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,



Don’t interrupt the flow of the reading.

Teaching Tip:

What is a “living book”?

Heart of Dakota’s curriculum is full of living books. Each living book is typically written by a single author who is very passionate about his/her topic. These books stand out for their conversational, narrative style and their ability to make almost any subject come to life. Living books are read in smaller segments slowly over time to allow your students to “live” with the books.

As you read aloud a living book, don’t pause during the reading to explain or question.

In a Charlotte Mason style living book reading, it is important not to stop and explain or question during the reading. You may be tempted to define difficult words, explain what is happening, or question your child to be sure he/she is understanding. While you may think you’re helping your child comprehend better by doing these things, you really aren’t!

Interrupting the flow of the reading makes it more difficult for the child to comprehend and make connections.

Charlotte Mason says that stopping during a reading to explain or question actually interrupts the flow of the reading. This makes it more difficult for the child to comprehend and make his/her own connections. So, whenever you feel the urge to pause during the reading to “help” your child, resist the urge and read on!

Reading without interruption, helps develop the habit of attention.

As your child learns to attend to a single reading, your child will be developing the habit of attention. This is a much needed habit to cultivate and isn’t one that occurs naturally in all kiddos. Try making a point not to interrupt the reading and see if your child eventually begins to attend better. I know I have been pleasantly surprised with my own boys when I tried this essential step when reading aloud!


Have you trained your children in Charlotte Mason style skills?

Teaching Tip

Did your students jump into an upper Heart of Dakota guide?

If so, it is likely some skills your child is being asked to exhibit were practiced in previous guides. This means there will be a learning curve as your child adjusts to what the guide is asking. This curve will be especially noticeable with Charlotte Mason style skills that may be new to your student. When you jump into an upper Heart of Dakota guide, extra time will be required at first for training in these skills. Additionally, you may want to check out this post: Is Your Child Placed in the Correct Guide?

What Charlotte Mason style skills might require some training?

Skills like giving oral narrations and producing written narrations may be totally new to your student. Taking studied dictation and studying classic poetry may be new as well. Next, reading living books, creating notebook entries, sketching, and learning in a Charlotte Mason style fashion all might feel new too. In the end, if you don’t take time to train your child in these skills, it will be harder for your child to succeed.

Have you trained your kiddos in Charlotte Mason style skills?

Allow time in your schedule to give your children extra help in Charlotte Mason style skills. Your HOD guide will aid you in training your student in gaining these skills. Know that these skills do not develop overnight. They take training and time to hone. If you are new to Heart of Dakota, remember that your student may need to work up to the level of independence suggested in the guide. Always err on the side of giving help and encouragement to your child whenever needed. Finally, be patient, and you will eventually see fruit!


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,


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,