As a relaxed classical homeschooler, I have always been very impressed with Charlotte Mason’s ideas regarding narrations. I long struggled, however, to really implement them. This spring I read Karen Glass’s Know and Tell, and it changed everything for me. It took an important philosophy and made it practical and accessible for me.
Narrations are exhausting to listen to. Because each of my three children orally narrates 4 things per day, I spend at least one hour a day just listening to my children talk at me.
I am an introvert. On the Myers-Briggs test, I don’t test anywhere near the middle when it comes to introvert and extrovert. I am as introverted as they come. People who know me in real life find that impossible to believe because I am a social introvert. In social situations, I genuinely enjoy connecting with people, having meaningful conversation, and am often one of the most talkative people at the party. What people don’t understand is that when I go home, all of that socializing leaves me completely depleted. Almost always I go home with a migraine, nausea, and a need for silence. I love people and I love connecting, but it does wear me out.
Homeschooling as an introvert is like living in a constant crisis. As beautiful and rewarding as it is, it is also extremely taxing because of the need to be socially engaged with my children practically all day long. I accept this for what it is because I know that this is a short window in the life of my family, and that it is worth it. That said, it is a huge priority of mine to find ways in which I can lovingly detach from my children for a few minutes every day.
One tool in my toolbox for reducing social stress is making full use of audiobooks. I do not use audio as a replacement for real aloud, but let my kids listen to audiobooks at lunchtime and in certain other situations because it gives them something rich to feast on while I get some relief. Another is letting my children give their oral narrations to me via Voxer.
One of the most stressful things for me about listening to narrations was having to stop whatever I was doing when the child was ready. The constant string of interruptions was taxing and irritating. I wanted an easier way to hear their oral narrations without asking my seven-year-old to hang on to his oral narration for a few hours.
Because of our extensive usage of audiobooks, I took two old iPhones and turned them into Audible players. I took all of the optional apps off of each phone, and I googled different ways to lock the phones down with security protocols. For example, their phones have no access to the web. My first attempt at recorded narrations was to let them use the voice memo recorder that comes installed on the phone. The problem with that was that then I had to take the phone to listen to the narration. With two phones being used for audiobooks, oral narrations for three children, and spelling tests from Phonetic Zoo for three children, this was tough! I needed a way to listen to the narrations without depriving them of the device needed for other school work.
Voxer is a free walkie-talkie app. To use it, you download the app and connect it to an email address. The email address becomes the unique account for your Voxer app. I didn’t want my children using my Voxer account, so I set up one account for the red iphone and one account for the blue iphone with other email addresses that we have.
When I set up the phones, I sent a voxer message from my account from the kids accounts. I opened a chat for each phone and one chat for all of our family together. I instructed my kids to leave their narrations in their one-on-one chat with me, and any questions they have for me in the family chat. I asked them to type the name of their narration into a text message (in Voxer) and then follow it with the audio narration.
Now, I can listen to their narrations on my phone on my schedule. And, I can leave messages of encouragement for them as well. They love that. Added bonus: they love taking a picture of their spelling tests.