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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

How to Use a McGuffey's--Part 3

Here are some more specifics about using the McGuffey's Readers. Buy it in PDF Format

First, let me say that there are as many ways to use the McGuffey readers as there are ways to use hamburger! We can take this versatile meat and make it into patties, or loaves or chop it up and add it to noodles or chips or even put it with gravy over potatoes!

Some folks use the McGuffey's as a read-aloud for inculcating solid moral values, including poetry that reinforces Biblical living. A mother could simply read a lesson aloud and then ask questions of her children, or help them memorize the poetry which is  meant to aid in living Biblical principles in everyday life.

Others use them as only a portion of a language arts program, assigning each child to read a lesson, then perhaps a quick oral narration to make sure the task has actually been carried out.

I have chosen to take full advantage of the readers. As I have read through the lessons, I have found them so rich that I didn't want to rush through them. There is so much to take advantage of in each--the vocabulary, spelling, grammar, besides the practical Biblical morality make them comprehensive for me.

These readers are not graded--that is, the number of the reader does not correspond to our current grade levels. This is one reason I so appreciate them. I can put my children wherever they need to be, at their different levels of competency. Each reader was meant to span more than one year, meaning that it is not strange that a child could begin in the middle of a book instead of at the beginning.

These materials were created for the one-room schoolhouse, for frontier and farming children who may not have entered into formal schooling until the ages of 12, or even 19 years of age! It is therefore very possible to use these for the "late bloomers" with great success.

I have assigned a different reader for each child (and made library-like book jackets for them from sheet protectors which I cut open and then folded and taped to fit). They keep these in their "learning satchels," which are actually bits and pieces of small luggage and huge purses that I have collected over the years, many with small pockets for stationery items, etc. With my number of children--seven currently in full learning mode, having two sets has been necessary. The readers are also sold separately, so duplicate copies could be obtained to use with children at the same level, or a single copy could be shared. my own children vary enough for me to be able to use just the two sets.

I take each reader and use the planner page I have created to write out the assignments for the specific lessons. I have created a menu of different options and ideas to choose from to simplify things, which you can find as a PDF and print out here.

As far as the Biblical connection goes, many times the verse will present itself to my mind, then I simply use my concordance and Bible cross-references to find it! But there are actually sites on the Net which locate verses on different topics, such as this topical Bible site.

There are times when a further connection will present itself, such as in the 2nd reader (original) which deals with lions. I felt it important to have my son, who is an artist and nature-lover, to draw a lion for me in his sketchbook. My oldest daughter (at home) is often presented with lessons which are not easily put into narration format, so I have been obliged to teach her a simple essay outline so that she can re-formulate the philosophical ideas presented as an original composition.

I have created a sample picture of what a "sticky note" assignment looks like. I have the children fasten these to their readers to use as a consumable check-list. Since I have a copy of the assignments in my home-school planner, none can claim they couldn't complete their assignments because their notes were lost--I can always write out new ones!

Of course, this method is only for those who are reading competently. The Primer and First Reader lessons are done differently. These require much more participation on my part. At the primer level, especially, a single lesson could take a few weeks, and of course there is little or no narration, and at first even the copy work is nill to none.

The blessing in all of this is that, except for a little bit of planning and follow-up (and the planning part gets easier as you get more used to it), the work is pretty much independent--making it easier for a mom of many to keep track of children that are on so many different levels. This keeps some challenged, others comfortable. My children really enjoy doing their lessons this way--they are independent and have a bit of freedom, but also have the accountability and direction they need. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

How to use a McGuffey's, Part 2

McGuffey's Pictorial Eclectic Primer

Some interesting questions have recently come up.

First, I would like to explain the differences between the two sets of McGuffey's reprints that are now available.

The first is the "original" readers published by Mott Media. Can I say that I love these? They are printed with a sturdy binding, and the pages are thick for longevity and practical everyday use.

I believe it is their simplicity that make these books so endearing. The Primer begins with fairly crude pictures to accompany some basic words that are familiar to young readers. I was put off at first because things were not arranged according to phonics rules, but rather go from the simple to the complex. After using them for a while, I see the genius in McGuffey's thinking. My daughter absolutely loved the lessons, since they didn't seem "dumb" to her. We went very slowly, repeating each portion multiple times over several weeks. The results were quite remarkable--as I now have an encouraged, excited reader/writer on my hands!

The other books are amazing to read as well. My eldest daughter went from barely reading to fluency using the first reader. Subjects covered vary--but they are never trivial or boring. The Professor chose primarily to wisely deal with matters of the heart and morality--even including a story with an orphaned babe being taken in by an old gentleman bachelor! There are lessons with warnings dealing with laziness and the dangers of strong drink as well.

