CM 4 Episode #7 Narration: The Foundation of A Charlotte Mason Education with Julie H. Ross
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Meet Julie :
Julie H Ross believes that every child needs a feast of living ideas to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. As a former school teacher, Curriculum Coordinator, and Assistant Director of a Homeschool Academy, Julie Ross has worked with hundreds of students and parents over the past 20 years. She has also been homeschooling her own five children for over a decade. Julie Ross developed the Charlotte Mason curriculum, A Gentle Feast, to provide parents with the tools and resources needed to provide a rich and abundant educational feast full of books, beauty, and Biblical truth. Julie lives in South Carolina. When she’s not busy homeschooling, reading children’s books, hiking, or writing curriculum, you can find her taking a nap.
CM EP 7 Winter season
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So, I'm excited to talk to you guys today about narration because this is really the cornerstone of a Charlotte Mason education. And when I first started homeschooling I, you know, like I said, I was a former public-school teacher and I really wanted to homeschool my kids. I read For the Children's Sake. I was into what reason had to say, but I really didn't know what the practicalities and back then, there wasn't a time information. And I went to a conference and the speaker mentioned this word narration, that the students wouldn't be doing a bunch of workbook pages. That you would read this book and then they would talk to you about it. I was like, oh perfect, that sounds so easy. I can totally do that. And so being the amazing homeschool mom that I am, like, right after that conference, I told all the kids, okay, we're going to get rid of all these workbooks, and we're gonna do this new thing that I learned at this homeschool convention called narration. And I read them from their textbook that I had, and I said okay, tell me back what it was about. And my kids stared at me like a deer in headlights.
And I thought, well, this isn't what the speaker said this was supposed to be like. What am I doing wrong? And we fumbled through it for a couple more days and I was like they are not learning anything from this way of teaching, and I'm just going to go back to my trusty little comprehension questions and workbooks because, well, quite honestly, that made me feel like I was doing my job right? I could grade their papers and go, yay, they learned everything they were supposed to learn today. They got everything right. I'm not gonna totally screw up my kids, but as we kept persevering, I would just become more and more frustrated. I felt like I was a drill sergeant, homeschooling my children, their relationship, and the connection wasn't there. I didn't feel like I was getting the rich educational experience that was described in the book For the Children's Sake. And I decided something has to give here. I must be doing something really wrong. And I wanted to know more about Charlotte Mason's work. So that's why I jumped in and started reading all her volumes and really studying it and I realized there is so much more than narration than just, read this little bit of a textbook and then tell me what it was about.
So, I learned a lot along the way. I learned a lot the hard way, and so I want to give this talk to y'all so that hopefully you won't have to go through it the hard way, like I did and, you know, I think it is a beautiful method of education. And it's a beautiful tool, and children learn amazingly how to process information through narration. But if we don't understand the why and we just focus on the how, I think we miss a lot of the big picture that Charlotte Mason was talking about.
So, Charlotte Mason said, we know that if a person, whether a child or an adult, can tell something, they really know it. But if he can't put it into words, then he doesn't really know it. Okay, that makes sense, right? Like if you listen to a sermon and you go and tell someone about it, well then you know about it. Or you read a book about how to bake a cake and you're going to tell someone. Like, you are processing that material. You understand it. But if I can't explain something to you, then I don't really know it. So, narration is so simple. Charlotte Mason says it's like, a natural way that humans communicate. It's a way that we learn. Even adults narrate. Even young children. It's just this natural law. And she's like why are we not making this a part of education? If this is what people do naturally?
And so, like I said, I had to kind of learn through it the hard way and go through and kind of figure out what did Charlotte Mason actually state narration was supposed to be and look like?
So, let's start with the why here. So, first of all, she says narration strengthens memory and when we process information, we have, you know the two parts of our brain. We have the short-term memory in the long term memory, by talking it through, it actually helps that information, that story, whatever it is, go from our short term memory into long term memory. And the study by Edgar Dale says you remember 10% of what we read, 20% of what we hear, 30% of what we see, but 70% of what we discuss with others, which is really what narration is. So, I'm going to focus at first on the oral narration, which is talking to someone about something and then we'll transition more into the written narration a little bit later.
