I have been requiring narration from SA(7) in our homeschool from the beginning. None of his schoolbooks are read without him telling what he learned from the reading back to me. (We do have family read-alouds at bedtime and other times that are just enjoyed and not narrated, of course!). I believe in narration. I believe that when someone can tell you what he knows, he knows it. I have reason to believe SA is retaining what we read in a way that would not be possible without narration.
But I had never really tried narration for myself.
True, there have been a few times I have read a book and gotten so excited (or disturbed) about it that I have had to tell my husband all about it. I have also processed some of my reading of Charlotte Mason's works here on the blog. I have even modeled narration several times for SA in order to show him what I expected of him. But this is the first time I've read a book and systematically narrated every chapter in order to know it.
Two things surprised me:
1. Narration is surprisingly hard work! A Tale of Two Cities is a vivid tale, and it was not especially difficult to recall most things. What was surprising was the amount of concentration it took to stick with narration until I was done. I often would find my mind wandering and have to bring myself back. For most of the book I could not narrate more than two chapters a day, because it was too mentally exhausting. I understand now why SA needs a few moments to gather his thoughts before narration, and why I have to gently call him back when I see his attention wandering. I also have a whole new respect for how well he does with narration. He is already much farther ahead than I am with this skill (He should be, he has had more practice!).
2. I knew that narration would help me remember, but I was not anticipating how it would work. I am not a very visual person. Normally when I read, my visual imagination is fleeting and vague. I found that narration brought this visualization into focus and made it much clearer. I was recalling scenes, not just words. I was surprised and delighted by this. Perhaps I should not have been. Charlotte Mason did say to expect this!
"All the acts of generalization, analysis, comparison, judgment, and so on, the mind performs for itself in the act of knowing. If we doubt this, we have only to try the effect of putting ourselves to sleep by relating silently and carefully, say, a chapter of Jane Austen or a chapter of the Bible, read once before going to bed. The degree of insight, the visualization, that comes with this sort of mental exercise is surprising." - Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education p. 304
How will I go forward with this?
I am planning to continue to read and narrate. Given the amount of mental work involved in narration, I think I will not be able to narrate more than one book at a time while I am still in the baby and toddler years. This means I will not narrate every book I read. I will, however, choose to narrate books I want to know.
I would love to hear about your personal experience with narration, if you have tried it.