The vocabulary words presented in the first two readers are helpful. Again, there is no particular rhyme or reason to their inclusion, on the surface, but if they are used in oral reading and spelling, along with some basic copy work and dictation, their usefulness soon becomes apparent. It is almost magical to witness how these materials communicate with young fertile minds. I found that the hard work of learning was actually being accomplished by my children, and I only had to present the lessons and enjoy the process as I witnessed the wonderful transformations.

The advanced readers are very challenging reading. All of the readers are extremely Evangelical in nature; confession of sin, salvation through Jesus Christ, etc. are marvelously emphasized. This is continued in the 3rd and 4th books of the series, with apologetics for the Holy Bible also included. My daughter is working diligently through these and finds them replete with nourishment for the mind and soul!

The guide written by Ruth Beechick was very helpful to me, although I found that I had to adjust many of her thoughts and ideas to fit my children and our particular educational circumstances. If I had followed her suggestions verbatim, I would have become quite frustrated.

The originals are the only ones that can actually be attributed to McGuffey directly. The later versions, and there were many, were revised by different people, even his brother had a hand in some revisions.

Which brings us to the second set of McGuffey readers in publication today. These are commonly called the "revised" set, originally edited in 1879-1881 (there were revisions as late as the early 20th Century, which are hardly recognizable as McGuffey's, but these are not currently in print, that I am aware of). I own two sets of these; one antique (actually printed in 1920), the other a more recent, and less refined, facsimile which I purchased new.

My antique set is so beautiful--the leather bindings are deeply engraved and detailed; the colors of the covers are darker and brighter. The text is slightly raised and one can see the fine lines of the illustrations, as opposed to the muddied ones in the facsimile. Needless to say, the children do not have access to these at all, although I keep them in a slipcover on my desk and refer to them when writing up my lessons.

The 1879 revised edition that was recently printed is the set that my children use. I love these also. It is true that these are the least directly Evangelistic, but they still contain references to God and have many passages from the Bible. The lessons are moral and very engaging--a refreshing change from the meager offerings of these modern times.

The Primer not only uses simplicity, but also helps present the principles of phonics. For instance, the first lessons deal with short "a" words, the next lessons introduce short "o", and so on. This may be somewhat easier for the 21st Century mind to deal with.

The illustrations throughout are delightful. I enjoy viewing them myself--so I know that my children take pleasure in them.

There are not any modern guides to these available, and I personally felt quite lost until I discovered The Eclectic Manual of Methods--this book explains not only how the revised readers were meant to be used, but the arithmetics, grammars, etc. You can download this from the link above, and it can even be printed up and comb-bound. The Ray's and McGuffey's helps I sell on my blog contain a few suggestions that I fashioned after the ideas found in this manual.

Excerpt of a McGuffey Illustration
Since I am working on the plans for my own young learners, I am currently compiling a general guide to using the McGuffey's series together in an eBook format. I have a few images and some helps in place--but I will include some scripture passage suggestions for the lessons--I hope you will pray for me so that I will be able to find the time to put these resources together for you all! I also have another blog that I am developing which I hope to gradually fill with anything and everything we find interesting that was published during or about the "McGuffey" era of our history, both, The Guide to McGuffey and the blog will be about education and life--McGuffey's World.

I am not sure which set of readers is the best--they both have their merits. I am glad I have both! As of this writing, one could secure the original set, with speller and the Beechick guide, for between $70 - $109 (per set), before taxes and shipping.

The 1879 revised set can be purchased for about $69.

Dollar Homeschool has done a great job compiling all of the McGuffey's Eclectic Series and putting them on CD. The cost, compared to purchasing the actual books, many of which can no longer be obtained or found, is economical (the readers, with speller and extra books, $39). But if one wants to print and bind their own books from the CD, the price becomes the same or much more.

I often find myself lost in these little booksI am so glad I get to do the lessons, too!

I would like to leave you with a quote spoken originally by Dr. David Swing of Chicago and published originally in the book, A History of the McGuffey Readers by Henry Hobart Vail.
Much as you may have studied the languages or the sciences, that which most affected you was the moral lessons in the series of McGuffey. And yet the reading class was filed out only once a day to read for a few moments, and then we were all sent to our seats to spend two hours in learning how to bound New Hampshire or Connecticut, or how long it would take a greyhound to overtake a fox or a hare if the spring of each was so and so, and the poor fugitive had such and such a start. That was perhaps well, but we have forgotten how to bound Connecticut, and how to solve the equation of the field and thicket; but up out of the far-off years come all the blessed lessons in virtue and righteousness which those reading books taught; and when we now remember, how even these moral memories have faded, I cannot but wish the teachers had made us bound the States less, and solve fewer puzzles in 'position' and the 'cube root' and made us commit to memory the whole series of the McGuffey Eclectic Readers. The memory that comes from these far-away pages is full of the best wisdom of time or the timeless land. In these books we were indeed led by a schoolmaster, from beautiful maxims for children up to the best thoughts of a long line of sages, and poets, and naturalists. There we all first learned the awful weakness of the duel that took away a Hamilton; there we saw the grandeur of the Blind Preacher of William Wirt; there we saw the emptiness of the ambition of Alexander, and there we heard even the infidel say, "Socrates died like a philosopher, but Jesus Christ like a God."

