Narrations as Memories


Lily’s Narration – January 9, 2009 

Age: 5

St. George and the Dragron (from The Children’s Hour)

I imagined that a dragon was fighting a knight and then he went under a cave and he got killed and Sabra saved him too cuz Sabra killed the giant pickle who was really a bad guy. And then a big fire-breathing dragon killed the giant pickle and the giant pickle was dead and Sabra, who was his wife, walked along with him. And then they got up on the horse and hoppity, hop, hoppity, hop, hop, hop and they rided through the castle and hided from the dragon. And the dragon went to the castle and then his wife and St. George went out and the dragon went out and they went in and they fighted the dragon and he was killed. And then they were safe and the pigeon and St. George and Sabra were all safe. The end.

This is the note I tagged onto her narration.

At the beginning of this telling I had told the children to close their eyes and imagine the story in their head. I guess Lily took this to mean free license to make up her own story. for anyone reading this narration, there was no giant pickle, Sabra and St. George were not married, Sabra did not save St. George, and they never fought in a castle or hid in a cave.

Lily - 5      lily - 9

Today as Lily was putting away her history narration of St. George and the Dragon into her book of centuries, she came across a narration she had done when she was five of this same story. She stood there amazed that she had even done this as a five year-old. Then she started cracking up while rereading it to herself prompting her older brother asking for it to be read out loud. I started reading it aloud and, I swear, I couldn’t even finish it as tears were streaming down my eyes. Not in the, “awwwhhhhh, wasn’t that so sweet” way but in that “laugh-out-loud-pee-your-pants” way. I think it took three tries to get it read between all the laughter.

I was reminded that looking back on our Book of Centuries not only helps us review what we learned from history but is a wonderful synopsis of where a child was at a particular age…a scrapbook of sorts. Rereading this particular narration brought me instantly back in time to that day of teaching. It made me realize that my children’s saved work is more than a portfolio for a school board but a treasure box of memories for me and the kids! I see myself as an old lady sitting around in a pile of binders, lovingly turning the pages and sighing over days of old.

The Learning Room – School Shenanigans

Spring is upon us and it is bearing green. I will admit it is making me not want to work. I open the windows and smell the breeze, listen to the sound of the birds and it all makes me want to sit outside with a good book and a hot cup of coffee. And you should, I hear you saying. I know, I know. But I am inside looking at heaps of laundry that needs putting away and dishes piled up, a kitchen floor that needs mopping, more laundry that needs done, toys that need sorting ~ again ~ and a learning room that desperately needs to be organized now that all our new books for the year have come in. Sigh. It has been a rough week of kids being sick. But we went outside anyway. We declared it school. We were finding green for St. Patrick’s Day and looking for new signs of spring returning. Plus P.E. right? Can’t forget the exercise. It was good for our souls despite the wind whipping my hair at 60 mph! And the kids came back with quite the treasure trove of miscellaneous rocks and twigs.

Our school theme this week concentrated on the holiday. I love weeks like that. Some homeschoolers look at holiday worksheets and crafts and unit studies as too much extra busy work.  Let them enjoy it. Take a school break. But I have found that my kids actually look forward to it. Not a one was asking to not do school. And when it got too late in the day (since we were having company over) and I had to finish up dinner and have the kids get to chores, there was a loud chorus of groaning and please can we do some more school coming from their lips.

We found the most wonderful little freebie this week from Living Books Curriculum. It was a little holiday package with a living biography of St. Patrick and mapwork, copywork, and a fabulous color sheet. I let the kids color with the coveted color pencils while I read Amy Steedman’s Our Island Saints (Love her work! You can find more of it here.). It was a phenonomal example of a living book. I stopped periodically to have the kids narrate back what had happened and they did flawless narrations and remembered much more detail then I thought they would. One of those yeah-Charlotte-Mason-really-works!!! kind of days.

We then, as a group, worked on the Trinity Shamrock from Little Blots. This is a beloved favorite every year and we’ve done a different project for it each year. I love the depth that this tradition will bring to their adult faith when they get older.

Since we ran out of time we finished up the next day with a wonderful, simple phonics game for the littles and a St. Patrick’s Day Lapbook for the two older kids.

I worked with the two younger ones and we read My “e” Sound Box and Play with “a” and “t” to supplement.

The two older students had to use this time to practice working together. They each read St. Patrick’s Day and Let’s Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day then had to use teamwork to figure out how to fill out and put together their lapbooks. I stayed out of it and allowed them all the time they needed and the freedom for their result to turn out how they saw fit.

St. Patrick's Day Lets Celebrate St Patricks Day

We used these fun little cards in the children’s treat bag and then again as copywork. So our little St. Patrick study took care of language arts, history, and art this week.


