Samples of Oral Narrations in Younger Guides

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Samples of Oral Narrations in Younger Guides

Narrating is a process that changes the narrator over time, so children should not feel bad in any way about their narrations. There is not a wrong way, rather more of a progression in narration. I am a summary type person too, and it has stretched me immensely to have to model narrations for my children. I think I have grown as a narrator through the years too, and it has been a journey!

Charlotte Mason’s References to Narrations

If you do have Charlotte Mason’s (CM’s) original volumes, you may wish to read the following sample sections as time allows. There are many more references related to narration, but these are great ones to begin pondering. I must share that I do deviate from CM’s philosophy in the area of grammar instruction. We do also schedule more formal writing outside of written narrations too than she advocated, so I am not a CM purist. But, she has so much that is good to say that I deeply love her philosophy and enjoy the wisdom she shares.:

  • Home Education Volume 1: p. 231-233 (on oral narrations)
  • School Education Volume 3: p. 178-181
  • A Philosophy of Education Volume 6: p. 16-18; p. 171- top of p. 174, p. 185 (top), p.260-261
Sample Storytime Narration from the Beginning of Beyond Little Hearts 

Oral Narration Sample by Riley
Feb. 3, 2009
A Lion to Guard Us, Chapter 3

Mistress Trippet came to check the kitchen, and she looked everywhere that she usually did. She looked in the room and she said, “How old are these kids? How old is the boy?”


“How old is the girl?”

“Only 5.”

And when Mistress Trippet went upstairs, the doctor came in. The cook said, “Amanda, go and get a pail of water!” That wasn’t very nice, was it?

The doctor came in and then he said, “Come with me, Amanda.” And she did, and then went dark into the hall. And he said, “Your mother has died.”

Sample Storytime Narration from the Middle of Beyond Little Hearts 

Oral Narration Sample by Riley
Mr. Popper’s Penguins

The crowds were standing in line for 1 or 2 miles long, just to get tickets to see the Popper’s Performing Penguins! Now when the piano player, the girl, didn’t want the penguins up on the stage while she played the piano, but then they discovered a different way to the stage. And Mr. Popper said, “I’m not going up there to get those penguins!”

Bill said, “We’d better catch them before they go up there and chew all of the strings off the guitars.”

So, Mrs. Popper said, “I’ll go up.” And then the penguins hid under the girl piano player’s skirts, and then she shrieked! And that was NOT part of the note written in the music.

And then they were on their way to Boston. They went to Mexico and Minneapolis, and Stillwater. Now they are going to Boston. Now the penguins are getting a little crabby, so they now ordered shrimp again because fish was too expensive. They ordered canned shrimp, and Mr. Popper said, “We only allow canned shrimp for these penguins.”

The president said that any store wherever they were staying would give them free shrimp, so now they are going to Boston, and the crowd was 1 mile long, just waiting for tickets.

Sample Storytime Narration from Near the End of Beyond Little Hearts

 Riley’s Sample Narration
Mountain Born
Jan. 13, 2010

The weather was brooding, and Peter was at Granny’s house working for his coat and his new vest. And the wind started blowing, and it was sharp and cold from the southeast. And then Granny said, “Peter! You’d better go home. The wind’s picking up!”

And Mary and Peter had planned to do a game night tonight, but the wind was just picking up too much. They were going to play checkers and some other kinds of games, and Granny was going to read them a letter.

So Peter went in, got his vest and his coat on, and he said, “Goodbye, Mary! I’ll have some nice wool for you, and I’ll take extra care of the lamb, so that the wool will be strong.”

“And after a few years,” Granny said, “you’ll be in manhood. You’ll have to give me white wool, and I’ll have to dye it dark blue. It’ll take you to manhood, but then you’ll need a new coat.”

Then Peter said, “Bye, Granny! Bye, Mary!”

Granny gave him a slice of bread and his milk, and then he started on his journey home.

Sample Storytime Narration from the End of Beyond Little Hearts

Riley’s Sample Oral Narration
The Apple and the Arrow
p. 48-50

All of the friends were in their house, and then he said, “Everyone, be quiet! I know you want to know what happened.” And Wolfgang said that the great Gessler had drowned.

And everybody shouted, “Hooray!”

