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Monday, October 18, 2021

1904 Parents' Review article on Haiti's TOUSSAINT L’OUVERTOURE.

Miss Mason operated a teaching school where she trained young women in her educational practices and principles. It was located in a building called Scale How (a how is a hill, and the building was at the top of a small hill).

One part of the program required the student teachers to take turns presenting weekly papers on various topics to an assembled audience of their fellow student teachers and the teaching staff. The weekly presentations were called SCALE HOW Tuesdays and from time to time Miss Mason reprinted one of them in The Parents' Review magazine she edited. 

Below is a rather remarkable (for its time) piece I discovered while browsing.  It does use language now outdated, but as I understand it, at the time the terms used were correct and even respectful.

I used a program to translate pdf to text and I haven't given it a thorough proofread.

Scale How Tuesdays. III.

TOUSSAINT L’OUVERTOURE.

By M. ROTHERA.

AMONG the West Indian Islands, Hayti, or San Domingo, is next in size to Cuba ; this island was discovered by Columbus in 1492, and in little more than a generation the Spaniards had completely swept away the aborigines, whose place was filled by negro slaves. Then the Buccaneers made their appearance and ultimately succeeded in appropriating part of the island ; being mostly French, this part, the western part of Hayti, was given to France in 1697. 

For a long time these marauders imported for their own use a vast number of African slaves. The mulattoes who grew up in the island gradually formed quite a separate caste, and in 1791, under the influence of the French Revolution, the three classes, white, black, and mixed, burst forth into the struggle which ultimately led to the downfall of the Europeans in the island and the independence of the coloured rebels.

This result was mainly due to the influence of a very remarkable negro, Toussaint L’Ouverture, and it is about this man that I want to speak. At the outset we must remember that he has left hardly one written line of his story, It is taken from the testimony of Britons, Frenchmen, and Spaniards—men who despised him as a negro and a slave, and hated him because he had beaten them in many a battle. All the materials for his biography are from the lips of his enemies. 

Toussaint L’Ouverture was born at Breda, a property near Cape Town, in San Domingo, in 1743. His father and mother were both African slaves ; so that if anything in his life excites our admiration, we must remember that the black race claims it all, we have no share in it at all. An old negro taught him to read, and his favourite books were Epictetus, Military Memoirs, and Plutarch: in the woods he learned some of the qualities of herbs, and became, for this reason, village doctor.

On the estate the highest place he ever reached was that of coachman. He gained the confidence of his master and was appointed to exercise a kind of superintendence over the other negroes.

In this position the Native Insurrection of 1791 found him. He took no part in the first stages of the insurrection and is said to have expressed himself violently against the perpetrators of the massacres of that year. From then until the proclamation of February 4th, 1794, which declared all slaves to be free, Toussaint was alike conspicuous for his zeal in the cause of the Catholic religion and of royalty. He first joined the native army as physician at fifty vears of age, but soon exchanged this for a military appointment, becoming the aide-de-camp of Jean Francois, the native general. About the time he reached the camp of Francois, the army had been subjected to two insults. First, their commissioners, summoned to meet the French Committee, were ignominiously and insultingly dismissed; and when, afterwards, Francois was summoned to a second conference and went to it, accompanied by two officers, a young lieutenant who had known him as a slave, angered at seeing him in the uniform of an officer, raised his riding whip and struck him over the shoulders. If he had been the savage which the negro is painted to us, he had only to breathe the insult to his twenty-five thousand soldiers and they would have annihilated the Frenchmen in blood. But the indignant chief rode back in silence to his tent and it was not until twenty-four hours afterwards that his troops heard of this insult to their general. Then the word went forth, “ Death to every white man!” They had taken fifteen hundred prisoners. Ranged in front of the camp, they were about to be shot, when Toussaint, who had a vein of religious fanaticism, like most great leaders, he could preach as well as fight—mounting on a hillock and getting the ear of the crowd, exclaimed, ‘‘ Brothers, this blood will not wipe out the insult to our chief; only the blood in yonder French camp can wipe it out ; to shed that is courage ; to shed this is cowardice and cruelty besides”; and he saved fifteen hundred lives. 

After the proclamation abolishing slavery, Toussaint was so grateful that he joined the French, heart and soul, opening communications with General Laveaux. On receiving the assurance that he would be recognised as a General of Brigade, he set to work to establish French supremacy throughout the island and soon occupied the Spanish towns in his neighbourhood. This action naturally threw much confusion into the Spanish ranks. An exclamation of Laveaux, on learning the consequence of Toussaint’s joining his standard—‘' Comment, mais cet homme fait Pouverture partout !’* is said to have been the origin of the name Toussaint subsequently adopted. 

*(I think a very loose and modern translation might be something like, "How on earth?! This man is showing up everywhere!")


Laveaux at first treated Toussaint with coldness and distrust, and the latter, to all appearances, had reached the close of his career: but in 1795 Laveaux was arrested at Cape Town, in consequence of a conspiracy among the mulatto chiefs. Toussaint assembled his negroes, found himself at the head of ten thousand men, marched upon the capital and released the governor. Laveaux, in the enthusiasm of his gratitude, proclaimed his deliverer to be the protector of the whites, and appointed him Commander-in-chief of the united forces, and Dictator of the whole island. 


When the peace between France and Spain was concluded in 1801, Jean Francois went to Madrid, leaving Toussaint the only powerful negro leader in San Domingo. He reduced the whole of the northern part of the Island to the dominion of France with the exception of one place, of which the English retained possession. He was the first person who succeeded in establishing discipline among the armed negroes and he did much to re-establish the plantations and set the colony on the way to recovery. 


I cannot stop to give in detail every one of his efforts. Between the years 1795 and 1801 he achieved wonderful results. He had driven the Spaniard back into his own cities, conquered him there, and raised the French standard over every Spanish town, and for the first time and almost the last the island obeyed one law. He had subdued the mulatto and had attacked the English General, defeated him in pitched battles and allowed him to retreat to Jamaica. 


This was the work of six years. With whom is he to be compared ?

 Macaulay says comparing Cromwell with Napoleon, that Cromwell showed the greater military genius, if we consider that he never saw an army till he was forty, while Napoleon was educated from a boy in the best military schools in Europe. Cromwell manufactured his own army. Napoleon, at the age of twenty-seven, was placed at the head of the best troops Europe ever saw. They were both successful, but, says Macaulay, with such disadvantages, the Englishman showed the greater genius. 

This, surely, is a fair mode of measurement. Let us now apply it to Toussaint. Cromwell never saw an army till he was forty; this man never saw a soldtery till he was fifty. ‘Cromwell manufactured his army out of Englishmen, out of the middle-class of Englishmen, the best men of the island ; and with this army he conquered Englishmen, their equals. Toussaint manufactured his army out of what people call the despicable race of negroes, debased, demoralised by two hundred years of slavery, a hundred thousand of them imported into the island within four years, unable to speak a dialect intelligible even to each other; yet, out of this mixed mass he forged a thunderbolt and hurled it at what ? At the Spaniard and sent him home conquered. At the French and forced them to acknowledge his superiority. At the English and they retired to Jamaica. 


