Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Unschooling Charlotte Mason: Narration

There are many areas of the Charlotte Mason method that I've found easy to incorporate into our family's lifestyle of learning.  The use of a variety of whole and living books, nature study adventures, handicrafts, and a steady diet of new and interesting ideas and experiences have been such a natural fit for us.  When my children were younger and I first read what Charlotte Mason had to say about narration, I felt an immediate connection and knew that this too would be another area that would be a perfect fit for our unschooling nature.

As I continued to read and learn however, the more I saw this wonderful tool being used and encouraged by others in a way that wasn't such a good fit for us.  It seemed that like so many other aspects of the Charlotte Mason method, narration was something that could be turned into just as "school at home" as a technique as anything else.   An assignment.  Something to check off the to-do list.  Forced, artificial, contrived.


Formal is not something our family does very well. :)

We do better with the informal.  The flexible, the real, the natural, the authentic.  And to be truthful, when I look at much of what Charlotte Mason had to say about narration through my unschooling lens, she seemed to believe in this as well.

Narrating is an art, like poetry-making or painting, because it is there, in every child's mind, waiting to be discovered, and is not the result of any process of disciplinary education.  A creative fiat calls it forth. 'Let him narrate'; and the child narrates, fluently, copiously, in ordered sequence, with fit and graphic details, with a just choice of words, without verbosity or tautology, so soon as he can speak with ease.  This amazing gift with which normal children are born is allowed to lie fallow in their education.  Bobbie will come home with a heroic narrative of a fight he has seen between 'Duke' and a dog in the street. It is wonderful! He has seen everything, and he tells everything with splendid vigou in the true epic vein; but so ingrained is our contempt for children that we see nothing of this but Bobbie's foolish childish way!  Whereas here, if we have eyes to see and grace to build, is the ground-plan of his education." - Volume 1, page 231

Many years later, narration continues to be a valued component in our learning.  Sometimes I even wish there was perhaps a little less of it going on.  But the one thing I have been very intentional in avoiding is any kind or sense of formality. 

When narration is at its best and most effective, it flows naturally. Within a family oriented lifestyle of learning, narration is the art of talking - abundant conversation, open discussion, good spirited debate. Questions are asked, answers found, opinions shared, stories are told, details given, funny moments relayed, perspectives pondered and widened.  Informal conversation is the key - hearing it, participating in it, reading it and eventually writing it down.

Once you get to the true heart and spirit of it, this is indeed what narration is all about.