An Added Bonus (Narration Q & A, part 18)

When I started homeschooling with the Charlotte Mason Method, my focus was all on the children. I thought this endeavor was about giving my children the kind of education that I hadn’t received.

Little did I suspect the added bonus that awaited me.

You see, not only did my children receive a generous and enjoyable education, but I did too! How? By reading those wonderful living books ahead of them or along with them.

That’s why these final questions are so important.

Narration Question #63: How do I keep up with or judge narrations of independent readers/older students when I haven’t read everything first myself?

Narration Question #64: When I haven’t read the chapter or topic, how do I engage and comment on the narration?

Narration Question #65: How do I comment on, ask questions, and encourage more in-depth thinking on a middle school/high school narration (where my child read the material independently), when I am not closely familiar with the reading material?

Narration Question #66: How do I grade a narration or encourage deeper thinking on the content (middle/high school years in particular), when I truly don’t know the difference between what my child included versus excluded from the reading material? (And given that one of my children has a major habit of skim reading.)

Narration Question #67: Should I be using narration when I have not actually read the material personally? Should I use narration, but use it alongside other methods such as assigning additional non-narrated materials/readings or a workbook/test sheet?

Part of the joy of a Charlotte Mason education is sharing in the ideas from those lovely books. A wonderful bond forms between parent and child as you grow to love knowledge together. As one of the teachers in Charlotte’s schools put it: “No one knows so well as a teacher what a delight it is to see how the awakened mind, set aglow by the reception of a living idea, lights up the face, the quick recognition, the eager response; together the teacher and taught are sharing the same thrill of enthusiasm and enjoyment. I wish I could tell you of the countless moments of such pleasure that I have had and the bond of sympathy which this creates. Of course in order to arouse this eager receptivity there must be the love of knowledge and enthusiasm towards the acquiring of it for himself on the part of the teacher, for love is contagious and children do as we do” (“Miss Mason’s Ideal in School Life” by Laura C. Faunce, as printed in In Memorium: Charlotte M. Mason, p. 167).

Sometimes we don’t fully realize the powerful influence our personal example sets for our children. I would highly recommend that you make it a priority to read the books and enjoy them yourself. So many benefits come from that investment of time and thought! In fact, several of the benefits are mentioned in the questions posted above. When you read the books, you can

  • keep up with your students and judge their narrations better,
  • more readily engage in their narrations and comment on them intelligently,
  • ask questions and encourage more in-depth thinking from them,
  • grade their narrations fairly and easily,
  • wield the tool of narration well and not have to resort to worksheets.

Charlotte mentioned another very important benefit of keeping up with our children’s studies so we can carry on intelligent discussions with them:

“The parents themselves keep their place as heads of the family. They keep the respect of the children; for once a boy begins to look down on the intellectual status of his parents, the entire honour and deference he owes them are at an end. Any pains taken to keep ahead should be repaid by the glow of honest pride the young people feel at every proof of intellectual power in their parents” (Vol. 5, p. 197).

The benefits are great, yet the demands of everyday life are great too. How can we fit in time to read when we feel like we barely have time to breathe? Here are a few ideas that I hope will get you started.

  • Simplify your life as much as possible and make it a priority.
  • Institute a daily Rest and Read Time for everyone. Children who cannot yet read might listen to an audiobook or look at good picture books. The main rules are Stay on Your Bed and No Talking.
  • Schedule one or two 15-minute reading slots into your daily routine, as Charlotte did. Maybe you can’t do an extended reading time, but you could tuck two smaller sessions in between other events.
  • Listen to audiobooks while walking, driving, or exercising.
  • Get a book list and start working your way through it. You can see our favorite living books on the SCM Curriculum Guide.
  • If your children are young, their books will be shorter and more quickly read, leaving you additional time to get a head start on the books that will be coming down the road.
  • If your children are older, use no-school days to get a head start. Then stay ahead by faithfully implementing the Rest and Read Time or a couple of 15-minute reading breaks each day. A little, consistently invested, will add up to a lot.
  • Keep a pad of paper handy as you read books for older children so you can jot down a narration question or two after each chapter. See which of the four types of narration questions lend themselves most readily to that chapter. The more you do it, the easier it will get.
  • Start a book club with some likeminded friends for the fellowship and accountability it will give.
  • Just for fun, jot down the titles of the books you read during the year. I like to jot them down each month in my personal Calendar Journal. It’s encouraging to look back over the year (or several years’ lists) and see just how many wonderful books you have made a part of your own education and will be able to share with your children.

End of Series Notes

Well, folks, it looks like we made it through all of the questions you submitted! I hope this Narration Q & A series has been helpful. Who knows, maybe we can do another Q & A series on a different topic in the future. What other topics would you like us to cover?

One thing we learned during this series: those question numbers can be slippery little things! We discovered that they got off a bit near the middle of the series, so we have corrected them throughout.

And finally, some of you have been asking about having this series available in book form. That book is now available.