Monday, October 01, 2007

a bit more on progym

So then, after all the informal writing experience I talked about in my last post, I became enthused about the progym. I heard about it on my classical list and it was affinity at first hearing -- which is odd for me -- usually I dislike new things at first sight. But the progym seemed like a way to flesh out written narration and make it more understandable to my kids, and for me, to lead them step by step from simple narrations to the more complex writing that Charlotte Mason recommends in the upper grades.

The progym usually starts with the simple fable -- usually Aesop. I skipped that. My kids were a bit too old for fables by then.... ages 12, 13, and 15. I started them into narrative -- the first assignment was to retell the poem of King Bruce and the Spider in narrative prose. I wish I knew where the results were because they were all quite charming. They each told the story in a different way. My kids are notoriously resistant to new ideas, but this one seemed to work for them.

The next assignment we did was to take one of the stories of Alexander the Great, one where he would not eat food if his soldiers were starving. (I can't find it online at the moment). They were supposed to condense it first, then expand it.

Condensing is a useful skill which appears in the later progym, where a story will appear in summary to illustrate a point or lead into one (induction or deduction).

Expanding is done more thoroughly in progym like description, and also is one of the preparations for later exercises in expanding upon a topic.

They particularly did well on the expanding one and it was fascinating to compare results and see how each child according to temperament brought out different aspects of the story -- one son focused on the physical and visual details of the battle-weariness and the blazing sun, another had the drama be largely an intellectual and moral one, and another described the emotions of Alexander and the soldiers very vividly.

At this point I stopped doing the progym with the group -- I think that was when Paddy was born and his stay in the NICU and followup issues took up all my energy. Later Liam, my oldest, proceeded through Frank D'Angelo's Composition in the Classical Tradition by himself (caveat: this is a worthwhile book but not one to simply hand to a kid because there are lots of rather sordid examples concerning child abuse or marital discord -- taken from newspapers -- I think dAngelo must have written the book for law students in college. I would write out assignments for him based on the book, and later, I whited out all the objectionable articles so he could use the book on his own without getting discouraged by all the dysfunction).

Later I got Lene Jaqua and Tracey Gustilo's Classical Writing: Aesop -- I wrote a review for it here. I used the program for Sean and Kieron, who were then 7 and 10. Kieron wasn't writing well yet, so I would take his narrations from dictation and then type them in. I got some excellent narrations from him with beautiful language. His oral narrations are still very good, to this day, so maybe that early grounding was helpful. Sean would do his own, but he was at that age when fables bring out the Pert or Dialectic in a young preteen. He loved to criticize them, write them out and change the message, which sort of defeated the purpose. Or so I thought. Anyway, after about half a year we let it drop in favor of other things.

I think this time around I will approach it more like I approached it with the older set. Partly because the kids are older now, and partly because things seem to go better if I do them my own way rather than trying to do it just like it is written in the book. I still like the CW series for reference and ideas. It's my favorite progym resource of the ones I've seen for the younger set.

1 comment:

  1. Good thoughts on the progym and the lead up of relaxed writing. Made me breathe easy again here. I tried CW but the format and me did not fit. We did a bit of Aesop here and there with the older two.

    The way you described using the progym with your older set was how I thought I could manage it with mine. It has been so helpful to see how it has worked with your children, as you are farther down the road!

    One thing we sometimes do, is use the Book of Virtues (has lots of nice short myths and stories) and use them for a short retelling. We also turned one of JRR Tolkien's poems into prose last year, which was a blast (the one about Old Tom and the Troll I believe!)

    I better sign off and get to bed....