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

    Related Posts


10 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. JoVE says:

    Cindy at Apple Stars had a great post the other day that is related to this. I don’t think she does CM style narrations but she has some good thoughts and examples on the urge to produce a product to show the work of our children.

    I haven’t done much narration but a few times we’ve had great discussions when I have asked her to tell me about what she is reading (things I haven’t read to her or with her). So that love of ideas thing is something I recognize. And it is worth nurturing, for sure.

  2. Courtney says:

    Thank you for this, Lissa. I needed to be reminded that it’s not about “the product”. I think it’s a big factor in my dd being very hesitant. She wants it “perfect”. New plan for next week….to transcribing!

  3. Taffy says:

    I really am attractive to your homeschooling style but am stuck with a nagging question. What do you show when the “education authorities” come to check on your progress? I’m expecially sensitive to this as my child is “special needs” and I’m going against the norm in teaching him at home…

  4. Celeste says:

    I didn’t ask the info, but it sure is a great help to know that it doesn’t need to be written.

    Hoping fevers go down soon.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Could you please write a homeschooling book? Please?

    Please? 🙂

  6. Amy Howard says:

    Hi there. I’ve been reading your blog for some time and I wanted to finally chime in.

    Thanks for the insight on narrating. I’ve been struggling with this with my second oldest (6yo boy). A couple of weeks ago I stopped trying to write it all down, and (just like you said) voila! His narrations have improved drastically. So, needless to say, I think this is the way we will continue to do this. My oldest (10yo son) does written narrations and they are lovely. It never ceases to amaze me what a little narration can do for their ability to concentrate, understand, and hold on to what they have read. But it really must be done the right way for each individual child, taking into account the preciousness of the personality and learning styles given.

    I also found that with our oldest, the narrations that I wrote down became a point of pride. This did get ugly. So, I stopped altogether with him and only recently began the written side of this. It is working so much better.

    Thank you for all you do!
    Amy Howard

  7. Christie says:

    Another quick question for you… So you do narration right after reading? or the next day a la Waldorf? Thanks

  8. patience says:

    The creation of a nice presentation of narrations really seemed to stifle my daughter’s learning, as well as indeed making narration a burden which she resisted. And she didn’t care about creating a nice product -but *I* did, so that piled on the tension. I was really focussed on what to show the education authorities. Now I just keep a record of all we learn, and they can look at that if they want.

    So I’m happy & relieved to see you (one of my heroines!) writing about discussion being more value than a nicely produced page. We don’t actually do straight-forward CM narrations in our house, we discuss instead. And we never do pretty pages any more. What is their value anyway? I suspect they’re just done to fill in time in the classroom!

    And I second the vote for you writing a homeschooling book, and I’ll put sugar on top of my pleeeease. 😉

  9. patience says:

    I’m sorry, I forgot to add that I hope Bean is feeling better soon. Poor wee thing 🙁

  10. Julia S. says:

    I have a question if your child usually narrates well, but is having trouble narrating from a particular book would you stop reading the book. My 9yo son just can’t give me a decent narration from This Country of Ours. Even if I break it down in small chunks. I’m not sure why, but it just doesn’t register with him. We’re on chapter 13.

    Thank you.