And then Grandfather said, ”Everyone please be quiet and please go back to your own homes. Hedwig needs some time alone.”

So everybody went out, and then it started to rain again. When the rain hit the chimney, it sounded like a clock going tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.

And then the rain stopped, and then soon all went to bed. Hedwig let Prinz sleep on the rug beside the fireplace, just this once. And in the morning, they got up, had a great breakfast, and at noon they heard a hard knocking on the door. Walter jumped up from his bed! And saw his father burst into the door! They ran to him saying, “Father, father, father, how did you get out?”

Then Hedwig said, “Don’t you see your father needs some rest! He will talk to you later and tell you later.”

Sample Science Narration from the Beginning of Bigger Hearts

Greyson’s Sample Narration
Unit 3 Science, Bigger Hearts for His Glory
Jan. 19, 2011

When the tide comes in, it covers up the animals. First of all, take a mussel for instance, he gulps up water so his shell is full of it so that he can breathe and stay moist. Shrimps capture little worms underwater, and then they eat the worms. When the tide goes out then, the mussel glues himself to the ground. Take a limpet… they float back to their resting place and glue themselves to the ground too. Try moving one of those! Only in really big storms can you move the mussels and limpets. Crabs hide under rocks when the tide goes out. Day after the day, the tide goes in and the tide goes out, and repeats. And so the animals follow that cycle of float around, get food, and get back on the ground before you’re washed out to sea.

In Closing

I know when I first started learning about narrations, all I wanted was to read some samples. Hopefully these samples from our own children’s narrations when they were younger will be helpful in some way to you!

In Christ,



Dry Bones, How They’re Connected, and What They Have to Do with Charlotte Mason

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

The toe bone is connected to the foot bone… The foot bone is connected to the heel bone… 

In elementary school, my health class memorized a song called Dry Bones. I didn’t know it at the time, but this song references Ezekiel 37:1-14, where Ezekiel prophesies that the dead in the Valley of Dry Bones will one day rise again at the Lord’s command. The song tells the sequence of bones, starting with the toe bone connected to the foot bone, the foot bone connected to the heel bone, and moves upward all the way to the head bone. Though there are many variations of this song, the song usually ends with “Now hear the Word of the Lord.” This week I was reminded of Dry Bones for an odd reason! Though the song is about how bones are connected, I was reminded of the song by how Heart of Dakota’s subjects are connected! And Charlotte Mason has a lot to do with it!

The Storytime ‘Bone’ Connected to the Write with the Best ‘Bone’

For MTMM’s Storytime, Emmett has been reading Factory GirlIn Factory Girl, 12-year-old Emily works in an overcrowded sweatshop for just four dollars a week. She works eleven hours straight, clipping threads from blouses as fast as she can. Emily’s boss shouts for her to snip faster, or she’ll be fired. However, if she snips too fast, she’ll ruin the blouse and be docked pay. Emily’s family will starve without her pay. When a reporter arrives and begins to expose the factory’s terrible working conditions, Emily begins to hope for a better life. Archived, real-life photographs brought this book to life for Emmett. At 13-years-old, Emmett is close to Emily’s age, and the life she led as a factory girl was surprising. This living book made such an impact on Emmett that he was soon connecting this Storytime ‘bone’ to his Write with the Best ‘bone.’ Let’s see how!

The Write with the Best ‘Bone’ Connected to the Science ‘Bone’

For Write with the Best, Emmett needed to write a persuasive essay. He immediately connected his Factory Girl Storytime ‘bone’ to his Write with the Best persuasive essay ‘bone.’ He took notes, made an outline, and wrote his essay all about working conditions in the Gilded Age. Writing this essay made such an impact on Emmett that he was soon connecting this Write with the Best ‘bone’ to his Science ‘bone.’ Let’s see how!

The Science ‘Bone’ Connected to the Biblical Self-Image ‘Bone’

As Emmett was reading Factory Girl and writing his Write with the Best essay about immigration laws in the Gilded Age, in science, Emmett was reading about Marie Curie. This brilliant woman and her husband discovered the elements polonium and radium. Marie loved her life’s work so much, and it was a passion her husband shared with her as well. As Marie continued to work in her lab, her health began to fail. She had poor working conditions, and due to her constant exposure to radioactive materials, she eventually died.