But either oral or written, you're discussing it with others. That's what helps you remember it, and that's why it's such an effective tool that even months, years later my kids will remember something that we talked about or a living book that we read, and they were able to talk about it. Because when you narrate it, you make it your own. You understand the material in a different way.
All right, so another reason why we narrate is it develops synthetic thinking. Synthetic thinking is the ability to make connections, the ability to put different ideas together. This is the opposite of what is typically done in schools these days, which is a lot of analytical thinking. Analytical thinking is when you have material and you're going to break it apart into all its different components. And so synthetic thinking is a much deeper level thinking skill. To be able to make those connections, it deepens the synapses in our brain, which again helps with the memory that we talked about before. And it's going to help your kids throughout their whole lives.
And I think, I get this question a lot, like will my child be able to get a job? Will they be able to get into college if I use the Charlotte Mason method of teaching? And I'm like yes, yes, yes. But then a couple years ago, Google came out with a survey and it just relates so much I believe to Charlotte Mason style education. So, let me just redo this little blip and I'll try to link this in the comments on Facebook after my talk. But this was back in 2013. So, Project Oxygen shocked everyone by concluding that among the eight most important qualities of Google's top employees, stem expertise comes in dead last, with STEM being science, technology, engineering, mathematics. The seven top characteristics of success at Google are all soft skills. Being a good coach, communicating and listening well, possessing insights into others, having empathy towards and being supportive of one's colleagues, being a good critical thinker and problem solver and listen to this one, being able to make connections across complex ideas.
That synthetic thinking okay? And that's what happens when you read a living book or you are outside in nature and you're able to put these great ideas that you're learning about, the feast that we're giving to our children in your children are able to put this together in your own way. Just to give you a quick example, we have been learning about Andrew Jackson. And we were going through our nature walk and my son says, Mom, look behind you, it's Andrew Jackson. And I turned around, I'm like okay bud, I don't, I think you're losin' it. And, but sure enough, there was a Hickory tree. In the book that we had read it said that his nickname was Old Hickory because he was very strong-willed and stubborn, and, but that was months after we had read that story, right? And we're outside and my child sees a Hickory tree and he makes that connection.
And I could tell you a million stories like this, right? But that shows you that that that concept is in their minds, that they're able to bring it into all aspects of their learning and those other skills that were in that survey, the top Google Play, I'll talk about some of those a little bit later too, the communicating, the empathy, that all relates to this style of education.
Another reason why we narrate is that it builds relationships. First of all, it builds relationships with the material that your child is connecting to it because they're making it their own through narration. They're going to take in whatever that you read to them or they read themselves, and they're going to process it, which is a higher complex level thinking skill, put into their own words with their own personality. You know, sometimes I'll read something, and my kids will narrate back something I never even got out of the story.
Quite often, not what I thought was the most important aspects of the lesson and, but they made it their own. And each of my kids we could, I could read all of them, the same material and all of their narrations will be very different because they, what they choose to focus on is a part of them. So, they'll make it their own personalities, they'll act it out. Sometimes you know, I love to see their little kind of quirkiness come through with their narrations.
And so, they're building this relationship with the material, but they're also building this relationship with you. Especially in the younger years where they're orally narrating to you and you're listening to them, you're getting on their level and looking in their eyes. You're having them on your lap. It builds this amazing connection with your children that they don't get from sitting down at a desk, doing the worksheet. And, over time, I mean, don't we all want to feel like we are seen and heard? But by listening to your kids' narrations on a regular basis, it develops that confidence and feeling within them, and even now with my older kids, right? I mean, I've got a daughter who graduated high school already, but she'll still come to me like, oh my gosh, Mom, you won't believe about this article I just read about blah blah blah blah blah. What's she doing? She's narrating to me, right? We have that relationship where we discuss ideas and it's a priceless relationship, especially as your children get older.
