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.