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A System of Narration

Our narration system in our family has been in place for a number of years now….I used narration more with my last two children than I did with the older two. What a world of difference in the quality of our homeschooling. As the boys have learned to express themselves both orally and with writing, I have seen the value of steering clear of fill in the blank type work. When they are excited to tell what they know because they have listened or read carefully, it is more meaningful to all of us. I *know* they understand the material and will more than likely remember what they narrate.

Our general progression of oral and written narration in our homeschool:
1st and 2nd grades: We worked on oral narration of literature, history, and science readings. This was done everyday as we went through the day’s reading together and if they needed it, I would give them some prompts to get them started. We did very little written narration and at most a sentence or two that was more like copywork than narration.

3rd and 4th grades: We worked on short written narration, usually a paragraph, two times a week and still completed lots of oral narration every day. If they had trouble with the written narrations, I would have them give an oral narration and then I would write their words on the whiteboard for them to copy down on paper. This seemed to be a great way to transition to longer written pieces. Somewhere I read that writing is just “talk on paper” and that made an impression with me as we started moving from an oral to written narration.

5th and 6th grades: We began expecting more written narration in the form of longer writing responses to a topic from history, science, or literature done once a week. The boys completed short written narrations everyday on a variety of subjects, usually something they were interested in and could give thorough coverage of the material. We continued with more informal oral narration just about every day around the lunch table or the dinner table about what they read during their school day.

7th and 8th grades: At this level, I start to give the boys more leeway about what form their narration will take. It seems like just about every subject lends itself to a certain kind of narration and we go with that. History seemed to be an appropriate place for written short summaries each day. The boys did oral narration for everyday science readings. They completed longer written narrations each week for science about a topic of interest. They also started keeping narrations on artists and composers. Nature journal narrations were made each week.

In addition to writing words as a form of narration, the boys included hand-drawn maps, illustrations, clipart, and other creative touches to their pages. I have one son who has trouble with the physical aspects of writing. He will use a pencil and paper if he is asked but if given a choice, he will choose to type up his narrations. I allow him to now type all his written narrations and the quality of content has gone up ten-fold. We are both happy.

Here are some examples of their narrations from last year when they were 11 and 13 years old. Some of the scans are goofy but you will get the idea….I need to get the boys to write with a darker lead. 🙂

History with written summary and hand-drawn maps. (I think the books were The Story of Liberty and The Age of Revolution.)

Here is a notebooking page that was used for history narration, a collage report format narration, and a written narration for composer study. I consider notebooking pages a great way to record a narration….some may disagree but it works in our family.

Now for a couple of science samples. Once a week, I ask the boys to pick a topic from their reading and write down what they found interesting to learn about. They usually have a topic in mind and since they have done careful reading all week, they have no trouble coming up with more than enough to write about. As I write this blog entry, my son is in the process of writing his weekly history narration on his topic of choice, Genghis Kahn. Yesterday there was a narration written about Joan of Arc and one on marine invertebrates. It has just become our way of finalizing our weekly studies.

I hope this entry helps another family in their endeavors to do narration. It is a simple concept that builds naturally into homeschooling and everyday life. My older two wish I would have stumbled onto these concepts when they were in the early days of homeschooling when we had fill in the blanks worksheets and multiple choice questions and quizzes and tests. I always tell them that I changed when I saw it wasn’t working for them and I made changes as I learned more about narration. Homeschooling is a life process and I usually learn more than they do. 🙂

Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Every Small Miracle-Charlotte Mason Education

walking on a sequoia

“Every small miracle that ceases to amaze us is like a new discovery to our children, as exciting as the discovery of gravity to Newton.”
Charlotte Mason, Home Education, volume 1, page 54

“…We have been seeing flowers for years–but our children haven’t. Flowers are still new and wonderful to them and it’s the fault of grown-ups if every new flower they see ceases to delight them.”
Charlotte Mason, Home Education, volume 1, page 53

I am sharing these quotes with you because they really have impacted how I treat learning with my own children. Often we need to be reminded of things and those reminders sometimes come as a breath of fresh air. My heart reads these ideas in Charlotte Mason’s writings and it encourages me to be a better mom and teacher.

Currently I am homeschooling my fourth child so that means this is the fourth time I have covered basically the same information in the 8th grade……four times. I could just be going through the motions at this point. Putting my feelings aside, I realize that this is the *first* time this particular son has been in the eighth grade and I need to try to be as up-beat about it as I can. It is all new to him.

Today we visited a friend and she has a guinea pig…a really big, hairy guinea pig. My boys have never seen one up close before and they were thrilled. I am not so thrilled with small furry things so I had to put on my “teacher” hat and think of ways to be as thrilled as they are. What is the point I am trying to make? Just that I could have easily been put off by this creature but instead I realized that my boys were excited to see something new so my job was to be encouraging and let them enjoy the experience.

roots of a sequoia
Ever climb through the roots of a fallen giant sequoia tree and out through the hollow center? My boys wanted to…so we did.

So much of what Charlotte Mason taught was about providing time and space for our children to learn new things….meaningful things from their real life. Our nature study is a window into the world for them and we miss out if we limit what we offer because we are worn-out or tired of looking at the same old things. Yes, a pine cone is just a pine cone to us but to our children it has a color, a shape, a texture, and a fragrance…all new and exciting.

Funny thing is that if we allow ourselves to experience these times with our children, we end up enjoying them too. Their enthusiasm rubs off on us and we see things through their eyes….just like it was new to us all over again. It doesn’t matter whether it is looking through a microscope at a leaf, planting a seed in the garden, knitting a scarf, making cookies, or laying down in the grass and looking at the sky. It is the everyday experiences that delight our children and we need to slow down and enjoy it with them. It makes us truly rich.

Try it and you will see,
Barb-Harmony Art Mom

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