Forest for the Trees

The fact that oral language is foundational to all learning was emphasized at our book discussion group a few nights ago. The next day I was more aware than usual about this fact. May I share with you an example of how oral language skills, narration in particular, can build a foundation for future connections, composition, critical thinking and good citizenship? I will unfold the conversation in a moment. I want to say that, having graduated two using this method, it really is fascinating to me to be doing this again but with hindsight. This time, I can see the forest for the trees, even though they are still small saplings.

So, here's how the conversation unfolded.

I am snuggled on the couch, reading D'aulaires Benjamin Franklin to my DD(7). I finish the reading with Franklin's famous line, "We must indeed hang together, or most assuredly we shall hang separately." She narrates the reading and then asks me what that last part meant. I give her a brief explanation.

From the next room, DS(11) says,"Shakespeare does that all the time.The pun Franklin used was on the word hang and  in The Comedy of Errors Shakespeare does that with words like marks.
Where is the thousand marks thou hast of me?

I have some marks of yours upon my pate,
Some of my mistress' marks upon my shoulders,
But not a thousand marks between you both."
Act 1.2.83-85

DD (7)then says, "I was thinking about that Aesop's Fables story with the dad and his fighting sons. He uses sticks to show them that only one would break easily, but a bunch of sticks can't be broken."

DD (9) then relays a fairy tale about a king trying to teach his sons to work together in order to receive the best inheritance.

DH (?) happened to be home working on his computer. He chimes in with "And don't forget that if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken!"

So, we started out with politics, then went to literary devices, moved on to fables, fairy tales and the Bible. Some of the things quoted were read months ago. Mason says the following about this type of education:

The response of the young students to such a scheme of study is very delightful. What they write has literary and sometimes poetic value, and the fact that they can write well is the least of the gains acquired. They can read, appreciating every turn of their author's thought; and they can bring cultivated minds to bear on the problems of the hour and the guiding of the State; that is to say, their education bears at every point on the issues and interests of every day life, and they shew good progress in the art of becoming the magnanimous citizens of the future. Vol. 6 p. 194
Having just read about Mason's plans for oral language skills, in particular narration/composition ( Vol. 6, p. 190-209), and how this can benefit the student down the road, I enjoyed the exchange between everyone and realized that they are building the foundation for what she describes above. I guess I just wanted to encourage those of you with young children who are pursuing this method to keep at it.  After a few years, your children develop this wonderful reservoir of ideas from which to draw from and you will see a large, diverse forest.


  1. Absolutely beautiful. Thanks for showing the Forest for the Trees. I enjoyed listening to your conversations and those connections all your children and dh made!

  2. That is quite the view of a grand forest!

    The whole discussion reminded me of an exchange between Anne and Mr. Elliot in "Persuasion" by Jane Austen:

    "My idea of good company, Mr. Elliot, is the company of clever, well-informed people, who have a great deal of conversation; that is what I call good company."

    "You are mistaken," said he, gently, "that is not good company, that is the best..."

  3. Thank you for the encouraging testimony. At times, it is hard to "see" where this is all going!

  4. What fun! Keep encouraging us with this stuff.

  5. What a beautiful picture of intellectual exchange! You are raising true sages--children who are readers and thinkers.

    Thank you for the bit of encouragement at the end, for those of us just starting out. I saw immediately one change I want to implement in my homeschool, and that is to do more "snuggling" on the couch. A story cannot be a friend if it is regarded from a distance.

  6. Thank you for such a great post Nancy. It is so encouraging to see theory worked out in this exchange and I look forward to the same fruits in my home :o)
    Blessings in Christ

  7. Thank you.
    I draw so much strength from you and others who have been down this wooded path a few years ahead of me and are willing to turn back to shine light on the way. Looking forward to winding my way around more of these beautiful trees.

  8. Thank you for this post. I appreciate reading about times like these as we are in our own young-children stage with the oldest who is 8. I hope to have some of these moments in years to come!



  9. What a great vision for the future! A CM friend and I were just talking today about the "faith" required to pursue a CM education and to trust that all those "living ideas" will take root. Thanks for sharing what it can do.


  10. I can't wait for this!

    Thanks for sharing :)

    Bobby Jo

  11. Great conversations!!!! Thanks for stopping by my blog the other day & commenting. I'm jealous that you have an iPad! When you figure out how to use the calendar & task lists, leave me another comment :-)

  12. This is absolutely priceless. I just love these simple moments.


  13. Beautiful! Those are the moments that validate what we're doing, aren't they?!

    I've just discovered your blog--I think from unsocialized homeschoolers?--and would love to have a couple hours and a hot chocolate to peruse your past posts! :)

  14. How wonderful that everyone could contribute to the discussion from so many different sources! And what is more amazing is that everyone had memorized these significant quotes without formal instruction. Great literature creates a rich personal deposit in every reader/listener's life.

  15. Thank you, Nancy, for another inspirational post. It is so gratifying to hear one's children sharing so unconsciously what they have learned from their literature studies!

    I appreciate your support of the homeschooling community. It IS difficult to see the forest from the trees, especially when one is just beginning on the journey. Thanks again.