We were created for language. It’s the primary way through which we know God. Through His word He speaks to our hearts and minds. Through His word He artfully communicates in a way that connects us to Him.
God is the Master of the Art of Language. And we’re changed because of it.
From the early days of oral communication and through the development of the written word, the most prolific communicators understood that language was artistry and should be created masterfully.
Consider Homer, Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Dickinson. They are among the masters of language—the great word artists we cherish to this day. Their works have remained with us. And many still reach back to study them and learn from them.
But what about language learning today?
What happened to the word artistry of yesteryear? The idea that language was something to be carefully curated? That it carried the noble purpose of connecting to touch hearts and minds?
Sadly, our educational institutions have reduced the art of language to a sterile, academic subject. They’ve separated grammar, syntax, vocabulary, and literary devices from beautifully written words, poems, and scripture—taking all of language learning out of context. They made it a subject to be endured … rather than relished.
As a language teacher, I’ve seen what’s lost when language arts is broken up and taught as separate academic concepts—devoid of life—only to be memorized, tested, and graded.
Yet I’ve also seen what’s gained when language is approached and honored as a whole and living work, its arts learned and applied in an integrated way—a living way.
Our children’s minds are alive, waiting to be fed with living ideas that delight, inspire and stir their imagination. Where do these living ideas come from? From living books filled with living language.
Charlotte Mason tells us,
“For the mind lives, grows and is nourished upon ideas; mere information is to it as a meal of sawdust to the body.”
Teaching language arts outside the context of a living passage is like offering our children a meal of sawdust, robbing them of the intellectual nourishment that comes from a deep understanding of the structure and artistry of language.
When vocabulary words are presented in a list, isolated from the work in which they live, the child misses the purpose for learning new words. He misses the art of a well-chosen word aptly placed.
When figurative language is taught by definition only, extracted from the whole of the passage, the child misses the brilliance and art of engaging language that communicates beyond the surface.
As Charlotte Mason says,
“Knowledge should be communicated in well-chosen language, because his attention responds naturally to what is conveyed in literary form.”
And this is especially true when it comes to language arts. Each concept should be taught through well-chosen language in its whole form.
When the child sees the reason the author structured the passage in a certain way and why he established a certain voice through thoughtful vocabulary and sentence placement, the child’s knowledge of language is deepened. When he recognizes the effect of sentence variety and intentional punctuation, his language learning becomes internalized. He begins to perceive that language is an art.
One beta test mother said, “They were proud of their work when they realized they could come up with their own metaphors.”
That’s the kind of joy children derive from learning language in a living way.
Like the painter who carefully chooses hues and brush strokes to apply to his canvas, so the child is inspired to curate his own work through thoughtfully selecting elements of language that bring forth his creative thinking and unique expression.
And this is why I wrote Living Verse Language Arts in Poetry and why I’m writing Living Verse Language Arts in Scripture. To offer families a curriculum that teaches language arts through studying how the great masters of language structured and ornamented their works.
Charlotte Mason understood the art of language when she wisely shared,
“Our real concern is that children should have a good and regular supply of mind-stuff to think upon; that they should have large converse with books as well as with things; that they should become intimate with great men through the books and works of art they have left us, the best part of themselves.”
Language is a gift. Mastering it is an art.
When language is understood and used artfully, it results in clear and powerful communication … and ultimately meaningful connection.
And this is what God had in mind when He gave us this gift—this way with words.
Your children will come to love language and its arts when taught in this beautiful, living way.