Narration, and More

beyond narration commonroomNarration is the first response to books when using a Charlotte Mason Education. You continue narration all the way through school.  But as the students grow older and more accomplished with narration, beginning somewhere between 9 and 12 (and probably closer to 10-12) you can add some other things as well.

Consider this oft overlooked passage from page 180/181 of volume 3:

“…it is not a bad test of education to be able to give the points of a description, the sequence of a series of incidents, the links in a chain of argument, correctly, after a single careful reading. This is a power which a barrister, a publisher, a scholar, labours to acquire; and it is a power which children can acquire with great ease, and once acquired, the gulf is bridged which divides the reading from the non-reading community.

Other Ways of using Books.––But this is only one way to use books: others are to enumerate the statements in a given paragraph or chapter; to analyse a chapter, to divide it into paragraphs under proper headings, to tabulate and classify series; to trace cause to consequence and consequence to cause; to discern character and perceive how character and circumstance interact; to get lessons of life and conduct, or the living knowledge which makes for science, out of books; all this is possible for school boys and girls, and until they have begun to use books for themselves in such ways, they can hardly be said to have begun their education.

The Teacher’s Part.––The teacher’s part is, in the first place, to see what is to be done, to look over the of the day in advance and see what mental discipline, as well as what vital knowledge, this and that lesson afford; and then to set such questions and such tasks as shall give full scope to his pupils’
mental activity. Let marginal notes be freely made, as neatly and beautifully as may be, for books should be handled with reverence. Let numbers, letters, underlining be used to help the eye and to save the needless fag of writing abstracts. Let the pupil write for himself half a dozen questions which cover the passage studied; he need not write the answers if he be taught that the mind can know nothing but what it can produce in the form of an answer to a question put by the mind to itself.

Disciplinary Devices must not come between Children and the Soul of the Book.––These few hints by no means cover the disciplinary uses of a good school-book; but let us be careful that our disciplinary devices, and our mechanical devices to secure and tabulate the substance of knowledge, do not come between the children and that which is the soul of the book, the living thought it contains.

Science is doing so much for us in these days, nature is drawing so close to us, art is unfolding so much meaning to us, the world is becoming so rich for us, that we are a little in danger of neglecting the art of deriving sustenance from books. Let us not in such wise impoverish our lives and the lives of our children; for, to quote the golden words of Milton: “Books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was, whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve, as in a vial, the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. As good almost kill a man, as kill a good book; who kills a man kills a good reasonable creature, God’s image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself––kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye.””

There is always a danger, you see, of the ‘extras’ taking over, growing, encroaching on the meat of a Charlotte Mason education- the living books, the ideas, and narration. We want to introduce a chapter, which is well and good, but then our introduction becomes longer than the chapter. We want to offer some vocabulary helps, but somehow this becomes a crossword puzzle, a word search game, and a fill in the blanks series of work book pages that take more time to complete than the child was able to spend on the actual reading, and that involve us doing more of the work of the mind than the children are doing.

The main dish is the books and the ideas within.  Narration follows. (It is never replaced by these  ‘other ways to use books.’) The other stuff- notes, outlines, introductions, background, teacher commentary, questions- these are not only allowable, but they are good things- it’s just that they are seasoning, not the whole dish. We oversalt the stew. In fact, we substitute salt FOR the stew, and ugh, what a result!

There is another reason it is helpful to keep in mind that any and all of these extras are mere seasonings, not intended to overwhelm the main dish. If we do think of them this way, we realize we may not throw in the kitchen sink, the whole bottle of salt, and a box of pepper, too. We can only use a pinch of this and that. That means we know we have to make it count.

narration not the only way




You may wish to look over some of our other posts on Charlotte Mason and language arts

This entry was posted in Charlotte Mason, homeschooling and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Trackbacks are closed, but you can post a comment.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Amazon: Buy our Kindle Books

  • Search Amazon

    Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

  • Brainy Fridays Recommends:

  • Search: