Starting older kids with narration?

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  • WhitneyA

    We’ve done very light narration over the years (and not vey successfully) but never really buckled down and progressed with it. I’d like to  do better this year and incorporate this  in hopes of seeing the benefits for my children.

    But I’m concerned about basically starting anew my older two at this point. They are ds13 and dd11. What should I expect of them at their ages in regards to oral and written narrations?   How much should I ask of them?  In what form?

    Another question I have is how to use written narration in lieu of a composition curriculum for the upcoming high school years?  I feel completely lost on how to best approach all this so any help is greatly appreciated.

    Thank you


    Hi Whitney!

    Most CM homeschoolers recommend that you start with oral narrations and do this consistently before beginning written narrations. Once your children are narrating well and consistently orally, you can slowly add in written narrations as well.

    I was surprised at how easily written narrations naturally progressed into essays. It happened fairly organically with my daughter. I did run her through a quick essay program in late 8th, early 9th grade, but looking back, I don’t think it was necessary.

    There is an experienced CM mom on the forums who never taught formal composition to her son. He did written narrations through high school and she set him down and had him add an opening and closing paragraph to one or two narrations before he went off to college. She has great stories of his professors being super impressed with his writing skills. RobinP is her user name. I will try to find some threads where she talks about this and bump them to the top for you.

    My daughter will be in 10th grade next year and I couldn’t be more pleased with her writing abilities. We have dabbled here and there in writing programs but always find ourselves coming back to written narrations as the best composition practice out there. I plan on having my daughter work on formal essays a bit more before graduation, as well as trying her hand at one or two research papers. I am in no hurry, however. I may hold off on all of this until her senior year.

    I believe that reading lots of great literature is the single, most important thing we can have our kids do to become good communicators, both orally and in written form.


    I bumped a thread titled CM and College. There is a post from RobinP on there about homeschooling her son is now an engineer. It is very encouraging!



    I found the post I was hoping to! It is on the first page of the literature guide thread I bumped to the top of the forum. 🙂



    THANK YOU SO MUCH for your reply and the posts by RobinP.  I’ve had a chance to briefly read them and hope I can go through them again later today to take more in.

    I’m so scared I’ve “missed the boat” with these two.  My youngest has just turned 8 so I don’t feel quite the pressure with him – he still has time.

    I’m also concerned about their literature habits.  They don’t enjoy history based litereature at. all. which makes it difficult to get them done, much less any kind of narration from them.  They groan and complain when I try to have them read “such boring” books.  They don’t want to read about someone’s experience living during the pioneer days or about King So and So or really anything that happened past 2000. lol  I laugh but truly it’s frustrating working with them.

    This past year I’ve slacked off using living books for their history and science sources and went more of a textbook route – used Apologia’s Exploring Creation books and Notgrass’ America the Beautiful to see how they took to that approach.  Keeping in mind that all school is horrible and a form of torture in their opinion, they did the work with a bit less griping (it still made an appearance here and there though).

    So I have a lot of figuring out to do as far as how to possibly get this train up and running again.  I *love* the concept of living books learning and the organic nature of CM but my kids have make our attempts at it over the past years unpleasant.  That’s why I threw up my hands this last year and grabbed some texts.  The Apologia will definitely stay as both I and they love it.  But now I’m not sure about everything else.

    Sorry for the small rant there….

    Thank you again for reaching out to help me with this!  I truly appreciate it!!




    My daughter has never been a big fan of historical fiction either. This was foreign to me as my son and I both love it! She does enjoy nonfiction history books very much though. As she has grown older, we have stuck with these for history and read classics for literature so as to better suit her taste. Maybe your older 2 might enjoy a similar approach?

    I simply choose a good spine and then choose my own living history books or I allow my daughter to choose them. I don’t use preplanned programs. I have my daughter read one portion from the history spine each day, and then she reads from a living history book for 20 minutes. I also have her read from a classic 20 minutes each day. She narrates orally after each reading. She is a big reader in her spare time so I only require short lit readings for school time. She usually ends up reading her assigned classic in her free time as well. My son was not a big reader so I made him read for a longer period of time each day.

    Many CM families use and love Apologia books! I think you should go with what works for your students. The best curriculum is the one that gets done! Notgrass and Apologia are both very good programs and Notgrass adds in living books so that is a CM component.

    If they prefer curriculum, you might take a look at Jump In from Apologia for composition. I’ve heard good things about it from several posters here who I respect very much.

