If You Understand It, You Will Remember It!
Here are some highlights from an article recalling a couple of years spent at a Charlotte Mason school in England:
- I was fortunate enough to attend Mrs. Norton's P.N.E.U. School in England for two years from the ages of eleven to nearly fourteen. At the time I loved it and even as a teenager could see that it was the best education I ever had. Now that I have children of my own I appreciate even more the richness of what we learned, as well as the enjoyable but disciplined atmosphere that existed in the school.
- For my age group we had the following subjects that I remember. Maths (we used books by H. E. Parr), Grammar, French (started at nine), Latin (started at eleven), and Shakespeare. Every now and then we would be required to write an imaginative essay and also poetry, which was great fun. We studied poems too, both for enjoyment and finding out about their form and composition. We also memorised various poems.
- The younger classes had other books read to them—The six to seven year olds listened to Tanglewood Tales, the next class had Pilgrim's Progress and this was followed by The Heroes of Asgard. I do not remember exactly what the nine to ten year olds read but I have a suspicion that it was Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.
- In history we read From Ur to Rome (I do not know the author) for ancient studies and studied another book for British history. Mrs. Norton would read this aloud to us and, as with all our narrative studies, we would write an essay on it the following day. I also remember drawing quite a lot for this subject. We would copy illustrations of historical artefacts—this taught us more about the period, captured our interest and gave us practice in accurate copying, all at the same time. This was something that we enjoyed a lot.
- Geography and Citizenship were also read to us. Citizenship covered biographies of different significant people—when I was there we read about Florence Nightingale and Baden-Powell amongst others. And of course there was music and art appreciation as outlined in For the Children's Sake. I remember studying Rembrandt, Botticelli and Monet and some of their works remain vividly in my mind. We also had Bible and Science. In the latter we studied biology and had nature walks—there was no chemistry, physics or experiments. [HCS comment: today, we would include these aspects of science.]
- The biggest difference between these exams and those of other schools, is that they were entirely unrevised. We were never allowed to reread our lessons, unless we had shown that we had not understood it previously. In fact, my outstanding memory of Mrs. Norton's words are the phrase, "If you understand it, you will remember it". This was proved in the pages and pages we could reproduce, whether five years old or thirteen. It also took away all the pressure that is usually associated with testing. In fact we relished exam time—it was a chance to show how much we knew, as well as an opportunity to tell about books that we had enjoyed.