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Last week we looked at the first of three Do Not tips that Charlotte gave her student teachers: Do not sit up late preparing lessons.
As many of you confirmed in your comments on that post, these practical Do Not’s are designed to give us freedom, not to lay heavy burdens on us.
Today let’s look at the second Do Not. This practical tip will give us freedom to enjoy and encourage our children in their narrations.
Do Not Bury Yourself in the Book
Do Not #2:
“Do not bury yourself in the book while the children are reading aloud. Give your full attention to the reading, then when the time for narration comes receive what they tell you with your whole mind.”
This guideline brings to mind a mental picture of a wife trying to talk to her husband while he has his nose buried in a newspaper . . . or a computer screen. It can be discouraging to feel that you are receiving only partial attention from your listener. He may be focused on your words, but something about that lack of eye contact tends to dampen your enthusiasm for sharing.
Charlotte reminded us that the same holds true for our children as they are reading aloud and narrating. Keep in mind that Charlotte was instructing teachers who would be working in a classroom setting. So our situation may be a bit different when it comes to the reading aloud part. Often, we sit beside the children and share the book as they read aloud. But in those situations where the children are facing us and reading aloud, we need to be careful that we are giving them our full attention. Don’t use that time for checking e-mail or writing your grocery list.
When our children are narrating, especially, we need to give them our full attention, not bury our heads in the book to see what they are missing as they retell the passage. In fact, we will probably get better narrations if we make an effort to encourage our children with our full attention and facial expressions while they are working.
To make this Do Not even more practical, here are some specific things to think about and practice. Think of them as the teacher’s responsibility during narration. The child’s responsibility is to tell in full; the teacher’s responsibility is to
- Make eye contact.
- Be aware of what your face is “saying.”
- Listen eagerly with an attitude of a learner.
- Validate what the child remembered correctly.
- Mentally note any parts that might need clarification and include them in discussion questions after the narration.
- Share how your child’s narration helped you learn something or brought you enjoyment.
- Recognize the work involved in a good narration and encourage your child toward continuing to improve that skill.
Some of you are way ahead of me here and thinking, How am I going to make sure my child isn’t forgetting anything or is getting the names correct or is telling the events in the right sequence if I don’t follow along in the book? It’s a great question, and I think it shows more of Charlotte’s genius in her methods. You see, she always encouraged the teachers to continue learning themselves. She thought no one was too old to form a new habit—especially the habit of attention.
Listening to a narration with full attention will rely on our giving full attention to the reading too, just as we expect our children to do. We will need to turn the full gaze of our mind’s eye upon the material as we are reading. We will need to soak up the narrative in the book just as much as our children do.
In return, we will gain a sympathy of spirit with our children as we share the same experiences in the same living books. We will increase that heart-to-heart relationship we have with fellow learners who are walking the same path that we are. All the better that those fellow learners will be our children.
And we will keep our minds from becoming stagnant and weak. One of the benefits of homeschooling is that we can learn right alongside our children, and this Do Not is a perfect example of that bonus.
So get your head out of the book. Use your mind to learn along with your children, and use your face to encourage their efforts. Both of you will benefit from this Do Not.
“Do not bury yourself in the book while the children are reading aloud. Give your full attention to the reading, then when the time for narration comes receive what they tell you with your whole mind. They will tell it all the better to someone who is listening and who is not consulting a book” (The Story of Charlotte Mason, pp. 150, 151).
Next time we will finish up with the third Do Not. Have any of you noticed a difference in your children’s narrations when you have given full attention and encouragement face to face? Leave a comment and tell us about it.