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Mondays with Miss Mason–On Narration

February 7, 2011

Note: this post is part of an ongoing series. For more information on Charlotte Mason and Mondays with Miss Mason, please read the first post.

Tonight I went to a wonderful meeting of other Charlotte Mason homeschooling mamas. We meet monthly and discuss various CM topics. The leader is a wealth of information. She has children a little older than my own so she is a patient and wise guide.

Tonight’s topic was on Narration. We are using the Karen Andreola book A Charlotte Mason Companion. She has several chapters on the topic and provides welcome real-world advice.

From Home Education, IX

Children Narrate by Nature.––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. A creative fiat calls it forth. ‘Let him narrate’; and the child narrates, fluently, copiously, in ordered sequence, with fit and graphic details, with a just choice of words, without verbosity or tautology, so soon as he can speak with ease. This amazing gift with which normal children are born is allowed to lie fallow in their education. Bobbie will come home with a heroic narrative of a fight he has seen between ‘Duke’ and a dog in the street. It is wonderful! He has seen everything, and he tells everything with splendid vigour in the true epic vein; but so ingrained is our contempt for children that we see nothing in this but Bobbie’s foolish childish way! Whereas here, if we have eyes to see and grace to build, is the ground-plan of his education.

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. Is this the secret of the strange long talks we watch with amusement between creatures of two, and four, and five? Is it possible that they narrate while they are still inarticulate, and that the other inarticulate person takes it all in? They try us, poor dear elders, and we reply ‘Yes,’ ‘Really!’ ‘Do you think so?’ to the babble of whose meaning we have no comprehension. Be this as it may; of what goes on in the dim region of ‘under two’ we have no assurance. But wait till the little fellow has words and he will ‘tell’ without end to whomsoever will listen to the tale, but, for choice, to his own compeers.


In Charlotte Mason circles, it is widely accepted that she advised not requiring narration until the age of 6, however spontaneous narration at younger ages is always welcome.

My son turned six and month ago, and I haven’t yet required a narration. I debate waiting until next year when we “officially” begin year one vs. going with his calendar age.

When I do begin, I will take the advice of going slow. A paragraph. A brief fable. Nothing too complex.

This is a skill to acquire over time, to master.

Of course, as Miss Mason says, it is really an art they are born knowing, if only we would listen and build upon this natural tendency.

What age did you begin narration with your child? What was the first book or story you used?

One Comment leave one →
  1. February 8, 2011 8:12 pm

    Chris, thanks for sharing the kind words about me and our meeting. I really appreciated how you said we are to guard those first six years of a child’s life. Requiring them to narrate too early does place an unnecessary burden on them. While I mentioned I asked my two six year olds to narrate at age 4 1/2, only one did. I would ask again in a few weeks and see her natural tendency to talk constantly fit right in with her ability to narrate. Now age six, she can narrate each paragraph but is eager to move on to reading more. She is also able to narrate a few paragraphs at a time. However, her brother, also age six is not. It’s fun really. I am reminded of how different children can be, uniquely created by God. We will continue to work on this learned art of giving attention. And we see that her brother has many other strengths that she is working to achieve. Kids are fun!

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