All right, so let's move on. Another reason why we narrate as it develops public speaking skills so that Google study was saying their top employees have this ability to communicate. And that, it doesn't matter what field anymore. If your child goes into it, especially with technology like people working from home over the computer like I'm talking to you all right now, the ability to be able to be a good public speaker is highly valued. Okay? From the time your child is six years old on a regular basis, they are talking about what they've learned. So, they become excellent public speakers, excellent. My children are all excellent communicators. And Charlotte Mason even said, in volume six, The Philosophy of Education, that narrating will help prepare for public speaking, which is a skill that everyone should have these days, which I find funny talking about traditions time, but even more so today.
And my children have been complimented many times from people who said they are excellent communicators. They've given speeches in front of dozens of people before and like that, really, that skill, that confidence, the ability to take information, figure out what's important, what's not important, communicate it in a style that people can understand all comes through narration.
Another reason why we narrate is it strengthens active listening. So, if that's the ability to pay attention to what I'm listening to. If I know, like, let's say for instance, this talk right now. Let's say you had a friend who said, oh, I can't make it to Julie's narration talk. Will you please listen to it and then tell me what it's about? Are you going to listen more closely than you would have maybe otherwise? Possibly right? So, when we know that we're going to have to go and tell someone else what it is that we were reading or seeing or hearing. We are paying more attention. You know, I'm in the Charlotte Mason book club and you know when I know the book club is coming up like I'm really paying attention to those things. I'm reading, cause I know I'm going to have to talk about them.
So, our children have that expectation of, you know, for their school lessons that what you're reading, what you're doing, you're going to have to come tell me about it. They are more likely to listen. And she says, one thing we know, at any rate, no teaching and no information is processed as knowledge in anyone's mind until its own brain is actively assimilated it, translated it, rearranged it, and absorbed it. So those are all, if you ever heard of Bloom's taxonomy, those are very higher-level thinking skills. Become a part of the person and shows up like food the body takes in therefore teaching, lecturing, dramatizing, no matter how brilliant or coherent, does no good until the student becomes an active participant and goes to work on it in his own mind.
In his own mind, in other words, self-education is the only possible education. So, we are putting our children in touch with these living books with the things of nature with the tools of history, right? And they are making it their own. So, by knowing that they're going to have to narrate, they are actively listening, active reading. So also, that ties into this habit of attention, okay? So, she says that we should only read something one time. She says, allowing a second look will be fatal because nobody gives their full attention to something they expect to see or hear again. If we get used to the crutch of being able to go back to something, we lose the ability to pay attention forever. And you know, we see that in our world today, like I don't really have to remember a lot of things anymore because Google can remember it for me, and I can just ask it. You know how many cups are in a pint and those kinds of things, right?
But if I know that I'm never going to see something again or hear it, I am paying more attention. And so, our children, when they know that they're only gonna be able to read the material one time and then they have to come tell me about it. They're going to pay more attention as opposed to a practice that's commonly used in traditional classrooms today called closed reading, where their students have a passage and then they have questions that they have to analyze the text, right? And I mean I had stuff like that when I was in school. What did you guys do? I went, I learned I don't even know how old I was, but the trick of I'll just go read the questions first and find out what it is they actually want me to know, and then I'll go back and just skim through the passage looking for those keywords. I don't even have to read it right? And our children get that crutch. But by having that one time that they're going to read something and then having to narrate it builds the habit of attention.
Narration also leads to good writing. So, like I said, there's those two types. Oral and written, and if you look at English textbooks from the early 1900s, even here in America, they have a subject called oral composition. So, it would be like tell your teacher about a time you went sledding and that would be like the assignment. The oral composition assignment, because they realized that talking is actually communicating. It's composing your thoughts and that that will lead to written composition, later on, as they get older.
Children start talking and they start communicating, they're two or three, and they're telling you what they did with Grandma the other day, right? That's composition. They're putting their thoughts together in a way that's meaningful. They're not going to be able to learn how to hold a pencil, how to form their letters, how to spell words until much, much later.
