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Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Using CM's Principles and Practices in Tutoring

I had the privilege of tutoring a couple of children individually, and I used Mason's methods.

For various reasons the students were academically behind at their school. Mostly, it was because English was a second or third language, but the primarily language of instruction at the school. One of them also had some other academic delays for other causes. I only had a an hour here and an hour there with them, not more than three of those hour long sessions a week.

 I used Mason's principles and practices as much as I could in the limited time I had, and that mainly included these:
 Respecting each of the children as a whole, delightful person already capable of learning. Ideas first, facts as they went with the ideas.
 Real books, not textbooks. 
Copywork from those books, some they chose and some I chose.
 Narration. Every time. We had a handful of times when we did not have narration because our time was necessarily interrupted (a rain storm was coming, and we were all leaving on foot so we had to go when the clouds threatened, for one example), the result reinforced to me that reading without narrating is basically a waste of time. Sometimes it cannot be avoided, as mentioned, but never omit narration on purpose, especially not merely to save time.
 Education is the science of relations.
  I did not limit the subject matter to topics they already knew about and were already interested in. Wide, generous, varied material. We read modern fiction and Aesop's fables. We read Korean fairy tales in English, and we read American pioneer stories, and British children's fiction. We read some biographies of artists and political figures.
 I offered no bribes or treats for good behaviour, nor did I give grades. They had both those things in abundance outside their time with me, so I don't think their absence or presence in their time with me would have been significant.
 The order we read the books was also varied- we read a science text between two literature texts, we used biographies, we sang a folk song in between harder readers, we had a timeline, we looked at maps connected to the readings.

 Given the limitations of time and circumstances some of the principles were not really as strongly involved in my planning as others- for instance, with, at most, 3 one hour long sessions a week, there was a limited amount I could do with habit training, or should do, given the circumstances. I had no need to implement the principles of authority and docility as the students were all from cultures with a high regard and respect for older people and for teachers. Only once I had to step in and explain to a child exploring the different boundaries between his culture and American culture that even though American culture was more relaxed than his, even in America children did not call their teachers in school by their first names.

 We also sang two geography songs. One of them was a song about the oceans and one about the continents. In both cases, my students had already traveled and visited more than one country and they were not living in their passport country and they were in an international school with students from at least half a dozen other nations, so the idea of a wide world with varied places and different names was already part of their lives. The English names of the some of the oceans and continents were not always familiar to them.

 The level of our reading material was significantly lower than most AO books.

 Because English was their second language, there was one thing I did a bit differently than I think Mason would have, but I don't think it was necessarily anti-Masonesque, either. After a lot of research on how children actually learn vocabulary vs how it is generally taught, I decided that when we read our science books, we would read two or three books on the same topic in science, not all at once, but in sequence. So when we finished one book on plants and trees, we started another book on plants and trees, and then a third. Then we read three books in a row related to ponds and streams. We read three different books on insects, and two different books on the human body and how it worked. In every case I attempted to illustrated the readings with examples from the school grounds, which were lush and beautiful and full of green growing things, or from things I picked up at a local pond and brought to class, so our nature/science reading was not just from books.

Midway through our year, I was rewarded when one of the students said the following to me, and it was the most marvelous compliment ever- while looking over the stack of books read and the stack yet to be read, my student sort of pondered aloud,

"It's really interesting. There are so many things to think about that I never knew before." That's what it was all about. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ MOVING SALE! 25% off all products this week only. We're moving from the Philippines to the U.S.


  1. Hey, just wanted to let you know that the link for 'how children actually learn vocabulary' (which I was quite looking forward to reading, esp. with regards to new languages!) isn't working.