Archive for January 12th, 2007

Do You Write Down Your Children’s Narrations?

January 12, 2007 @ 3:09 pm | Filed under: , ,

Ha! I knew I was being optimistic when I talked about continuing my narration post "tomorrow." My poor little Bean. Still running a highish fever, now on antibiotics. So no long post today, but a kind reader wrote in with a very good question, which I can answer quickly:

When your children narrate to you and you want to write
it down for them, how do you go about it?  My computer with at printer
is busted right now so no typing…  They just narrate so quickly I
hate to slow them down and have them lose their ideas… any thoughts?

Also, how often are you writing it down for them?


Answer: I’m not. I don’t write down their narrations, pretty much ever. Here’s my explanation of that from a Bonny Glen post I wrote last year:

Charlotte Mason recommends waiting until age ten or so to begin
asking the child for written narrations. Until that point, all
narration is oral. When Jane was little, I did (as many homeschooling
moms do) a lot of transcribing the narrations she dictated to me; I
printed them out, got her to illustrate them, put them together in a
notebook. I know this works beautifully for a lot of people, and I
don’t want to discourage anyone from doing it if it brings joy to you
and your child.

But I’ll say this: don’t feel obligated to
write down your child’s oral narrations. Don’t feel like you have to
make a notebook or else you’re not doing it properly. After a year or
two of compiling Jane’s narration notebook, I realized the whole
process had become for us an exercise in creating a product.
Jane was beginning to be proud of her notebook, or perhaps "prideful"
is a better word; she had seen me show it off enough times that she too
began to view her work as something to be shown off, something done for
the purposes of impressing one’s friends and relations. I was horrified
by this little epiphany. Of course it was completely my fault. I
ditched the habit of typing out her oral narrations; for a time, I
ditched narrating altogether. When we returned to it, it was to the
simple Charlotte Mason method of asking the child to "tell it back"—no
notebook, no product to display.

What I found that was that in addition to curing our mild show-off
problem, this took away the pressure that had turned narration into a
burden. No longer was it necessary for me to be prepared to scribble
down her words as fast as she said them: I could listen to her narrate
with a baby in my arms. And instead of the type—print—illustrate—bind
production line, narration could lead to discussion. The whole
experience became warmer, richer, and her narrations improved. Her
memory improved; her appetite for ideas increased. I’d read aloud, she’d tell it back, we’d chat about the people in the stories and the problems they encountered.

So this is how narration works in our house today. Rose is narrating
now, too, and Beanie frequently chimes in, unsolicited. When Jane
turned ten I began asking for occasional written narrations.

She is 11 1/2 now, and I ask for about three written narrations a week.

Hope that helps!

Related posts:
Reluctant narrators
Rose’s reading list
A CM term (Jane’s list)
CM on nourishing the mind
Big CM post

Poetry Friday: All Roads Lead to Greece

January 12, 2007 @ 2:49 pm | Filed under: ,

On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer
by John Keats

Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,

    And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;

    Round many western islands have I been

  Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.

  Oft of one wide expanse had I been told

 That deep-brow’d Homer ruled as his demesne;

    Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:

  Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

    When a new planet swims into his ken;
 Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes

    He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men

  Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—

    Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

The last four lines of this poem are quoted in the opening of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons, which I am currently reading to my girls. I pulled out my tattered Keats and read them the whole sonnet, and we talked about our own first view of the Pacific just a few winged months ago. Rose ran for the globe, and our old friend Mr. Putty resumed his travels. First he had to trace Cortez’s path, then our own.

I love this poem. (Of course, I have yet to encounter a Keats poem I do not like. Of the Romantics, he is my favorite—his letters, his poetry, his energy. I took a course in the Romantics twice, once in college and once in grad school, largely as an excuse to indulge in long afternoons spent poring over Keats and call it "work.")

Jane noted its kinship to Dickinson’s "There Is No Frigate Like a Book," which she has memorized. So lively was our discussion that I made an impulsive decision and printed off the first few pages of The Iliad (not being able to locate my own copy right away), which I had not planned to begin with the children until spring. The moment was right, so I seized it.

"Sing, o Goddess," implores Homer, "the anger of Achilles…" What an opening! Not, sing of the war between Greece and Troy, or the kidnap of Helen, or the feast of the gods, or the golden apple; not any of the obvious openings. Sing of the anger of Achilles. Sing of his anger and what happened to his people as a result of his having been that angry. That is one killer hook.

We talked about it, the girls and I, of how anger can have such a grave impact, can set off a chain reaction like the force that pushes over the first domino. But we didn’t talk long, for Homer pulled us back. My pages broke off mid-sentence, and I was sent back to the printer by a pack of outraged girls. Printed off a few more, and got the biggest laugh of the entire day over the exchange between Calchas, seer of the Greeks, and Achilles, when Calchas says, "Sure I know why Apollo is mad at you guys! I’ll tell you who’s got him all riled up, but you have to swear to protect me when I name the name." And Achilles says, "Dude. I’ve totally got your back, even if it’s, like, Agamemnon or someone." And Calchas says, "Cool. It’s Agamemnon."

Honestly, is there anything that tickles a homeschooling mama more than hearing her kids guffaw over Homer?

This week’s Poetry Friday roundup can be found at Big A little a.