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    A Charlotte Mason Examination {Year Two, Term Three}

    May 31, 2010 by Brandy Vencel

    This term, I am finally beginning examinations. I’ve known about the concept for at least a year, but it’s taken me a while to decide to put it into place. I toyed with it briefly at the end of last year, but with my husband ending up in a coma, last year’s term three took almost all of summer and a number of helpers to complete.

    This past Friday, incidentally, was the anniversary of my husband’s first day home sick, or the beginning of that long battle. He came home early again this year, this time because he had errands to run and a driver’s license {because he can drive again, and has been able for a while now!} to renew. Once he was home, I couldn’t help but consider the similarity to last year, and how all I thought he had was a mild stomach ache and how I really had no idea what we were in for.

    Life is that way, sometimes, isn’t it? And what good is it for us to know “what we’re in for” anyhow?


    On Saturday, I sat on our patio with a pile of Mason’s volumes next to me. I looked up “examination” in the indices, and I read all about them. The best thing about her volumes is that a couple of them {specifically, A Philosophy of Education and School Education} have pages full of actual questions asked during real exams given at Mason’s school, plus real answers given by real students {and we learn the students’ ages so we can see what children were capable of at various levels of maturity}. What a treasure!

    One of the things that is most striking about Mason’s methods is that a child was expected to remember {pretty much everything} after a single reading. There was no studying, no review, no cramming for a test:

    [A]n unusual amount of ground is covered with such certainty that no revision is required for the examination at the end of the term. A single reading is a condition insisted upon because a naturally desultory habit of mind leads us all to put off the effort of attention as long as a second or third chance of coping with our subject is to be hoped for.

    I was tempted to wait and begin examinations next year. But now I see that the examination itself is a training device. Once the child has been given an exam, he knows that he will be later accountable for the knowledge he has been offered during the term. Therefore, if I want him to spend the entirety of next year knowing that he will be accountable, then I need to give an examination this year to teach him that lesson.

    I also get the impression that if a child actually did poorly on an examination, the child might not be at fault at all. Either the teacher “got in the way” {as Mason was apt to put it}, or the book which was chosen turned out not to be living after all, for only living books are capable of imparting knowledge in a single reading. {This is why Mason was so picky about her books.} This tells me that giving an examination is one way to gauge how well is my own practice in this art of teaching.

    Mason also wrote that her exams themselves were “a source of intellectual profit.” Here, again, I see the difference between what I have the honor of offering my children, and what I myself was given during the vast majority of my own education. The point is not to pass a test, get a high score, or earn a scholarship. The examination itself was written in a way that the child would personally benefit from taking it.

    I am trying my hardest to finish school by Friday, even though today is a holiday. There are many reasons of this, the overarching one being that my children did not have much of a summer last year, what with their daddy in the hospital, and I want to give them a good long one.

    This means that I am getting creative in examinations. Mason typically held an examination week. We, however, have regular lessons to attend to. Therefore, I’m going to have my son answer some of the questions in the afternoons this week. On Friday night, we’ll hold an Exam Night with Daddy and family to finish up and we’ll couple that with an end-of-the year celebration {translation: Mommy is serving dessert}.

    I noticed that Ambleside Online has been working at getting an examination page up*. I looked at their examples {Year Five is a great place to look because it is more complete}, read Mason’s examples, and below is what I’ve got up my sleeve. I wouldn’t call it perfect, but it’ll do fine for our first attempt.

    Year Two Term Three Examination
    1. In your own words, tell about your favorite character that we read in our Bible reading this term.
    2. In your own words, tell about your favorite event that we read in our Bible reading this term.

    Children’s Catechism Memory Work
    1. Who made you?
    2. What else did God make?
    3. Why did God make you and all things?
    4. How can you glorify God?
    5. Why ought you to glorify God?
    6. Are there more gods than one?
    7. In how many persons does this one God exist?
    8. What are they?
    9. What is God?
    10. Where is God?
    11. Can you see God?
    12. Does God know all things?
    13. Can God do all things?
    14. Where do you learn how to love and obey God?
    15. Who wrote the Bible?
    16. Who were our first parents?
    17. Of what were our first parents made?
    18. What did God give Adam and Eve besides bodies?

    1. Write your own fairy tale.
    2. Who is your favorite of Robin Hood’s merry men? Describe him completely and explain why you like him.

    1. Tell me all you know about Joan of Arc.
    2. What makes a good king or a bad king? Use real kings as examples.
    3. Tell me everything you know about Peter Waldo and the Waldensians.

    1. What is Robin Hood like? Tell me all about him. {Tests both Ivanhoe as well as Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood.}
    2. Tell me the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin.
    3. Which is your favorite fairy tale from this term? Tell it to me in your own words.

    1. Use your finger to trace Colombus’ life and famous journey on our globe. Tell me everything you know about it as you trace.
    2. Using the globe, point out The Horn and tell me why it is so dangerous.

    Natural Philosophy
    1. Tell me all you know about hermit crabs.
    2. What is grafting? Explain to me all you know about it.

    1. Sing All Creatures of our God and King
    2. Pick another song you know–hymn or folk song–and sing it.

    Handicraft {knot tying}
    Show us how you…
    1. Tie a bow line.
    2. Tie a clove hitch.
    3. Tie a better bow.
    4. Tie a sheet bend.
    5. Tie a fisherman’s knot.

    Artist Study
    1. Describe your favorite Titian painting in detail.

     *Ambleside Exams are now available and I highly suggest them.

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    1 Comment

  • Reply Amy June 1, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    What a great idea! It’s amazing what giving attention to the habit of attention brings to your life. It’s definitely a work in progress for me. 🙂

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog, Brandy. Thanks for all the useful information and I hope you and your family have wonderfully long summer.

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