Episode 69: Recitation


Charlotte Mason included a subject uncommon to most modern teachers: recitation. This podcast episode explains why she did, what it is, and how it differs from memorization. This is an essential in the feast and a great gift to the students and the people around them.

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"Children know how to read, but they cannot read." (Burrell, "Recitation")

"Without them the best pieces of English writing lose half their value; the best paper read before a cultivated audience misses its aim; the best lecture is only half a lecture, and the best sermon is an opiate. With them all is changed; the light from the writer's soul is handed down from one generation to another. For good authors cannot die; the human voice is for-ever conferring immortality upon them. So magical is the power of a good reader that he can convey to an audience shades of meaning in his author which he himself does not suspect." (Burrell)

"Recitation and committing to memory are not necessarily the same thing..." (Vol. 1, p. 224)

"And if such appreciation can be born when a good reader and a good audience meet, is it not worse than madness for us to look on English literature as mere work for the study, mere dictionary stuff? It was meant to be interpreted by the voice of life; there is only half the passion in the printed page. If there were more good reading round English firesides, do you suppose that the masterpieces of English thought would be studied, as they often are, merely with an eye to the examiners' certificate?" (Burrell)

"The child should speak beautiful thoughts so beautifully, with such delicate rendering of each nuance of meaning, that he becomes to the listener the interpreter of the author's thought." (Vol. 1, p. 223)

"Knowledge is information touched with emotion: feeling must be stirred, imagination must picture, reason must consider, nay, conscience must pronounce on the information we offer before it becomes mind-stuff." (In Memorium, p. 4)

"At this stage, his reading lessons must advance so slowly that he may just as well learn his reading exercises, both prose and poetry, as recitation lessons." (Vol. 1, pp. 204-205)

"Perfect enunciation and precision are insisted on, and when he comes to arrange the whole of the little rhyme in his loose words and read it off (most delightful of all the lessons) his reading must be a perfect and finished recitation." (Vol. 1, p. 222)

"The teacher reads with the intention that the children shall know, and therefore, with distinctness, force, and careful enunciation; it is a mere matter of sympathy, though of course it is the author and not himself, whom the teacher is careful to produce." (Vol. 6, p. 244)

"The gains of such a method of learning are, that the edge of the child's enjoyment is not taken off by weariful verse by verse repetitions, and, also, that the habit of making mental images is unconsciously formed." (Vol. 1, p. 225)

"There is hardly any 'subject' so educative and so elevating as that which Mr. Burrell has happily described as 'The Children's Art.'" (Vol. 1, p. 223)



If you would like to study along with us, here are some passages from The Home Education Series and other Parent's Review articles that would be helpful for this episode's topic. You may also read the series online here, or get the free Kindle version from Fisher Academy.

Home Education, Part V, Chapter VII: Recitation

Recitation: The Children's Art, Arthur Burrell, Parents' Review, Vol. 1, pp. 92-103



Lady Clare, Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Charlotte Mason Soiree Facebook Group