Now if Cromwell were a general, at least this man was a soldier. Further Cromwell was at his best as a soldier; his fame stops there. But this man no sooner put his hand to state affairs than he began to show a statesmanship as wonderful as his military genius. 


Historians say that the most statesmanlike act of Napoleon was his proclamation of 1802 at the peace of Amiens, when he said, *‘Frenchmen, come home, I pardon the crimes of the last twelve years; I blot out its parties; I found my throne on the hearts of all Frenchmen ’’; and twelve years of unclouded success showed how wisely he judged. 


That was in 1802. In 1800, this negro made a proclamation which ran thus, *‘ Sons of San Domingo, come home; we never meant to take your houses, or your lands. The negro only asked the liberty which God gave him. Your houses wait for you, your lands are ready ; come and cultivate them.’’ 


And from Madrid and Paris, from Baltimore and New Orleans, the emigrant planters crowded home to enjoy their estates, under the pledged word, that was never broken, of a victorious slave.

Again, Carlyle has said, ‘‘ The natural king is one who melts all wills into his own.’ Toussaint, at the close of the war, turned to his armies and said to them, ‘‘ Go back and work on these estates you have conquered ; for an empire can be founded only on order and industry, and you can learn these virtues only there.’ And they went. The French Admiral, who witnessed the scene, said that in a week his army had melted back into peasants.

In the matter of Free Trade, Europe waited until 1846 before the English adopted it. But in 1800, nearly fifty years before, Toussaint said to the committee who were drafting a constitution under his direction, ‘‘ Put at the head of the chapter of commerce that the ports of San Domingo are open to the trade of the world.”

At this very same time England was at war with herself on matters of religion. This man was a negro; he was uneducated, many say that makes a man narrow-minded ; he was a Catholic, many say that is but another name for intolerance. And yet, negro, slave, Catholic, ill-educated, that he was, he said to his committee, ‘‘ Make it the first line of my constitution that I know no difference between religious beliefs.”’

Toussaint was now at the height of his prosperity. He always preserved great simplicity in his own person, but surrounded himself with a brilliant staff. The island flourished under his rule; peace was in every household, lands were cultivated in every direction and the commerce of the world was represented in its harbours.

At this time, in 1801, Europe concluded the peace of Amiens and Napoleon took possession of the French throne. With a single stroke of his pen he reduced Cayenne and Martinique back into slavery. He then said to his Council, ‘‘ What shall I do with San Domingo ?"

The slaveholders said, ‘‘ Give it to us.” But Colonel Vincent, who had been private secretary to Toussaint, said, in a letter to Napoleon, ‘‘Sire, leave it alone, it is the happiest spot in your dominions. God raised this man to govern; races melt under his hand. He has saved you this island, for I know of my own knowledge, that when the Republic could not have lifted a finger to prevent it, George III. offered him any title and any revenue if he would hold the island under the British crown. He refused and saved it for France.” Napoleon turned away from his Council and is said to have remarked, “‘I have sixty thousand idle troops, I must find them something to do.’’ It seems likely that he wanted to have his troops occupied at some distance away that he might the more safely accomplish his wish to seize the French crown. It is further said that the satirists of Paris had christened Toussaint the Black Napoleon, and Bonaparte hated his black shadow. So, from one motive or another, from the prompting of ambition or dislike of this resemblance, Napoleon resolved to crush Toussaint. They were very much alike; Napoleon could never bear the military uniform; he hated the restraint of his rank, he loved to put on the grey coat of the little Corporal and wander in the camp. Toussaint also never could bear a uniform ; he wore a plain coat, and often the yellow Madras handkerchief of the slaves. Like Napoleon, he could fast many days, could dictate to three secretaries at once, could wear out four or five horses. Like Napoleon, no man ever guessed his purpose, or penetrated his plan. For instance, three attempts to assassinate him failed from not firing at the right spot. If they thought he was in the north in a carriage, he would be in the south on horseback; if they thought he was in the city in a house, he would be in the field. They once riddled his carriage with bullets; he was on horseback on the other side! The seven Frenchmen who did it were arrested ; they expected to be shot. The next day was a saint’s day and Toussaint ordered them to be placed before the high altar, and when the priest reached the prayer for forgiveness, came down from his high seat, repeated it with them and permitted them to go unpunished. 

He had the wit common to all great commanders. When people came to him in great numbers for office, he is reported to have learned the first words of a Catholic prayer in Latin and repeating it would say, 'Do you understand that ?' 

“No sir!” “What! want an office and not know Latin ? Go home and learn it!”

Then again he had confidence in his own power to rule men.

His bitterest enemies watched him and none of them charged him with love of money, sensuality, or cruel use of power.

The only instance in which his sternest critic has charged him with severity is this:—During a tumult a few white proprietors, who had returned, trusting his proclamation, were killed. His nephew, General Moise, was accused of indecision in quelling the riot. Toussaint assembled a courtmartial, and on its verdict ordered his own nephew to be shot; he was sternly Roman in thus keeping his promise of protection to the whites.

Above the lust of gold, pure in private life, generous in the use of his power, it was against such a man that Napoleon sent his army, giving to General Leclerc thirty thousand of his best troops, with orders to reintroduce slavery.

When this army reached the island, Toussaint mounted his horse, rode to the eastern end of the island and looked out on a sight such as no native had ever seen before. Sixty ships of the line crowded by the best soldiers of Europe were rounding the point. Toussaint looked a moment, counted the fleet, and turning to his General Christophe exclaimed :“All France is come to Hayti; they can only come to make us slaves and we are lost!” He then recognised the only mistake of his life, his confidence in Bonaparte which had led him to disband his army.

Returning to the hills he issued the only proclamation which bears his name and breathes vengeance :—' My children, France comes to make us slaves. God gave us liberty ; France has no right to take it away. Burn the cities, destroy the harvests, tear up the roads with cannon, poison the wells, show the white man the hell he comes to make’’—and he was obeyed.

When William of Orange saw Louis XIV. cover Holland with troops, he said : “ Break down the dykes, give Holland back to the ocean.”

When Alexander saw the armies of France descend upon Russia, he said: ‘“‘ Burn Moscow, starve back the invaders.”

The Black saw all Europe marshalled to crush him and gave to his people the same heroic example of defiance. 

Leclerc sent word to Christophe, one of Toussaint’s generals, that he was about to land at Cape city. Christophe said, “Toussaint is governor of the island, I will send to him for permission. If without it a French soldier sets foot on shore, I will burn the town and fight over its ashes.”’ Leclerc landed, Christophe took two thousand white men, women and children and carried them to the mountains in safety, then, with his own hand, set fire to the splendid palace which French architects had just finished for him, and in forty hours the place was in ashes. The battle was fought on its streets and the French were driven back to their boats. 

Wherever the French went they were met with fire and sword. Thus beaten in the field they tried double dealing. They issued a proclamation saying: ‘‘ We do not come to make you slaves ; this man Toussaint tells you lies. Join us and you shall have the rights you claim.’’ They cheated every one of his officers, except three, and finally these also deserted him and Toussaint was left alone. He then sent word to Leclerc: ‘I will submit, I could continue the struggle for years, could prevent a single Frenchmen from safely quitting your camp, but I hate bloodshed. I have fought only for the liberty of my race. Guarantee that and I will submit and come in.’’ He took the oath of a faithful citizen and on the same crucifix Leclerc swore that he should be faithfully protected, and that the island should be free. As the French General glanced along the line of his splendidly equipped troops, and saw opposite Toussaint’s ragged ill-armed followers, he said to him :—‘ L’Ouverture, had you continued the war, where could you have got arms?” ‘ I would have taken yours!” was the Spartan reply. 


