First smile. First word. First step.  Many children have creative, diligent mothers who chronicle these milestones for their children.  Unfortunately, I'm not very good at keeping scrapbooks, photo albums or records. But my six-year-old, Cheney, had a "first" this week which I will remember because I'm writing about it here!  She gave her first complete narration, completely unsolicited.

Narration is what the children do after they have read a passage or have a selection read to them.  They tell back the material in their own words.  Some call it "retelling."  Charlotte Mason called it the "act of knowing."

"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 hall-mark of an educated person."Vol. 6 p. 99

In our school, I don't require narrations until the first grade.  Cheney is a kindergartner but has grown up watching her siblings practice the art of knowing. So, I was reading her "The Lion and the Mouse" by Aesop - a four page rendition.

When I was done, she asked, "Can I narrate it?"

"Ummm, sure sweetie," I said doubtfully.

She proceeded to tell me the story from start to finish, inserting her own adjectives derived from the vocabulary in the text.   This action always tickles my brain as I watch how they assimilate and translate unknown words from the context, usually very accurately.

"But she will bear in mind that the child of six has begun the serious business of his education, that it does not matter much whether he understands this word or that, but that it matters a great deal that he should learn to deal directly with books. Whatever a child or grown-up person can tell, that we may be sure he knows, and what he cannot tell, he does not know." Vol. p. 172

I will write more about narration in future posts, having implemented it with six students over fifteen years.  And now, thanks to this blog, Cheney will have a record of her first narration and has begun the serious business of her education.

The text for her narration came from  My Book House, a delightful, 12 volume, out-of-print set of books that we use as our spine for kindergarten.  Each of my daughters has their own set.  The picture with this post shows Cheney at nine months, surrounded by her set.  You can read more about this series here.


  1. My Book House sounds wonderful.

    Ah, narration where we, the teachers honor them, the students; simply by being quiet and listening. I am always in awe of how well they do.

    How I long to be quiet in my busy Martha heart, and just watch and listen. Been in prayer about this; and waiting for God to do his miracles!

  2. I love the book suggestions you do...keep it up!

    I'm enjoying the day off. No school today because of the blizzard. Everyone is in their own homes and I'm about to settle down for a long nap!

  3. I've heard great things about My Book House. Delightful post. :)

  4. We are currently learning about narration in our humble CM group here in Katy, Texas, and I'm also translating some writings by Andreola for the Spanish speaking ladies who like CM and can't read any English.
    I'm so inspired by this and your latest post, to hear that narration works so beautifully helps us develop the faith in this practice that intellectually we all understand as being the best way for children to truly learn but that at times we may doubt.

  5. Silvia,
    What a wonderful work you are doing with the translating- bravo! Yes, consistent narration works on so many levels. Having graduated 2 sons now away at college, I hope to share more stories about how narration has benefited their lives. Thank you for your kind comments.

  6. Thanks to YOU Nancy for your inspiration. I may come by your blog and ask you for permission to translate whenever you post on narration or any CM related topic! :)
    Stay in touch,