As Emmett and I discussed the assigned questions in his Marie Curie book, he commented that Marie Curie’s working conditions in her lab were also terrible, but in a different way than Emily’s in Factory Girl. Marie loved her long hours in her lab! She loved working there, and she didn’t know the conditions were harmful. However, Marie did have her lab workers who were also in poor health take fresh air vacations, only to have them return to the lab’s poor working conditions. This, Emmett felt, was not right. Before long, Emmett was connecting this Science ‘bone’ to his Biblical Self-Image ‘bone.’ Marie had a good self-image because her work was her purpose. Emily had a poor self-image because her work was pointless. However, the best self-image comes from knowing you are a child of God.

The Biblical Self-Image ‘Bone’ Connected to the Reading About History ‘Bone’

The day after we finished discussing our Biblical Self-Image lesson from Who Am I? And What Am I Doing Here?, we moved to our Reading About History lesson. It was primarily about Madero replacing Diaz as Mexico’s president. But, it also had connections to Lazarus being raised from the dead. And THIS is where I connected the song Dry Bones to all of this Charlotte Mason, Heart of Dakota-style of learning! Yes, I admit MY connection is the weakest, but as I began to type this “More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment” post, I began humming the tune Dry Bones. I just had to find a way to share this. In the end, the point is: a Charlotte Mason education helps kiddos make connections. Those connections are real, and they are memorable. What an amazing way to learn!

In Christ,


Charlotte Mason’s “Presence” in Our Average High School Day

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

Charlotte Mason’s “Presence” in Our Average High School Day

By the end of this homeschool year, I will have graduated my second son, Riley. Though I have mixed emotions, the most prevalent one is gratitude. I just feel incredibly blessed to have been Wyatt’s and Riley’s teacher. I look forward to finishing my teaching strong over the next four years with my last son, Emmett. Homeschooling is just such a blessing. We have a way of life I would not trade for anything. Faith, family, and a love for learning – all an amazing daily part of our homeschooling. One primary thing I am eternally grateful for is God’s abiding presence in our day-to-day learning. Another secondary thing I am especially grateful for is Charlotte Mason’s presence in our schooling each day. I was worried she might disappear in high school, but she is alive and well.

Charlotte Mason’s “Presence” in U.S History II’s Day 2 Plans of Unit 14

Riley and I just finished U.S. History II’s Unit 14, Day 2’s plans today. This was just an ordinary day. However, ordinary days seem extraordinary to me during the senior high school year. Everything just comes together beautifully. In this blog post, I thought we could see how Charlotte Mason’s presence makes each high school day special by just looking at a random day like today.

Charlotte Mason’s “Presence”… found in reading living books for history, completing Book of Centuries timeline entries, and copying famous quotes for Living Library

Riley read some amazing living books today!  Starting with the U.S. History box of plans, Riley read Mystery of History. In response to the reading, he added three entries to his Book of Centuries. Moving on to his History Activities box of plans, Riley read more of his Mystery of History book. His U.S. II notebook included multiple quotes from Gandhi that were taken from his reading. Beneath each quote, Riley noted the quote’s context, its significance, and any insight it provided into Gandhi. He also shared his own thoughts and reactions to each quote. Moving on to the Living Library box, Riley read A Room of My Own. He responded to his reading with a Triple-Entry Journal Assignment. In this assignment, he copied a favorite quote, explained its context, and shared his reflections on it. Now, that’s quite a Charlotte Mason “presence,” isn’t it?!?

Charlotte Mason’s “Presence”… found in reading living books for Economics and Finance, in studying citizenship, in learning Latin, and in studying the Bible

In Economics, he read Economics: A Free Market Reader. We then had a wonderful discussion about the circumstances under which a government should be able to use its power to compel citizens to comply. We moved on to Latin, where Riley translated sentences written in Latin to English. Next, came Finance with Dave Ramsey – a man truly passionate about this topic! Riley read Foundations in Personal Finance and answered written questions in response to his reading. After he watched Dave’s DVD, he completed journal questions about student loan myths and shared his answers with me. As he quoted Dave and excitedly shared his answers, this really turned into an oral narration. Likewise, after reading and annotating his Bible box’s I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, he gave another impromptu oral narration after sharing his workbook answers. Yet another indicator of Charlotte Mason’s “presence” in high school!

