Narration (Help appreciated!)

Dear Reader,

So I guess I am all out of order because last week’s Charlotte Mason blog carnival was on narration (partly at least; it was on principles 14 and 15) but I blogged on reason, and this week it is on reason and the way of the will but I am blogging on narration. I did not do this on purpose. I had already written the post on reason, and I just couldn’t face one on narration.

I just don’t feel narration is something we do very well. Oh, we do it. And we do it a fair amount though not always for everything we read. But I often feel that the kids just aren’t getting much from it. This is especially true of the younger two. They are 7 and 8 (almost 9) and I think they rely too much on their older siblings (10 and 12). They know if they can’t narrate that I will call on someone else. Sometimes I say something along the lines of “That’s too bad; it was a good story. I am sorry you weren’t listening.” Is this bad? I don’t know if I should say anything or not. I know Charlotte said that kids should know any of them could be called upon so they would all be mentally prepared. But what if they just don’t care if they are found unprepared? How do you motivate them? Sometimes the older kids seem completely unable to come up with anything coherent or give me the briefest possible answers too. I hate to do a lot of “and then what?”ing, but I do feel sometimes that they are giving me the bare bones when they did understand more.

That was all how I was feeling a couple of weeks ago. I am feeling slightly better about things this week. One reason is that we have reached a slightly different topic in our history reading. We have been going through The Story of Europe by Marshall. The previous chapters were on the history of Europe in the Middle Ages. But then this week we hit some chapters on feudalism and basically more about the culture. And the children’s interest seems to have ratcheted up quite a bit. They seem eager to understand. Even my almost 9-year-old, though he can be the worst about listening (I think he may have some mild auditory processing issues actually) was at least asking “what was that? what does that mean?” Even if he couldn’t narrate it all himself he was clearly trying to process the information.

So I guess the material really matters too. When we narrated our way through a bunch of Aesop’s fables a couple of years back, they all did a great job. I had heard that Aesop was a great thing to start with and I think it really is true. I like Marshall’s book, but I can certainly tell a difference when we get something that sparks their interest like these chapters on feudalism. There have been parts of chapters preciously that they have taken to also, usually anything that is more of a story though none of it is dry in my opinion. So perhaps I should just be happy with what they get and not worry if they sometimes miss whole chapters? I know Charlotte says they will take in what they need. Do they really need to know that Roger II ruled Sicily? I never did myself until now.

Which brings me to another point: it is so hard to keep myself quiet and let them do the narrating. Because the truth is I never learned a lot of what we are reading and it is interesting. I want to talk about it myself. Any tips on how to bite my tongue and keep myself quiet?

One more incident has given me hope– today my 7-year-old began spontaneously narrating the story of Cyprian (a martyred African church father) as soon as I finished reading it. I wasn’t going to ask anybody to narrate it actually because we don’t do it for everything, but she just started and kept going. And did it all with tears in her eyes. So I don’t worry too much about her. I think she is just young and will get there for narration and probably be the best of them at it because she started it from the beginning of her homeschooling.

So I guess my two big questions are how do you explain to kids that you want to hear all they know and remember? I think my older kids who started narration a couple of years ago still tend to think “why does she want us to repeat what she just read?” And what do you do if they just don’t remember anything?

Nebby

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7 responses to this post.

  1. Sometimes I say something along the lines of “That’s too bad; it was a good story. I am sorry you weren’t listening.” Is this bad? I don’t know if I should say anything or not.

    i say something similar. i also let them feel the reproach that sometimes comes with being caught unprepared. still, i encourage them, ‘well, i bet you’ll listen closer and have something more to say next time.’ then a paragraph or so later, i ask that child to narrate it. of course he can because it was so short, and they also get my point. if he narrates that well, i let them know my expectations are met. 😉

    But then this week we hit some chapters on feudalism and basically more about the culture. And the children’s interest seems to have ratcheted up quite a bit. They seem eager to understand.

    i think this is totally key. we *can* narrate anything if we will ourselves to do it. but we *like* to narrate what we’re interested in. that’s why living books are so important!

    Which brings me to another point: it is so hard to keep myself quiet and let them do the narrating. Because the truth is I never learned a lot of what we are reading and it is interesting. I want to talk about it myself. Any tips on how to bite my tongue and keep myself quiet?

    i don’t see a problem with occasionally narrating a section to my kids. i think it helps to set an example of what a narration might look like, as well as setting the tone. this way they see that it IS interesting… at least to someone (albeit, mother!). 😉

    i love this post, nebby! it is such fun to think and chat together about these things. 🙂

    Reply

  2. Thanks for the feedback, Amy. I don’t feel quite so lost 🙂

    Reply

  3. I can really identify with your post! I know shorter passages have helped a couple of my more reluctant narrators but I’m still learning how to make this work smoother than it is!

    Reply

    • It’s good to know I’m not the only one who struggles with narration 🙂
      I wonder now about the history book we are using (The Story of Europe by Marshall). I sometimes feel they can’t narrate becase the passages aren’t long enough; there isn’t enough story in them for them to recount. When the passage is more narative or when we are doing something like the Arabian Nights, they do a much better job of narrating. Is there a point at which they can handle things that aren’t pure narrative? I do think the book we are using is living and they don’t seem completely bored with it but not every section seems to be narrate-able.

      Reply

  4. We’ve had some similar “poor” narration episodes. My youngest child suggested that I please let her narrate after shorter sections because she was afraid she’d forget. In fact, it was great training to read just one paragraph and then ask for detailed, accurate narrations, We gradually extended the readings and the kids gained confidence as they were stretched.
    Written narrations have also been gradually extended as their writing skills allow.
    I do feel that CM has such high standards and that there is always room for growth. My greatest challenge is to keep quiet and stay out of the way!

    Reply

  5. I don’t know if the book is the issue or not, but I thought I’d offer a title that I think is fantastic for this time period – Medieval Days and Ways by Gertrude Hartman.

    Reply

  6. Thanks for the suggestion. I’ll look for it. I did try preparing them a little yesterday by telling them what to look for in the passage. It went well but it was also a chapter on knighthood which I think was inherently interesting to them.

    Reply

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