Monday, August 6, 2012

Reading the Bible and Narration ~ Charlotte Mason Series

Morning Devotions by Edward Prentis

"Of the three sorts of knowledge proper to a child, ––the knowledge of God, of man, and of the universe, ––the knowledge of God ranks first in importance, is indispensable, and most happy-making." ~ Charlotte Mason

The main educational goal for our children is to teach them what "right" and "wrong" is according to the God given scales in the Scriptures. Our prayer is that once they realize how unlawful mankind is, when they mature, they will see, value and (God willing) appreciate their need for a Saviour.

"For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world,
and lose his own soul?"
~ Mark 8:36

Charlotte Mason, a 19th century teacher, gave much advice in presenting the Bible to children with the understanding that the "Word" is the foundation of "real" education.

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom:
and the knowledge of the holy is understanding."
~ Proverbs 9:10

"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom:
a good understanding have all they that do his commandments:
his praise endureth for ever."
~ Psalm 111:10

"And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;
and to depart from evil is understanding."
~ Job 28:28

"Let all the circumstances of the daily Bible reading--the consecutive reading, from the first chapter of Genesis onwards, with necessary omissions--be delightful to the child; let him be in his mother's room, in his mother's arms; let that quarter of an hour be one of sweet leisure and sober gladness, the child's whole interest being allowed to go to the story without distracting moral considerations; and then, the less talk the better; the story will sink in, and bring its own teaching, a little now, and more every year as he is able to bear it." ~ Charlotte Mason

"What is required of us is, that we should implant a love of the Word; that the most delightful moments of the child's day should be those in which his mother reads for him, with sweet sympathy and holy gladness in voice and eyes, the beautiful stories of the Bible; and now and then in the reading will occur one of those convictions, passing from the soul of the mother to the soul of the child, in which is the life of the Spirit." ~ Charlotte Mason

"But let the imaginations of children be stored with the pictures, their minds nourished upon the words, of the gradually unfolding story of the Scriptures, and they will come to look out upon a wide horizon within which persons and events take shape in their due place and due proportion. By degrees, they will see that the world is a stage whereon the goodness of God is continually striving with the wilfulness of man; that some heroic men take sides with God; and that others, foolish and headstrong, oppose themselves to Him. The fire of enthusiasm will kindle in their breast, and the children, too, will take their side, without much exhortation, or any thought or talk of spiritual experience." ~ Charlotte Mason

What else should be done besides reading the Bible?

"The method of such lessons is very simple. Read aloud to the children a few verses covering if possible, an episode. Read reverently, carefully, and with just expression. Then require the children to narrate what they have listened to as nearly as possible in the words of the Bible." ~ Charlotte Mason

It is that simple. Have them retell (or narrate back) to you what you have just read. There is no need for an expensive Bible curriculum. The Word is sufficient…

"A child might, in fact, receive a liberal education from the Bible alone, for The Book contains within itself a great literature." ~ Charlotte Mason

What and Why's of Narration (or retelling)

Narration is having your children explain back to you what you have just read to them in the form of oral explanations, drawing (younger children) or writing (older children). The child is to process the information they have heard and communicate it to the teacher.

The act of narrating what has been read to your child enforces many skills. First, it encourages the child to retain what they have heard. Second, it develops in the mind a system of organizing information chronologically. Narration also teaches them to articulate their thoughts about that information with the use of proper vocabulary. Third, it is a tool for future composition. Once the child can think out loud, the next step would be to write those thoughts in word form. (Note: The parent is encouraged not to correct the narration but shorten the readings in the future if they are not grasping the whole picture.)

What about Bible memory?

"The learning by heart of Bible passages should begin while the children are quite young, six or seven. It is a delightful thing to have the memory stored with beautiful, comforting, and inspiring passages, and we cannot tell when and how this manner of seed may spring up, grow, and bear fruit…" ~ Charlotte Mason

What about younger children?

