I have noticed many homeschooling blogs which depict perfect mothers teaching perfect children in perfect homes. Maybe they spend days setting up the fantasy scenery and more days editing out every imperfection while their children are left to fend for themselves. Maybe they are just naturally perfect. I don’t know. I don’t frequent those blogs.
At my house, there are stuffed animals and bits of wool on the floor. There are doggy kisses during the lesson, and sometimes even a preschooler who is obsessed with using the electric pencil sharpener. If I waited until things were perfect, we would never get school done.
Fortunately, perfection isn’t a necessary prerequisite to successful homeschooling. Consistency, respect, wonder and enthusiasm are.
“A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labors of a spasmodic Hercules”
So go teach your imperfect children imperfect lessons in your imperfect house and believe that the diligence of your imperfect self will be rewarded richly.
One truism I know about homeschooling is that it takes time and costs money. When a parent starts investigating the possibility of homeschooling, the options and details involved seem completely overwhelming. The narration process can simplify matters significantly, although even this cannot make it fast and free.
One advantage of incorporating narration into your homeschool day is that it allows you to use living books rather than purchasing a commercial curriculum for every subject. This reduces the cost and allows you to cover several core disciplines in a single lesson. Another advantage is that the narration process is conducive to folding in students of differing ages and abilities. In this sample lesson, I was teaching a nine year old, an eight year old and a four year old. Additionally, this method is ideal for allowing students to explore various editions and translations of the same story. Older children are fascinated by comparing and contrasting the recounting of a single historical event from various sources.
For the sample lesson, I opened several Bibles to Genesis 27-28 and let each child choose a book from which to draw an illustration in their Bible journals while I read to them.
This is where I tell the students about what we are going to be reading and tie the new subject material to their previous knowledge.
It is important to keep lessons short enough to hold the children’s attention. This entire Bible lesson is taught in under seventeen minutes; however my four year old went back to her journal and continued working on her illustration all evening. There will be interruptions, even during a short lesson. Handle them calmly and in an unobtrusive manner so as not to distract the other students and to maintain a positive atmosphere for learning.
Look for opportunities to incorporate spelling, grammar, and handwriting into this part of the lesson. Remember that students are expected to be respectful but not silent or still.
This part is critical for assessing how much of the lesson the student understood. Once, after reading an account of Martin Luther, my student kept wanting me to write about a squirrel, or more specifically a person who made a pact with God in a thunderstorm which turned him into a squirrel. This provided the perfect opportunity for me to explain the difference between a monk and a chipmunk.
During narration, write exactly what the child says. When they know that every word they say will be recorded, students take their time and choose each detail carefully. Children are also more motivated to read their own words than the words of others. During free-time, I often find them pouring over their journals, reading past entries. We treasure the old journal in which the title reads “The Reign of Terror,” and the narration reads “I like and I love this girl’s pretty dress.”
Reading The Narration
During this step, I read the child’s words back to her exactly how they are written, which helps strengthen her understanding of the relationship between the spoken and the written word.
One of the most exciting aspects of this method is watching the child progress through the stages of thinking logically and sequentially, speaking coherently, and finally beginning to write their responses themselves.
I chose not to correct this account of the story, but that could be a lesson for another day. I might even take next week’s dictation sentences directly from this journal entry, as an opportunity to further integrate additional subject areas.
I have continued to use narration with our older children, which has given them the opportunity to work daily on their handwriting and composition skills, both in writing and art,
as well as improve drawing skills,
and eventually practice typing.
When you incorporate narration into your homeschooling day, you may find it to be something your entire family enjoys. You save time by teaching multiple concepts simultaneously while allowing your children to develop a strong scaffolding for future writing. It might even become their favorite part of the day, and their journals are guaranteed to become keepsakes which remind you of happy days spent learning together as a family.