But they can communicate through writing earlier on.
In 2014, the National Report Card came out and this is a United States statistics. I know we have people from all over the world here, but it said for the United States that only 1% of all 12th graders nationwide could craft a well-organized essay. Now I'm not really good at math, but 1%'s not very good so. But because of that report card, when that came out you know we kinda freaked out and like, oh well, if our seniors aren't writing great essays, then maybe we just need to push back when students start writing. So maybe if they start writing sentences in first grade and then paragraphs in second grade, by the time they get to be in 12th grade, they'll be able to write good writing, right? It's like giving a four-year-old a set of car keys and be like, well, you're 16, you're going to have to learn how to drive, so we might have to start now, right? Like no kindergarteners are... Is that developmentally appropriate for them to be able to write paragraphs?
So, Charlotte Mason really took into account a child's development. And like I said, this was a standard practice back in her time for younger children to be composing orally, by talking and then, later on, transition to writing. And I'll talk about how that kind of works here in a second. So that's enough with the why. I hope that has inspired you that narration is super important and just will develop so many critical thinking and life skills that your kids need to know. And for me, that's super exciting because it is a leap of faith to kind of use this method of education, and I don't have a little worksheet that I can check off all the boxes and say, well, my kids got nine out of ten questions right, so they really understood that passage in the book that they just read. You know, I have to need to kind of step back from that can be a little tricky sometimes, a little challenging, right?
But the skills and the insight and the ideas they developed through this are priceless.
I wouldn't give those up for a worksheet with nine out of ten ever again.
All right, so let's jump in with how this actually works, okay? So, the first key to having good narrations from your children is to start with a living book. So, like I told you I heard about narration at a homeschool conference. I went and tried; it wasn't working. Well, you know why? I was using a textbook and expecting my kids to narrate it. Well, you can't. Okay? If you don't believe me, go Google a textbook. There's so many of them online. Pick a subject, read a couple pages and try to say what it was about in your own words. It's impossible because they're full of just kind of factual information. But I would also recommend that parents try narrating on your own. Charlotte Mason even talks about this about reading like Austin’s or Dickens and going to bed and seeing if in the morning you could tell what it was about.
Do that little experiment with yourself. It is a much harder process than I think we sometimes give credit for our children, especially, you know, when our little six-year-olds just starting out. It is, like I said, a much higher-level thinking skills that it takes to take all that information in, connect it, and put it in a way that makes sense.
I linked here to a study by Harvard Business. It's kind of the science behind storytelling. Like this is what happens to your brain when you're reading a living book as opposed to like a textbook. And one of the things that they found out was that our brains release certain chemicals when we're listening to stories, rather than just listening to factual information. One of those chemicals being is cortisol, but at my age, you don't want a lot of that, cause that's that stress hormone. But a little bit of it is good. It helps you pay attention. So, if by reading a living book, our kids are, oh, what's going to happen next? Oh, this is interesting. You know.
It also helps with memory. The cortisol helps them and all of us kind of retain things better. Another hormone's dopamine, which is like the happy chemical. And so, stories, they feel comforting, they feel good, right?
And then the other one is, I always say this wrong, oxytocin, which is you know when we have our children, it's the nursing chemical that is released. And so, it's that bonding chemical. So, our bodies release that when we're listening to stories, we connect with the people that we're reading about. It helps build empathy. I mean no one connects to a textbook, right? It's when you're reading story and you're putting yourself in someone else's shoes that you can develop empathy, which is that Google survey going back to that was saying one of the top characteristics of their top employees.
So, start with the living books. You can't narrate a textbook. Another way to get started is to just focus on narration for everything. I did this where I was like, okay, we'll just do narration for this subject, but we're going to do these worksheets in these comprehension questions for these subjects, cause that just makes me feel a little bit safer. But what happens is, like I said, narration is extremely challenging. Filling out a comprehension page, answering questions is actually easier because it's that low-level thinking skills, and so when you're mixing the methods it can be confusing for your children. They naturally want that crutch of being able to go back and reread the passage when they're answering questions.
