Wonder in the Woods

Living and Learning in the Pacific Northwest

Using Short Stories

For Hunter’s Year 2, we will study continue our studies on American History, Ancient Civilizations, and add in Greek and Roman History.  I need to pare down the list of books about Greeks and Romans, and I think we will do that as I test read with Hunter.

I know one criticism of Story of the World (SOTW) by Susan Wise Bauer is that she mixed myth with history.  In later editions, she made the distinction between the two. I think her books are very well done and enjoyable to read.

I want to have more short stories for Charlotte Mason narration.  I know that we can get educational DVDs on many history topics.  I know there are many fabulous books about history that have illustrations, photographs of artifacts, and also many “living” chapter books about people in history.  At first this is what I wanted to do for history.

However, I realize that it is important to feed a child a rich banquet of living ideas for the child’s mind to “chew on” through his/her day.  The stories Charlotte Mason used, especially in early elementary, are rather short.  The reason they are short is to train the mind in the “habit of attention” and teach them to narrate, orally first, then written.  These stories are also meant as a gentle introduction to history and focus on people rather than events.

If we use only the DVDs, illustrated/photograph books and chapter books for history, I realized that Hunter could get absorbed in a few topics a year but would miss the overview of history.  I don’t want a textbook-style overview that its dry, boring and focusing on facts, I want to read interesting “living” short stories.

We will also keep a Book of Centuries that helps a child order the events.  With a Charlotte Mason education you are supposed to cover the material in chronological order as much as possible, although this article from Memoria Press explains my thinking about age-appropriate material.

We have skipped around in the last couple of years because of current interests such as the Wild West, or a great show on the History Channel.  There is nothing saying that a child should not get engrossed in a period of history or a culture, Charlotte Mason lessons simply fill in the extras and might spark something new.

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I believe the “habit of attention” is more important than ever.  Many of us are developing ADD with our “click” technology.  Why pay attention to a college lecture if the professor is going to put all the most important notes in the reading on your iPad?  It is not only professions like doctors, lawyers and police officers who need listening and memory skills, it is also vital to our interpersonal relationships to have the ability to listen to someone and then understand what they are saying and “tell back” what they said.

Kelly and I went to marriage counseling to learn to communicate better.  One of the techniques is to actively listen to the other person and then tell back what you heard.  1) it helps the other person feel truly heard, loved and appreciated, and 2) it helps to make sure that what the other person heard is correct or as intended.  This is a skill that must be learned.

Short stories will help train the child’s mind to listen to the whole story and narrate.  You can start with a paragraph and work up to more.   From Simply Charlotte Mason tips on Narration:

So how do you “do” narration? Here are the basics with Charlotte’s own words.

  • Read a portion and ask the child to tell you all he can recall about what was just heard or read.
    “She may read two or three pages, enough to include an episode; after that, let her call upon the children to narrate, — in turns, if there be several of them” (Vol. 1, p. 233).
  • Read the passage or episode only once to reinforce the habit of attention.
    “As knowledge is not assimilated until it is reproduced, children should ‘tell back’ after a single reading or hearing . . . A single reading is insisted on, because children have naturally great power of attention; but this force is dissipated by the re-reading of passages” (Vol. 6, preface).
  • Try to keep interruptions to a minimum; they can quickly dampen a narration.
    “The teacher does not talk much and is careful never to interrupt a child who is called upon to ‘tell.’ The first efforts may be stumbling but presently the children get into their ‘stride’ and ‘tell’ a passage at length with surprising fluency. The teacher probably allows other children to correct any faults in the telling when it is over” (Vol. 6, p. 172).
  • Discourage your child from simply repeating the words you just read.
    “Narrations which are mere feats of memory are quite valueless” (Vol. 1, p. 289).
  • Encourage your child to narrate in his own words, inserting his opinion and any mental connections he might have made.
    “A narration should be original as it comes from the child — that is, his own mind should have acted upon the matter it has received” (Vol. 1, p. 289).

So there you have the basics. Keep in mind that narrations can take many forms. The simplest way to begin is by doing oral narration. After the child has a good grasp on oral, he can move to doing written narration. But don’t rule out drawing as a form of narration, or acting, or building and creating. All of those techniques can be great ways to assess what our children have learned.

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2 comments on “Using Short Stories

  1. Shelly
    May 13, 2011

    Wow! What an AWESOME POST!!! Thanks for all of this CM info…you have explained so much of what I was questioning. I will check into the e-books that you have mentioned. God bless your family!

  2. Karyn @ kloppenmum
    May 13, 2011

    Your Charlotte Mason is growing on me, the more I hear about her approach to learning. I am enjoying learning all this. :)

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This entry was posted on May 13, 2011 by in Books, Charlotte Mason, Learning, Literature.

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