How can I help my son better comprehend and enjoy Child’s History of the World?
My 11 year old fifth grader is using Heart of Dakota‘s Preparing Hearts . He narrates Grandpa’s Box well, but he struggles to comprehend the reading of Child’s History of the World (CHOW) . The last time we read I had to go back and explain what was happening. He just can’t seem to follow it. I know many people rave about how easy and enjoyable CHOW is! For this child, it just is not that way. We are hitting the section where there will be a lot of CHOW. I’m just not sure what to do. We’ve currently taken a break from it. He’s reading books he is able to engage with like Bound for Oregon. I’ve not heard or read anyone else having this particular struggle with this book. How can I help my son better comprehend and enjoy Child’s History of the World?
“Ms. Please Help My Son Better Comprehend and Enjoy Child’s History of the World”
Dear “Ms. Please Help My Son Better Comprehend and Enjoy Child’s History of the World,”
I can see wanting your son to better comprehend and enjoy Child’s History of the World (CHOW). While CHOW is a narrative telling of history, it’s important to remember that it is still a telling of history (meaning it is full of names, dates, and places that really raise the reading/listening level of the text)! This means that CHOW is a much more difficult book than a narrative story like Bound for Oregon. Both have their purposes.
The difference between narrative historical fiction books and narrative nonfiction history spines.
Books like Bound for Oregon are historical fiction, with one character who you stay with throughout the book. This makes it very easy to stay with the storyline without much effort. Books like CHOW are filled with different “characters” and places from history every single day. They are much more work to listen to attentively and harder to narrate from, because you really have to have cultivated the habit of attention to be able to narrate from a book where the characters and places are always changing! This is the habit we must seek to cultivate. You can see, as I’m sharing about the differences between the two types of books, that they are fulfilling two different sets of skills. So, to neglect one or the other type of reading means that the child will then be missing a whole set of accompanying skills.
We are gradually working a child up in their reading/listening level with books like CHOW.
Readings like CHOW are more similar to what children will be reading in history and science texts as they progress through their academic subjects (even though CHOW is much more narrative than a typical text). CHOW forces a child to grow and stretch as needed to be able to handle more difficult readings in this vein with each successive year. We are gradually working a child up in their reading/listening level gently guide by guide with books like CHOW, rather than making a huge jump in these areas when the child hits high school. Incremental steps are always better than a big, huge leap forward in requirements!
We expect the readings/listenings in CHOW to be challenging, but you can use a markerboard to help.
So, with this in mind, just be encouraged that we actually expect the readings/listenings in CHOW to be challenging. We expect the child to slowly gain in this area throughout the year. So, what should you do to help your child? First of all, it is a good idea to list any major names and places on a markerboard before the reading and read them aloud to your child, having him repeat them after you. This is something Charlotte Mason herself advocated.
Your child can read CHOW on his own and use the markerboard as a reference as he narrates.
Next, as your child is in fifth grade, you can have him read CHOW on his own. If he can read Bound for Oregon on his own, he can read CHOW on his own. It is often true that children narrate better when they read something themselves. It is true for me too! As your son gets ready to narrate, have the markerboard there for him to refer to the names and places as he narrates. Don’t jump in and explain the text to him, no matter how much you want to (as this actually helps you understand the text better but also means you are doing the work of sifting and sorting the information to make meaning, which is the work we need him to do)!
You can do the Preparing guide’s follow-ups after reading, making sure not to give personal commentary.
Then, do the follow-ups in the Preparing guide. Don’t embellish or give a bunch of personal commentary. I know this is hard, as it is second nature for us to want to share our own connections or summarize for the child, but instead let the child share (even if it is very painful or very short). Otherwise, you are truly getting in between the child and the reading. If he cannot figure out an answer to a question in the Preparing guide, both of you should skim the reading for the answer and then you can run your finger under it and have him read just that brief part out loud. Often, kiddos feel they are not getting the “right” answer, so they no longer want to share. They would just rather wait for you to supply the answer. This is an alternative to that.
You can have him narrate after reading a few pages at a time, if need be.
If needed, you can have him narrate after he’s read a couple of pages. Then, have him read a couple more and pause and narrate again. If he shares anything, find a way to compliment him. Work to compliment his answers rather than asking for more information right now. Even a sentence or two is alright when you are learning a new skill. You could just respond, “Oooh that sounds interesting!” Or, “Really? I didn’t know that!” Or, “Wow, I had no idea that _____ (and then repeat back a bit of what he said)!” Or, “That sounds exciting!” Or, “I never knew that _____ (and share a bit of something he mentioned). Or, “Oh that makes me want to know more!” Or, “Now, you’ve got me wondering what will happen next. I’ll be interested to hear more about this as you keep reading!”
He is seeking your approval, and he needs to be able to share his own connections without worrying about being ‘wrong.’
It will come, but it won’t happen overnight. Right now he is in the stage where he is seeking your approval, trying to find the answer that you feel is “right”. All children do this when the material is difficult. He has to learn the freedom to share his own thoughts and connections, as he grapples with difficult material, without worrying he’ll be wrong.
So, in short, I’d go over the names and places on the markerboard before he reads (making sure he repeats them to you before starting so he has proper pronunciation). Next, he should read CHOW on his own, pausing every couple of pages to share a sentence or two narration about what he read. Compliment his sharing, whatever it is, and don’t ask for more right now. After reading a couple more pages, he should share again (just a couple sentence narration). Don’t prod for more – just compliment.
Last, do the follow-up in the guide. Don’t add to the follow-up with commentary, just do what is there. Help him skim for answers if needed. Run your finger under the answer for him in CHOW to read it aloud, but don’t answer for him. If he doesn’t share much, do not have him reread. Just keep moving forward each day, keeping the lessons short and sweet. You will see progress, but it will take up to 9 weeks. So, be patient! Just know the growing pains you are experiencing are expected, and you’re not alone.
Update from “Ms. Please Help My Son Better Comprehend and Enjoy Child’s History of the World:”
I wanted to let you know how it is going. I now only write a few names on the markerboard as I realized that a lot of the big/unfamiliar names have pronunciation keys right in the book. So, we just look over those before we start. He reads 2 pages (with me sitting right there) and then narrates what he has connected to in that section. He then goes on and reads the rest of the chapter and narrates again at the end.
I am excited and amazed that reading it this way, he is starting to connect with this book!!! He is picking up on the little funny things that Hillyer notes about the characters. For example, he got quite a kick out of Socrates’ wife dumping water on his head. He even got Socrates’ pithy little response, “After thunder, expect rain.” That’s amazing for him! I am thrilled that we have continued on with this and have found a way to help him read, enjoy and learn from CHOW. Thanks, again, Carrie, for your specific helps that have helped me approach this from a different perspective.
“Ms. Please Help My Son Better Comprehend and Enjoy Child’s History of the World”