Several years ago, Wendi Capehart planned a post to share her thoughts on Charlotte Mason-style term examinations. We are pleased to (finally) post this, and trust that it will bless those who have missed Wendi's voice.
I am coming to this as somebody who singularly failed at exams and really regrets it. One of the benefits of exams that I see, from my spot with my nose pressed firmly on the glass window, outside looking in to the Little Shop of CM Regrets, is that the exams themselves work to help focus the child's attention and probably gently prompt some internal review in ways the child doesn't even realize. With re-reading before the exam, that beneficial spur is blunted.
I would be hesitant to lose that benefit. Now, if a kid wanted to reread his favourite paragraph to Dad at dinner, I wouldn't discourage that. And I can see an occasional exception made for something like the Parables of Nature, with its deep spiritual lessons, and sharing with Dad is also incredibly wonderful and important and you wouldn't want to interfere in that or discourage it. But I would probably not include a reread story in the exam.
I would want to be very careful that rereading something before exams does not become a habit, because it will take the edge off the keen interest and attention and focus of CM's only one reading, and then later comes the exam tool. If we're used to doing a lot of rereading, the single reading feels so counterintuitive. CM said that really, when it comes to education, the mind can know nothing save the answer to the questions it puts to itself. That's something to think about.
A few weeks ago I was reading some material on studying and learning, and I read this interesting study that showed the most effective way to study had nothing to do with flash cards, and highlighters and notes--it was to read the material carefully, turn it over, and then write down as much as you could remember. Basically, a written narration. What we are hunting for is for the children themselves to basically find themselves so beguiled by the stories they do all the reviewing themselves, internally, by thinking about them. This happens under various conditions:
· Short readings that stop before they are ready for them to stop, so they are left hanging, wanting more. they think about the story more this way.
· When you start to read the next time, you ask first, "Where were we? What was happening?" And they review again.
· Timelines and maps, if applicable, are another review.
· Free play--when they incorporate the readings into the story.
· Sometimes when you ask (after the narration), does this remind you of anything else? They will review a few stories, looking for connections (which is something the brain does naturally anyway).
And because all this comes from within the child, it has increased power and the child remains alert--and once he's had his first exams, he remembers how that goes, and, I presume, will have that extra little bit of push to remember, to think about, what he's read.