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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: 

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. 

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).

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.

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).

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:

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:

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.

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.  

Abbots Grammar

  One of the books Miss Mason used with 4-6 graders is How To Tell The Parts of Speech, by E. A. Abbott.  The book is dated enough that it is of limited use for today’s teacher/parent, unless you are confident enough in your knowledge of grammar to make adaptations and corrections as you go.  We can, however, still glean some useful principles and applications from it.  Miss Mason particularly recommended that her teachers read the preface, which I shared in another post in this grammar series. 

Below I share just the chapter on nouns, transcribed electronically, and I have not done anything to the formatting or checked for typos from the transcription, it's a raw copy:

 Tell me the names of some persons, such us

John, Mary.

2. Tell me the names of some places; such as

London, Middlesen, England.

8. Tell me the names of some things that you can

see, feel, hear, or smell; such as apples, soldiers,

cat, sky, air, thunder, gas.

•4. Tell me the names of some groups of pergons or things ; such as class, family, crowd, fock,



• Write or repeat four names of (1) boys; (2)

girls ; (3) places; (4) rivers ; (5) public buildings;

(6) dogg ; (7) horses ; (8) other animals ; etc.

Write or repeat four names of (1) things good to

eat; (2) parts of a house ; (3) parts of the body

Tell me the names of some persons, such us

John, Mary.

2. Tell me the names of some places; such as

London, Middlesen, England.

8. Tell me the names of some things that you can

see, feel, hear, or smell; such as apples, soldiers,

cat, sky, air, thunder, gas.

•4. Tell me the names of some groups of pergons or things ; such as class, family, crowd, fock,



• Write or repeat four names of (1) boys; (2)

girls ; (3) places; (4) rivers ; (5) public buildings;

(6) dogg ; (7) horses ; (8) other animals ; etc.

Write or repeat four names of (1) things good to

eat; (2) parts of a house ; (3) parts of the body


The Parts of Speech

(4) parte of free1 (5) parts of a book; (6) porta

of a ship; (7) thing used for writing: (a) tools

used by a gardener: (9) by a carpenter, etc.

• Write or repeat as many names as you aan of

group of (1) boys or girls; (2) soldiers : (3) other

pensous; (1) aulmale; (6) trees; (6) houses ; (7)

books ; cto.

5. Now look at this plece of chalk. What sort of a

thing is it? It is wbite, solid, rough or amooth, useful,

amall or large. All these worels tell us the guulitius

of the chalk (quality means of what sort)! well, I

want nuncs of these qualities ; give me them: rohite

ness, solidness or solidity, roughness or smoothness, usefulness or utility, smallness, lurgenese.

You cannot sec usefulness, but usefulness is the

name of a quality of the chalk.

6. Tell me some more names of the qualities of

things, such as weight, beauty.

7. Tell me some names of the qualities of persona:

(a) good qualities or virtues, such as gentleness,

honesty, justice, temperance; (b) bal qualities or

vices, such as harxhuese, cruelty, dishonesty, injur.

tice, intempurance, untruthfulness.

8. Tell me some names of (a) the feelings of your

body, such as hunger, (b) the feelings of your mind,

such as joy, hope, pity.

9. Tell me some paines of actions : such as jumping, running, readiny, counting, singing.


Write or repeat six names of (1) actions ; (2)

feelings of your mind: (3) good qualities of persons :

() had qualities of penons ; 6) qualities of coal;

(6) air; (7) India-rubber; (8) snow; (9) paper;

(10) hair; (11) steel: (12) water.

10. Hoy shall we call all these namus? Ir we

call them 11 Dames," people will think we mean none

but names of persons; but we mean names of places,

of things, of faults, actions, etc., as well. So we

will call them Nouns, which is another word for

Names (1)


Point out the Nouns in

Some thoughtless boys were playing with stones

near & pond. During their play they noticed a family

of frogs and began to pelt them, not out of cruelty,

for they were not cruel, but out of thoughtlessness.

Very soon they hit one of the frogs, and all the

family at once dived down in a fright beneath the surface of the water. - This is fine fun," said the boys,

we will wait till they come up again, and then we

will give them a good pelting." Just then the mother

of the frogs popped up her bead, croaking so pitifully

that the boys held their hands and did not pelt her.

Young gentlemen," said she, "if you are really

gentle you will not continue your sport.