He was sent down to his house in peace, but shortly afterwards Leclerc, fearing his power, summoned him to attend a council. Toussaint, ‘‘ the purest soul God ewer put into a _ body,”’ as the Spanish General said of him, probably reasoned thus, on receiving the summons: ‘If I go willingly, I shall be treated accordingly,’? and he went. The moment he entered the room, the officers drew their swords, and told him he was a prisoner; and one young lieutenant who was present says :—‘“*He was not at all surprised, but seemed very sad.’’ Thus this man, truthful as a knight of old, who could not be taken by fair means was taken by treachery. They put him on board ship and set sail for France. As the island faded from his sight, he turned to the captain and said :—“ You think you have rooted up the tree of liberty, but I am only a branch. I have planted the tree so deep that all France can never root it up.” 

Arriving in Paris, he was put into gaol, but after a short time he was sent to the Castle of St. Joux, to a dungeon, twelve feet by twenty, built wholly of stone, with a narrow window high up on the side, looking out on the snows of Switzerland. 


In winter, ice covers the floor; in summer, it is damp and wet. In this living tomb, this native of the tropics was left to die. From this dungeon he wrote two letters to Napoleon. One of them ran thus :—‘‘ Sire, I am a French citizen. I never broke a law. By the grace of God, I have saved for you the best island of your realm. Sire, of your mercy, grant me justice.” Napoleon never answered the letters. The governor allowed Toussaint five francs a day for food and fuel. Napoleon heard of it and reduced the sum to three, but still Toussaint did not die quick enough. Finally the governor was told to go into Switzerland, to carry the keys of the dungeon and to stay four days. When he returned Toussaint was found starved to death. 

Wordsworth has written a sonnet to him :

‘Toussaint, the most unhappy man of men! Whether the whistling rustic tend his plough Within thy hearing, or thy head be now Pillowed in some deep dungeon's earless den; 

O miserable chieftain! where and when 

Wilt thou find patience? Yet die not! do thou Wear rather in thy bonds a cheerful brow: 

Though fallen thyself, never to rise again, 

Live, and take comfort. Thou hast left behind Powers that will work for thee, air, earth and skies: There’s not a breathing of the common wind 

That will forget thee; thou hast great allies; 

Thy friends are exultations, agonies, 

And love, and man’s unconquerable mind.” 



AUTHORITIES.—Encyclopedia ; Story of the Nations: West Indies ; Wendell Phillips’ lecture on Toussaint L’Ouverture. Since writing this I have heard Of Miss Martineau’s The Hour and The Man. 

That concludes Miss Rothera's paper. There are some tales of heroes that are written so the reader feels as though a brisk and bracing wind has swept through the soul, tearing away the cobwebs and waking up the spirit. This is one of them. 

I have attempted to find more about Miss M. Rothera. So far all I know is that she graduated in 1904. She married in 1911 to Lambert, the fourth son of Frederick William Rothera of the Manor House in Kegworth. She was Marion, second daughter of Charles Lambert Rothera of Nottingham.

In June of 1915 they had a daughter, Elizabeth Marion.
By 1920 she lived in a house called Ruoivos. One name book I found says this means a save environment. Another source pointed out it's saviour spelled backward.

There is a picture of a pair of Lambert Rothera's I believe to be Marion's parents on an outing 1991 here (a charming blog): 
https://tokensofcompanionship.blog/2020/08/07/idyllic-summer-days-in-cheshire-england-1891/#comments

And here is her father in later years: https://i.prcdn.co/img?regionKey=ZiMN4xm/fSBnh+cwP2WIrw==&scale=400

Finally, and most importantly, I would live to share a good biography of Toussaint L’Ouverture here, but I haven't read any biography of him, good or bad. I am keeping my eyes open for one, though, and if any readers have suggestions I would love to hear them! I will certainly share what I find.

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Haliburton's Orient, Chapter 8

 In Chapter 8 of Halibuton's Orient there is an incident described where he buys a pair of slave children.  The incident is largely treated as a humous anecdote so it is obviously disturbing.  What to do with that chapter is up to the individual reader.  In some cases it's ideal to skip it. In others it's best to discuss it.  This is some background material for those who want additional material for that discussion or simplyfor their own interest.

This page is full of helpful information and background research on Haliburton. You can and should read it, but it's long, so this is my quick summary of points that stuck out to me personally. 

He strikes me over all as the original influencer.  What he might have done with an IG account!
He and a brother had a heart condition that showed up in their teens. The brother died of it. Haliburton's college room-mate says this changed everything for Haliburton- he doubted and was infuriated by a God who would let this happen. He questioned our basis for morality. He decided it was better to live to the utmost and die young, than to live a life of conventional respectability at all. 

He wrote in a college essay that it was  “Better by far … to be guilty of interesting lies, than to be guilty of stupid truths.”

The website is the work of a man who followed in Halliburton's footsteps, attempting to travel where he traveled, see what he saw.  He also invested a lot of time and energy into tracking down Haliburton's original journals, letters, and other other memorabilia, and found some surprises, like this one:

"To my surprise and amazement, I discovered his letters had been highly edited (doctored would be a better word) by his father before publication. Lines were changed, deleted, added. Not all of Halliburton’s adventures took place as he described them. For example, he wrote that he had bought and sold slaves in Timbuktu, when in reality he had left the city in a rush to escape the flies. The slaves were an afterthought, a story he tried out on reporters at his hotel suite in Paris. They loved it.

IT's hard to know what to make of this, exactly.  Why did Halliburton try this story out on reporters? Did he think it would amuse them, or was he mocking their gullibility and willingness to write up anything without fact checking?  Was it even him, or was this one of his father's additions to the story?

Personally, my first reaction on reading this was relief. I know it's irrational because whether true or not, all the people involved are long dead and my feelings change nothing anyway, but knowing the story was fake, my first reaction was a release of sadness because that means that there were not two very real children who suffered in this story.  Of course, there were thousands, no millions of others. But to the human heart as a wiser person pointed out, one person's death is a tragedy but a million is a statistic. We can't take in the larger number.  Not defending this, but it is a reality.  So I am glad and will always be glad to know that I don't have to worry about these two children because they are a fiction.

Others think it makes the story worse, because it shows he thought it was funny and entertaining to buy slaves- but we already know that, since the story is in the book.  So I cannot see how it makes it worse- it doesn't add a callousness to the story we didn't already have available to us, it only tells us these children were not real so did not suffer.  To me, that's always going to be a relief.

Or do we know this after all?  Do we know who added it to the book? Haliburton apparently first made this story up off the cuff while talking to reporters, who ate it up.  Was it that he was just proving to himself he could make something up, however outrageous, and reporters would just accept it uncritically?   

