for Shakespeare’s turn of phrase. This term we are more serious with Macbeth and his descent into murder and madness. We are using the Spark Notes No Fear Shakespeare edition of Macbeth which provides the original Shakespeare on one side of the page, which is what we read aloud. The other page has an up-to-date translation. One can read it for free online!
If you want to learn more about Charlotte Mason method, there are many resources. There are several excellent books that distill Charlotte’s own six volume series of books on educational philosophy into more easily digested bits. I also recommend “A Delectable Education” website and podcast. Because I have always considered myself a novice at the Charlotte Mason method, my purpose in this post is to share, not to appear authoritative.