Let’s Talk about Narration (Narration Q&A, Part 1)

In my pantry are some foods I think of as staples. They can be included in a variety of dishes and used in a variety of ways. Take potatoes, for instance. I can add them to a stew or pop them in with a roast. I can bake them, boil them, mash them, slice them, shred them, fry them. I can serve them as a side dish or as the main dish with toppings for garnish.

Potatoes are a wonderfully versatile staple in my meals.

In a similar way, narration is a wonderfully versatile staple in my home school.

If you use the Charlotte Mason Method, narration is a staple. We use it in a variety of school subjects to help our students cement in their minds what they have learned. It’s one of those can’t-do-without methods.

Narration can also be used in a variety of ways. It is a powerful learning tool that can be flexed and fitted to meet different needs in different situations at different levels.

In fact, I think that’s one reason people have so many questions about narration. It might be easier to wrap our minds around it if it weren’t quite so powerful and flexible.

Yes, narration can be simple—like making baked potatoes. I mean, how hard is it to put the potato in a hot oven and let it sit there for an hour?

But narration can also be much more multi-faceted and complex—like making loaded twice-baked potatoes. Same staple, but used in a different way to achieve a different outcome.

Narration Q&A

So let’s talk about narration. And here’s how we’re going to do it. We invite you to submit your questions about narration and we will do our best to answer them in the coming weeks. At any time during this series, you can post your question as a comment on our blog, post on our forum thread, write your question on our Facebook wall, tweet to @SimplyCM, or send your question through our Contact form. You can even write it on a piece of paper and mail it to us here in Georgia. Just get those questions to us!

Now, here are five questions that are already on our to-be-answered list. These are five questions about narration that we get asked a lot.

  • What do I do if my child leaves out a key point in a narration?
  • What’s the difference between a narration question and a direct question on the content?
  • When and how should I make the transition to having my child do written narrations?
  • Should I be correcting my child’s written narrations?
  • Is narration enough for high school level studies?

Those will be our starting point; we are already planning to include them sometime in the discussion. But if you have other questions, send them in and let’s spend a few weeks talking about narration—that incredibly flexible staple in a Charlotte Mason home school!


  1. Narration question (and thank you for this series!):
    1. Should we require narration of the entire passage/chapter/story read? Or, should we break it down into pieces if it’s longer?
    2. Can you briefly outline what depth we should expect at different ages?

  2. How should I begin narration if I am starting with older children who have not done it from the beginning?

  3. In the DVD series you mention that narration should not be required of a child younger than six, if I remember correctly, including an example of not trying to do so ‘secretly’ when daddy comes home. What is the difference between narration and asking questions about what the child did during a day or about what he saw/did when he went places? Does narration include asking questions to refresh memory when you continue reading a book another day? Would Charlotte Mason ask younger children any questions at all? Thank you for the time you put into SCM!

  4. With littles just learning to write, how do you handle it when they do not want to dictate any longer, but say, “Mom, help me to write ‘X’ “. When that “X” is about 8 sentences long, far beyond their ability to write themselves without frustration? (Even if they dictate and I let them copy, it is too much and can lead to frustration.)


  5. I’m trying to get started with narration with my six year old. She says “I don’t remember” when I ask what the story was about. Do I ask leading questions to get her started? Also, how do I motivate her when she just doesn’t “feel” like narrating?

  6. Thank you and thank you for this series! I’m most interested in narration at the high school level. Would LOVE to see samples of students at various levels, both from narration “veterans” as well as beginners. I am comfortable with narration for Bible, literature, and history, but what do you recommend for an Apologia high school science course? I want to stick with narration (as we’ve done with Apologia General Science) because comprehension of the material has been better than it was in my pre-C.M. days. Still, I am struggling with mistrusting narration for a high school level science course. And I just HATE seeing that sentence in print, but it’s the truth!

  7. How do you handle narration with multiple children at once? Or is it something you work on with children individually?

  8. Mason writes in Vol. 1, p. 233: “When the narration is over, there should be a little talk in which moral points are brought out, pictures shown to illustrate the lesson, or diagrams drawn on the blackboard.”
    I’d like to know how we are to do this without encroaching upon the student’s understanding of the text? How are we to bring out the moral points? I’m particularly interested in this as it pertains to literature and Bible.

    Thank you!

Comments are closed.