Tag Archives: fantasy

Poetry Surprise

As you know, we are currently doing an informal Year 0 since Alex is in Kindergarten. One of the topics I’ve been so excited to broach with my kiddos is poetry. As suggested, we began Term I with Poems and Prayers for the Very Young by Martha Alexander. The kids seemed… tolerant… of the poems. Sometimes they expressed enjoyment, but mostly the words seemed to wash over them and- as Alex is too young to require narration- I’d just let it lie. I knew the words, the rhythm and some of the images were working their way into his mind…

Term II brought us A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson. The children did not connect *at all* with the poems in this book. I’d find one that seemed really delightful and would read it several times over a few days hoping for a spark of interest- nuthin’.

Well, I deviated from the recommended Year 0 selections for Term III. But, as a dear friend reminded me when I dithered about using an ‘unapproved’ book, this is *our* education we’re giving to *our* children. It’s ok to make a substitution to include a selection that is particularly meaningful to us.

And so we began Term III Poetry using Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. I don’t know what others think of this poetry collection as far as meeting dear Charlotte’s criteria for living books. It is written by a single author who is passionate about his subjects. But his tone is markedly different from the other poetry we’ve read. It’s… saucy. It’s clever. It explores the magic of the everyday and reveals the character of children in a way I haven’t seen in any other poetry.

But my favorite- my absolute favorite- thing about the poems in WTSE is the way they promote the endless possibilities that are available to us in life.

Consider the poem my kiddos are memorizing this Term:

 The Invitation

If you’re a dreamer, come in.

If you’re a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a hoper, a prayer, a magic-bean buyer

If you’re a pretender, come sit by my fire.

For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.

Come in! Come in!

Ok folks, when I read this poem to Alex and Fae, their eyes grew round as saucers and they held stock-still. My whispery, conspiratal delivery invited them into to the world Silverstein has created that delights in children and understands both their wonder of the world and their sometimes less-than-perfect behaviors. It’s been only a few weeks and we reread this poem every day. The kids enjoy it so much, that even Fae- who is TWO- almost has it memorized. She recites it to me before she falls to sleep at night.

A few days later, we read this selection:

Listen to the Mustn’ts

Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the dont’s.

Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.

Listen to the never haves, and then listen close to me…

Anything can happen, child, anything can be.

This is poetry to inspire and to amuse. Yesterday, we read The Farmer and the Queen:

“She’s coming,” the farmer said to the owl.

“Oh, what shall I, what shall I do?

Shall I bow when she comes?

Shall I twiddle my thumbs?”

The owl asked, “Who?”

“The Queen, the Queen, the royal Queen,

She’ll pass the farm today.

Shall I salute?” he asked the horse.

The horse said, “Nay.”

“Shall I give her a gift?” he asked the wren.

“A lovely memento for her to keep?

An egg or a peach or an ear of corn?”

The wren said, “Cheap.”

“But should I curtsy or should I cheer?

Oh, here’s her carriage now.

What should I do?” he asked the dog.

The dog said, “Bow.”

And so he did, and so she passed,

Oh, tra lala lala,

“She smiled, she did!” he told the sheep.

The sheep said, “Bah.”

Alex is IN LOVE with this poem. He asked me to read it to him about eight times yesterday. He does all the animal responses (in funny voices, of course) while I read the main text.

And this is what makes me love WTSE most of all. My kids are anxious to hear the next poem. They are engaged with the images, the stories, the ideas. They are having a conversation with Silverstein himself and are sharing a view of the world. I couldn’t have asked for a better response to any poetry we will read in the future.

My kids beg for poetry. That’s pretty awesome.

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Family Reading: Lions and Spiders and Bears, Oh My!

Ok, so this is a quickie post. Between the holidays, my computer breaking (fie on you, fan motor!) and being on call for my job (as a doula) I’ve had almost no time to work on the second part of my 20 Principals post as I’d wanted. But that’s coming soon! (Really!)

I thought I’d quickly share the books that my family has used as read alouds since last summer. We just began ‘formally’ schooling Alex in September, but we’ve been doing family read alouds… well, forever! However, we transferred to real chapter books which have a story that is carried between chapters in August or so- so I’ll count these.