How would

you like it if a giant killed your mother or sister out

of sport? But that is what you have done to me:

you have killed my youngest daughter, and maimed

my two sons for life. What is sport to you is death

to us;

11. Sometimes you may be pazzled about Nouns.

You may not nee, for example, that pating in the

Exercise above is the name of an action, and so you

may not know that it is a Noon. So here to a good

way to find whether a word is a Noun or not, —

12. If a word (sometimes with 'a' or 'the

before it') can come after “I like," or "dislike," to answer the question, “What do you

like?" it is a Noun. (

13. Thus you can say, " I like apples, Thomas,

nothing, a walk, the country, jumping ; " but you

cannot say, “I like quickly;" 80 quickly is not a

Noun. Of course, you must be careful to see how a

word is used in the Exercise, before you say it is

a Noun. For example, " playing " might sometimes

be a Noun, as in " I like playing," but it is clearly

not a Noun in the first line of the Exercise above,

because it is not there used as a Name.

How to make Nouns.

14. Sometimes you can make Nouns out of other

words that are not Nouns. For example, slow is

not a Noun; but you can make a Noun out of it,

slovonese. High is not a Noun; but you can make

a Noun out of it, --height.


Make Nouns out of the following words : prix,

broad, glad, long, deep, careless, narrow, vide,

ready, obstinate, persevere, just, humble, pious, brave, repent.• 15. Look carefully as the intro Nowh the

following contacar

« Charle to the oldest son of the family.

Chana and son, you nee, ara almaply dimenant

name for the same penon; but they are lo difer

ent Linda of names.

(1) Charla is the name of a particular person,

that is, of an individual. The name may be sald to

belong to Charles, to be peculiarly Mis onon. Hence,

It le called a Proper Noun. (Proper means

* one's own,' as in property, appropriate.)

(2) Son is a name common to Charles and all his

brothers; Indeed, to all boy-children. It is the name

of every one of a class. Hence, it is called a Common Noun.

• 16. Tell the difference between (1) Helen, (2)

girl; (1) London, (2) city; (1) Ponto, (2) dog;

(1) Racer, (2) horse; (1) Hudson, (2) river; (1)

State-House, (2) building; (1) Post-Office, (2)


MODEL. — (1) Helen in the name of a particular girl: it in

her proper (her com) name. Therefore it is a Proper Noun.

(2) Girl in the name, not only of Helen, but of all other girls :

It is commor to them all. Therefore it is a Common Youn. .

(1) A Proper Noun is a name peculiar or

proper to an individual.

(2) A Common Noun is a name common to a class.

• 17. But the sentence has a third Noun, family.

It means Charles and his brother (and, perhaps,

some other persons) taken together, spoken of 19 a

group. Hence, it is called a Collective Noun.

(Collective meana 'taken together.')

• 18. Tell the difference between the Nouns in

cach of the following phrases :

(1) A bevy of girls, (2) a pack of wolves, (3)

an army of ants; (4) a herd of buffaloes ; (5) a

fock of sheep; (6) u brood of chickens; (7) a

clump of bushes; (8) a bunch of grapes ; (9) a roto

of houses.

(3) A Collective Noun is the name of a

number of objects taken together, the name

of a group.

N.B. — An object is anything of which we can

think, something throion in the way of our minds.

• 19. Once more. ** Charles " is said to be te the

oldest son"; and oldest tells us of a quality of

Charles's. ($ 5] What is its name? aye? Bat when

we give this quality a name, we think of it as ab.

stracted (that is, taken arowy) from Charles.

Hence, it is called an Abstract Noun. So, names

of feelings (5 8), of actions CS 9), and of some other

things, help us to think of the feelings, etc., ag

taken away from the persons who feel, act, etc.;

and they, too, are hence called Abstract Nouns.

(4) An Abstract Noun is the name of a quality, feeling, action, etc, thought of as abtracted, a aban amay, from the

object to

which it belong.

90. Tell the atmammana batucen the Nouna ha

auch or the following cantander

(1) The weight of the lead broke the wale.

(2) George's anger required panishment.

(8) The laughing of the knot of boys ww beard in

the school-noom.

(4) The ill-health of the master gave the school.



Tell the kind of each Noun in Bercloo III. and

in —

At the time of Braddock's defeat, an Indian chiot

named Pontiac had seen the red-coats running away

before his own men. Being a man of great courage

and skill, he laid a plan to unite all the tribes of his

race, and to drive the English out of America. First

he tried to take Detroit, which was then only a fort;

but be failed, and his conspiracy broke down. Soon

after, he was murdered by another Indian in

drunken frolic.


Write this story again in your own words, being

careful to use some Nouns of each kind.

21. A Noun is a name of any kind. (')

N.B. - A Noun is not a thing, but the name of a

thing. A cow is not a Noun ; but the word - "cow" is a noun.