Saturday, May 06, 2006

A confession

I have a confession. My children are not readers. Look at the title of my blog and re-read that sentence. How sad is that?

I can qualify it a bit. My children are not non-readers. Technically they read easily and above their age level, and they go through spells of reading happily and voluntarily. Much of the time though, they will read when required to do so and no more. They balk at assigned reading, with cries of "I don't get it!". And in Angel's case, at least, she really does not get it. With Star it is a bit soon to say for sure, and there may be an element of imitating her sister, but generally speaking it seems that both of them want to do rather than to read. Angel in particular likes to be read to and to listen to books on tape or CD, and I have concluded that she is simply not a visual or print learner. Aural and kinesthetic - yes; but visual - no! I am currently reading to her Chu Ju's House, by Gloria Whelan which she is thoroughly enjoying, but I can guarantee that if I had given it to her to read to herself it would have been another case of "I don't get it!". Star will also listen to read alouds quite happily, but only if she is allowed to do something while I read.

So ... I have children who are reluctant readers. We also educate Charlotte Mason style and I am a convinced CM enthusiast. Isn't that a contradiction in terms, you wonder? Is a CM education not all about living books? About cultivating a love of books in children? Well ... no! Living books are indeed an important part of a CM education, but they are by no means the whole of it. A CM style education is a broad education. It encompasses both reading and doing, and it includes a wide range of subjects. CM's writings often emphasise the literary side of education because that was the novel aspect of her work. She still makes it clear that hands-on, physical exploration is important:

Children can be most fitly educated on Things and Books. Things, e.g.:-
i. Natural obstacles for physical contention, climbing, swimming, walking, etc,
ii. Material to work in - wood, leather, clay, etc.
iii. Natural objects
in situ - birds, plants, streams, stones, etc.
iv. Objects of art.
v. Scientific apparatus, etc.
The value of this education by
Things is receiving wide recognition, but intellectual education to be derived from Books is still for the most part to seek.
An Educational Manifesto, Charlotte Mason
A CM education is a varied diet to set before your children - some dishes they will enjoy, others they will simply want a small taste. Angel and Star feast on the Things - musical instruments, art and craft materials, hands-on science, computers - but when it comes to Books they need encouragement to broaden their palates. How do I provide that encouragement? For Angel I read aloud books she "ought", at eleven, to be reading to herself. I choose carefully. I generally choose simpler books for the subjects she finds hard - particularly history - than those I would select for a more literary child of the same age so that she does "get it". If a book doesn't fly, we drop it and find an alternative. We do short lessons, leaving plenty of time for the hands-on stuff. Will Angel and Star ever become enthusiastic readers? Maybe. Maybe not. But if they don't, they will at least have had the benefit of becoming acquainted with a wide range of authors and ideas from living books through their Charlotte Mason style education. And they will also have had the opportunity to develop their natural bent for creating, inventing, experimenting, performing and generally doing.


Nancy Ruth said...

One of my three kids read a lot, and I worried about the other two. Now all three of them read a tremendous amount (ages 46, 42, 40.) So don't despair.

Mary G said...


Thanks for the "confession" -- it's nice to know the "pros" have this issue too! Blessings to all -- especially the wee one in utero!