Hi there. I am a new homeschooler and I have a question about how you handle
year 1 literature. When reading something that is beyond the children's direct
comprehension, do you explain it to them or just let them ponder it themselves?
For example, Aesop's Fables uses language in a way that is not familiar to my
5&6 year olds. Should I explain what the fable means after it is read? What
if they ask or say that they don't understand it? What if they give me their
understanding of it and it is completely off base?
It is true that Miss Mason cautioned the teacher about getting between the children and the books. She didn't want the knowledge found in beautiful literary form to be diluted by our incessant explanations which she called 'talky-talk.' However, I believe there is a misconception going around in some CM circles that Miss Mason was against the teacher offering any words of explanation or having discussions with the children about their schoolbooks. I have discovered quite the contrary to be true by reading her works as a whole rather than taking a statement or two and trying to understand them in isolation. If you read Volume 6 carefully through, I believe you will discover many passages where she encourages the teacher to guide the children in their various studies through discussion. I will let you do the digging yourself and just touch on one passage from Miss Mason:
I can think of two sure-fire ways to guarantee carelessness in a class. One
is a teacher who constantly lectures and won't stop talking. We all know someone
in person who bores everyone by always explaining and clarifying. What makes us
think that children aren't just as bored by that? They try to tell us that with
their wandering eyes, listless expressions and fidgeting hands. They're using
every communicative aspect of their body language to tell us, and kindly adults
simply assume that it means the children just want to play or go outside. But it
isn't play they need; they only need to play some of the time. What they really
need is knowledge expressed in literary language. The chatter of their smiling,
pleasant teacher leaves them cold. And there's another practice that we think
makes learning easier, but that unwittingly contributes to mental lethargy. We
take pride in reviewing and going over and over the material to be sure that the
students get it. But that kind of monotony is deadly to children's minds. One
child wrote, 'Before we had these living books, we had to keep reading about the
same things again and again. from the modern version, pg 52 of Vol 6 STowards a Philosophy of Education
It took me awhile to let go of my education degree and stop dumbing down the material for my children. At first, I felt I needed to explain every word or idea they may not have understood. Later, I realized that the children enjoyed the beautiful language even if they didn't understand every word. They were getting the big picture and that was what mattered. After narrating back to me, they sometimes revealed that they missed the big picture and so I would offer some extra words of explanation. In this way, the knowledge found in its original form was not diluted by my own attempts at clarification. I have caught myself at times offering too much explanation about a passage I was reading to my children. I realized it only after eyes began to wander and yawns escape a child or two. I think a good way to gauge ourselves is to make sure our comments are shorter than the passage itself.
one step at a time...