I still read Haliburton and think he's a great read to give one a sense of adventure, a sense of wonder and delight in the diverse culture and geography of the world, even with his great personal flaws.  People are a mixed bag.  I woudn't send one of my kids out to camp overnight with Haliburton, or take a trip with him in person.  But reading his book his not the same.  

If I were to have a child who says they won't read Haliburton any more because of this incident, would have a long and serious discussion offering other points of view to consider, but then probably in the end leave it up to her. My part of the discussion would include the notion that we do not read authors because we agree with their actions or viewpoints, and that there is more value in reading outside our echo chamber than staying within it. It is possible to strongly disagree with a person's attitude and action in one or more areas, and still learn from them- nobody is 100% all one thing or another. We can learn from good writing, from horrible warnings and bad examples and, in Halliburton's case from his writing style and his descriptions. I would say that human beings are complex and nuanced and weird creatures, and she's not inviting him to live in her house or marry her sister- she's reading a book about geography. Probably few of us should be totally written off based on a single episode in our lives, particularly when we don't know what followed- this is a snapshot in time (if it even happened). 

Here are some things to learn from the incident in question- whether it actually happened or not, this doesn't just tell us something about Halliburton. It passed editors and the publishing company, it passed through many reviews at the time, it passed through the hands of thousands of people and few even commented on it- this tells us something important about the culture and time- how easily they accepted as a joke something that screams out to us as a great evil!  Those bad, bad, people of the past, right?  Except... they weren't. they were as we are, really, no matter how much we may hate to admit it.  It is as easy as breathing to absorb attitudes and assumptions about all kinds of things in your own culture because you don't even see them- this should be a warning to us to be more vigilant about what we pick up and take for granted in our own culture. This also might be a great time to read C.S. Lewis' essay on why we read old books (it is not because they are more error-free than modern books), and listen to this podcast: https://www.theliterary.life/080/ 


Every single human being has some area at least at some time in his or her life where that person is incredibly, heineiously wrong about something, and it does not necessarily follow that nothing else they have to say is worthwhile. People are pretty much never really consistent, we learn and grow and discern in fits and starts and unevenly and we're selfish, thoughtless, insensitive and have moral blind spots as big as a house, they are just different blind spots. 

Just as it was quite obvious to everybody now reading this book that whatever happened, the buying and selling of children is a horrific evil, we can also discern other problematic areas when we read, especially in older books- but it's just as difficult for us as it was for Haliburton and his editors to see the blind spots of our own time and culture.

One final thought- Haliburton did not believe in absolute morality. His ideas about a single standard for right and wrong were ruptured at their foundations when his brother died.  He was a cultural relativist. His views on race, while abhorrent to us today, were not really very different from those of his time and culture (again, is editors put the slave purchasing event in the book without concern)- I am not excusing him or those views. I am not a cultural relativist. I do believe in an objectiv and timeless right and wrong.  Don't get me wrong.  I am pondering something else.  
Haliburton's college room-mates, who outlived him by several decades, told Chip Deffaa (the would-be but never was biographer linked above) that they saw evidence Halliburton was changing in some of his views before he died, and they thought if he had lived, those changes would be evident.  But he did not live.  The Orient was published in 1938.  Halliburton was missing, presumed dead, in March, 1939.

Since his views on race were essentially the majority views of most privileged white Americans of his age, station and background. that tells me he didn't really give them much deep thought or investigation. He just picked them up, absorbed them, as we all do with so many cultural assumptions.  As the cultural assumptions taken for granted altered, it is entirely likely  he would have done so as well, swept along by that same tide.

Instead of canceling a man who brings a sense of wonder to geography and travel as no other, I'd bring out the problems with his attitudes to my children and discuss them, and suggest we work to focus on canceling the assumptions within ourselves that we might have thoughtlessly absorbed.

But... and I mean this.  That's me.  Another family may need to take a different approach.

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Of Little Brown Girls and Babies Wif Spa'klin' Eyes...

A CM education is a feast with a variety of dishes.  Folk Music is of the folk, the people. People all over the world have their own music and song, and work songs are an important part of that. Amerians sang songs about working on the railroad. Black Amerians held in slavery sang as they worked. Whalers and seamen around the world sang songs as they worked.  They sang because it helped to make their workload lighter, to keep rhythm while they worked. It made them stronger. They sang about the things they knew, and the work they were doing. So some work songs are about railroads and homesteading. Some are about the sea or catching whales or other fish. Some are about cotton. Some are about bananas. Or oats, beans, and barley. 

 It does not respect a people to flatten their own songs by removing elements that made the songs their own in the first place, or by pretending those songs do not even exist.  It does not respect our children or  improve the feast to try to make the feast more bland by removing references to those elements that combine to make unique combinations of spices and flavours of the world.

It's interesting - and concerning- to me that often white people who think they are helping, who have good intentions do not realize how much they are actually white washing the curriculum when they take it for granted that it's fine to sing a song about oats, peas, an barley, but get nervous when we sing about picking bananas.

In the song Sally Gardens, there's a reference to the snow white hands and feet of the poet's true love, and not a single person has ever contacted me and objected to it.  However, several people (all of them white) have expressed serious concerns and even unpleasant accusations about singing Brown Girl in the Ring, a folk song and game still sung and played by school children all over the Caribbean islands. Those school children do not 'happen' to be brown- they are brown because that is the culture and history of their countries. It's an integral part of who they are and they cherish their heritage.  In the admirable desire to be inclusive, many people are instead being exclusive, never realizing their version of inclusive ends up being deliberately western and exclusively white.

People have many different ways of communicating.  Specific cultures will have specific forms of communication- accents, topics, greetings, styles are all part of communication. Their communication reflects the style, culture, and even values of those people.  In one country which values efficiency and respect for other people's time, it's the cultural norm to speak quickly, to get to business quickly, to get into a taxi and immediately state your destination.  In another culture that values personal connections and and relationships over efficiency, it's the cultural norm to to speak slowly, take time to get to know each other, and to get into your taxi and politely greet the driver and ask him how he's doing, and he will ask if the person with your is a friend or relation, and after a minute or two, then you can say where you wish to go. And I refer to that driver as 'him' because in that culture I am thinking of, the driver always is 'him.'  In one culture we say yall, and all yall for second person singular and second person plural. In another it might be you'ns, or you guys.  Some of us might say over yonder, and some say over there.  Some cultures typically drop the ending consonants in words like and, or 'ing endings. Some have stories of bogey men or boogeymen, or the squitchicum squees what swallers 'emselves. 

These are not representations of the general intelligence of any of those cultures. It's an attempt to convey with versimilitude the way a specific group of people communicate. We can respect them, and their dialects by acknowledging and even celebrating them in poems and song, not by erasing them. 

Little brown baby wif spa'klin' eyes, Come to yo' pappy an' set on his knee. ... 

Paul Laurence Dunbar memorializes a version of black dialect, often from the days of slavery, spoken by his parents when he was a child. He neither mocked nor pandered. He shared from a place of warmth, respect, and love. in later years he wished he had shared less because he felt he ended up being pigeonholed as a dialect writer, and he wasn't. But he was not ashamed of the accents of the generation who preceeded him or the people who spoke it. It was passing by, becoming a thing of the past, or changing, and he and other black writers of the time wanted to memorialize it, honoring their parents and grandparents who had fought so hard that their children could be free.

