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What is Narration & How Does it Work?

Narration is the telling of a story. When you use narration in your homeschool your child will be telling you what has been read in their own words.

Narrating is an art, like poetry-making or painting, because it is there, in every child’s mind, waiting to be discovered, and is not the result of any process of disciplinary education. ~ Charlotte Mason, Home Education

Today, after reading a chapter in Pilgrim’s Progress, my daughter was eager to tell me what happened. I didn’t ask her to. She just wanted to. She said, ” This book is actually really good… It’s not what I thought it would be, but I really like it.”  Then she proceeded to tell me about the chapter she had read.

Children naturally love to tell stories! They love to talk and tell you all the things they’ve learned. Charlotte Mason’s idea was that children would retain more if they did the telling.


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Types of Narration

Before i dive into this post, I want to say I highly recommend reading Know and Tell by Karen Glass. It’s a great read covering Charlotte Mason style narration.

Narration does not have to be bland. It can be the telling back of a story, drawing a picture, writing it down, or a combination of all of those. 

The first time my children started narration, I wasn’t even aware of what I was doing. I would always make my children tell me what I had just read to see how well they had listened. So, we’ve been doing narration without even knowing it.

Then in first grade My Father’s World they had you start working on written narration. (Usually one sentence after drawing a picture.) In my opinion this was a little young to start written narration. I would say upper elementary is more appropriate.

When do I start Narration?

Charlotte Mason suggested using oral narration after the age of 6.

Until he is six, let Bobbie narrate only when and what he has a mind to. He must not be called upon to tell anything. ~ Charlotte Mason, Home Education

A preschool-aged child should not be asked to give a narration. However, they may want to. If he or she starts talking about a story that was read, let them do it. The key is not to put pressure on them to do so.

Until about 8 or 9, your child should narrate back paragraphs and passages. Around 8 or 9 they should be ready to tell-back stories in larger sections….. chapter by chapter.

Remember: Narration comes naturally. Whenever your child watches a movie, they love to come and tell their parents all about it. It excites them! That is a form of narration! Telling back what they’ve watched.

Why Narration?

When a child tells a story in their own words they retain the information much better. There’s something about saying it out loud that helps it stick.

When I read something, I like to tell my husband about what I read. (Even if he has no interest in it…  He’s been hearing a lot of Charlotte Mason philosophy lately.)

It helps me to remember and even understand what I just read.

Examples of Narration

Today we read another chapter from Grandpa’s Box. (If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it! It is a book on spiritual warfare for upper elementary aged children!)

My kids have become so used to doing narration that it is completely automatic after our readings. We go around in a circle and each child retells what was read. Sometimes it is short and sweet, but sometimes it is quite lengthy.

My Son’s Narration:

“King Nebuchadnezzar made a big golden statue, and made everyone bow to it. But, the Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego wouldn’t. So they were thrown in the furnace, but they were still alive.”

My daughter’s Narration:

“The King wanted everyone to bow down to his statue, but the 3 boys wouldn’t. So, they were thrown into a furnace that was really hot. The soldiers who threw them in died, but the 3 boys didn’t die. Then the King said whoever didn’t worship the God of the 3 boys would get torn limb to limb, and their houses would fall down.”

Should you Correct Narrations?

Don’t worry about things being perfect. Grammar doesn’t really need to be corrected for narration. Just let your child keep going if they mispronounce a word.

It’s super hard not to say something… I know… I am notorious for correcting  my children’s grammar. But, Charlotte Mason thought that interruption would stop the flow of a child’s story. So, wait until the end. Most likely your next child will do the correcting in his story.

If not, then you could summarize or write a few main points on the whiteboard or in a notebook.

Grades & Narration

Charlotte Mason did not think it was beneficial for a child to be graded. If a child is working or “cramming” a ton of information into their minds for the sole purpose of testing, they aren’t going to really learn very much.

They are working towards a goal of a test. So, there are no long term goals there, and little to no long term retention.

Believe me, I can’t remember half of the things I crammed into my brain for tests in school. I am relearning so much while teaching my children. Living books are amazing! I hated history as a child. Now I am really enjoying it.

>>Check out our Charlotte Mason Resources page for Narration resources/helps.<<

Want to learn more?

Read our Ultimate Guide to Charlotte Mason Homeschooling. I also suggest reading Charlotte Mason’s 6 volumes. They are very long reads, but you can read through them as slowly as you need.

Here’s some more books that I feel like every homeschool mom should read:

Charlotte Mason Books every Homeschool Mom Should Read

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