I have a friend who kind of moved more fully into the Charlotte Mason philosophy when her son was in high school and he was in 10th grade and they were reading his history book and, he was coming to talk to her about it, and when he was like, Mom, can we just go back to the workbooks? Like, I just really, this is just really hard. I just only want the workbook. And she's like why, you know, he's like, well, I'm gonna be honest, mom, like they're just easier. Like this, just, I really have to think. And she said, well, let's try this a little bit longer. You know I can breakdown your assignments. Maybe you only read a couple pages a day instead of a chapter. That kind of thing and we'll build from there and he was still doing oral narrations. Which I'll talk about cause he was kind of new to this method, even as a sophomore in high school. And a couple of months in, he's like, well, I gotta be honest again. Like I am learning so much more by narrating and doing this reading than I ever have in any of my subjects before. And so yeah, then he was sold on it. He saw how the connections that he was making between the things that he was reading in the art that he was studying, and his mom was sold on it as well, so yeah. Even though it's never too late to start with this as well.
So, but try to stay consistent. Read the text only once, and I talked about that, and the importance for that. Keep your lesson short. You don't have to read an entire chapter, you just read two to three pages when you're young and ask them to narrate, and then you can keep reading if time allows. Stick to the short lessons. Charlotte Mason's programs, kids in form one, they don't really have many lessons over twenty minutes. So, they only had to focus for a set period of time they were going on to something else.
Today's episode is brought to you by A Gentle Feast. A Gentle Feast is a complete curriculum for grades one through twelve, that is family-centered, inspired by Miss Mason's programs and philosophy, and rooted in books, beauty, and Biblical Truth. You can find out how smooth and easy days are closer than you think at agentlefeast.com.
Alright, don't interrupt or critique during a narration, and, oh my goodness, this is so hard sometimes. I really just want to be like wait, wait, no... It's like they're done. But Charlotte Mason says the teacher doesn't talk much and never interrupts a child who is narrating. The first attempts at narrating may be stumbling, but soon the children get a feel for it and are able to narrate back long passages accurately. The teacher might let other children correct the narration. Y'all, Charlotte Mason cracks me up. She is so funny sometimes. Here's what she said. She says the hardest part for the teacher is looking receptive and interested. I don't know about you, but that is so true. And sometimes my kid’s narrations just go on and on and on and on. I'm like, oh boy, that's, oh, we laughed so hard.
But you know we're not to interrupt them. We are to be interested, to be engaged, show them our full attention, and if there is something that's wrong, you know if they're saying, okay, Abraham Lincoln crossed the Delaware River during the American Revolution, you're like, that's George Washington. Like, we don't have to interrupt them. You can wait till their finished and then you can just say, oh yeah, that was so neat, how George Washington did...
Or, she says, you know, another child is probably naturally going to step in, especially our ones that love to be right, and say, no, it was George Washington, afterwards, you know? But you have to teach them not to interrupt as well. I mean, do you like it when you're telling the story, and somebody interrupts you and fact checks you? No. And I'm an adult, right? So, kids don't like that either. So, let them talk. Let them be seen and heard, and then you can kind of guide them if they need help with their narration after that.
Another important key with narration is respecting the child, okay? So, this is a natural process and I hear people say my child doesn't like me reading, or my child gets really stressed about it. And I think the key is to make this a natural part and a natural rhythm of your life. Not a, okay, I have finished reading the story. Who can tell me now what this story was about? And making it this stressful school thing that I have that I would have to check out this box. But, oh wow that was really interesting. Hmm, I wonder what will happen next? You know and just start talking and getting that discussion going with the child. Like I said, looking at the child in their eyes, drawing them close when they're younger. If you're doing dishes and they come to do their narration, put the dishes down and turn and look to them. Respect them. I think the critiquing part comes into that. You know, listening to their narration. And like I said, it might not be the parts that you think are the most important, but it was important to them. So, giving them that respect will encourage and build their confidence to keep doing it.
