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Charlotte Mason taught that children should be able to retell what they have read. This, she called narration. Until I was introduced to Miss Mason’s teachings, I had never heard of narration.
However, we narrate all kinds of things every single day: a television show, a great new movie, the conversation we had with a friend, and yes, a fantastic book!
Leaving loads of questions behind and focusing on narration is one thing that drew me to the Charlotte Mason philosophy.
What Books Do We Read?
The process of choosing books wasn’t easy for me. I’m a “tell me what to do, and I’ll do it,” kind of girl.
But Charlotte Mason didn’t say you must read certain books, only that they should be living. She described living books as books in which the author is a true expert in his or her field and has genuine passion for the subject. They are typically written in narrative form, unlike typical school textbooks.
I was stuck trying to decide which books those should be. And since we currently have five children in school, and a preschooler utterly destroying the place most days, the task seemed beyond overwhelming, almost impossible. Without knowing how else to go about it, searched for book lists by grade and read reviews.
But…How do I decide?
- There are TONS of really great books to read!
- ACK! So which ones do I choose?
- There were book lists that mentioned the same titles over and over again.
- Surely if they keep being mentioned, they are great reads?
- But then once I decide on books, how do I make sure my kids are actually reading them??
All of these thoughts were tumbling over and over in my mind, especially the last one. I wanted a way for my children to let me know what they read without tons of busy work.
Finally, I realized that if I wanted to know if my kids could remember what they read (minus the busy work), then I needed to do the reading for myself.
>TIP: If you can find the time, this is the absolute best way to do it. You will be surprised at how wonderful middle grade novels are. Plus, there is something amazing about reading alongside your kiddos. It’s almost like you share an inside joke or a secret no one else has privy to. Strange, but it’s true. Trust me!
What Narration Looks Like for Us
When we first started dipping our feet into Miss Mason’s way of education, I simply let my kids read and tell me what they read. Easy enough–when they are in 1st grade. But when they started reading longer and longer novels, and all I would get from them is a one sentence narration for an entire chapter, I knew I had to do something different.
I decided to take those books lists I mentioned earlier, and find books for each child, according to level, and read them for myself. That way I knew what they should be telling me about after each chapter and at the end of the book. Trouble was… all those readers got jumbled up in my brain, and I couldn’t remember what the chapters were about, specifically.
I highly recommend the following books about books…they have reviews and great lists!
- The Read Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie
- Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt
- Honey for a Teen’s Heart by Gladys Hunt
- Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson
Vocabulary and Narration Guides
That’s how my Vocabulary and Narration Guides came about. I noted vocabulary that may be unfamiliar, and I asked a question (or two, sometimes three) about the overall idea of the chapter. I wrote down the question per chapter so that it jogged my memory when it was time for them to narrate to me. Remember, five kids, all different ages, all different readers.
The chapter question is simply this: “Can you tell me what you read in that chapter?” But in a way that I remember what the chapter was about. Then at the end of each book, I ask three to four evaluation questions, which dig a little deeper and have the child think a bit more critically.
Now, it’s important to note that according to Miss Mason, children up to age 10 should not be bothered with written narration, but rather oral only, as a dictation to you or just a conversation. From age 10 on, they should be writing their narrations, and over time these narrations should become more and more detailed.
I want them to LOVE reading!
My goal in having my children read is not to see how many books they can read. Or to ask a bazillion questions so that in the end I’ve killed the joy of a good book. [That happened with my older kids.] I want them to read because reading is amazing for the brain! It takes us on an adventure, shows us deep sorrow, turns us upside down with laughter, and causes us to root like crazy for the underdog!
Reading good literature opens worlds that will otherwise never be opened for our children. But sometimes, we all need a little prompting to get through a particularly difficult or boring chapter. These guides are intentionally simple and light. I want to know what they know, without killing the love of a good book!
>>Be sure to check out my Vocabulary and Narration Guides – HERE!
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