Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Charlotte Mason with Sonlight: Literature

I am really liking Sonlight for literature and reading lists. But I also really love the Charlotte Mason approach to literature: read good books and have the kids narrate. Combining Sonlight and Charlotte Mason in the literature department is not at all difficult. Although Sonlight does include oral comprehension questions in the Instructor's Guide to go along with each day's reading, they encourage you to skip the questions and just discuss on your own.

What I do is:

I read the Sonlight literature book, as scheduled in the Sonlight instructor's guide for each Core. We are currently doing Cores B and D, so we have two separate literature read-alouds each day.  For Cores after Core B the books are often historical fiction, tying into the time period being studied. I really enjoy this aspect of Sonlight- that they've already pulled together all these books that are set in the same time period.

After completing the scheduled reading (or sometimes half-way through, if the reading is difficult), I choose one part, usually the most action-packed scene, and ask one of the kids to tell it back to me. I don't have them narrate the whole chapter and I don't like to pick the book to death by analyzing and over-discussing it. So I'll just say something like: "Tell me why Kit is afraid of Prudence going to visit Hannah at her cottage." (Witch of Blackbird Pond) or "Tell me back the story of Gooney Bird and the Flying Carpet." (Gooney Bird Greene)

 I expect a more detailed answer from Grace (11) than I do from Christopher (9) or James (7).  If necessary, I prompt them to give more information. If they are unsure, I give a hint to try to nudge them in the general direction. And if they flat out don't know, I think of another question. I don't ask for a narration every day-each child probably only narrates something from our read-aloud once a week.

This is all we do for the books- read, narrate, discuss a little, and move onto the next subject. We don't do anything written with the books (except for copywork and dictation occasionally), and I don't require book reports. I try to keep the reading a light and fun part of the day, something everyone looks forward to.

I have found that kids who have trouble focusing and staying quiet during read-alouds do much better if they can do something with their hands while I read. They can knit, draw, or use blocks or Legos. Much less fidgeting this way! My rule is, if you can narrate successfully while building a block castle, we're good. If not, you need to sit on the couch next to me while I read. So far so good-and this greatly reduces the number of interruptions during our reading time.

All in all, I think Sonlight's literature read-alouds work quite well with a Charlotte Mason approach. Some read-alouds in the earlier years might be considered a bit 'twaddly', but in general they are really good quality literature. Sonlight also schedules readers each week, which I simply have the kids read to themselves each day. I ignore the included comprehension questions here too, in favor of having each child  narrate to me a part or whole of the chapter. They usually look forward to telling me what happened in their book each day. I have also found  that if I am busy doing something, my reluctant narrators will narrate better than if I am just sitting there looking at them. So often, after one of the boys has finished their chapter I will say," Come tell me what happened in your book while I unload the dishwasher." I think they feel less self-conscious this way.... and sometimes they go on for quite awhile telling me all about the chapter!


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