And expect it to be awkward at first. So, nobody told me this. So, when it was awkward, I gave up. For a little bit. So, I wish I would have the mindset of, now, when you start narrating it is going to be awkward, okay? It is not something that comes naturally, so it says here, start with paragraphs in oral narration only. The true measure of the value of narration can only be gleaned, and this is from a Parents Review article, by the way, can only be gleaned by a teacher who persists with his own people's and as the child's power develop, so the teachers pathological and physiological insight developed. The teacher must restrain himself when breaking in a class. It will be weeks, perhaps months, before the majority are fluent. Impatience must never be shown when the children mumble a few words instead of giving a brilliant narration. They must never be prompted or interrupted.
So, I kinda see this as like building a muscle. And it is, it's a hard higher-level thinking skill.
You are building a hard intellectual muscle in your children. Okay? If you've never gone and worked out before, you're not going to go to the gym tomorrow and start lifting the hundred-pound weights, are you? No. You're gonna start with eight pounds or maybe even five-pound weights, right? And then as your body gets stronger, you can increase that. And the same thing with narration, okay? Your child, it says in here it might be months okay? Just kind of fumbling a few words here or there till they start building this skill and building that muscle. Have patience with them and have patience with yourself.
A great place to start is, when they're younger, starting with fables or literature. Something that's very narrative is easier to narrate. Then maybe, like a nonfiction science book would be. You can write names on the board if you are, like let's say, you're reading from the Old Testament, or you're doing a history lesson, and those names can be a little tricky, especially like our island story, cause all the kings have like the same name, they just have a bunch of different numbers and it can be confusing. So, you can write those you know kind of on the board, so that when your child is narrating, they're not saying you know the one guy killed the dude who was married to the girl. And you're like what? Right? But having those names they can have something that they can reference. It's just very helpful.
Start out the lesson by reviewing the previous lessons material. So, I might say, okay, last time when we were reading, King George came and did... Or I might ask my children to give me a narration of what happened the day before, which is a great way to build long term memory. You say, okay, who can tell us what happened in our history book last time?
Then read the lesson and then have them narrate. And if there's things that you want to add or questions that you wanna talk about after they've narrated, that's fine, but not before, because you want them to be able to kind of have that train of thought and not get interrupted with what you thought was important. Then they might just totally lose what they were going to say.
Okay, so that's part of this kind of scaffolding. The, you know, writing the names on the board, going over the lesson from before. And then be consistent. Like I was saying with the different types of methods. Narrate everything. If it's a school subject, we narrate it. Okay? So, you know at that time I'm not going to ask them to narrate me their story. ??? school lessons. Hey. Whatever it is, we're going to narrate it. And then allow for alternative narrations. So, and this is really good if you have a child who's reluctant to narrate or may be struggling with narration. You can allow them to draw a picture. You can have them act it out with Legos. You can have props and have them act it out with their siblings. Okay? You can be really creative with this.
You know I had a child who at first when she was six, really struggled with narration. My other ones picked it up so fast. And she was always a verbal processor, so I thought narration would come extremely easy to her. She was always telling me like what she played with at her friend's house or about the movie she had seen. And so, I said oh, narration's gonna be so easy for this child. But it was not. And later on, I realized that part of the reason why it was so hard for her, at first is cause she has ADHD. And so, her thoughts would kind of get all mumbled together of what was happening in the story.
And so, when I figured this out, one of the things I let her do was I had comic book style paper where it has the little squares in a row, and I would just have her draw quick little stick figure sketches while I was reading and then I would have her go back and use that while she was narrating to me. That helped her organize her thoughts and she could go back and look at the pictures and go, okay, this is the first thing that happened. And then kind of walk me through it. That was when she was six. She's ten now and she hasn't, she didn't do it at all last year. She didn't need to. She was able to narrate without it, so it's not like she's gonna be in college doing that, right? But it was a helpful way for her. what she needed at that younger age to help her with developing narration.
