Have you ever lost your patience with a child during a narration? Have you ever been discouraged because the narration didn't seem good enough...too short, too long, too many missing "important" details, too many mispronunciations, or maybe a complete inability to narrate? Have you ever been tempted to "help" your child along, knowing you were violating some of Ms. Mason's principles, but really, "just this once (or twice) it is going to be OK because we are going to LEARN from it." I have, and I have a feeling I'm not alone.
Mom: Tell me what you heard.
Child: I don't remember anything.
Mom: What do you mean you don't remember anything? Weren't you listening?
Child: I just can't remember anything.
Mom: Nothing? Really? Just tell me one thing, anything.
Child: I can't. I don't remember.
Mom: (getting impatient) Seriously, how could you not remember anything? I'm not going to read this book again. You are completely wasting my time.
Child: (starting to cry) Mom, I just can't remember.
Mom: (slamming book shut) Well, that is just something you will never know then.
[This child just walked into the room as I was writing this. "Do you remember those times I made you cry during narrations?" I asked. "Yes," was the reply. I continued, "Why do you think you cried? What happened?" I really wanted to get the child's perspective. "Well," the child thought and then answered, "I couldn't remember what you read, and I knew you were going to get mad because I couldn't remember, and you did." She smiled at me and skipped back out of the room.]
Another example which comes to mind is struggling through Poor Richard with a child. This was a tough book for us. Let me correct that. In hindsight, this was a tough book for me. There were times when my child loved the book, and there were other times when the book was hated. As I stopped and reflected on the situation, I came to realize the book was not the problem; it was me. The book was loved when I handled the narrations well; the book was hated when I handled the narrations poorly. I wanted my child to get more out of the book, and I felt like so much was being left out of narrations. I felt it was my job to make sure nothing was missed and to force the connections I thought needed to be made. When details were left out of narrations, it was my duty to explain and explain and explain. We soon both grew very weary of this and rightly so. Whose fault is this, anyway?
I came across the following written in 1925 by Mr. H. W. Household, secretary for education in the English county of Gloucestershire, in a pamphlet published after a summer conference for teachers on P.N.E.U methods.
It should be said at once that no teacher can hope to get out of the programmes and the method all that can be got, unless he reads and re-reads what Miss Mason herself has said about them. As I have said before, a copy of School Education or Home Education should be in every school, and should be in constant use. There should be no member of the staff who has not read it. Where I see wrong methods being employed--excessive explanation, excessive questioning, interruption of reading or narration--it is almost always found that the teacher does not know what Miss Mason taught, and has therefore no grasp of the principles that underlie the method that he is supposed to be employing.
A Charlotte Mason education is not going to magically happen; narrations are not going to become a pleasant daily activity left to themselves. To bring the beauty of a Charlotte Mason education, including narration, into my home, I must first and foremost invest in myself. I must read her words; I must read what others have written who are ahead of me in this journey; I must seek help when I struggle; I must seek out relationships with like-minded people. At no point is this going to look perfect, and at no point will I know everything. I must be thankful for the knowledge I know today and do the best I can to apply it. But I may not settle there, and I must press on. Weekly, if not daily, in some small way, I need to be making progress in my own self-education. Miss Mason said, (change mine)
Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a [mother's] nature. (Volume 6, p. 240)