Narration by mom....ummm...

I felt intimidated by a book discussion group I joined a few years back.

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.


  1. Well, you and me together have me convinced. I need to practice narration with each thing (if it's of any value) that I read. I also need to slow down. I think I'm feeling frustrated by all the things that I'm trying to read and comprehend because I'm reading too much --- maybe.

    Do you do any written narration? On paper? On the computer? Really this blogging can take care of my written narration need. I guess it doesn't matter if anyone reads it. It's just good to write it out for me and my understanding.

    I'm glad I found you. Or did you find me?

    And what is this historical site? I love the blue too.

  2. Kay, I found you! (Via the AO list.)

    The book club met at the Morris Jumel Mansion, a house with quite a history to it, and with some great wallpaper. :) Robert Quackenbush wrote a children's book called Daughter of Liberty that features an interesting scene from the house if you want to read about the place with your son.

  3. Ok I am going to do my homework tonight. I have been thinking about writing narrations on my computer on the books I am reading, but thought that might be pushing this Charlotte Mason method too far. Now that I see other moms are narrating, I am going to do my homework. Thanks

  4. Oh yes, I agree with Kay, I'm glad you found me also.

  5. that is funny, "umm...and then something happened". I loved that! CM even works for adults! :)

  6. Way to go! When we are able to tell something back, we own it...it's part of us!

  7. Traci, have fun with your narration work. I attended an author talk last evening and practiced narrating it to my family when I got home, though they didn't know it. They just thought I was gabbing away. :)

    Planting and Melissa, thanks for the encouragement. Yes, about that ownership.

  8. What an interesting idea - I wonder just how many seasoned CM moms would battle to narrate their readings in a clear, articulate and concise manner? I should give myself this test!
    I really enjoyed browsing your blog and have added you to my CM links.

  9. practicalpages: I'm glad I tried narration because it gave me patience in listening to my kids' narrations. I realize how HARD it can be and I understand that you need to practice to get better.
    Thank you for adding me to your links - please stop by and comment again.

  10. Yes, what is a woman to do when she doesn't have facial hair to stroke?!

    I get so frustrated when I've read/seen something and then cannot retell it...the "act of floundering". My sister and I have narrated our current reads to each other via phone. I can tell it's made my habit of attention much stronger.

  11. Richele, lol about the facial hair!
    Very cool that you and your sister narrate to each other. My sisters and I used to have an online bookclub and it was fun.