(I just want to preface this post bay saying that I am BY NO MEANS a Charlotte Mason expert. I just finished this volume recently and wanted to get this down in writing to be sure that I understood the concept. This post is more for me than to teach my readers, but I thought it might be of interest to some of them so I’m posting it here. :D)
In the first volume of her homeschooling series, Charlotte Mason describes the first reading lesson a child should receive, at around age six, after having learned his letters by way of games and songs. The lesson starts off with a little box filled with little bits of paper with the words to a short rhyme or poem written on them. The mother begins by writing one of those words on a blackboard and explaining it’s meaning. Then the child searches for the word in his box. His next task is to look at the full text of the rhyme and find the word there. The mother continues to to do this with each of the words until the child can recognize and understand all the words in the poem. She then encourages the child to arrange the words in his box into sentences of his own before finally having him arrange them in the proper order and having him read the whole rhyme in it’s entirety by himself.
She teaches reading in this way, by allowing the child to learn to recognize real words rather than drilling them on phonics, because English has so few steadfast rules governing pronunciation and children have no natural desire to learn lists of meaningless sounds such as they have for learning words that symbolize things and concepts that they are already familiar with.
Charlotte Mason believed that children should be taught to read and to spell separately because they can learn to read much earlier than they can learn to spell, by learning to recognize whole words. Then, later on, spelling lessons will go more smoothly because the child will already know the words he is learning to spell and have a good idea of the “shape” of how the word looks, which helps the child recognize when a word is spelled incorrectly. This is the same way in which adults learn new words, we see a new word in a book and we take the word in as a whole and internalize it’s meaning before we dissect the word into it’s individual letters.