Sep 28, 2015

A Few Reflections on Narration, Part 1

I've been thinking about narration lately. Narration. The backbone of a Charlotte Mason education. Without narration you don't have a CM education.

Does it often feel like pulling teeth to get your children to narrate? Or do the words gush forth? Does it depend on the day or the book, maybe?

What follows is a real life experience in the life of a CM home school.

My daughter Alice shared at a recent CM meeting about a narration given by her seven year old son Calvin, doing AO year 1. This is the first year she has required narration from him. She had just read him the passage. He listened fairly attentively, without squirming too terribly much. And when she was finished she looked at him expectantly and asked:

"What can you tell me about what I just read?"

"I know three things about it." He didn't even hesitate!

"Three things! That's great!" (Usually she's thrilled to hear ONE, single word, but he announced he had THREE things to share!)

He turns to look at her and with no particular malice or belligerence he states very matter-of-factly:

"Nothing! Nothing! Nothing!"

Like he said, three things ... (sigh!)  

The other mothers all laughed at her story and I'm sure quietly thanked God that things aren't as bad as that in their homes!

I don't ever recall getting a narration quite like Calvin's, in all the many years I homeschooled. While there were wonderful, detailed narrations in which my children waxed eloquently, more often than not they were short and sweet. Sometimes, Very Short and occasionally not all that sweet. And there were times, more often than I care to admit, when narrations didn't happen at all due to busyness (or laziness on my part).

My daughters are now both attending college while living at home and working part time. They attend two different schools due to their chosen courses of study. My younger daughter drives almost 90 miles one way, two very long days per week, while her older sister attends classes five days per week but just a few miles from home.

The interesting thing to me has been the spontaneous narrations that are happening on pretty much a daily basis. I would never have believed it if someone had told me that they would be talking my ears off once they were in college.

Virtually every day one or the other is expounding on something said, observed, or learned. Often conversations will begin with:

"Did you know ... ?"

And when I indicate my ignorance on the subject they happily fill in all my blanks.

This is narration, pure and simple!

And I admit, this is very fun for me!

When I think back to those days when they were young, (and even not so young), and the narrations were rather sparse, it is very heartening indeed to see their eagerness to share now.

So hang in there mothers even if it seems like your children are getting Nothing! Nothing! Nothing! from their lessons. There's always hope for tomorrow! Perhaps by the time they get to college you will be getting wonderful, detailed narrations like you never imagined, just as I am today.

Although, hopefully, you won't have to wait that long.

My daughter Alice is certainly hopeful she won't have to wait that long with Calvin!


  1. I'm so glad you shared this post! It is very encouraging to those of us who have younger children just starting out. It's easy to wonder if you're getting anywhere with narration. Our youngest had moments last year with Year 1 where her response to a reading was maybe one short statement. Or I may have simply gotten an "I don't know. " to a question. At times it did make me think that maybe it wasn't working. But then when we got ready to begin Year 2 this year, as I was reviewing briefly things from what we had read last year in Our Island Story, she was rattling off all these things she remembered from what we read last year. LAST YEAR. I was so excited and very encouraged! :)

  2. It's a cumulative process. One reading/one narration doesn't equal all the learning that is happening! Thank goodness! It takes time to see the fruit. We just have to be patient and trust the process!

    And how encouraging for you to see that for yourself with your youngest!

  3. Your two posts in narration are now open in my browser. Today, before I close, they will be read and I will comment.


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