 Dey is times in life when Nature 
Seems to slip a cog an' go, 
Jes' a-rattlin' down creation,
 Lak an ocean's overflow; 
When de worl' jes' stahts a-spinnin' 
Lak a picaninny's top,  [If I were reading this aloud, I'd say a little boy's top]
An' yo' cup o' joy is brimmin' 
'Twell it seems about to slop, 
An' you feel jes' lak a racah, 
Dat is trainin' fu' to trot— 
When yo' mammy says de blessin' 
An' de co'n pone's hot.  

Dunbar had known hunger. He had know what it is to skip a meal or not know where your next meal will come from or what it will be. Like many other gifted writers who have known hunger in childhood, when he writes about food- well, his imagination runs away with him.  Think of Laura Ingalls Wilder's descriptions of foods and feasts, especially the foods from Farmer Boy.  She, too, had know hunger, even more severely than Dunbar had. She had been through not just poverty, but famine, and when she describes food it's the wishful dreams of the little Laura with no food in her belly, eating a scant, soupy wheat porridge from grains ground by hand in a coffeeg grinder, measured out with care.
Read this right and you can smell and see the steaming corn pone, hopefully accompanied with butter speedily melting down the sides, glistening the lantern light, filling your senses with a sense of warmth and well being. 

.

Granny’s come to our house,
    And ho! my lawzy-daisy!
All the childern round the place
    Is ist a-runnin’ crazy!

James Whitcomb Riley represented with affection and humour, the Scots-English, hill people dialect of the country people of northern Kentucky and southern Indiana.  I still hear this from time to time in some of the country people in my northern Indiana town.  


What though on hamely fare we dine, Wear hoddin grey, an' a that; Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine; A Man's a Man for a' that: For a' that, and a' that, Their tinsel show, an' a' that; The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor, Is king o' men for a' that.

 
Robert Burns presented the dialect of Scotland, but he did it at a time when the dialect was disappearing. He wanted to preserve it, memorialize it- not because he thought it was foolish or a subject of mockery, but because it specifically represented people he had known and their speech patterns. It was warm, nostalgic, and it preserved a culture and way of communication that was quickly passing away or changing. 

It isn't always easy, especially if you aren't familiar with the dialect.  Dunbar's and James Whitcomb Riley's poems are effortless for me. I grew up on James Whitcomb Riley. My mother is from Indiana and I had to recite his poems to my grandparents.  My dad was from Arkansas and in spite of his best efforts, never lost his accent and he wasn't from the upper crust, either.   It's not exactly the same as Dunbar's dialect poems, but there are enough similarities that I don't find them complicated to try at all. 

Robert Burns? I canot read him aloud at all, there's much I dont even understand.  When you are stuck on a dialect poem, youtube is your friend- or any other audio version done by somebody who gets it.

With a CM education, we present a rich feast.  A feast is not a  table spread with white bread, mashed potatoes and milk gravy.  We want a feast rich with the tapestry of human history, the wondrous beauty and flavors that stimulate the senses and gratify the tastebuds.  We want sweet, sour, spicy, hot, cold, mangos and blueberries, jollof rice and fried rice and kimbap, vegetables raw, steamed, roasted, salted, mixed with a bit of  sesame oil or served alongside chicken adobo. 

We want a rich celebration. 




Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Charlotte Mason Language Arts, Part 3


In years 4-6 for Composition and grammar, Miss Mason had her students learn the parts of speech, and do some assigned writing. The assignments and topics came from their reading, and were in addition to regular oral or sketched narration of all their readings. The older children (fifth and sixth grade) might be asked to write stories from  Plutarch readings, the fourth graders from The Pilgrim's Progress.  Young children who couldn't easily write could narrate orally. In other terms 4th and 5th graders might be asked to write compositions, or stories, from their readings in Citizenship and Reading, or, from events of the day, etc. The fourth graders were only asked to write about their literature or stories selections for school, not from other subjects. 

Those children "who cannot write easily may narrate part."- so if you have a reluctant writer, you still have him write a little bit, and then finish orally. In another term's programme this was listed under composition: Occasional letters with family news. Miss Mason also encouraged the children to contribute compositions in verse or prose to the Parents Union School magazine. In the fifth grade, you might begin some specific instruction on certain types of writing- letters, for instance, invitations (both sending and accepting), and the children would write about field trips they'd taken, or vacations (particularly the locations visited), and holidays.  Instruction in this type of writing is extended gradually, over quite some time; the sixth graders are still writing these sorts of things, and still getting a suggestion or two for improvement in small bites over time.  The main thing is steady progress. 

 This is also true of learning the parts of speech and grammatical skills- more on that in another post.  But the majority of the 'instruction' came from their regular reading of excellent books and the practice of copywork and studied dictation. I find it helpful to look at exams for a given grade, and see what the students were expected to be able to by the end of a term.  You can use these assignments to sort of reverse-engineer a simple approach to writing and composition for a term for you student in the same age group.

  Here are some examples from an exam she gave- the students were to choose just two or three of these topics and then write on them: Describe your favorite scene from The Tempest. Quote some of your favorite lines from Marmion, or, Horatius. Tell a story in prose, or verse, about one of the following,--Iduna, Daedalus, Ariel, Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid. Describe a scene in Julius Caesar in which Mark Antony appears. An account of "The Wedding of a Princess," or, the Burial of Sir E. Shackleton. Tell a story in prose or verse about one of the following:--King Arthur, Svartheim, Achilles, Beowulf, King Olaf. An account, in prose or verse, of one of the following,--the journey of the Price of Wales, the City of Tyre, Ulysses, Odin. Narrate, in writing or orally, a scene from Coriolanus or from Hereward the Wake.

 Here are examples of exam questions from other terms: Other options for composition assignments in years 4-6: 
 1. Describe your favorite scene from The Tempest. 
2. Quote some of your favorite lines from Marmion, or, Horatius. 
3. Tell a story in prose, or verse, about one of the following,--Iduna, Daedalus, Ariel, Mrs. Bedonebyasyoudid.

 Again, from another term:
 1. Describe your favourite scene in Macbeth. 
2. Describe the visit of the prince of Wales to one of the Indian cities. 
3. Tell a story in prose, or verse, about one of the following,--Baldur, Orion, "Mowgli, "Tom Brown, Lord Roberts, an aeroplane. 

 And yet another term: 1. Describe a scene in Julius Caesar in which Mark Antony appears.
 2. An account of "The Wedding of a Princess," or, the Burial of Sir E. Shackleton. 
3. Tell a story in prose or verse about one of the following:--King Arthur, Svartheim, Achilles, Beowulf, King Olaf. 

 Composition. 
1. An account, in prose or verse (not doggerel), of one of the following,--An autumn day, Camilla, Heimdall. 
2. Describe a scene from (a), King John in which Constance appears, or, (b), from The Foresters in which Robin Hood appears. 
3. Write about one of the meetings in the desert described in The Talisman, or describe your favourite scene from The Prince and The Page. 

 While these are exam questions, you could use them as a model for composition assignments during the regular school week- have them write a scene from their Shakespeare play, to describe a favourite scene from a book they are reading, to write about a scientific discovery of the day, or something in the news. 

