how to address poor narration and bad attitude?

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  • MamaWebb

    Hi all!  So in the last two weeks, I bit the bullet and I am now using AO for History, Lit, a few science reads, poetry, natural history.  We use several SCM materials for riches/Fine Arts, too. The 3 younger kids are still using their MUS and a few bits of CM-inspired LA such as SCM’s A Copywork Reader, SW & ULW, and Queen’s Language Lessons.  My three younger kids are doing Science in the Beginning, and my oldest still home is doing Apologia’s Bio.  Here’s my issue.

    My older two kids are giving me really poor effort.  I put my oldest (14 yo DS) in AO year 7, my next (almost 12 yo DD) in year 6 (my two little boys almost 8 and almost 9.5 are together in Year 2).  While some items in Yr 7 are challenging for my son, and one item in Yr 6 is a little challenging for my daughter, they seem well-placed. Overall, however,  I am just seeing poor narrations and so little full effort. So when you have a child who reads a short segment of, say, history, and comes to tell you, “Uh so some guy was like the king of China and he wanted to take over Japan too. I can’t remember anything else,” what do you do?  Now, I will admit, I did not scaffold on this one bc it was the first chap of STOW VOl 4 that she’s read.  But she is so much more capable.  We’ve been narrating most of her school life.  She can do a much better job.  And most of her narrations are like this.  Or, she will ask to read one paragraph and then spout off a fact from it.  I have let her do this for really dense non fiction material, but at her age, she should be able to read a bit more and then organize her thoughts, right?  She is NOT new to narration.

    My oldest is also super general, terse, and laconic in his narrations, too…both written and oral.  I finally sat down and wrote a narration of a chapter he had recently read to show him a model.  I tried to keep it on the simpler side, just to give him an idea.

    If I have given models, given appropriate length/level reading…how do I encourage more detailed narrations? If the point is ONE reading and the child has done a very very scanty narration, what steps do you actually take?  I think my kids sometimes bank on the one reading thing, knowing that I am not supposed to allow them to reread it and redo it.

    Now, the other part of the equation.  My almost 12 year old daughter.  She is super hormonal right now, but she is brutally negative about everything.  Everything.  She has always complained about school, no matter what it is.  She is more interested in being done than in learning, or having the work be neat or right.  So she doesn’t  usually dilly dally, but her stuff is usually fairly poor in quality.  And we have been fighting this “effort” battle with her (and my oldest, too, actually) forEVER.  Nothing has seemed to help.  Not redoing portions or mistakes.  Not doing it over again.  Not discussion, nor consequences.  My oldest has ADHD, so I know he’s a bit of a different ball of wax.  But my daughter is not. What do you do when a child HATES to do anything that requires a bit of thought or effort, and is negative about everything?  I am so weary of this battle.  She actually wants simple independent workbook type school, so she can just slap down an answer and not have to read/think/narrate/own the material.  Does anyone have any suggestions for helping me deal with her wearisome negative attitude? Im so tired of her tears and complaining and rudeness. Schoolwork without good, classic, challenging living books is not an option.  I do give her Latin in workbook form and she does have the simplicity of SW and ULW.

    PS: I have LDTR and we have talked at length about attentiveness.  I am thinking that Mental Effort and Diligence will be next.  Any suggestions?

    Thanks so much in advance, friends.




    I have been thinking about your post for a day or so.  I have 4 children, ages 3-9.  We are not immune to bad attitudes around here.  It seems to me that the more I talk about what to do, the less my children listen.  But what seems to help around here is lots of scripture reading on my own and prayer about my attitude, my responses, my actions.  I also try to read a chapter of Proverbs every morning to the children.  Everyone shares one portion that “stuck out” to them.  There’s usually not too much discussion, but more of “precept upon precept.”  The neat thing is that while I am hoping the reading of God’s Word will produce change in my children, the Holy Spirit convicts me of where I need to change (so that I can be a better help or example).

    Just so you know, I am in no way perfect.  The week started out well in our home. Mother was patient, keenly aware of how the children would act and had well-planned out responses.  As the week wore on, mother was tired physically and not motivated so much by love as by getting things checked off the list.  The law of kindness was not exactly on her tongue.

