One of the things I love about the Charlotte Mason community is the encouragement for mothers not to forget their own growth and education. Mothers should take time for themselves to read good literature, think great thoughts, listen to lovely music, look at great art, notice nature, and make beautiful things…
So I have been. I’ve been doing all these things.
But as my oldest child, Jadzia (5) approaches school age, I keep looking at AmblesideOnline year 1, and I think, “Man. I’m so jealous. *I* want to do all that.” And, well, of course I’ll be reading it all aloud to her next year.
But here’s the thing… when I’m doing that, the focus will be all on her. *She* will be the one to narrate, not me.
And narration, wow. Can we just talk about some of the benefits of narration? Charlotte Mason calls narration “the act of knowing” (Vol. 6, p. 99), and that’s totally the truth.
“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. 6, pp. 172-173).
I think I can safely say I had the absolute best that public education had to offer; I was in the gifted program with excellent teachers. In high school I sated myself with AP and IB courses… and yet, after all that, I froze in panic if I was ever asked to talk about anything I’d learned in school. Oh, heck yeah, I could rock all those tests, but I was haunted by the niggling feeling that I wasn’t actually, truly learning. If I could not explain a blessed thing about American history after spending an entire year on it–what had I spent so much time on? If I couldn’t explain any scientific principles after years of AP science, did I really learn anything, or had I just memorized a bunch of algorithms for solving problems in the textbooks?
And the problem didn’t end in high school. I got my bachelor’s in neuroscience, and while I can explain some of the basic principles fairly well, I couldn’t help feeling that I was completely unworthy of that neuroscience degree despite performing well in my classes.
After college, though, I got a real job. And my job was to narrate.
For real! My job title was medical scribe, but what that meant was that I followed a reproductive endocrinologist around all day while he spoke to patients, and I wrote up the medical records. I enjoyed the benefit of explaining on paper what the doctor had explained orally to the patient; further, I enjoyed the benefit of explaining how the doctor had arrived at a particular diagnosis. For the first time in my life, I felt like I rocked learning something… and even if it was something as specific as reproductive endocrinology, oh boy, did I know that stuff backwards and forwards.
Some years later, I was no longer working outside of the home, and I had some deep questions about what I wanted for my kids’ education. Long story short, I found Charlotte Mason, and as I read her words about narration–ding ding ding!
Narration. Narration explains everything. Why didn’t I actually know anything I learned in sixteen years of school? Because I never, ever narrated. And in contrast, why did I know backwards and forwards the principles of reproductive endocrinology? Because I narrated that material day in and day out for fifteen months straight.
So when I look at the mouth-wateringly rich curriculum that is AmblesideOnline, I can’t help but think that I totally missed out, and I will continue to miss out–even while guiding multiple children through all 12 years–if I don’t manage to narrate the readings myself.
And, boy, do I want to really get the hang of narrating. That’s really the point of starting all the down at the bottom in year 1. I stink at narrating long readings. I can’t narrate without looking back at the book multiple times. Eventually I’d like to train my brain to take in longer and longer reading selections and then be able to masterfully narrate it… but to do that, I’m going to start with the easy-to-narrate year 1 books and work up.
Next post, I’ll explain my specific plans for my very own AO Year 1.