Monday, April 30, 2007

Informal Narration

A reader's question:

"I am constantly seeking to improve on this (narration).We have our school lessons in the morning, in which time, my children aren't always narrating to me as well as I would like them to. However they will 'narrate' to me, on a good book that they read on their own or a good classic they listened to the night before. Do you think random narration is acceptable? Should we expect narration on every lesson?Also, what about just 'sharing' what they learned or read that day with their father?How structural does narration need to be to be effective? "

I think you said it well when you stated that you are constantly trying to improve in this area. I haven't arrived at the destination yet, either, but I am continually trying to improve my narration practices as well as many, many areas in my life. I do realize that, although not achieving perfection, this attitude will get me further than if I weren't constantly trying to improve.

Trial and error have shown me that whenever my child does not give feedback from a passage, it was (usually) not internalized, time was wasted and the ideas were lost somewhere along the way. Inevitably, I will ask an exam question at the end of a term about a book that we didn't do enough narration from and sure enough, my child's answer will be vague and disappointing. This is more my own fault than my dear daughter's. So, yes, I'm convinced that ideally, you should receive some kind of narrative feedback from every school book your child reads (not including free reading, although that is perfectly acceptable, too). I try to do this after every reading, but am not always successful. It's what I aim for, although often, I miss the mark. And, although I am not okay with this, it really is okay :- )

Spontaneous, natural narrations are not only acceptable, they are desired because they indicate that your child is enjoying particular books and thus, internalizing valuable ideas. In fact, I would be concerned if my child only narrated when called upon. My children not only narrate during morning lessons when I call on them to do so, (I suppose we could call this 'formal narration') but they also narrate naturally to me several times a day on their own accord. Many, many times our narrations are informal. Life is happening, the meals must be cooked, house cleaned and play time with each other-things that are just as important as school lessons. So, often in our home, narrations occur while in the kitchen or dining area, outside on a picnic blanket or while stretched out upon my bed in the evening chatting with my teen.

Accuracy is still important, but at the same time, I don't want to squash that enthusiasm with several minor corrections. If I feel Dear Daughter misunderstood a passage, I ask questions to help her clarify her thoughts. "Are you sure it was King John who said that? Hmmm... I thought it was someone else. Who was he speaking to?" I do this until she sees her error. If she doesn't see it, I have her reread part of the passage to me. Then I hear, "Oh, I guess it WAS so and so, Mom." Hopefully, I was successful in clarifying an idea or event without making her feel afraid to retell again on her own initiative.

As your children grow older, you will discover that an education rich with living ideas will cause them to want to dialogue about their books with you more and more. Their heads will be filled with ideas that need to be mulled over, discussed and refined. Scheduled, disciplined moms especially need to be careful to allow for these spontaneous discussions. (Speaking to myself here) I'm learning to let my teen stay up later than usual, even skip a lesson or chore because the conversation is just too valuable and my heart tells me it needs to continue. Cultivate this seed while your children are young and your teen will grow closer to you as she faces life's perplexities. I am ever so grateful for such opportunities.

one step at a time...


  1. Lindafay,

    Hi! I love this entry about narration! Thanks for the reminder. Sometimes I slack off on this -- just assume she understands. But that's not good.

    Your blog makeover looks nice. Maybe it's not new, but I'm reading via Bloglines and haven't actually come over in quite some time.

    I too have recently discovered Tammy's Recipes. Isn't that a great blog? :-)

  2. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    You are a wonderful mentor!

  3. Thanks so much for this post :) I've been reading a lot this summer about what Miss Mason wrote concerning narration. My oldest is about to start AO Year One, and even if she doesn't need narration practice, I do! :) We've had a few little formal narration sessions now, and I'm feeling ready. She has been informally narrating since she could talk, why did I worry that she would have a hard time with this??? :) Great encouragment. Thanks, again!