    At ladies’ Bible study last night, the theme was doing all you do in love.  We reviewed I Corinthians 13 among other scriptures.  It was so convicting.

    Honestly, when bad attitudes become habitual, the cure is often slow.  Having a sweet, even temper is a discipline that starts with an individual’s “want to.”

    While I don’t believe it is possible to make a person do right (from the heart), I do believe in prayer.  PRAYER IS THE WORK.  A little sign in my kitchen says, “Prayer changes things.”






    I’m wondering if your kids are a little bored with narration. I don’t mean that you are boring them; but if they’ve been doing it for a long time, maybe they want some more variety. Do you have them narrate everything or do you guys just talk about things you’ve read, like asking them what they think of it or what will happen next? Or just telling them what you thought of it like you might tell a friend. Sometimes my kids and I get in a rut and we just need things to feel different. Sometimes it might not be an actual bad attitude, but that’s the only way they know how to let out their feelings about something.

    For the daughter who just wants workbooks, maybe getting her one would make her feel good. Maybe she needs a bit of easy success. I wouldn’t want school without good challenging books either, but a little relief for her might help her be more willing in other areas. We did that with a map skills workbook. It was fun, and I didn’t feel like it was a complete waste.

    One more thing. I know CM stresses one reading, but I don’t hold to that. I don’t think it makes them lazy or inattentive to know they could look something up. I would frankly be stressed if I thought I had to get it all the first time, and then that would hinder my attention. Learning doesn’t happen when my kids are stressed or crying. I hope you can get it worked out.

    Karen Smith

    Are you varying the types of narrations you ask your children to give, particularly the older ones? As your children get older, in addition to just telling back what was read, you can ask them to explain how something works, describe something, or have them state an opinion with supporting points.

    You may find our blog articles on narration helpful. Narration Q & A, part 15 breaks down what types of narrations each age level is expected to give. There are also some sample narration questions for each type of narration in that blog article.


    Dear mom frustrated over narrating, Get excited! Try this and let me know!

    I shake narrations up with oral, picture and written for ds 14, dd10 and ds7. My dd excels with picture narrating and I have them all saved in a binder. Usually her lit. is what is drawn and saved. , like Justin Morgan. We loved, loved that book.

    Narrating has become very competitive in our home. It all has to do with grains of rice. For Bible, they know they will automatically narrate after it and I simply ask them ex. Narrate what we just read in 2 Kings ch 6. I only have them narrate a chapter at a time and we all take turns reading. I have ds7 and dd10 read first and I reread their portions and ds 14 reads the rest out loud. Silence or near silence has to be maintained to keep the concentration.

    The ds7 whispers in my ear as I write, he averages 10 lines a narration. Once the competitve bug is started it is such fun to see it take hold. All done in good manners and taste of course. My mother, retired teacher from public school is in disbelief of how competitive and thorough their work is. All over a rice cup!

    Now the exciting part comes when they count up their lines. For every line of writing, a grain of rice goes in a small glass when the glass is full we do something special like, invite friends to play spoons, popcorn party and see a movie. Also, the longest narrator gets to put 5 extra rice in (for winning) and the game begins. After all the rice are in we read our narrations outlod carefully and help each other correct details by rereading the chapter, if need be.

    The next Bible day, we reread our narrations and oftentimes remember fondly the details of a close race or who won last time. It has become one of our favorite times together. Once my dd and I tied with 34 lines and we each got to put 5 rice in. My parents live next door to us, upon visiting, they have been known to sneak some rice in our cup with one of our children knowing the secret. It’s been a wonderful tool for my children to use and my ds14 record breaker was 252 lines from one chapter of narration.

    I told them the strategy was to add in as much detail as you remember to make the lines grow. I encourage each child to come up with a new idea for the reward of the rice cup and this week we decided that 5 rice cups full , about 5 months of narrations, would be worth a trampoline, so the next day we visited our ins., agent to ask if we could get one only to find out our homeowners policy would be cancelled if we got one. We’re still thinking! Any ideas?


    Rent a bounce house or inflatable course?

    Visit a gymnastics place?  We have a local place that is all trampolines.

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