1. Edgrr, The Bear Who Wanted to be Real, by Alexandra Kurland.

This was cute. The story tells of a toy shop group of bears who find themselves out on an adventure. The father-figure bear, Kenyon, tries to take an unruly bear, Edgrr, in hand. Edgrr has a harrowing experience in the woods when he attempts to be a real bear and he learns the value of being ‘home’.  My kiddos enjoyed this and it certainly qualifies as a living book in my eyes as the language is not at all dumbed down.

2. Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner, by A.A. Milne.

A no-brainer. These books are whimsical, funny and gentle. My son laughed out loud several times and both of my children now have a special place in their hearts for the denizens of the Hundred Acre Wood. My advice is to read the first few stories to yourself first so you can get an idea of the pacing and sentance structure. It threw me for a loop for the first couple of stories, but once I understood the cadence of the language and syntax, it made for wonderful, lively reading. If you are anything like me, you WILL cry at the end of The House at Pooh Corner when Christopher Robin gets ready to leave for boarding school (sniff!!)

3. Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White.

Another excellent book. My son loved this and was able to remember details from the book much more clearly than we expected. Funny and sad all at once- wonderful coming-of-age, circle-of-life feel.

4. A Bear Called Paddington, by Michael Bond.

This one I purchased at my local library’s ongoing book sale and then searched around Ambleside to see if it was recommended. I turned up nothing so decided I’d best just plunge ahead- and it was wonderful! Again, intelligent language and humorous adventures of an adorable, marmalade-loving bear from darkest Peru (who knew!). The way Paddington misinterprets everyday circumstances had me in stitches and I was totally delighted whenever Paddington gave someone a ‘hard stare’. Great book- can’t wait to read it again when Fae is older.

5. The Little Bear Treasury, by Else Minarik.

Lovely drawings, whimsical stories, but in all honesty it was a step down for us. By this summer, I expect that Alex will be able to read this book on his own, so it just felt too simplistic for our read alouds. The children both listened intently, but the chapters ended so quickly and with such little drama, I think they, too, wanted ‘more’. Ah well, a lesson for me- stick to books that are labeled for children aged 8 to 12 and we’ll have just the right level for my 5 and 2 year old for our read alouds (lol!).

6. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, by C.S. Lewis.

Yes, dear Reader, I have initiated my children into the wonder that is Narnia. I sat in my bed with my children snuggled around me and read the first line: “Once there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy.” and immediately started crying and couldn’t continue reading for a few minutes (grin). You see, the Chronicles embody everything I hope to pass on to my children- imagination, intelligence, adventure, goodness, justice and a heart that longs after Aslan/Jesus (to me, Aslan is a fictional Jesus in Lion form). I deocrated my childrens’ nursery in the Chronicles complete with full-sized lamppost nightlight and pencil drawn/pastel colored reproductions of the pictures from the original books. I hung a banner with a picture of a castle and underneath I hand-stenciled ‘Cair Paravel’. A framed parchment map of Narnia set on one wall and a framed pencil drawing of Aslan’s face rests above a reminder that ‘he’s not a tame lion’… Sigh… So much of my soul resonates with the simplicty of Narnia and I’m now sharing this beautiful story with my children. If you haven’t read them, start with LWW- read them in the order they were published (not in Narnia-chronological order). You have to discover Narnia just as Lewis himself did!

So it’s been about four days that we’ve been reading LWW and both kids simply love it. My son has already been making comments (unsolicited!) about how the witch was tricking Edmund and how he wasn’t nice to his sister, Lucy. He’s listening and the ‘moral’ of this story is going to deeply impress him (thank you, Lord!!) He will hear the gospel message here- sin has us frozen, sin corrupts us, but JESUS is our hope and our salvation and He has a wonderful plan for us!

A note: we actually own this Easton Press copy of The Chronicles of Narnia. This is also the first time my kiddos are getting to read from one of our ‘fancy’ books. How nice to have a special set of books as we share this special story!

