Narration: Various Meanings
Narration: This one word is significant to those who are educators. A narration has different meanings for different education methods and styles. A narration which follows the Well-Trained Mind approach is based on the idea that a child should summarize a selection by restating its main points and by differentiating between irrelevant vs. important details. A narration which follows the Charlotte Mason approach is based on the idea that a child should retell a selection with attention to detail and with a focus on how it connects within her own mind after just one reading. However, a Charlotte Mason approach to writing will also include approaches to summarizing, establishing main points and distinguishing between essential details over non-essential details, although these aspects tend to appear in the upper portion of the lower years.
Narration: A Child's Perspective
What does a child think of the act of narrating?
Do all children enjoy giving narrations?
I've often heard that many families have tried the Charlotte Mason approach to learning and then moved away from it for a variety of reasons. One of these reasons often included the child's complete dislike of giving narrations. The child's discomfort with the act of narrating often included one or more of the following reasons:
Narrating is boring.
I don't like having to narrate so many times in one day.
Narrating is repetitive.
I can't remember enough of the selection to narrate it.
Written narrations take too long to write.
All of the above reasons can be alleviated with minor alterations such as varying the types of narrations, completing the appropriate preparation work before a reading, adjusting lengths, of both the reading selection and the required written output and many other possible alterations. But quite frankly, much of this discomfort is the result of much more than distaste for narrating. Narrating is deceptively simple. It gives this illusion, but includes and stretches many skills at once. It's this stretching of skills such as attention, organization of ideas, verbally expressing the selection and the addition of the child's own thoughts that makes narration difficult for children, especially children new to this method. Narration is just one component of the entire Charlotte Mason approach, and like the overall fit, it needs to be given time for adjustments and familiarity.
Narration: A Different Perspective
As children adjust to the style and schedule of narrating, then their joy in narrating will usually grow in proportion. My children have almost entirely grown up with narrating. Their perspective on narrating is quite different from children who do not care for it. My children consider narrating an opportunity, as it is a moment for them to share their thoughts and feelings over a selection. They, like most children, want to be heard. To be heard is to feel understood. This is one aspect of narrating from which all children can benefit. I realized that both of our girls did not like to see a day go by when they did not feel as if they had segments of time from both me and my husband where we gave them our undivided attention. What do children want when they want our undivided attention? They want us to listen to them. When my daughters narrate to me, they have my undivided attention and I am listening.
Narration: An Older Student's Perspective
Don't make the mistake of thinking that this level of acknowledgment of their words and thoughts will leave once they are older. My older daughter has many different composition notebooks in which she writes her narrations. In every book, I mark some edits for her to make and I always write comments. Sometimes I comment on some aspect of writing to which she needs to pay more attention, sometimes I write a reminder rule and just as often I write comments of praise. Every week I give the girls their narration notebooks back and they both eagerly open them to read the comments. Also, as the student moves into the upper years, we engage in discussions about the works we read and how the great ideas such as love, liberty, justice and beauty are illustrated by these works. These discussions and the notebooks give even older students the opportunities they need to feel connected.