And for math we broke out the Monopoly game for the first time. I helped Luc along but we let Gabe and Lily fend for themselves. Gabe did excellent and had no problem using his multiplication and money counting skills. For him it was more about learning what a mortgage is and what property value means. For Lily it was a chance to do practical work with the money counting skills she’s been learning and some practice in triple-digit hundreds addition. For Luc we kept it simple in allowing him to count out his spaces on the board. The kids loved it. I think this game will start coming into rotation often.

Linking with Weird, Unsocialized Unschoolers @

Guided Project Work

January 31 – February 4

At the beginning of the week I mentioned that during my potty training time with Ivy I would have the two older kids working on guided project work. I was very excited about this concept and the kids were too. We’ve done project work in the past with trying to allow the kids to pick and work on something that they were interested in but have had little success with this style (no matter how promising it seems at Camp Creek!!!). Mainly, it seems, because my kids seem to still want me there to guide them and I, having too many littles, end up not being able to be there in the way they want. Or the littles constantly get into their stuff thereby defeating the purpose of taking their time to complete a project.

I thought our new method would be more constructive. I let them pick out library books they were interested in. Then, unknowingly to them, I read through their books and put together a few mini projects they could use with their books. I incorporated their specific learning styles and what they need work on currently.  That way it would still be interest-led (i.e. no reading books mom made them read) yet still accomplish goals I had for them (i.e. math, reading practice, science, history, copywork, etc.) while freeing up mommy for toddler-devoted training time.

Lily’s Projects (seven years old)

Fancy Nancy's Favorite Fancy Words: From Accessories to Zany

Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy

  • Reading 4 Fancy Nancy books (reading practice), writing new “fancy” words on heart templates with one word to describe their meaning (vocabulary, handwriting practice), paste those heart templates onto cardstock and decorate in a fancy way, paper punch each one and bind it into her very own fancy flashcard vocabulary set (project work, crafting).
  • Read Mission Addition and solve the question at the end of each chapter (math with emphais on adding and value place). I made my own worksheet for her. Maybe if I ever learn how to do that whole pdf thing then I’ll share!
  • Read Junie B. Jones and Some Sneaky Peeky Spying , tell mom an oral narration after each chapter, draw a picture narration, copy down a small portion of narration (that mom dictated) to go with picture narration, bind together in a folder (narration, reading practice with a chapter book, reading comprehension, copywork/penmanship, spelling, punctuation grammar practice).

Junie B. Jones and Some Sneaky Peeky Spying Book & CD Set (A Stepping Stone Book(TM))Mission: Addition


Gabe’s Projects (nine years old)

Mistakes that WorkedAccidents May Happen

  • Read Mistakes That Worked and Accidents May Happen, pick top three favorite inventions from each book (six total), draw a picture narration of invention, include a short narration on who invented it, when invented, and the accident or mistake that caused the invention, copy a famous quote by Mark Twain, bind and make into a folder for show and tell to mom and dad (science, history, copywork, narration/reading comprehension, researching skills, project work, oral speech skills).
  • Read Go Figure and Why Pi?, pick one project and one puzzle from each book, take the Go Figure math quiz, read specifically about pi from each book and do a notebooking page, copy a famous quote by Galileo, bind all work into a folder for show and tell to mom and dad (math with emphasis on story problems, math in the read world, how science and math merge, and introduction to pi and geometry; science; copywork; logic and problem solving skills, oral speech skills).

Go Figure!: A Totally Cool Book About Numbers (Bccb Blue Ribbon Nonfiction Book Award (Awards))Why Pi?

So, how did our week go?

Lily did very well. She really enjoyed all her projects and has been working diligently daily with little help from me other than asking how the occassional word is pronounced and having me help with the dictation for her copywork. I did discover that she needed coaching in narration, or more to the point summarization. She has never had a problem narrating for me and actually quite enjoys it. But this is her first chapter book that she’s methodically read through. So I noticed on her narration that she was having a hard time summarizing her thoughts as this is a much bigger story then she normally reads. So we talked about how a narration is just a summary of what happened so we needed to know what happened at the beginning of the chapter, in the middle of the chapter, and at the end of the chapter. We practiced on one of her Fancy Nancy books and then I think it clicked for her so her narration today was much improved!

Gabe started the week off strong. He loved working independently and that he was working through books that he already loved to read. But the novelty quickly wore off for him. Once he realized that he was actually going to be doing work and that some of his work was going to challenge him (i.e. that he wasn’t going to get it right the first time sort of thing) then he wanted to quit and give up. Even with the puzzles he first picked, not being able to do it in five minutes and perfect frustrated him and he sank to the lowest denomonator and did the puzzles that he’s already done before or were easy to figure out. (A homeschooling mother’s worst nightmare!) We talked a lot about perserverance and how rewarding it will feel to figure it out on his own. He seems dubious and is still coming to me for help instead of trying to do things on his own. I just keep redirecting him and reminding him why mommy is not helping this week. This may be one to talk over with the hubby.

