Sunday, February 14, 2010

Slowing Down

Recently due to some narrating issues that we were having I've had to slow our school progress down a bit.

Granted, this is not easy for me to do.
I'm the kind of gal that likes to check things off of the list....any list. In fact I will make lists of things that I've done just so I can check them off!
I know some of you can relate.

So when I look at the weekly schedule laid out for my kiddos on Ambleside it does not even compute with me that we have a choice NOT to do a certain book or to go at our own pace through other books.

Since this is our second year in using Ambleside I have been able to let a few book choices go but I start to get really worried and anxious if we fall behind in our weekly readings. So you can imagine my dismay upon doing some research and reading into helping my oldest son, Tom, better his narrations when I found one of the best methods would be to SLOW DOWN.

Not just slow the speed of my reading....but literally to take smaller sections of the books and require more narrations.
I wasn't sure how this would work out since we have struggled all year to keep up (adorable baby distractions and the like).

But on the encouragement of a veteran CM'er and her own experiences with narrating I jumped in with both feet.
We started with the last few pages we were reading from "Wind in the Willows" and I took it sentence by sentence reminding both Tom and Ali often to listen to the "first part" of the sentence to be able to "tell back".

I think that last page & a half took us about a 1/2 an hour. But by the end of it Tom was already doing better and was listening and narrating from the "first part" of the sentence rather that just telling back the last portion of what I had read.
Ali, who doesn't usually struggle with narrating unless out of laziness, was a bit frustrated at the slow going initially but gradually caught on and has also been giving better narrations.

We continued this for the rest of the week, sentence by sentence readings with the twins taking turns in narrating back to me specifically listening to the "first part" of the reading. Towards the end of the week I was able to do 2 sentences at a time and Tom has done a much better job of cohesively retelling them in his own words. I have also noticed that in the beginning both of the kids would try narrating back to me word for word what I read, but after encouraging them to use their own words they have been able to take a portion of the reading and tell it back in their own words but with greater detail than if I had given them a larger reading.

I am encouraged though still slightly fretful over the slow progress we will most likely make. I have had to continually remind myself that it would be a pointless journey through these "living" books if my children were unable to train their minds to the habit of attention.

"A vigorous effort of will should enable us at any time to fix our thoughts. Yes; but a vigorous self-compelling will is the flower of a developed character; and while the child has no character to speak of, but only natural disposition, who is to keep humming-tops out of a geography lesson, or a doll's sofa out of a French verb? Here is the secret of the weariness of the home schoolroom––the children are thinking all the time about something else than their lessons; or rather, they are at the mercy of the thousand fancies that flit through their brains, each in the train of the last. "Oh, Miss Smith," said a little girl to her governess, "there are so many things more interesting than lessons to think about!"

Where is the harm? In this: not merely that the children are wasting time, though that is a pity; but that they are forming a desultory habit of mind, and reducing their own capacity for mental effort."

Home Education pg 139

In the wonderful issues of the online newsletter Magnanimity published by Karen Glass, she has an article that has been a breath of fresh air to me entitled "The Still Progress of Growth".
In it she points out that we need to view our children's growth and education like a tree growing. We may not see with our eyes any growth but we do not always know what is going on under the surface. Roots are being pushed deeper, limbs become denser, sap is rising to produce more fruit.
Our children are the same way. Being able to check off of a list that we have read a particular chapter is fine, but if I have not taken the time to slow down and train habits of attention and listening so that they may order their thoughts. Then I have not necessarily made "progress".

"Is there not some confusion of ideas about this fetish of progress? Do we not confound progress with
movement, action, assuming that where these are there is necessarily
advance? Whereas much of our activity is like the waves of the sea, going
always and arriving never. What we desire is the still progress of growth
that comes of root striking downwards and fruit urging upwards. And this
progress in character and conduct is not attained through conditions of
environment or influence but only through the growth of ideas, received with
conscious intellectual effort."
A Philosophy of Education, p. 297.

To read the newsletter Magnanimity - join here.
To read the article The Still Progress of Growth join the yahoo group and find Volume 1, Issue 2.


  1. Very nice reminder as i struggle with the same thing. having to take things slower than what i'd hoped.

  2. Very good post!! Thank you so much for sharing your journey!!


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