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On Board the Dawn Treader- Two (or more) lessons before breakfast

This morning, my little loves awoke and my daughter immediately went to our resource shelf (this is a fancy name for the place I keep all the oddly shaped educational toys I’ve bought but don’t want the kids wrecking or losing) and pulled out a pack of Bible story cards. These cards are made of heavy cardboard and feature an illustration of a well-known Bible story on one side and a retelling of the story on the other. Fae delighted in the pictures and was very content pulling them out and placing them back in the little box over and over. Alex, however, surprised me by naming almost all of the stories by recognizing the illustration.

I was impressed at how many Bible stories he knows. He named off the creation, Jonah, Daniel, Moses, Jesus’ crucifixion, the Resurrection and others. (At one point, I explained we were looking at a picture of Peter telling people about Jesus. Fae said, “Wow. That Peter Pan loves Jesus.” Wonderful…) Something tickled in the back of my mind though; I’ve recently read an article by Ken Hamm (of Answers in Genesis) postulating that children in Sunday school who are taught Bible “stories” begin to believe that these stories are fairy tales and that they fall away at a greater rate than those who do not attend Sunday school. Hamm, according to the article, believes that these ‘Sunday school kids’ are being convinced that Scripture is just a bunch of fairy tales and that the Bible doesn’t answer real questions. They eventually find the Word irrelevant to their lives.

While I would want to read his book for myself, (I have questions about the way the research was conducted), I also wanted to be sure that Alex understands the difference between history and fantasy. I asked him if he knew the difference between the two, but he just stared at me blankly. So I asked if he knows the difference between stories that really happened and stories that are just pretend. He said, a little uncertainly, that he did. So I gave him an example by reminding him that Daddy and I tell him stories about history- we talk about the day we were married and the days he and Fae were born. These are real stories- the events really happened. These kinds of stories- and the stories in his book about William Penn and the stories in the Bible- are history. They are true and tell us about something that happened far away or a long time ago. Fantasy, I told him, is make-believe. Pegasus, Perseus, Andromeda, Snow White, Rose Red- these are all characters in make-believe stories. The people never lived, the action never really happened.

Alex took that in, nodded, and continued playing with Bible cards… Twenty minutes later, we were dressed and headed to the kitchen for breakfast. Then, stopping me in my tracks, Alex asked, “Mommy, why aren’t there dinosaurs in the Bible?”

My sweet son is in love with animals, prehistoric and otherwise. His mind roams over the African plains, to the jungles of South America to the prairies of Kansas. If an animal lives there, his mind is there. So it’s not so surprising that he eventually wanted to know what the Bible has to say about dinosaurs.

So... this is a Behemoth

Now, I believe that the Bible is to be taken literally at all points, so I believe that the world was created in seven literal days (when we start giving ourselves the authority to dismiss scripture as poetic, we give ourselves authority to judge ALL of Scripture including that concerning sin, Jesus, and the Lord’s will for us. I’m just not willing to set a foot on that slippery slope myself…). I believe that men co-existed with every animal that has ever lived and there are scientists who believe the same thing. So I hopped on the computer to do some quick research. I found a really wonderful site that shows where the Bible talks about animals that don’t fit the description of any animal we know except a dinosaur. Then I showed Alex the pictures of the dinosaurs the Bible writers were likely describing. It was ten minutes of research and sharing and it reaffirmed my son’s belief in God’s Word.

The Leviathan that plays in the deep...

I believe that the Word says exactly what it means. It is not fantasy, it is not make-believe. We can trust those words because they are THE Word- our Lord reveals Himself to us in those pages. I want my children to have that kind of relationship to God’s Word- a relationship where they don’t give themselves authority to remake it after the world’s image and where they are willing to be careful & honest about what it does say.

I didn’t know when I woke up this morning that I would be giving my son lessons about the reliability of the Word, but that’s what happens when you homeschool- you get to be there to respond to all those little moments in which your child’s faith is built or torn down. I am so grateful and truly humbled- to have partnered with the Lord today in bringing Alex another step closer to relationship with Him.

What a joy this life is!

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