Customer Question: What to Expect from Narrations

I absolutely love my customers.    There are a number of items that I need to complete, inclusive of much prayer, in order to grow the business into all that it could be.    I often find myself repenting for disobedience when God speaks through one of my customers, and I procrastinate in doing what He says do.     The one thing that I succeed in doing is valuing the relationships that I’ve built following the development of A Blessed Heritage’s products.

I received this letter just a few days back about the reading level of our elementary school products, and about a child who didn’t seem to be “getting it.”    The original question  was as follows:


Well I thought the curriculum was great but I am suspecting that our daughter whom I thought was ready for first grade is not.  She cannot remember or tell me what she read on a page and when she does the details are mixed up.  Now throughout the page if there are words she is unfamiliar with we stop and talk about them.  She seems to understand at that point but then when we go back over it, she is at a loss???  She is only 5 1/2 but did very well in K last year so thought everything was okay for first grade.


Is the Elementary curriculum meant for 1st grade?  I did break the reading down into smaller pieces and we even started a lapbook for Leif the Lucky but we are in our third week and I am truly at a loss.

Do you have any suggestions that I may be overlooking or not seeing or understanding?





My response launched into my own testimony with narration, and I thought it was worth sharing given that this is an issue for many parents who are new to a Charlotte-Mason approach, or who might just be looking for a way to build upon a child’s retention.    I am thankful for the customer’s permission to post this here.

Hi!   I’m so glad that you are enjoying the curriculum!

When you say that your daughter is not ready for 1st grade, are you speaking specifically about struggles with the history curriculum, or is she struggling with all aspects of a more difficult year?   Assuming the former is the case, I’ll try to offer what advice I can.  

First off, kudos to you on the lapbook!   Kinesthethics are a fantastic way to seal in learning!   Here is another site that might help you with kinesthetic learning tools:

Yes, the curriculum is certainly appropriate for younger elementary students.   I will say, however, that dependent upon the age, the results of using it can be different.   If your daughter is not “getting it” in terms of knowing the content of what you read, I wouldn’t fret at this age.   She will see American history at least once or twice more, so she’ll have plenty of opportunities to “nail down” the content and its significance to our present-day world.

If you are having your daughter complete narrations, i.e. retelling what she’s just heard, you might not see as much in terms of accuracy and detail in her version of the story.    Our older two children often joke that our youngest daughter’s narration (she’s in second grade) boils down to her telling me what happened last.   The point of narration isn’t just about accuracy; at her age, you are developing habits of listening and attention that will pay off in big ways later.  Right now, if she’s not able to articulate the story at the level you want her to, consider one or more of the following:


1) don’t ask her to narrate every book, but start with books that aren’t as wordy

2) if you continue with the narrations, do them 1-2 times per week rather than each day


3) What is she doing while you read?   The subconscious mind can do wonders with just being around the information.    If she is coloring or busying her hands quietly as she listens, it might actually help her retention. 

 4) What’s your reading voice like?   Consider this post in terms of helping increase her retention:


5) Are you making it too academic?  Keep in mind that, at this stage, the last thing you want is to discourage her from the fun that learning can be; you want her to enjoy school, even though it can’t always be fun.  If she’s truly rebelling at the school work involved in studying history, put her in your lap and just read and talk.   She’ll get it, and what’s more important, she’ll be excited about the stories and the ability to one day re-read these and others for herself.

Our youngest daughter is completing The Story of the World by Susan Bauer.  Her narrations about Julius Caesar, Romulus, Nero, and Confucious are often about “him” and “they” and I have to parenthetically add the names (we’re creating a notebook with her dictating to me the narrations).  I don’t expect her to remember these people and their stories in detail, but I do know that she is learning what is expected of her and steadily rising to the challenge.   She sits, listens attentively, and I always encourage her, even when I think she’s missed  some pieces.  Narration is about what the child knows, not what the child didn’t pick up on.  I’ll correct her, and let move forward in what she knows.   Sometimes when she feels that she’s really listened well, she’ll say, “I know EXACTLY what happenened today!”   Sometimes, when she’s sat through the reading of The Lord of the Rings with her older siblings, she’ll say, “Can I say what happened?”    I know that her habit of paying attention is increasing, and so is her confidence with recounting what she’s been told.    My older two have done narrations for years, and their Sunday school teachers are thoroughly impressed with their abilities to sit and listen attentively.  This is especially true in our son’s class, where most of the boys are too frisky to recall what’s being said to them at length.

The best advice I can give is to be patient.  Unless she’s in tears over the lessons each day, 3 weeks really isn’t enough time to have made a final decision as to whether she’s ready or not.  Her mind will make pegs in the learning and draw connections that you might not see until later.

 I’ll share an example with you.  Our son, simply because of where he falls in our history schedule, has never actually completed the “Our History, HIS-Story” curriculum, but instead, he’s just been in the presence of the books as I read them to his older sister.  Our daughters will both complete it.   When he was around 9-10 years old, he had asked me what was an “Uncle Tom.”  I tried to explain it to him in 10-year-old terms, and his response was, “Oh, like Nancy in that book  we read before!”   He was remembering the character from I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly, a book that he heard at 6 years old!   He never had to narrate it, but as he worked on other items, he was subconsciously listening and internalizing what he had heard and drawing connections for later.

Happy narrating, and God bless!

P. S.  This was the response to this post a day or so later:




I just wanted to say thanks for the ideas and suggestions. During Science, I started giving them coloring pages or puzzles or something small to do with I read to them. I explain here and there and you know what?????? When I ask them (we have 5 yo, 3 yo, 1 yo and 1 more on the way) follow up questions at the end of the day, they remember what was read!!!


In the afternoon, Genesis and I sit close together and I read, explain and she is able to tell me about what we read.


Sometimes I think we may be afraid to ask for help, but I am so glad I asked you. Everyone is enjoying school much more. I am following their lead letting them pick arts and crafts and letting them have a little more free time.


I hope to show you pictures of our Leif the Lucky Lapbook soon!


Don’t you just love a happy ending???!!!


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