    Do what works best for your family without feeling any guilt! Your homeschool is unique and each of your children are unique and God will guide you to do what is just right for all of them! He chose you to be their mother and teacher and He has promised to equip wherever He calls! 🙂



    I really appreciate the encouragement Melanie32. 🙂

    My dd is much more of a reader than my ds but only what *she* wants to read – and it’s never history of any variety and rarely classics. lol  I do like the idea of sticking to classics for literature though and your reading schedule including a spine and living books.

    Are you asking for 3 narrations from your dd per day then (from the spine, from the history book, and from the classic)?

    Concerning writing, I’m trying to decide right now if I’ll use a curriculum or not.  After reading those wonderful posts you pointed me to, I not sure what direction I want to go.  I love the idea of them learning narrating skills and that translating to good writing skills.  On the other hand, I’m totally freaking out because my oldest has just turned 13.  I feel like high school is breathing down my neck and I’m/he’s not prepared.

    I was really looking hard at Apologia’s newest writing program Writers in Residence.  But the price, newness, and unsurety stop me from buying.  I’ll check out Jump In.

    Thank you!!


    I have my daughter narrate orally for every reading. I only have her complete a written narration once a day at the very most. Usually it’s more like 3 times a week. She writes long essayish narrations and spends a lot of time on them so I require less. Many kids are writing short narrations and their parents require a couple of them a day. It is really up to you! It’s also dependent on age. I would start with oral narration only. When that becomes fairly easy, I ask for one written narration a week and then we slowly work up from there to what bet suits each child.

    Jump In has received much better reviews than Writers In Residence. I don’t think you need to worry about your son being behind in writing skills. If you begin having him work consistently on them now, he should do just fine.



    Do you think I should use something like Jump In with him this year or do you think I should give him this next year or so to practice oral & written narrations and see where he goes with that?  I’m thinking if we do the narration route, I could pick up The Power in Your Hands during his high school years to solidify some things.

    Also, when the child does a written narration, do you use that at all to work on grammar (all things grammar) or organization or do you leave those skills to the copy work/dictation?  I guess I’m asking do you correct things that need attention in the written narration?

    And on that note, do your children do copy work/dictation daily/weekly and if so, how much?  Do you use a source like Spelling Wisdom or your own?

    I was thinking about SW for them, but dd11 is a weak speller and very weak in grammar, so I thought a more traditional spelling program that makes them repeat the same words several times per week might be better.  We’ve incorporated copy work from early on, admittedly not every day (using Queens LL for a couple of years), but her spelling and grammar (specifically mechanics) still suffer.  Did you use a separate grammar program for your children?

    I’m sorry for all the questions….I’d love to sit with you and have coffee and pick your brain about all this. 🙂



    Though we have been doing narration for about 6 years I feel it is lacking ans has not had the intended effects. Probably because I was trying to figure the tool of narration out myself. We have not done written narration because my ildest dd13 struggles with dyslexia and everything would have been spelled wrong. I am hoping to make narration a bigger part of our homeschool this next year and move into some written narrations. My youngest dd11 will do the same.  She doesn’t have the academic struggles and will do fine.  I feel very incompetent in the grammar and composition department and that probably has something to do with our lack of progress. I, like you, am feeling the crunch of having her prepared for high school. I was highly considering Wriers in Residence. There is a lot I like about. But I have decided against it. I decided to do Easy Grammar Plus (by recommendation of the author who is aware that we have not had much grammar yet) and Daily Grams 6. I am still deciding if my dd11 will join us with it or wait a year. We are not going to do any writing program this year. We will stick with oral and written narration. Then in high school we will do Epi Kardia’s Essay Styles, Public Speaking and Research papers (1 per year). As a bonus, she will get high school credit for the writing program. And, maybe in a year I will not feel the need for a program or I’ll find something better.

    Do give yourself the freedom to use what works for your child. If a more textbook approach works better for your child and keeps more harmony in the home then do use them. Do what is best for your family! There are many different styles of homeschooling because there are many different people. Not everyone learns best the same way. It is ok to have a blended style homeschool.


    @pangit – thank you for sharing your experience and for the encouragement. 🙂

    I am concerned about trying out the narration route again.  I remember a couple of years ago when we were trying it it was like pulling teeth to get anything out of them.  Painful to say the least.  My hope is that maybe a little more age and maturity might make a difference.  Maybe??  I’m afraid if I don’t use a writing program now, especially for ds13, he won’t be prepared enough for the writing in high school.  Then again, I would love to hope narration over the next few years would produce a kid who can confidently write using his own voice and thinking without some contrived prompts or methodology.  So torn.

