Friday, September 19, 2008

Oral Narration in the Home

What is oral narration and does it work?

In this post I will try to illustrate how our family does Charlotte Mason styled oral narrations. This is how a reductionist does narration. This is narration for the mom with lots of children.

Narration is a tremendous tool for the reductionist. It gives amazing results with little effort on mom's part. I can hardly think of any other educational tool that gives so much for so little.

In our Ambleside time my little boys aged 8 & 5 bring me their stack of Ambleside books.
Right now that includes:
Vol 1 & 2 of the My Bookhouse series. I own my grandmother's copies.
Asking Father. True stories of how God answered prayer through animals. These 2 little guys just love animals.
Viking Tales
I Petersham Book such as The Story of Oil.
Little Pilgrim's Progress.

As you may have noticed these aren't all actually on the Ambleside lists. We have already read through many of the 1st year and 2nd year books so I just pick ones we missed and from my own selection.

I start out by asking Alex to pick a book. He always picks one of the My Bookhouse anthologies. I read the story and ask him to tell me the story.
He stands up and usually says, "Do I have to tell the whole thing?"
I say, "Yes!"
Then he proceeds to tell me the whole thing and then some. I do not write these down. I am a bad mother. Karen Andreola has massive notebooks of her younger children's oral narrations. All of ours are lost in the air.

Nevertheless, all is not lost. Weeks from now Alex will find a reason to give an illustration in conversation and he will invariably say, "You know just like our Ambleside story..." and he will tell the whole story all over again and ask me if I remember. And I will say, "No?"

Andrew picks a book after Alex and narrates. Andrew generally picks Little Pilgrim's Progress, Viking Tales or Asking Father. He likes to jazz it up. Sometimes I have the opposite boy narrate just to keep them listening.

So for about 30 minutes we sit and work through our stories and narrations. It doesn't take very long at all. Even though Alex is only 5 he doesn't have the slightest problem narrating. But to make you feel better I have had children that were terrible narrators. I will sometimes prod a little if the child is reluctant. I will sometimes ask questions but not often. Asking questions defeats the purpose. If a child really can't figure out what I want then I will narrate a few times.

We have never been able to get into the swing of having an exam week as proposed on Ambleside Online as well as by Charlotte Mason herself. Inevitably something comes along to make us lose a week of school and therefore miss exam week. Still if the child has narrated the story he will remember it. Someday I would love to have a real CM year, exams and all but for now I am glad the children
have learned the art of telling back which is also the art of listening. Narration is no little skill to have as the children embark on their lifetime voyage of learning.

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