Saturday, June 1, 2013

How to use a McGuffey's, Part 1

Illustration from 5th McGuffey's
Here is a question that I received recently from a reader regarding the use of McGuffey readers:

I wanted to know if you could give me some tips on how you use your McGuffey readers. I have a set of them but do not know how to use them with the kids. It seems like a silly question but I have read through them a bit and I am confused about what to do with them. I guess I need an instruction manual. I appreciate any help you can give. I hate to see them just sit on my shelf. I would like to use them with the kids this fall.

First, let me say that I totally understand how this reader feels. I can remember thinking these books were really nifty, but I had no idea as to how to use them. They were written in a time when the methods of learning were universal and understood. We have lost these principles as educational philosophies have changed over the years (and not for the better).

It is sort of like the 25-pound sack of flour sitting in my baking cupboard. It takes the application of a recipe and other ingredients to produce the desired outcome.

The ingredients required for a batch of first-rate language arts is as follows:
  • Reading with narration (primarily oral, then written)
  • Copy work
  • Dictation
  • Sentence creation
  • Recitation
  • Original composition
This is how I tackle each lesson:

1. I read it for myself.  This is my favorite part. I love the lessons--I learn new things and become encouraged and blessed--I can't wait to share with my children! In this way I am familiar with the content of each lesson so that I can bring out the finer points that may be missed, etc., such as the moral of the story, or even some historical facts that may be needed to gain a better understanding of what is being read. It also helps me when I am either hearing or reading the narrations I require. If time is short, and the child is not competent enough to write out the narration, it can be "cartooned" by splitting a page in equal portions and have the child draw out the events in the lesson in sequence, to be labeled later.

2. I choose a section for copy work. For the younger set, it may only include the vocabulary words and a short section--perhaps a sentence to begin with, then a paragraph. I write these out as an example so that they have something to follow. Poems are copied in their entirety. Older children may be required to copy much more. This is the method used continually--the immersion and familiarity gained through this practice helps imprint language on the minds of children. 

I also like to assign a portion of God's Word which applies to each lesson, lots of times scripture will come to my mind as I am reading, but I also use the concordance to look up appropriate passages. 

3. I choose sections for dictation, sometimes from the speller. This is how proper spelling, punctuation and grammar are reinforced. 

4. Often the poems or portions of the lesson are read aloud to all as a practice for public reading and speaking, and I am requiring that many parts, or all, of the poems be memorized. 

5. I have the child either read and spell the vocabulary words (using Charlotte Mason's suggestion of "imprinting" the words in the child's mind), or assign them to be used in original sentences.  

6. There are times when an original composition will be suggested by the lesson, especially in the more advanced readers (3rd and 4th in the original series--1849 Mott Media, 5th and 6th in the revised--1855 and above). 

The Manual of Methods is the place to go to understand more closely some of the intent of the authors. Here is also a link to my other blog, McGuffey's World, which contains quotes from 19th century sources speaking as to the importance of copy work.

This is an amazingly simple way to teach language arts, and is also so inexpensive!  All that is required is a few good copy books and pencils. 

1836 copy book
Of course, you could create copy work pages by using a school font and a word processor, to encourage better handwriting. 

Here is just a little example of what treasures there are to be found (from the revised, 1879, 2nd reader):

Beautiful faces are they that wear 
The light of a pleasant spirit there; 
Beautiful hands are they that do 
Deeds that are noble good and true; 
Beautiful feet are they that go 
Swiftly to lighten another's woe.

Brushing up on basic grammar helps me--I keep a secretary's guide or two around the house as an aid when I am stumped. We also spent some time together this last year in the Harvey's Grammars, which helped everyone quite a lot. 

It also helps to teach the children how to set up a page--noting the number of the lesson and the date across the top of the page, then skipping a line to begin the work. Also, to have rules about the writing assignments, such as to respect the margin lines, and to keep things neat--no stray marks or doodling, and complete erasure of all mistakes. 

As a mother of many children, these books have helped me to simplify instruction without compromising on content. 

Here is a link to the Manual of Methods, which helped explain a lot for me.