And then you can ask for different types of narration. So, for form one the elementary students, it's going to be narrative. Okay, tell me what happened. So, with maybe a Bible lesson. Tell me the story of Nathan. Okay? Then in form two, this is your upper elementary kids, you can start asking them to give you descriptive narrations. Describe a Hickory tree. Describe a journey in northern Italy. And these kinds of questions really do come in handy when you're developing exam questions. Charlotte Mason had exams at the end of the twelve-week terms. There are three terms in her year. And these exam questions, you can read them at the back of School Education, in the appendix and they really were these extended narration kind of questions.
So, these types would be really good for that, but you can also give your kids these kinds of assignments when they were doing their narration on their own. So, form three, that's middle school, you can start to ask them for expository type writing. Explain how a seed is dispersed. That is, kinda sounds like an essay doesn't it? Cause it is. Expository right? That, they're able to think, kind of, a little bit more rationally and analytically at that age and put things together like that.
And then form four, high school is persuasive. You might say, write a letter to the president explaining why America should stay out of World War One. Okay? These are the different types of writing that you want your child to develop, so they're learning these writing styles through their narration. They come out naturally. Charlotte Mason was always like, write a letter to the editor. But that doesn't really happen because most people don't get the newspapers these days. But, you know, these would be typical genres of writing that you would want your child to develop throughout their careers, and narration is a very natural and I'm sure ??? will talk about that more in her talk.
Yes, as for repeated narrations at regular intervals like I said, so they might narrate about history and then we might not have American history for two more days. And so, when we have that again I'll say okay, can you tell me what we talked about last time? And sometimes they may need a little bit of help and that's okay. I'll be like, so last time we were talking about Sitting Bull, and just me giving that little like memory button, then they start talking all about what the lesson was about.
What happens then when we're repeating that narration is, again, it's helping it move into our long-term memory. I do something called a weekly narration notebook on Friday afternoons. We pull out our little notebooks and each child will either draw a picture or they'll write about something that they've learned about that week. They might tell me the narration and I might write it down. And I kind of keep that in a portfolio. It's a great way to just to kind of have that. And also like I said, exams are repeated narrations again and so that was mind-blowing for me when I realized how Charlotte Mason structured her exams. It's really narration all over again. They've already done this, and so my kids love exam week, cause basically, they just get to tell me what they know about everything that they think is interesting and exciting that we've learned about. And so, it's a really wonderful bonding time, but it is also another way for that information to be stored in their minds.
All right, so slowly transition from oral to written narration. So, she says children in form one B, first grade, need a lot of material read aloud, increasing intermittently in difficulty. They don't need to have their faculties developed from scratch since they were born with the power they need, but they do need a little time how to learn their power of concentrating and narrating. So young children should probably be allowed to narrate a paragraph at a time. By seven or eight, a whole chapter at a time.
And so, you know, we're just starting real small at first. But then around age ten, you can transition more to where they're gonna start writing written narrations. So, it's not like, today is your tenth birthday. Now, for every subject, I want you to stop talking to me about it, and I want you to write an essay. Okay, that's not how it works. You have to slowly get there over time, okay? So, it might be, okay, you write down a part, I'll write down a part, or you just tell it to me and I'll write it down and then maybe you could take that and you could type it. Or you could record yourself giving you oral narration and then listen to it and write it down or type it.
So maybe by the end of form two around sixth grade, they'll be doing one written narration a week, maybe, as they move forward, one a day up through high school. So, it's not that they stop orally narrating, and I think that's a common misconception. Even a senior in high school is going to have some subjects in a day that they're going to orally narrate. But they have one or more in a day that they're going to do a written narration for.
And she says children shouldn't be hassled or pressured about using proper punctuation and capital letters when they write their narrations. Those things will take care of themselves if the child reads a lot, and too many coaxings to use correct punctuation usually results in the overuse of commas. Which is so true. It's so true. Like, just put commas all over the place. So, we don't want the focus of the narration to be on, did I start every sentence with a capital? Did I put a comma? Oh, my goodness, I don't know. And they become so focused on the spelling and grammar that it kind of stifles them in their ability to write.