 Meanwhile, the children are continuing to be exposed to excellent writing  in their daily copywork and regular dictation work.  When they check their work, they are observing the proper use of capitals, commas, periods, and more in their natural habitat. They continue foreign language study, which also helps with grammar. They are reading excellent works, which helps with style.  So really, the only thing that is somewhat new to these grades in composition is that they children are being asked to write some of their narrations, and they have begun some formal grammar instruction. 


Part II:  More about that formal grammar instruction. Basically, at this level they learned the parts of speech and worked with that using examples from their reading. There are only 8 or 9 parts of speech in English, the number depends on your system. According to ThoughtCo, those parts are: "nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, articles/determiners, and interjections. (Som"e sources include only eight parts of speech and leave interjections in their own category.)". It doesn't need even half an hour a day to do learn them. 

Mason's approach is unusual for today. The TLDR summary is that they don't learn the parts of speech in isolation.  They learned them in their reading. There was no "give me three verbs.  Tell me two nouns. Is doggy a noun or a verb?  That's because for many words, which part of speech they serve is determined by the role they play in the sentence, by context.  Not in isolation. And that was nearly all the formal grammar they did for several terms beginning in year 4.

  Here's how I figured out what her approach looked like in practice. First I read what she had to say about grammar in her six volumes- you can find that here on AO's website where Leslie has put together a nice topically arranged collection, to make it very easy for the rest of us. Except that was too easy for me. 

 In searching for Miss Mason’s approach to grammar and composition after the for older children, I began by darting all over the place in the six volumes. Like a hunting hound that has lost the scent, I amassed a good deal of unconnected and loosely connected material, blurred my vision and clouded my thinking and after weeks of this nonsense, I chucked it all and started afresh from a different perspective. I finally realized that what I really needed to do was to go back and do what I had done the first year I really began to understand Miss Mason’s approach- look at what she actually did to see how that reflected what she said about the philosophy behind it. 

 So I looked over the PNEU Programmes I could find online, matched what I found there with the textbooks themselves wherever I could find them, read them, thought about them, and made page images of them to read with more comfort to my eyes, and in the end, summarized what I found for my personal understanding, and then, at last, whipped what I summarized for me into something I hope makes sense for you.

 In other words, I departed from philosophy as found in the six volumes, and examined praxis (application, practice) instead. Only this very funny thing happened as I did that- when I looked at praxis, the philosophy began to glimmer through- particularly when I read the prefaces to the books Miss Mason chose.  . 

 When coming to terms with Miss Mason’s philosphy, it helps to remember that she refined her methods over many, many decades, working them out with real children and real parents and teachers. So what you see in the beginning is not always precisely what we find in the final years. 

 Here’s a look at Form II (roughly grades 4-6) in the programmes we have.
 Form II is further divided into IIB and IIA, thus: IIB (age 9), 1 year, roughly grade 4 IIA (age 10-12), 2 years, roughly grade 5 and 6.  And in the programme for term 1, the very first year the PNEU schools were in existence, this is all that we find under English Grammar for grades 4-6 (form II): 
 ENGLISH GRAMMAR. – To be able to pick out nouns, verbs, and adjectives in a given paragraph. And that’s all she had. Well. Alrighty, then. We can stop reading and thinking about this and just go pick out those three parts of speech in some of our reading.

 That’s actually a good place to start, though, scant as it is on information. Around fourth grade, after you’ve had the foundation Miss Mason gives with reading good books (doing the reading themselves as much as possible so they are seeing the words on the page), copywork, dictation, recitation, and narrations, set a selected paragraph in front of your kids and explain what a noun is, and then go through that paragraph and pick them out. Do that a few times over many days or maybe weeks. Then explain verbs and go through a paragraph from the reading for that day and find all the nouns and verbs. Do this on a regular basis, slow and steady, small bites, over a period of time. 

 Of course, some parents will take to the explanation of the parts of speech far more easily than others will.  Plenty of parents will want something extra, like Grammar Songs (You Never Forget What You Sing) by Kathy Trexel, which is what I used with most of mine. There may be better ones, I don’t know. That’s just what I had. There are a lot of grammar song options on youtube. Beware, though, some of them are done by students and they have more filler than info. Grammar Rock is also on youtube. Some people love Winston Grammar Basic Complete Set, I have never even looked at it, so I can’t tell you. But people I respect like it.
We used Mad Libs a lot, and also the original Learning Language Arts Through Literature: The Red Teacher Book. I think the first sets, comb-bound, without accompanying student workbooks, were much better than the ‘new and improved’ later versions, but that’s just me.  Probaby many of you have your own preferred method of teaching the parts of speech. (yes, those are affiliate links)

It's encouraging to discover that Miss Mason must have also run into the issue of some parents and teachers needing more handholding than others on this topic, because in later programmes we find the grammar section gets fleshed out quite a bit more. The next program I have for this age group is not until programme 42 (three programs a year, so a little more than a dozen years later): 

Students continued in copywork or transcription, dictation, and foreign language study, which always includes some grammar.
They also were assigned written and oral composition (narrations) from

“Stories from work set in (a) Citizenship and Reading, or, (b) events of the day, etc.” (form IIA), or “Stories from reading. Children in B who cannot write easily may narrate part” (Form IIB).

Writing.
A New Handwriting for Teachers, by M.M. Bridges, 2/8; practice pages 1, 2, 3. Two perfectly written lines every day. Transcribe, with page 6 as model, some of your favourite passages from Henry V.

Dictation.
Two pages at a time to be prepared carefully; then a paragraph from these pages to be written from dictation, or, occasionally, from memory. Use The Story of the British Empire (see Geography).

Composition.
Write stories from (a) Plutarch (Aristides), (b) The Pilgrim’s Progress (Partridge, 9d.), pages 67-105 (to the Valley of the Shadow of Death). Young children who cannot easily write may narrate.

English Grammar.
A Short English Grammar, by Professor Meiklejohn (Holden, 9d.), pages 152-161. Parse and point out Subjects, Verbs, Objects.
BEGINNERS, Arnold’s Language Lessons, Book V. (3d.), pages 5-22.

 I have more to say about Meiklejohn and Arnold's later.

Next we have Programme 43:

Composition.
Write stories from (a) Plutarch (Coriolanus), (b) The Pilgrim’s Progress (Partridge, 9d.), pages 105-141 (to Trial at Vanity Fair).  Young children who cannot easily write may narrate. (again, I address the composition here)

English Grammar.
Arnold’s Language Lessons, Book IV. (3d.), pages 20-33.  Parse and point out Subjects, Verbs, Objects.
Beginners, Arnold’s Language Lessons, Book IV. (3d.), pages 5-19.

 Arnold’s Language Lessons are thus far unavailable to me, but I haven't looked in a couple of years.

Next we come to programme 90, around 1921, and now we are gettingg somewhere:

Writing.
A & B A New Handwriting,* by M. M. Bridges (P.N.E.U. Office, 5d. a card): practice card 3. Transcribe, with card 6 as model, some of your favourite passages from The Tempest. Two perfectly-written lines every day.

Dictation.
A & B Two pages at a time to be prepared carefully: then a paragraph from one of these pages to be written from dictation, or, occasionally, from memory. Use the books set for reading and history.

