November 30, 2013

Narration Surprises


If you're at all familiar with Charlotte Mason education, you've no doubt heard of narration.  This is simply the practice of having a child tell back to you what he or she just read.  It's a simple enough practice.  Younger kids tell their parents, who then write exactly each word the child says for him or her.  Slightly older children will have their parents write out their words and then copy the narration themselves.  Older students simply write their own narrations.

I've heard about it for years.  I've though gee, that sounds pleasant.  But I've never actually done it.  Don't know why.  Just haven't.  It felt a little too relaxed, perhaps.  But we're in a relaxed mood over at Casa de Christison these days and so we gave it a whirl.  Let me just say that it has been a blessing.  

The boys are reading an Island Story, which is thus far a charming little piece of Brittish History that relates all kinds of ancient tales we're already somewhat familiar with to England's own island history.  Hunter especially loves this book because it's full of action and adventure, and includes some of the characters he's constantly having to hear about now that big sister is obsessed with Percy Jackson.  

Anyway, I fully expected their narrations to be, oh, 5 sentences or so.  That's what all of the books tell you to expect.  Wrong.  If they love a story, and they seem to love an Island Story, these boys give me a whole lot of detailed narration.  Haven's first narration, of just 3 pages of reading, was 2 notebook pages long of my own small, cursive handwriting.  Hunter saw that I was nearing the bottom of the page and said, "Oh, you're almost out of space.  Guess I better stick to the high points."  I mean, this was totally unexpected and exciting.  Hannah Jane never stops talking about what she reads (like seriously, never ever stops talking about it), so I know her thoughts and feeling about every words spoken by every character ever.  But the boys?  Not so much.  So I fully expected this to be an experiment that probably wouldn't last long.  But I think it's here to stay!

What I love about it is that I can tell that they are really thinking, knowing that I'm writing down their exact words, about how to select their phrases and order the events.  It's a little more than casual conversation and I can see how this thoughtfulness will really aid them down the road in writing book reports or just crafting an eloquent persuasive paper.  

Hunter hanging out in my my bed, reading his narration back to me while I put away laundry.

Another unexpected gift from the narrations is reading cursive.  Hunter, especially, has been somewhat resistant to cursive since we moved beyond the lovely Waldorfish cursive letter art.  He LOVED cursive when it was one letter at a time with a pretty picture drawn into it.  But now that it's actually just writing, he prefers print.  And honestly, I don't much care how he writes.  His print is borderline atrocious, so it does make sense that he iron that out before moving on.  Still, I want to make sure he's not one of those kids who can't read cursive.  A friend of ours teaches English at an all boys boarding school in a town on the other side of the mountains and she said, "These boys can't read cursive!  I don't have time to correct all of their papers in print, but they seriously can't read my notes!  It's crazy!"  So I thought, big whoopty-do if he can't write it beautifully.  I mean, how many men do you know with excellent handwriting anyway?  But he should, at a minimum, be able to read it.  And since I write down his narrations in cursive, I have him read them back to me.  This is such a perfect scenario because he's familiar enough with the words to be able to work out what he may not be able to immediately read.  He just crafted the words himself not 5 minutes ago, after all.  And so he's getting a pretty relaxed chance to get comfortable with cursive while he irons out his print.  I love it!

I'm pretty sold on the whole narration thing.  I would have Hannah Jane give it a go too, but her language arts is through an independent studies course this year and she writes pretty much every single day for that.  I don't think I'll be heaping more writing on her just yet.  As long as she's clipping away on her own stuff and doing well, I'm just going to stay out of her way.  How bizarre it is that children from the same family can be so very different!  Some barrel through education and you just have to step aside, some need to be coaxed every single step of the way, and others would never initiate formal learning on their own, but merrily engage and succeed when you bring it up.  Such is life!

So I am a pretty big fan of narration at the moment.  The benefits I see extend far beyond what most Charlotte Mason fans list.  And it's pleasant and low stress practice in all sorts of areas  Two thumbs up!

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