But when they are transitioning, you are going to probably see the quality of their narrations go down. When you are orally talking you are able to share a lot more than you are when you're writing it down, especially if you're new to this whole idea of putting your thoughts down on paper. There's a lot more processing. Like I said, the grammar the punctuation, spelling, how do I form my letters? How do I develop my ideas in a logical sequence? That is a lot harder when you're doing it written, so expect that transition to take a year or two.
All right, so one of the things I do then is I teach my kids once they get to be about middle school, okay, pick one of the iterations that you have for the week. Let's go over it. Let's turn it into a final draft, especially in high school when I have to have a grade. Okay, I'll take one of the narration, I'll let them edit it. I'll let them make it into a final draft. But they don't start, I don't start off doing this. Especially in form two, when they're just starting narrating. Don't do this, okay? This is the middle and then further transitioning on to high school.
All right, so here's some common problems. And I'm running out of time, so I'm just gonna see how many I can get through here. Okay, my child says I don't know. So, you ask them, if you read something, you say, okay, tell me what it's about. And they go, I don't know. So, this could be a variety of different things. It could be that you were trying to read too much at one time, and you need to kinda break it down into smaller subjects, kinda sections.
Do your child feel pressured? Some children are just slower processors and they just need more time. So, I might finish reading. We might just sit there in silence for a little bit and then I might ask them, can you tell me what that was about? Before they start narrating and give them the time to kind of walk through that.
You might have your child narrate to a toy or a teddy bear, or bring some, like I said, Legos or some fun props and kind of try to do it a different way and make it less pressure for them. So, this is my daughter's. I was just telling you that I had a hard time of narrating. There was a good several months where every time I asked for her narration from her, she would say, I don't know. And like I said, I realized later, that was the ADHD. It was a natural way to, cause her brain needed more time to think. But this is her narration notebook that she did on the 1920s and the stock market, so I wrote down what she said, and she drew a cute little picture. This was when she was only in second grade. And then, in third grade, she wanted to do a written narration, which they don't typically do until they're, like I said, around age ten, but she saw her older siblings doing it. And so, she went from I don't know, being able to write this down by yourself in third grade, which is early for a written narration, which is amazing.
So, I show you that so that you can have encouragement to keep persevering there.
And then I often get asked to, my child's narrations aren't living up to my expectations.
So, I would just encourage you to go back to what I said earlier about that it takes time.
It might take weeks or months so that you can kind of get an idea of that they sometimes need a little bit more time to develop this higher-level thinking muscle there.
All right, my child has learning difficulties and I told you about that, you know, with my own child how we use those kind of comic book styles, but narration works for every child.
Whether they love to do things with their hands and they're acting it out, right? Or they may struggle with attention, they need more time, or need a few more kind of tools, but it works for everyone.
Okay, I'm trying. I have multiple children that I'm gonna read in they're gonna narrate. How do I make sure they're not all gonna tell me the same thing? Well, they might repeat some of the things, but there's only so much that's going to be in there, right? But I found my kids really do make it their own over time. Or I'm going to start off with you and then when I tell you to stop, I want you to stop your narration, and then I want you to pick up where that child left off. You can have them draw pictures when they do that and they just talk about the picture. All of their pictures are going to be different, right? So that kind of helps with that as well.
You can even have them narrate together. Okay, act out the scene. You all decide is going to be what I want you to act out what just happened in our story. That really helps them work together. But they can also just turn and talk to each other depending on how many kids you have that are reading the story at the same time. And if you have older children who are narrating, they can go off and read, you know, the passage to each other and narrate to each other.
Thank you for joining us today on the Charlotte Mason Show. I'm your host, Julie Ross, and I would love to meet you in person. All of the Great Homeschool Conventions have been rescheduled to 2021. Go to greathomeschoolconventions.com to find a convention near you.
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