For those of us who begin using Charlotte Mason’s methods with our children from the beginning, we start narration at age six and watch the process unfold in due course. However, many families begin homeschooling later, with older children, or they switch to Charlotte Mason’s methods after using another method, and find themselves wondering how to begin narration with a child who is ten, or twelve, or fourteen.
Will that work?
I’ve devoted a chapter in Know and Tell to beginning narration with older students, but the quick answer, I am happy to tell you is—yes! Narration can be introduced with older children and still be an effective method. The reason for this is that narration is based on a normal human activity—“telling”—and we can begin working on that art at any point in our lives.
Fortunately, this means that you can also “begin again” if you need to. Sometimes things happen and we drop narration for a while—maybe even a few years. It can be reintroduced, and our children can build fluency even after a lapse. I hope to encourage you to give narration a chance to do its work, and not to feel that it’s too late. A child of eleven or twelve needs a period of exclusively oral narration to develop that skill, but it need not be years long before introducing written narration as well.
In Philosophy of Education, Charlotte Mason makes a proposal for continuing education that would have had children as old as age 14 beginning narration—both oral and written. She assumed that they would appreciate the opportunities that narration would give them.
We go to work with a certainty that the young students crave knowledge of what we call the ‘humanities,’ that they read with absolute attention and that, having read, they know. They will welcome the preparation for public speaking, an effort for which everyone must qualify in these days, which the act of narration offers. (Philosophy of Education, p. 124)
I take that as a hint that when older children begin narration, they need to understand the reasons for it for themselves. To that end, I’ve included a short essay addressed to older children beginning narration—you can let them read it, or use it as the model for your own conversation with your students.
Narration is an effective method, even when it is begun with children older than age six. In Know and Tell, I’ll give you some strategies for starting at later ages, so that your students can begin the relationship-building practice of narration and enjoy all of its benefits.