Knowing What Motivates Your Child - My Thoughts About Narration

Our goal in assessing a child is to find out what he, as a person, has assimilated and made his own; what is now a part of himself and his life - what he knows.
Charlotte Mason

I love this instruction from Charlotte Mason - it is advice I have taken to heart as I am homeschooling my children. In particular, I've been thinking a lot lately about narration.

Long before I began homeschooling, my daughter was narrating. It was nothing we consciously did, rather an extension of her love of literature. At almost the age of ten she narrates beautifully and willingly - and her narrations are turning into well crafted written pieces as well. I don't take any of the credit - that goes to fine literature and a little girl who loves to read.

If you don't know much about narration, these Narration Ideas from Simply Charlotte Mason will help you a great deal. I've had to refer to them OFTEN with my six year old. He is a bright boy and will sit for long stories. I know he remembers details because he talks about them days - even weeks - later. If I ask him, however, to tell me back a story in his own words, he will not oblige - so I have to sneak narration in the back door. He is motivated in much different ways than my daughter - go figure.

We also use First Language Lessons for The Well Trained Mind, which utilizes narration in many of the lessons. Our homeschool is a 50/50 mix of Charlotte Mason and Classical Education, so whenever I have a big education question I also consult Susan Wise Bauer. She gives the following advice about narration.

Keep on with your regular reading in history, science, and literature, but when you ask the child to narrate, begin with TWO SENTENCES from the material you’ve read. Pick any two (consecutive sentences) and read them to the child. Then ask the child to condense them into one sentence. Help the child identify what information to leave out by asking him what the most important part of the sentence is.
(from the Well-Trained Mind)

I believe the key to all of this is reading aloud to your children, at least two hours a day. I like to think I'm a good read-aloud mom - I use funny voices, ask a lot of questions, pick topics that interest each of my children,etc... There are days, however (and I'm sure you NEVER have these, do you?), when I am just tired and want a break from so much reading aloud. I have started to rely on audio books more and more and we LOVE them! Sometimes listening to someone OTHER than mom or big sister has its advantages. In this case, listening to a book on CD is not only a great use of time in the car, but it is also a way to inspire even the youngest listeners. I am also enjoying listening - there is something very different about the act of listening, as opposed to reading. It is a skill I need to work on just as much as the children.

We have been listening to one audio book recently that my son ALWAYS wants to talk about, and when I pause the CD and ask him, "What do you think will happen next?", or "What is it that makes this part so spectacular?", or "Tell me about what just happened." he ALWAYS has an answer. It's like a light bulb has been turned on and I am so very thankful.

One of the books on our future read-alouds shelf is Charlie and The Great Glass Elevator. My oldest has read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but we wanted to let my youngest in on the fun. Our library has a wonderful selection of audio books, and this performance of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is so entertaining! I am enjoying it every bit as much as the children. At one point today my little guy was laughing so hard he could barely breathe - what a wonderful moment it was.

We listened on the way to tennis lessons, and after lessons, walking back to the car, my son said "I can't wait to see who gets the fifth golden ticket!". We were buckled and about 10 seconds later the children started chanting, "CHARLIE! CHARLIE! CHARLIE!".

It is my hope that once we finish listening to this book, I can then read the sequel and get some great narrations from my little guy. I'll keep you posted...

Do your children narrate? What have you found that works - share some strategies!

*Linking up today: Hip Homeschool Moms, Teach Me Tuesday