Other unschooling fun ~

  • Continued reading Little House in the Big Woods at lunch time. The kids just love this story and it has come up several times during other discussions such as why we are not buying lettuce right now for lunch sandwiches and grocery store food versus growing your own and preserving.
  • Several independent crafting projects – mainly to make their own toys. We’ve got sock puppets galore and cereal boxes being made into cardboard houses.
  • A lunch discussion today involving living math. Lily wanted to know just why it was that I was always saying (mainly at lunch) that we are having water so that the milk stretches  till I get to the store next (we go through 7+ gallons a week!). So I explained to Lily and Gabe about milk and pricing, which they didn’t think was very much. Then I had them guestimate how much we spent on food in one week and then for one month. (Gabe’s answer about $300 a month or $70 a week, Lily’s answer about $20 a week or $60 for the month.) I told them the real answer (between $500 – $600) and we talked about just why daddy works and what that money is used for. Then we talked again about milk prices and the sale and normal price of milk. We worked on averages to come up with a round figure and then practiced multiplying that by 7 gallons and then that number times 4 weeks (about $80 per month on just milk!) It was a good eye opener for them both. Lily is just now starting to understand the value of money and Gabe has a better grasp due to his lack of winter chore money from gram and pop.

Linking up with…

@ Wierd, Unsocialized Homeschoolers today! 

The Learning Room

February 8-19

I’m glad I now write down what it is that we actually do during the week. Since we’ve been sick I’ve not been very motivated to “do school” everyday and we have just done a little here and a little there formally and a lot of child-led interests informally as prompted. But writing it down today – even if it pans two weeks instead of one – let’s me know that we did just fine and that I really don’t have to stress about getting it all squeezed in!


  • Finally finished Betsy Ross: Designer of Our Flag.
  • Read A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution.
  • Practiced memorizing the 13 colonies by singing them to the tune of Yankee Doodle (and Lily was pretty proud that she actually memorized the words to Yankee Doodle as well!).
  • Made Colonial Paper Dolls including: Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Washington, a Redcoat, a Patriot, Betsy Ross, and a colonial boy.
  • Read IF You: Lived in Colonial Times (kids thought there were some pretty weird things people did – a very kid-friendly book).
  • Narrations of the colonial times.


  • Gabe – finished chapter 15 practice pages and test, watched video 16, did practice page 16A (multiplying by 8)
  • Lily – watched video 21, did practice pages 21A & B (finding the missing sum); worked on abacus
  • Luc – working on counting (and I mean counting EVERYTHING!); counting puzzle

Language Arts

  • Latin ~ Gabe learned new words non, ad; reviewed flashcards
  • Literature ~ Read more chapters from Pippi Longstocking and Return to the Hundred Acre WoodsAudio ~ started listening to Artemis Fowl
  • Grammar ~ Gabe ~ worked on alphabetizing and synonyms, practiced using a thesaurus; Lily ~ learned about the question mark and practiced reading and writing sentences with question marks
  • Penmanship ~ Gabe ~ cursive X; Lily ~ capital and lowercase E, F, G
  • Phonics ~ Lily ~ has really taken off with practicing reading on her own with all kinds of books around the house and is more interested in trying to read to the little ones. Luc ~ has blossomed in ways that I didn’t see coming. All of the sudden he is putting the letter sounds he hears together and asking what words spelled. The other day he spelled cat for me after figuring it out in his head. He will be reading before we know it! Delilah ~ has still wanted to watch Letter Factory every day and we have added in Talking Words Factory to supplement her learning and Luc’s desire to spell and make words. Both Luc and Lilah received an alphabet puzzle and that has been the highlight of their week. Luc is using it to spell words and Lilah is using it to practice letter sounds.


  • Everything Dinosaurs ~ Watched all three Jurassic Park movies. (That’s educational right? I must say I actually knew what every single dinosaur was called this time! And it did inspire me to reread the books again.) Then watched the Nova special The Real Jurassic Park, which Lily kept informing us was boring but Luc wouldn’t let us turn it off.
  • Listened to my new mix of Science songs (kids favorites: Electricity, The Elements, The Sun song, and the Friction song – all of which I’ve heard them humming around the house while playing!).
  • Gabe – played Snap Circuits electricity set.
  • Gabe – made pretend snot and discovered what mucus is used for in the body with his Disgusting Science Kit.



First narrations of the new year.  Every good Charlotte Mason homeschooler knows that narrations are key.