Charlotte Mason’s “Presence”… found in reading living books and doing copywork for Science, in British Literature poetry study, and in studying Great Communicators in Speech

In Science, Riley read The New Astronomy Book and watched the DVD What You Aren’t Being Told About Astronomy. After answering workbook questions, he moved onto his notebook. In his notebook, he completed copywork regarding “What You Aren’t Being Told About Uranus and Neptune.” He was so intrigued by this! As always, he did his copywork in cursive – he reserves cursive writing for copywork, which he deems as more special than other writing. In British Literature, Riley read and annotated The Devotional Poetry of Donne, Herbert, and Milton. In response, he did the “For Reflection or Discussion” questions and completed a narration entry in his literature journal. Finally, in Speech, Riley read about another amazing speech and continued to apply what he learned to take steps to become a better communicator.  Charlotte Mason’s “presence” found again!

In Closing

Charlotte Mason’s “presence” can be found all through Heart of Dakota’s high school, and I find it such a blessing to have her present. At a time when many curriculums fall away from much of what makes education an atmosphere, a discipline, a life, Heart of Dakota’s high school holds steady. For those of you looking ahead to high school who love Charlotte Mason, I just want to give you a glimpse of what is to come. Her presence remains throughout, all the way to the end of the homeschool journey – and let me tell you, it’s a glorious end.

In Christ,



A Living Book – More Than Just a Pretty Cover!

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

A Living Book – More Than Just a Pretty Cover!

Charlotte Mason believed “living” books make learning ‘come alive.’ Living books pull you in and make you want to read more. Each page you turn, you find yourself more and more invested in the book you are reading. You begin to know the characters, inside and out. Your emotions rise and fall as you weather the storms and ride the waves with them. You can begin to predict how they’ll react to situations before they even make a move. By the time you read the last page, you know you’ve met some characters you’ll never forget. They will go with you through life and live on in your memory. That’s what living books can do, and they are so much more than just pretty covers!

Not all living books have pretty covers!

Carrie, the author of Heart of Dakota and my amazing sister, has an incredible knack for finding the absolute best living books! Through the past 20 years of Heart of Dakota’s existence, Carrie has been on an unending search for the very best of the best living books. I cannot tell you how many times I have stopped by my sister’s house to find her reading for hours on end, with piles and piles of books surrounding her to be read next. She has tirelessly dedicated herself to finding the diamonds in the rough. Sure, there are timeless, well-known living books that have won ample awards that Carrie has chosen to include in Heart of Dakota. However, there are also the less known needle-in-the-haystack finds that Carrie has lovingly chosen – and I will say, not all of them have pretty covers.

A pretty cover is sometimes just a pretty cover!

I remember Carrie showing me some of the books’ covers she was choosing between. She would ask my opinion, and sometimes, I’d look at the covers and be swayed this way or that. Then, she’d sometimes plead the case for the less than pretty cover and have me read a chapter of both books in the running. As I finished reading each, she’d have that look on her face like, “Gotcha! Didn’t I?!?”  Yes. Hands down, one book would be the obvious living books’ award-winner. Often times, it was not the book with the pretty cover.

The longer children use Heart of Dakota, the less they seem to care about the pretty covers!

The longer my children have used Heart of Dakota, the less they seem to care about the pretty covers. After my oldest son read Heart of Dakota’s Cat of Bubastes and Boy Knight, he became an avid fan of the author G.A. Henty. His Christmas list that year included ‘anything by G.A. Henty.’ Old G.A. Henty books with less than pretty covers were much cheaper. Still, I was reluctant to buy them. They REALLY did NOT have pretty covers. I wasn’t sure what he’d think about that, so I asked him. I said I could either get him a lot of G.A. Henty books with less than pretty covers, or a few G.A. Henty books with nicer covers that were more recently published. He didn’t skip a beat! He grinned and said, “Uhhh, MORE please – it’s what’s inside that counts, right Mom?” Well said, son.

Veteran Heart of Dakota users are often the best defenders of the books with less than pretty covers!

Often when I am helping someone on the phone at Heart of Dakota, we are both online or in catalogs peering at the covers of books. The same is true when I am helping someone at a convention. I have noticed with families newer to Heart of Dakota, there are often comments about the covers of the books. Newer books with shiny covers and beautiful artwork often grab their attention first. In contrast, older books with covers that may not have been updated for awhile get comments like, My daughter just wouldn’t open this book and read it on her own. Or, My son wouldn’t like this book because of the cover; it’s just not that exciting. 