    I think for grammar we may try out Growing with Grammar this year. I’ve looked at Easy Grammar as well and what I really like about it is that there are high school levels.  And the preposition approach intrigues me. So I guess I’m still deciding that too. lol



    You could absolutely go the narration route and try The Power In Your Hands for high school or you could continue written narrations into high school or start Jump In now. It all really depends on how consistent you think you will be able to be with narrations. If a curriculum is the only way you feel like writing will be accomplished, I would go with a writing program. I will say that getting them to do writing assignments from a curriculum may be just as painful as getting them to write narrations. You might just have to dig your heels in and insist until you see some progress.

    I did use the Institute for Excellence in Writing with my son when he was middle school age. If I had it to do over again, I would stick with written narrations but IEW did work well for him. It helps kids who hate writing because it gives them something to write about and then gives them specific instructions so that they can’t get away with only writing a couple of sentences when they’ve been assigned a paragraph. The reason for this is that they have to make a key word outline, sentence by sentence and then write their own version, using that outline, sentence by sentence. I have come to believe that it is too formulaic but I still think it has it’s place with certain types of students. My son progressed into a very good writer and I was pleased with his composition skills.

    The deal with CM language arts is that they really do work, and they work very, very well! However, they must be done consistently and part of that is having the student read lots of great literature. A child starts with oral narration and copy work and then begins dictation around 9 or 10. He also begins written narrations at this time. He has read, and is continuing to read, loads of great literature to develop his language skills.

    As the student matures, the discussions surrounding his narrations naturally evolve to include critical thinking skills about the material he is reading and the parent begins to bend his written narration assignments towards these new critical thinking skills. For example, the parent might assign the child to compare/contrast Huckleberry Finn’s character with that of Tom Sawyer’s after the child has read both books. This is a compare/contrast essay as well as a character analysis, all without the fancy terms and boring curriculum to teach it! You can make it more formal by having the student put it into formal essay format if you want to but either way, this is preparing the student for higher level composition skills.

    So, CM language arts work! However, they require self discipline, time and consistency from teacher and student and sometimes this is just more than mom has to offer, or the student will accomplish and that is ok. Sometimes it’s better to simply pick out a composition program and work your way through it systematically.

    I’ve heard various recommendations for CM moms regarding editing written narrations. When my daughter first began written narrations, I didn’t edit them at all. After they became old hat, I began editing a bit here and there but never asking too much as it may overwhelm the student and discourage them. By late middle school, we are fully editing every written narration. I sit beside my daughter and try to help her find the mistakes and then I encourage her to find the right way to correct them as well.

    I assigned copywork every day in elementary school. We didn’t actually begin consistent dictation until 6th grade. This is also the time we became consistent with written narrations. We used a program (for dictation and copywork) called Simply Spelling. My daughter copied the same passage Monday-Thursday and wrote it from dictation on Friday. The program included a few grammar tips for each passage.

    I held off on formal grammar until middle school. We used a bit of Easy Grammar and Step by Step Grammar. She also had one year of Latin. We did some relaxed grammar before this using the Grammar Land book and Simply Grammar by Karen Andreola. We don’t do grammar in high school.

    My daughter really struggled with spelling until we began doing dictation consistently. It helped her tremendously and she is quite a decent speller these days.

    I stopped dictation and copy work in the 9th grade.



    I’m sorry for all the questions….I’d love to sit with you and have coffee and pick your brain about all this.

    No need to apologize! I love chatting about homeschooling, and Charlotte Mason methods in particular!

    I would love to have coffee with you as well! It would be such fun to meet the moms from the forum in person. 🙂


    @Melanie32 you are so sweet and gracious with your time and knowledge!  A million “thank yous”!  I’m going to re-read through this thread and try to gather my thoughts.  You are absolutely right about using what works for your family.  The problem seems to be what *I* think should work may not be what *actually* works. lol

    My reality is my kids don’t like school.  At all.  Any part.  I’ve tried over the years to find things that might spark them ie curriculum, methods, enrichments, etc.  But, as you said, digging my heels in and insisting may just be where we’re at now.  Since nothing is going to float their boat anyway, I might as well go about it in a way I feel may serve them best.

    I so much appreciate your advice.  Lots to think about.  I have many more questions so I’m sure you’ll see some future threads. lol

    Thank  you again!

    PS – It would be very cool to meet the moms here.  Everyone is so helpful and supportive!

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