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Explaining the Reasoning Behind Oral Narrations

Heart of Dakota - More than a Charlotte Mason Moment
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What is the reasoning behind the Charlotte Mason philosophy of narration?

What is the reasoning behind the Charlotte Mason philosophy of narration? The Appendices of Heart of Dakota‘s (HOD’s) guides from Bigger Hearts on up offer insight into this reasoning. Each Appendix includes a Teacher’s List and a Student’s List for Oral Narration Tips. (These are basically steps on how to do an oral narration.) At the beginning of the tips, it gives this reasoning for narration:

When children narrate, they tell back in their own words what they have just read or heard. It allows them to share their own version of the passage with accuracy, individual personality, spirit, and originality. Narrating is an essential skill in life. To be able to give an opinion of a book, relay a telephone message, summarize a letter, give driving directions, write an article, or share a doctor’s instructions – are all examples of practical applications of narration skills. Narrating is an important skill to learn. You can begin to teach your children to narrate by following the steps listed below. Just be patient, and have fun with it! Narration is a way of life. 

Then, the Appendices of HOD’s guides from Bigger Hearts on up give step-by-step guidance for both parent and child on how to go about learning this important skill. Many keys to narration are shared throughout the teacher’s list. So, be sure to read those!

What is the reasoning behind the philosophy of narration according to Charlotte Mason herself?

Here are a few Charlotte Mason quotes that more fully explain the reasoning behind narration:

Things that we read only become knowledge as we assimilate it, as our mind acts upon it. We must read with the specific intention to know the matter being read. We can read without that effort but it does us no good. (Vol. 6, p. 12-13)

To secure a conversation or an incident, we ‘go over it in our minds;’ that is the mind puts itself through the process of self-questioning… This is what happens in the narrating of a passage read: each new consecutive incident or statement arrives because the mind asks itself, – ‘What next?’ For this reason it is important that only one reading be allowed; efforts to memorize weaken the power of attention, the proper activity of the mind; if it is desirable to ask questions in order to emphasize certain points, these should be asked after, and not before, or during, the act of narration. (Vol. 6, p. 17)

More Charlotte Mason Quotes Explaining the Reasoning Behind Narration

As we have already urged, there is but one right way, that is, children must do the work for themselves. They must read the given pages and tell what they have read, they must perform, that is, what we may call the ‘act of knowing’. We are all aware, alas, what a monstrous quantity of printed matter has gone into the dustbin of our memories, because we have failed to perform that quite natural and spontaneous ‘act of knowing,’ as easy to a child as breathing and, if we would believe it, comparatively easy to ourselves. The reward is two-fold: no intellectual habit is so valuable as that of attention; it is a mere habit but it is also the hallmark of an educated person. (Vol 6, p. 99)

Education which demands a ‘conscious mental effort’, from the scholar, the mental effort of telling again that which has been read or heard. That is how we all learn, we tell again, to ourselves if need be, the matter we wish to retain, the sermon, the lecture, the conversation. The method is as old as the mind of man, the distressful fact is that it has been made so little use of in general education. (Vol. 6, p. 159-160)

A Final Charlotte Mason Quote Explaining the Reasoning Behind Narration

Whatever a child or grown-up person can tell, that we may be sure he knows, and that which he cannot tell, he does not know… Now a passage to be memorized requires much conning, much repetition, and meanwhile the learners are ‘thinking’ about other matters, that is the mind is not at work in the act of memorizing. To read a passage with full attention and to tell it afterwards has a curiously different effect…the happy distinction between word memory and mind memory, which, once the force of it is realized, should bring about sweeping changes in our methods of education. Trusting to mind memory, we visualize the scene, are convinced by arguments, take pleasure in the turn of sentences and frame our own upon them: in fact that particular passage or chapter has been received into us and become a part of us just as literally as was yesterday’s dinner… (Vol. 6, p. 172)

Blessings!

Carrie

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