This is when I find myself beginning to defend these books with less than pretty covers! I often end up launching into an oral narration of sorts. (By the way, thank you Charlotte Mason and Heart of Dakota for that wise instruction too!) If I am in this situation at a homeschool convention, I often don’t have to say a word. A nearby Heart of Dakota homeschool mom or homeschool student listening in does the defending for me. Oh, that was our favorite book!  The cover doesn’t do it justice! Or, Just wait ’til you get into that book – it’s awesome! You won’t be able to put it down!

I urge you, take time to look within, rather than hastily judging a book by its cover!

I want to be clear, Heart of Dakota has many, many books with vibrant, breathtakingly beautiful covers! In fact, most of the covers of the living books we carry draw kiddos in from the moment they lay their eyes on them. However, I urge you, for the love of living books, take time to look within them, rather than hastily judging them by their covers. Some of the very best books that are real gems happen to have less than pretty covers. Remember, as a wise son of mine once said, “It’s what’s inside that counts, right?” Yes, well said! Now, let’s open that book and read to discover its real merit. It might have much more to offer than that shiny new book somebody is selling next door that really has, well, just a pretty cover.

In Christ,


Free Writing Versus Written Narration Writing

More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment

The Positive Impact of Written Narrations and the Negative Impact of “Free Writing”

Charlotte Mason loved living books. Living books are page-turners; they are the books you just cannot put down. They beg to be shared, both in conversation (oral narration) and in writing (written narration). When children connect with something, they long to share that connection. Narration, whether oral or written, provides a natural way to share those connections with others – namely, with us! Their homeschool parents! Young children begin their narrations in an oral format, but they soon move on to sharing their narrations in a written format. When our children write written narrations, they begin to develop their own writing style and learn important editing skills. Unfortunately, “free writing” teaches neither of these things. Let’s see why!

Free Writing Versus Written Narration Writing

Free writing is popular in some public schools. Children are encouraged to free write on any topic that strikes their fancy. I am all for creative writing! But, free writing, well, that belongs in your private journal tucked away in your room for your own personal record of your random thoughts. To really develop your own writing style, nothing beats reading excellent living books and sharing what you remember. Why? Well, authors of excellent books have some pretty amazing writing styles! Somewhere within the meshing of all those incredible writing styles, your children’s own personal style will emerge. Maybe there will be a little Jane Austen mixed with a little Shakespeare, or a little Ben Franklin mixed with a little William J. Bennett. There is much to be learned from timeless authors of living books. How exciting to see our own children’s writing styles emerging with shades of the ‘greats’!

No to Little Editing Versus Daily Editing

Teachers don’t usually edit free writing. Why? Well, random thoughts are hard to edit. Not to mention, free writing can tend to go on and on, with no real stopping point. Often, children are encouraged to let their thoughts flow. Writing with proper punctuation, capitalization, and mechanics and usage is not really emphasized as the ‘flow’ might be lost. The result is lengthy free writing that unfortunately often flows with ample spelling errors and meager use of capitalization and punctuation. Written narrations, on the other hand, are shared and corrected immediately (ideally, that is). This encourages the use of proper punctuation, capitalization, and mechanics and usage. It also encourages pausing to really ponder what you want to say and how you want to say it.

Free writing isn’t all that freeing because no one really wants to read it.

Most children don’t find free writing all that freeing. Why? Well, it often seems no one really wants to read it. In fact, children often don’t even want to reread their own free writing. Can you imagine a daily assigned free writing time? Every day of the school year? Your blank pages of your lined composition book stare up at you. What will you free write about today? Oh, the pressure of finding a worthy topic! In contrast, Charlotte Mason removes that pressure. Children know the topics of their written narrations; the topics are the amazing living books they just read! Likewise, children know we, as the parents, will read and help edit their written narrations.

Written narrations beg to be read. They are a window into our children’s hearts, souls, and minds. They have depth. Never underestimate the power of the written narration. Free write on the side. Written narrations? They craft the future ‘timeless’ writers, and who knows? That could be your child.

In Christ,