Miss Mason believed that the purpose of memory work went beyond the internalization of important facts and noble happy ideas. She thought that children should learn to RECITE in front of an audience clearly and with emotion.
"I hope that my readers will train their children in the art of recitation; in the coming days, more even than in our own will it behoove every educated man and woman to be able to speak effectively in public; and, in learning to recite you learn to speak.
…we learn by what carefully graduated steps a child who is not a genius, is not even born of cultivated parents, may be taught the fine art of beautiful and perfect speaking;
The child should speak beautiful thoughts so beautifully, with such delicate rendering of each nuance of meaning that he becomes to the listener the interpreter of the author's thought."
IN OUR HOME…
Our children work on memorizing chosen passages for approximately 10 weeks out of a term. During the last two weeks, we work on reciting the passages beautifully. Clear enunciation with appropriate expression is taught. Again, this is only practiced 10 minutes a day. I refrain from making this a boring academic exercise.
One of my daughters has always been extremely shy, but ever since she was six years old, we have helped her in learning to recite; first, to just the immediate family, later, to close friends, until finally, the day came when she could do it to anyone, and at a moment's notice. She had learned to overcome her shyness and enjoyed this mode of communication.
At the end of every term, we have a little 'get together' with another homeschooling family, or grandparents when possible, usually on a holiday such as Thanksgiving or Christmas; and the children take turns reciting some of their memorized passages. This is NOT a time to show off. We stress this to our children. It is a time to entertain their elders- a time to bless others. We discuss the importance of a job well done, that mumbled words are unintelligible, unlovely and uninspiring; whereas clear diction and lively speaking inspire others and move their emotions. My children look upon it as a gift they are giving to their audience.
I remember the look on the grandparent's faces when my children stood before them reciting inspiring passages such as 'The Charge of the Light Brigade' by Alfred Lord Tennyson and 'The Destruction of Sennacherib' by Lord Byron, Longfellow's 'A Psalm of Life' and Emily Dickinson's 'I'll tell you how the sun rose...' My dear daddy's eyes filled with tears when my daughters recited with feeling Robert Frost's 'The Road not Taken' and Tennyson's 'Crossing the Bar.'
Yes, I have learned through experience that Recitation or The Art of Public Speaking is a very necessary part of my children's education.