Composition (written and oral).
A Stories from work set in (a) Citizenship and Reading, or, (b) events of the day, etc.
B Stories from reading. Children in B who cannot write easily may narrate part.

English Grammar.
Parse and point out Subjects, Verbs, Objects.
Meiklejohn’s Short English Grammar* (2/-), pp. 1-18; 106-118.
How to Tell the Parts of Speech,* by E. H. Abbott (Seeley, 2/6), pp. 55-74. Teacher study preface.

As an aside, this Parts of Speech book set me on a pretty little goose chase for an hour or two.  It is what she (or one of her employees) wrote in this Programme, but there’s a small error. It’s not E.H. Abbott, but E.A. Abbott,  (who also wrote Flatland). This is not uncommon when searching through her writings.  She was very widely read, and sometimes she tossed things off from memory rather than checking her references, and of course, she lacked google. I’ve found a handful of mis-attributions of this sort in her books.

You see, there is an E. H. Abbott who also wrote, but he wrote mostly magazine articles which were largely published in an American weekly news and opinion journal called The Outlook (which first published Booker T., Washington’s Up From Slavery in serial form, and then later it was published as a book). So it took me more than a few web searches, using various permutations of title and author, and finally I tracked down the book by E.A. Abbott. . (Naturally, by then it was time feed my family and get a kid to swim practice and help another child with something else, and I was too tired to think about grammar anymore that night). 

 I can only find the American version online at googlebooks.  I believe some of the exercises are rather different, and I know the page numbers are, so that won’t be much help when looking at the assignments.  However, Miss Mason stressed that teachers needed to not just read, but study the preface of this book, and I do believe those would be essentially the same.

I transcribed the preface below.

To recap just a bit before we do this, one thing has remained constant for form II in Grammar- they are learning parts of speech, and they are learning them by finding them as used in a sample paragraph from their reading.

Keep in mind, too, that form IIB is the youngest group of form II children- the 9-10 year olds.  They begin in this term with Abbott’s book and the parts of speech, and their teachers read the preface in order to give them the philosophy and perspective they need to teach this topic.

Which brings us to this- if Miss Mason wanted teachers to read the preface (after previously not asking anything of them but teaching nouns, verbs, and adjectives at this level), it would behoove us to take a peek at that preface.

So…. drum roll, please!  Here is the Preface which Miss Mason wanted the teachers to study from Abbott’s Parts of Speech book:

PREFACE: The conviction that any child can be taught “how to tell the Parts of Speech” in any sentence that he can understand, has induced me to publish this little book. I believe that a very young child may be taught, almost without knowing that he is being taught, first to classify English words according to their function in the sentence and then to infer the nature of each word from its function, or, as a child would put it, to tell you first what the word does and then what Part of Speech the word is. The principal mistake in teaching English grammar hitherto seems to have been the attempt to assimilate it to Latin grammar. All the grammatical nomenclature of the inflected Latin language having been imported, as a matter of course, into the teaching of the uninflected. English teachers next set to work at finding English things for the Latin names. For example, they first imported into English the Latin word, “Gender,” which represents a Latin reality, and then, inventing an English unreality to correspond to the Latin importation, they insisted on making their pupils repeat, as an important point in English grammar, that “hen” is the feminine of “cock” and “she-goat” of “he-goat.” In the same way, a whole system of syntactical concords was invented, not because the concords existed, but because their names existed, having been obtruded into English grammar. This has given a sense of unreality to elementary English teaching, from which even now we have not quite extricated ourselves.”

Now, most of that part of the preface no longer applies to us, of course, because every writer of grammar textbooks for English speakers has moved on from trying to obtrude Latin grammar into English. Pay attention to what he says about form and function, however. Set those ideas over on the little warming tray in your mind, let the connections start to work a bit. We’ll be coming back to that.  The next page of the preface:

“The following extract from a paper read before “the Birmingham Association of Teachers of all Grades” will serve as an exposition of the remedy suggested and aimed at in the following pages:

“The reform that I would suggest is based, 1st, upon honesty, a determination to approach the subject with a single eye, to discard all one’s hampering Latin notions, and not to say one sees in English what one really does not see; 2d, upon experiment, guiding a boy from his own language (not from poetical examples, nor from choice classical prose) to see the necessity of certain words; 3d, upon reasoning, teaching him to reason out what part of speech each word is for himself.

“Of these three principles honesty needs no comment nor does experiment need much (though some teachers seem to be hardly aware how valuable a lesson English grammar may be made in the way of enlarging a child’s stock of words and notions by experiment): but how is a boy to reason out what part of speech a word is? Thus: he is to be taught for some time to tell you what a word does, before he is asked or even permitted to tell you what the word is. The fundamental principle of English grammar may be stated with little exaggeration as being this,  that any word may be used as any part of speech. It is therefore the force and meaning of the word, as gathered from the meaning of the sentence, that must determine what part of speech the word is; for example, whether ‘considering’ is a Participle, an ordinary Noun, or a Verbal Noun, a part of some Tense in a Verb, or a Preposition.* We must, therefore, not allow our pupil to tell… (cont.)

*For example, in the words ‘Considering your youth, it is possible your fault may be pardoned.’ If this sentence is English, which can scarcely be denied, it is the merest pedantry to deny that considering is a Preposition here. See Morris’s “Historical Outlines of English Accidence,” p 200.

Incidentally, I love the mention of honesty.  How often do adults teach children things they do not themselves truly believe, merely because of so-called experts? Here’s how I am understanding the ‘what do I do?’ part of this: So we spend some time presenting him with sentences or paragraphs, and asking him to look at the sentences and point out a word and ask him to tell what that word is doing- it would probably help to give some examples.  Happily, the pages Miss Mason assigns contain many such opportunities.

Preface cont:

“[we do not allow our student to tell] us what part of speech the word is till he has told us its function, or, in his own words, what the word does.

“Perhaps some one may say “Of course, no good teacher would let his pupils say what part of speech a word is without being able to explain why.’ But I submit that this is not quite the same thing. Giving reasons after the answer is not the same mental process as giving first the facts, and then deducing the answer from the facts. A boy that has given a bad answer will generally find little difficulty in supporting it with a bad reason. But if you fix his attention first on what the word does before he has committed himself to an error and while his mind is open to receive the truth, he is more likely to reason in an unbiased and honest way; and besides, he will attach importance to that which is really important, – I mean the functionand not the name of the word.

I should like to be able to go into any elementary school and to be sure of hearing children reasoning thus; ‘Quickly tells you how he came; therefore it is an Adverb.’ ‘Black tells you what sort of a horse it was; therefore it is an Adjective.’ ‘Horse is the name of an animal; therefore, it is a Noun.’  ‘That joins two sentences together; therefore it is a Conjunction.’  ‘Twice; tells you how often he fell; therefore it is an Adverb.  That word ‘therefore’ is a word that might with advantage be indelibly engraved on the heart of every child.

In the use of that word consists the system that I wish to recommend. Facts first,  reasoning from the facts afterwards. I stand here as against the claims of ‘because,’ to advocate the claims of ‘therefore.’

