Monday, June 9, 2008

Encouraging Your Child With Narrations - Keeping Things Light

Before SweetP and I began narrations in the early months of 2007, she seemed a little tense about the idea. Not really stressed, and I wouldn't call it "anxious" - just a bit tense. After her first two or three narrations, though, I started to get concerned. It seemed like she felt pressured to remember every tiny detail or to perform for me. Something didn't feel right. I have since come across other mothers who have had the same experiences when beginning narrations with their children. Some older mothers gave advice (which I gladly took!) and, low and behold, everything worked out fine in the end ;) If you're about to begin narrations with your own little one or if the idea of narrations is a little stressful right now, it's my hope that this post can help you head off any feelings of pressure that can creep in :)

1) To help SweetP relax a little, I narrated once or twice for her first! It helped her so much to see that she did not need to remember every single word. My dear little firstborn, detail oriented child had thought I was expecting her to memorize the passage and repeat it back to me. Oh, dear. Once she understood that this was not the case (and saw that I didn't remember everything either) she relaxed :)

2) I also explained that narrations were not meant to "test" her. I thought it was strange that I needed to explain this. Having never been schooled in a PS setting and never really even exposed to the idea of testing, I thought she'd be free from this anxiety. Looking back, it's possible that I was regarding the narrations as a test of how well I was getting the idea of narrations, and my own performance mindset came through somehow. At any rate, I explained that narration was actually one of our tools for learning, not a test. I told her that when she tells the story back to me it helps her mind gather the story in and keep it. She liked that idea :)

3) Lastly, I relaxed. With SweetP being my oldest, narration was new to us both! An older CM mom pointed out that an overly "official" mood to beginning lessons could really hamper a child. I'm sorry to say, I think this might have been me. It wasn't that I was terribly stressed or that SweetP was crying or anything that dramatic. It was all very subtle and it took a little digging to get at the heart of why something felt wrong. I very much wanted narrations to go well, and SweetP picked up on the fact that I was trying to get something "right". When I relaxed, approached the story more like any book we read aloud together, and then asked her in a chatty way to tell me about it, the mood lifted significantly. Now, our reading was really about enjoying the story and learning - not about narrations :)

Even with some slight tension in the very beginning, SweetP quickly took off with narrating and has not had issues with it since. Her younger sister, Shug, is now just beginning and I am able to side step the subtle pitfalls that were there the last time I began with a little one. They are good principles for us all to remember, really. Relax, trust, encourage, and step back enough to let the children learn.