The other day, my first son finished the second half of Caddie Woodlawn during one of our trips around Austin with Grandma and Grandpa Dalrymple. We arrived home late at night, but he was eager to tell me all about the book. Of course! – it’s past 10:00 PM, and my son WANTS to “narrate.” He asked if he could read me a story that Tom, Caddie’s brother told in the book. I expected it to be a couple paragraphs – well, the story went on for 4 pages! So, by that time, we had his brother in the bed joining us to listen. More and more interesting details came to his mind that he wanted to share. Honestly, I am sure there was a part of him that knew he was milking me to stay up later, knowing that I love hearing him narrate. But I didn’t care. I have had too many failures in the past where I had squelched the opportunity by saying something like, “It’s late, can you tell me tomorrow?” All the joy is sucked out of his eagerness, and it is never the same the next day. So, I relaxed and resolved to just live it up and enjoy his now 10:30 PM narration.
Tonight, it was his littler brother’s turn. His experience started out negatively this morning. After reading a story about a Great Horned Owl, he gave this narration: “The Mama owl died.” He wanted to be done with our time and run off. But I knew he could do better and give more details, so I pushed him to stay. We struggled through a narration. He did fine, but he was not happy about it at all.
Well, tonight, when I was putting him to bed, he said, “Tomorrow can we just do math all day long? And nothing else. No stories.”
“We’ll see,” I replied, not knowing what he was thinking. “Because I don’t want to tell about what I read.” Oh!!!! Well, this proved a perfect opportunity to talk more about narrating. I told him how even adults don’t remember most of what they read unless they somehow share it with others. I talked about the value of being able to share what you learn with others for their benefit. I didn’t say much.
But whatever I did say was enough to convince him. “OK, so, can I tell you about the story right now?” “Sure,” I said, again, knowing that it was 9:30, and I just have to swallow that artificially scheduled bedtime that I have in my head! And then, he asked the best question, “But how do I start?”
It was like an “aha! moment” for me. This child has a greater “need to know” that my first. He didn’t feel confident stepping forward unless he knew how to start. I knew he had absorbed the whole story and could retell it with excellence, so I didn’t understand his hang up this morning. Now I did! So, I just said, “Well, sometimes, you can start with ‘There once was . . . ” And he was off and running.
These are the times that I wish I had a portable invisible recorder to capture everything that was said. It was awesome. He remembered some details I had forgotten, and he moved fluidly through the sequence of events. He even remembered the main lesson that the Daddy owl learned. I was so proud for him. He was honest about his struggle, and then he was willing to do something about it.
I’m just so thankful that our school days don’t end at 2:45. Maybe I’ll just start scheduling our narrations for 9:30 PM. 😉