For younger children (ages 4-5), we love the Rod and Staff Bible Stories to Read and Bible Pictures to Color Set. Each basic story ends with a very short memory verse. We would use that verse for a copywork sentence. (The subject of copywork will come next in this series.) Then, we would finish the lesson off by coloring the appropriate picture that matched the story we read. Do not forget to have your little ones "narrate" back the simple story to you. This is an easy, pre-school "curriculum" with a Charlotte Mason flavor. Or, you can read the actual Bible to them and have them draw/color a picture afterwards which represents what they just heard.

To summarize:

The basic concept is to introduce God to your children by giving them the purest form of Him ~ His Word. The sentences in the Scriptures will begin to convict the children themselves. They are alive and will work in their souls if gently taught in special and quiet moments together. Have your children "narrate" or "retell" the passages back to you. Choose simple verses for memorization at the beginning and let them develop in maturity as your children do. Copying those verses in a composition book is an ideal way to incorporate language arts into your Bible lessons. Drawing pictures of the Bible stories read is excellent for the younger children to do when they are not able to write or communicate their thoughts.

What Works for Your Family? and Good Habits.

Of course, as a family you will find other ideas work out better. That is the beauty of home education, it is flexible to meet your needs! Glean the ideas that Ms. Mason has presented but by all means mold it into something that will make your homeschool flourish! I hesitate to follow anyone or anything to a "t" because it inhibits the creativity that our individual home requires (not to mention a cult mentality).

"The habit of regularity in children's devotions is very important…" ~ Charlotte Mason

For instance, we used board "Bible" books for our babies and toddlers in the beginning to give them an introduction to God in the cradle (this may be a "no, no" to hard core Charlotte Mason followers). By the time we started reading the "real" Bible to our children, they were already familiar with Him. We would also give Bibles according to age to read on their own during breakfast. A toddler would be given a picture Bible, a younger student would be given a Bible reader and so forth. If they are brought up with parents reading the Scriptures quietly in the morning, children will most likely assume their roles and follow suit. However, each family will have their own unique schedules, I just encourage you to have some sort of "habit of regularity" when it comes to Scripture reading.

Final Important Thought:

"Above all, do not read the Bible at the child: do not let any words of the Scriptures be occasions for gibbeting his faults. It is the office of the Holy Ghost to convince of sin; and He is able to use the Word for this purpose, without risk of that hardening of the heart in which our clumsy dealings too often result."
~ Charlotte Mason

For further reading on a Charlotte Mason education, visit here.

For our favorite Bible study curriculums, visit here {affiliate link}.


  1. Great post! We don't use a Bible curr. Either. The Word is sufficient.

  2. Very wonderful post, I am going to share it, thanks for writing it!

    1. Thank you for your encouraging comments! :)

  3. Hi Jes,
    I enjoyed reading your post and the artwork is beautiful! I have always liked Charlotte Mason, too. So inspiring!

    1. Yes, Ms. Mason had a lot to offer and am thankful for her insight. Thanks for visiting :)

  4. Oh, I am working on a post about Charlotte Mason, too. She is a favorite of mine. Excellent post!

    1. What could be better than a victorian woman who loved home education ;) Two favorite topics of mine too!

  5. Dear Jes, Thank you for sharing, what an awesome post!! Yes, the word is sufficent!!! I love Charlotte Mason!

    Jes, you are in my blogroll. I love your post, I hope people will click and read all you have to offer. Blessings!!

    1. Dear Sara, Thank you for your constant words of encouragement. They really brighten the day :)

      Have a wonderful week! ~ JES

  6. I just found your site when I was researching canning pickled eggs. I see alot of books posted and would like to know which version of the Bible you use. I am enjoying your site.

    1. Hi there! :) For myself, I use the KJV, for younger children, easier Bibles are given them for personal use and are upgraded as they age. However, when reading together, we use the KJV. I notice that now, my daughter always wants to copy from the KJV because it is "prettier language"… Hope this answers your question :) For younger children, we used copywork from short bible sentences such as "When I am afraid, I will trust in you." etc...


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