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|What’s the measure of your child’s homeschooling success?
How much has he truly learned?
How much will he remember?
Does he have a love of learning?
Click below to hear our story!
I first learned of narrations years ago when we were reading Susan Wise Bauer’s history series, The Story of the World. She gave wonderful suggestions for narrations. At the time though, we were following a hectic school schedule and were still fairly clueless of what we were doing, so the narrations very rarely happened. Thankfully, I was reintroduced to this method a few years later and WOW what a difference it has made in our children’s education.
Narration is very simply the telling back of what was just read. You read aloud to your children and they tell you back what was read. Your children read to themselves and they come tell you what they read. It is a very simple idea. However, having tried this skill myself, it is definitely not something most of us would find so easy to do. It is a skill that must be practiced consistently. We have been very successful with our narrations and I think it is because we started so gently. We have tried to follow Charlotte Mason’s approach with our narrations.
Charlotte Mason and Narrations
The following links will take you directly to Charlotte Mason’s writings on narration and to articles written by those who have studied them much more deeply than I have.
Charlotte Mason’s Writings:
Other links to Narration articles:
Karen Andreola, author of The Charlotte Mason Companion et al.
Catherine Levison, author of A Charlotte Mason Education et al.
Narration Ideas from SimplyCharlotteMason.com
Narration Tips from Susan Wise Bauer co-author of The Well-Trained Mind et al.
How We Incorporate Narrations in our Homeschool
[Below is a peek of how we incorporated narrations in our Bible, History, and Science studies.This is not necessarily how we do things today. This was what we were currently doing at the time of this writing.]
For our Bible story time, we use the VOS Child’s Story Bible as a family. First, I assign the actual Bible passages for the children to read during their quiet times from their own Bibles (and I do this as well). They have a quiet time journal they keep where they keep track of prayer requests and notes about what they feel the Lord is teaching them at the time. I assign their Bible readings to them for a couple days and they choose what to read for the remaining days. We come together for the reading from the story Bible. They tag team narrate, orally, after each small section of reading. If the reading was particularly full of lots of details, we may jot down some key words for a very informal outline of what was read. I especially like to write any names and dates we come across so that they will be more inclined to use them. Then, after we have covered the reading for the day, they will do a written narration for their notebooking pages. My older children will write their own narrations without much aid from me. The youngest ones will need me to write down their narrations for them at least in part.
We only do one formal written narration for Bible each week. I keep our read aloud time short, perhaps 2 pages or so (which equates to about 1-2 chapters from the Bible usually). At the beginning of the year, I map out the full plan for the year so as to keep us at this pace. If we read too much more than this, we would get bogged down in too many details each week. Following this pace allows us time to really enjoy each reading. After the written narrations are finished, we spend the remaining days of the week building our Bible notebooks by adding maps, drawings, timelines, coloring pages, Bible copywork, and such. If time remains, we will also spend some extra read aloud time in a devotional book or book about missionaries, like Missionary Stories with the Millers.
For History, we usually have one or two main read alouds we do as a family and at least one literature book for each child. We do the same process as with our Bible study – orally narrating after small sections of reading, but we do not always write the same day that we read. If possible we do, but it is not always the case. With the Bible, you are usually following one main story line, whereas with History you are possibly covering several story lines, several (to many) people, and events. It may take several days before we finish a whole concept. Also, with the Bible, I am more concerned about getting as much of each story into the children’s hearts and mind. In History, I am more concerned that they are getting the bigger picture. If the kids do not do a written narration on a day of reading, I make sure that we write down a key word outline from their oral narrations or at least some basic notes to keep on the white board until their day of writing. Then after two-three days of reading, I usually let the kids pick a person, event, place, or major theme (or combination of these) for them to focus on in their notebooking pages. Then, we sit down to writing the narrations and filling up our notebooking pages with all of the other elements. So we do two-three days of mostly reading and then about 3 days of notebooking. Each of these days, the kids will be reading their own literature books independently and doing occasional oral narrations for me from them (just to make sure they are comprehending what they are reading). Typically, we do not notebook from their independent history literature books, except for biographies, unless they are inclined to do so.
Most of our children’s science work is done on their own during their free afternoons – truly! They are so naturally drawn to God’s creation and will sit down with books, experiments, bugs, reptiles (and other creatures) and just study to satisfy their hunger for knowledge. You will undoubtedly find on any given occasion jars filled with their various finds in our family/school room. They are fascinated with the way things work and because we limit their exposure to electronic media, they have not lost their ability to entertain themselves or their desire to read books. In fact, here lately, they tend to be taking apart all of the electronic toys they own in order to see if they can put them back together or make an entirely different gizmo of some sort. To keep their curiosity growing, we make sure to bring home a variety of science books from the library to expose them to a multitude of topics. They have learned far more about science on their own than from me! For this “informal” study of science, I encourage the kids to come tell me what they are learning (oral narrations) and to occasionally make pages for their notebooks with written narrations about their experiences with these topics that fascinate them.
Now I do have several specific science books and curriculum guides that we use in a more formal sense as well as many field guides and living nature books for our nature studies. Usually after about a week’s study in history, we will take 3-4 days to study something specific in science. I love the combination of books and curricula we have purchased: 106 Days of Creation, Considering God’s Creation, and the Elementary Apologia Series for the younger kids. Older kids have enjoyed books from Answers in Genesis as well as Apologia. This combination of books will last us for several years. We notebook whatever we are studying in a variety of ways. We will do biography pages (short written narrations based on snippets we read from a book or encyclopedia), experiment pages, narration pages on specific topics covered. We also try to go out once a week to find something in nature to do a page about. We tend to do more nature study throughout the spring and summer and so we will back off on some of our history studying to make more time for this. This works well because in the winter months it can be a bit difficult to study nature. So we focus more heavily on the history during those months.
Regardless of what we are studying, narrations are a top priority for me. If we do not have time for anything else, we make sure to do at least oral narrations from our studies. I cannot tell you how amazing this skill is. I am convinced that it truly prepares the kids to become great writers. After much practice, the words just flow for my kids. With a little formal training to help “dress up” their writing and to structure it properly, they will become great writers and speakers some day! I get pumped up thinking about how God will use my children in their future with the skills they are developing. I know it is from practiced narrations that my children are able to sit through a sermon on Sundays and come away knowing more and remembering more than most adults. Even though they sit and color for most of the sermon, their ears have been trained to truly listen and digest what they are listening to. Narration is a skill that is worth its investment in time. It takes some training on your part to consistently lead the children in building this skill, but if you handle it gently and take small steps, you will eventually see the great strides they are making and be just as amazed as I am.