I've been part of book clubs for years - both the fun kind with friends and the more serious kind with people who delve into the nitty-gritty workings of literature.
But this book club was different. All the books were non-fiction history books about the local area. There were no fiction stories in the line-up. The people who signed up for the discussions knew their local history very well. And then there was me - a mom whose motivation to join the book club was to get out of the house for awhile and talk to grown-ups.
I knew I could keep up with the discussions if I read the books thoroughly and studied, but with two little kids underfoot at the time, one still a baby nursing at night, my time and my mind were scattered.
I had just started reading Charlotte Mason, and I knew CM said to read something once and then narrate it. CM said narration would help the student absorb and retain the information. I wanted to absorb and retain! I did not want to be the scattered mom-lady at the meeting digging around in a Winnie-the-Pooh diaper bag for crumpled up notes to remind me what I read and wanted to say.
I became my first homeschooling student when I decided to try narration for myself. I read a section of the first chapter and then closed the book. My husband happened to be handy, so I narrated to him. He's a tough audience, and I didn't hold his attention by telling him,
"Um...the first section was about some settlers who built a town - or maybe they arrived at a town already built. There was a stockade around it. Soon it was winter, and let's see, the father is a minister. Ummm, and then something happened."
How lousy was that?
My husband went to bed while I kept reading. I read the next section of the chapter, closed the book, and narrated to myself. It wasn't any easier to narrate to myself than it was to narrate aloud. In fact, it's harder to narrate to yourself because you aren't forced to actually articulate your thoughts. But I made myself to do it, and sometimes I narrated on paper so I wouldn't skimp on the process. My narrations improved, I'm relieved to say.
At the next book club, I held my own in the discussions - even with the historian types in the group who leaned back and crossed their stretched legs, stroking their beards in pondering poses. I remembered details from the book without looking them up, and I could make connections from one section of the book to another - the connections seemed to pop out at me, and I'm sure narrating helped make that happen. By reading the book once and narrating it, I knew that book.
I thought of all this after reading Kay's comment in my previous post. She wrote how much she as a mom appreciates narration. I feel the same way, Kay.
Narration works. It doesn't require an expert, special products, or money - it doesn't require anything except an author and a reader, plus a bit of self-discipline and practice.
"Ummm....and then something happened." What happened is I became a fan of narrating.
Photo: A detail of the interior of a local historical site where the book club met. Love the blue.