Dictating Narrations

Over at Faithful Over Little Things, there have been some questions about narration at my house. We are a hybrid narration household, not a strict Charlotte Mason household. I hear lots and lots of oral narrations, most of them in the kitchen. But I also record many narrations, particularly for young children. As early as three or four, I help my children create narrated notebooks and lapbooks. It's tedious and time intensive and I wouldn't trade it for the world.

I frequently record my children's narrations for them. It's not a Charlotte Mason habit; I'm quite sure it's a University Virginia Education School habit. It might even belong to the "Whole Language" school of thought. I remember doing it as a student teacher. I remember a whole bunch of parent volunteers scheduled to make it happen in my classroom (the second year--the first year there were no parent volunteers; I'm not even sure there were parents).

I've always stressed to children (mine and others) that real authors are people who have their thoughts written down. When my kids are little, I write or type for them in order for them to see that print is speech in writing. I've never had a child initimidated by the writing process. They think that writing is as natural as breathing. And they know that we write only on days that we eat.

They watch me write. They see my writing appear in the newspaper or on this blog. They watch Daddy write and the script is read on television.  We are a print-intensive household. The first child's career aspirations? Print journalist. The second child? Novelist. The third wants to be a professional soccer player and the fourth wants to be Melissa Wiley.

Before they are ten, we have a balance of narrations and stories that I have heard and keyboarded and stories that they write using invented spelling. Just last weekend, Nicholas took a blank Waldorf book and colored pencils in the car with him while we drove two hours to Richmond (and four hours back ). He wrote a story about a girl named "Bee" and her adventures all over the world.  He asked us to spell some words and he spelled the others as best he could. Today, I'll ask him to narrate about his trip to Richmond for his private blog. I'll spell everything correctly and we'll use that entry for reading practice.

Is it certified Charlotte Mason? No. Does it work? Well, it's worked for the first six children. They are all prolific writers. And they love to write. And that wouldn't be all too interesting except that the second child has learning disabilities that defy being able to compose like that. The specialist who tested him insisted he shouldn't be able to write. But write he does.

So, am I glued to the computer all day?  Sometimes. What miraculous machines that can take my words and make them look so beautiful. I can even find a picture there with which to illustrate (or I can take one myself and put that into the machine, too). When Mommy prints it for me and I put it in my book, I have the satsifaction of knowing that what I've said is worth publishing--real publishing. And I know I will be read. That's why God made Grandmas.

Usually, I shoot for two or three recorded narrations a week for each child under ten. I do the narration writing always if the child is under ten. The only compositions they write are things they have chosen to write. After ten, I can usually tell if it's the keyboarding is getting in the way of what the want to say. Then, I bear the burden for them. By twelve, I require a great deal of written narration. Most of it handwritten or keyboarded by the child.

If we're all working on a notebook project that requires written narrations, it does feel as if I'm in this computer chair all day. Like so many things, I know these days are numbered. Right now, I have more children ten and under than over ten. Right now, I record for them much more than they keyboard themselves.  But there is change in the wind. My ten-year-old set up the blogs for her younger siblings entirely on her own. She often records their journal entries and then calls me to proofread. I'm fairly certain that the book entitled Bee's Adventures was her idea. Big brothers oblige little ones at the computer, proud if they can keyboard quickly enough to keep up with the storyteller. And pictures?  Oh , the photography explosion in our household is remarkable! Words and pictures are family culture. So, I have a sense that my time-intensive days are numbered.

I know the pattern now.  First, only I feed them all the time, then we gradually move to little bits of solid food that any patient person can spoon into them. Then, before you know it, no one needs me to so much as cut his meat. They are all writing. And they're writing things that entertain me and amuse me and make me think. The days of hours of keyboarded narrations will be distant memories, just like all those dinners when I cut steak for a toddler and two pre-schoolers while nursing an infant.