Rather more time and pains than are given at present will perhaps be required to teach a child thus to experimentalize, to reason, and to classify; but the time will probably be well bestowed, and, besides, we may perhaps gain time by dispensing with a good deal now generally taught. (cont. later)

I found this a little bit confusing, so I’m going to cheat a bit and jump ahead and share one of the lesson exercises with you. It think it illustrates his meaning well enough to help us interpret the above instruction about form, facts, and function.  Here is the entire chapter on nouns, in case you are also confused and want to see what that might have looked like in practice.

In CM's schools,  the children do these exercises, and for a few minutes at scheduled times each week,  they find nouns in their daily reading. This could take a few weeks.

This is not to take a long chunk of time each day- we see in the schedule above that the form IIB children only went through 20 pages of this book in a single term.  That’s about two parts of speech per term.

Think of these grammar exercises as vitamins rather than a meal: a very little bit, but that little done steadily, regularly, sustainably over the term.   The children learn through observation as well as instruction, and they use real books to identify what they have learned.

For the parent-teacher, I confess this is a bit more daunting than a canned grammar curriculum from one of the bigger publishing houses, more challenging than an ordinary textbook with that pleasant time saver, an answer key.

For the child, I think this will produce knowledge that is his own, a conceptual understanding of the ideas in such a way that he can more easily apply that knowledge in other areas.

Let's continue with the preface:
Rather more time and pains than are given at present will perhaps be required to teach a child thus to experimentalize, to reason, and to classify; but the time will probably be well bestowed, and, besides, we may perhaps gain time by dispensing with a good deal now generally taught.)

I should be disposed to give up as either superfluous or hopeless the attempt to teach an English child how to speak English out of an English Grammar. If he is ever to speak English correctly, he will learn it by speaking it; if he is ever to use the words loci and cherubim, maxima, and minima,  he will, before he uses them, have learned the correct forms, by hearing others use them. Nor do I see, I confess, the use of making an English boy go through the whole of the Verb ‘I love,’ including such out-of-the-way Tenses as ‘I may have been loving,’  ‘I shall have been loved,’ etc. A Verb thus learned seems to me to convey little benefit, and gives a sense of unreality to the lesson– for the boy uses his Verbs in all probability quite correctly already– and it is a very dull and wearisome task. I would discard the task and all such tasks and make the business of the teacher not to teach the boy how to speak English but how to understand English and how to see the reasons for the anomalies in it. Common faults, if they are common in a certain neighborhood,  such as ‘says I,’  ‘will’ for ‘shall,’ and the like, may be eradicated without compelling a boy to go through the whole of an English Verb,  and the symmetry of the Tenses may be perceived better, not worse, by discarding the drudgery.”*
To come to details– it is hoped that the Exercises may be less wearisome than such exercises mostly are. They have been written with the special purpose of exemplifying the rules of parsing,  while at the same time they have been thrown into the form of little tales or fables. They are intended chiefly as oral exercises,  but may be afterwards written….

*The Tenses are not dealt with in this book.”


We see once more the importance of Miss Mason’s foundational methods- that of exposing the children early and often to literary language, to the stories read from the actual Bible rather than story books, to a good full three years of school spent reading only the best books, copying only the best sorts of writing, studying shorter passages carefully for recitation, writing notations in nature journals where accuracy matters, learning the basics of another language, singing songs, listening to poetry- it's all part of the foundation. 

 Read these sorts of books, do this kind of copywork, narrate from this class of literature, and vocabulary really does take care of itself, and generally, proper grammar does as well.  Done properly, your child is already handling his native language correctly, he just hasn’t learnt the nomenclature to label and explain what he’s doing.. If he does have some grammatical irregularities because family members or friends with whom he is in regular contact with also have weak areas in their grammar, then you focus your teaching on those areas.  If your child’s relatives are not native English speakers and so they struggle with pronouns or use double negatives, then you focus on *those* areas.  Don’t insist on forcing a 7 y.o. native English speaker through grammar lessons on the proper use of a or an when he already naturally uses the correct article- wait until fourth grade or beyond to give him the explanation behind what he already does, or to begin honing in on those specific areas your particular child didn’t pick up naturally.  Don’t force native speakers to conjugate verbs in their native tongue (the exercise has some use in learning new tongues, IMO, and in Latin it’s just fun).  If English is your second language but you've got a clear understanding of the punctuation, don't waste time on lessons on what your child already knows and does- sometime after year 4, give a quick lesson on the right terms, but the bulk of your time allotted to grammar should be focused on short, but deeper lessons and studies in the weaker areas, using the principles and examples above to help you.

 You don't have to do all written work. Remember that oral lessons in grammar, especially when you first begin them, are excellent- and, happily, not terribly difficult for the home-school mom to do. You can ask your child to help you do the dishes and while doing the dishes you can ask him to name five nouns he can see and five that nobody can ever see (cat, dog, dish, cup, water/ freedom, idea, dream, happy, imagination), or three words which can be nouns or verbs, depending on how they are used (shoe, dream, wish, polish…). You can skim over a lesson book together in advance, and while weeding the garden together ask him to tell you ten sentences using verbs about gardening, or dancing, or football, or to make four sentences using linking verbs. 
The preface continues:

“(It seems to me to have been a serious mistake in teaching English Grammar to give young children, by way of examples and exercises,  chips of sentences, always dry,) dull, and uninteresting, and often ambiguous, and to call them “Simple Exercises.” Easy and connected narrative (not poetical extracts, which are full of inversions and irregularities), should be given to a child as soon as he begins to parse. For no child ought to be able to parse a sentence that he does not perfectly understand.

The Specimen Exercises worked out for the child are purposely made more difficult than the Exercises given to the child to work out for himself. The intention has been gradually to prepare the learner to grapple with difficulties in a logical way, and to accustom him to believe that all difficulties can be logically overcome. For undoubtedly there are difficulties in English grammar; there are probably more in English than in Latin and Greek. But the beauty of the difficulties in English grammar is that they can be reasoned about by English children, and that the materials for such reasoning lie in the child’s own mouth: his own speech supplies him with the best foundation for argument. For they are to be solved by appeal, not to inflections, but to the function of each word, which an English boy is quite able to comprehend, provided that the subject matter is suitably simple.At the risk of appearing to practise mechanical, while advocating intelligent teaching, I have ventured to insert “tests” side by side with definitions. Experience has convinced me that they are useful as occasional crutches,  and can easily be thrown aside when no longer needed.

If the book should seem somewhat diffuse, attempting to fill up what should be supplied rather by a teacher than a book, my apology must be that it is intended for parents as well as for professional teachers,  and that most books on this subject hitherto have rather erred on the side of conciseness than diffuseness.”

Function first, name follows- which words in these sentences describe things? What is this sentence about?  That’s the subject.  What does the sentence tell us about what is happening, what that subject is doing? Ah, that’s the predicate, the verb.

There's more of the preface but I am going to stop here and give us time to really think about this- and, as Mason said she wanted her teachers to do, study it.  This is a LOT to think about, isn't it?

 Preface TBC.



 For the above information: I looked at all her programs I could find for several terms in a row over several years. I typed out for my own use a list of the books and pages she covered in each of those books, term by term, and then I looked up the books online and found those pages and took screen shots, transcribed (sometimes by hand, sometimes electronically), wrote summaries, and put it all in order. It took a few weeks, which turned into a few months.