How do my children feel, though?  Lily doesn’t mind a bit.  In fact, when she was four and first started “doing” narrations (not because I made her but because she wanted to do school with Gabe) she thought a narration was adding onto the story.  We would read and then she would tell me back some of the things she remembered but mainly she would embellish and add to whatever the story had been. She had quite the imagination and this used to drive Gabe crazy!

But Gabe…well, Gabe hates (and I mean hate with a capital H, A, T, E) narrations.  When I first read about using this wonderful tool I was smitten.  I wanted my children to be as excited as I was.  And then Gabe quickly burst my bubble.  He would just sit there staring at me blankly.  His eyes would glaze over.  He seemed to remember nothing.  And then it turned into him not even wanting to hear the word story for fear he would have to narrate back.  I spent a year in complete frustration wondering if somehow I was messing up this simple tool of having a child retell back what they learned.  Did he really learn nothing??? But I see him reading ALL the time.  Does he not remember any of it?

I read and reread everything on narrations I could…the Charlotte Mason style and modern twists that other homeschoolers came up with.  Nothing seemed to work.  I was ready to chuck my style in the trash and figure out something else for history.  I just told myself I would at least finish out the year and see where we were.  Now I am SO glad I persevered!!!

The next year I noticed something…and, NO, it was not that Gabe embraced narrations and finally got why we did them. What I did notice was how much better his narrations were…how much more detailed…how he started reading them over my shoulder…how he started correcting me on little things and wanting to participate in the spelling, grammar, and punctuation.  It was turning into a natural grammar lesson…a natural composition.  My heart soared.  We did it!  We made it!  So this is what Ms. Mason was talking about!

So at the end of our first week back to school, as Gabe was whining – again – about how he just knew he couldn’t narrate for me, I was patient.  I reasoned, cajoled, and persevered until it came out of him.  And I am so glad I did.  I couldn’t be prouder!  Here’s to you, Ms. Mason!

An example of a "living book".

Gabe Payson – Age 8 – Third Grade – January 8, 2010

Betsy Ross: Designer of Our Flag by Ann Well

Chapter One – The story is about Betsy Ross and her mother and father and her friends.  George had said throughout the book that Betsy was a girl and she couldn’t make anything ever.  Betsy was trying to make doll furniture and the wooden part of the saw fell on her head and it landed on the floor and it crashed down and it made a sound like “gggrrrr”.  When it made that sound it made her think of George and how he always said that she was a girl and couldn’t make anything.  And then when she was trying to use it she accidentally cut herself when she was trying to saw though the wood.  She ran up quickly to her mother and her mother gave her a bandage and the bandage was not like ours today.  It was a thin piece of cloth and she wrapped it around her wound.

Chapter Three – It was Betsy’s first day of school and the store person said to stop by after school and I’ll give you a peppermint stick on your first day of school.  And Betsy agreed that it was a good idea.  And so they walked out to the school (her and her sisters) and Betsy felt like she was walking in the air but really her sisters were holding her up and she was making walking movements.  They were doing it so they would not be late for school.  Betsy had ran home to give the candy cane to her brother before school because she knew he had been sad inside and left alone.

Chapter Two – When it was baking day Betsy helped her mother bake bread and they had made it out of sourdough and yeast and they had used it in their family for generation after generation.  On baking day they couldn’t find the sourdough after Betsy had rolled the dough into a ball.  They thought George might have took it but really it was stuck to the bottom of the baking trough.

It made Betsy feel really sad that they’d never get to use it again and her mom said they could use Mrs. Adam’s.  She didn’t want to use it because she thought the bread wouldn’t be the same and her mom said the bread would taste just as good but Betsy didn’t  believe her.

Lily Payson – Age 6 – First Grade – January 8, 2010

Betsy Ross: Designer of Our Flag by Ann Well

Chapter Three Betsy had a candy cane and she gave the candy cane to her little brother, George because he was feeling sad because he couldn’t go to school.  She thought she was running in the air but really her sisters were holding her up in the air because they were late to go to school.

Chapter Two – Betsy was baking with her mother with the dough and they lost their sourdough.  It got squished on the pad.  It made Betsy sad.

Chapter One – George said Betsy was too little to make a new table and she cut herself on a knife.  She was trying to build a dollhouse.  She put on a band-aid.  The thing that cut her hand sounded like “gggrrrllll”.  When George said to go out and play outside Betsy said, “No, I’m gonna build a dollhouse!”  And her dad said they needed to make a new table because they had new sisters coming.  So they had to make it bigger because their table wasn’t big enough.

(I know Lil’s is out of order…this is how she narrated back to me and I always try to be true to what they actually said and the order they actually remembered.)