Saturday, October 5, 2013

Sharing an epic story

       Humans love story.  We thrive on it.  Jesus taught w/stories and many great teachers have done the same.  We have a longing to know a place or event through the people involved.  We also love an epic story- something bigger than us.  Something grand and noble that gives us purpose and value.   That is why we love the likes of  Tolkien, Narnia,  and Harry Potter.   

Stan Williams of the Moral Premise says: 
The moral premise is at the heart of all successful story telling from ancient history right up to the modern day. We find its controlling nature in the writings of Plato, the Bible, and Aesop. We find it in English Classics from Henry Fielding on…and in the many good stories of modern stage, movies, and television.

Being able to share a grand story with others gives us a special bonding and sense of belonging.  It can be as casual as waiting in line at the midnight showing of the next movie sequel or it can be as deep  as drawing a family together with the sweetest memories.     

Stan goes on to say: While the physical, explicit story or plot line is what a movie is about, the psychological or moral premise is what the movie is "really" about.  

I believe this is how God makes us, in order to draw us into His story and to realize we really ARE part of an epic grand story where we have unsurpassable value and purpose. And so, we love the type of story He wants to write for us and I think we internalize it when we read great books. 

      Reading out loud as a family is one of the most cherished memories my children have and it is/ was a major part of our homeschooling lifestyle.  [and one of my most cherished childhood memories too, Dad]   I urge you to take up reading together in your family. Pick books that You love- the passion, interest, and love will be infectious to your kids.   It will provide the fertile soil for many a great discussion in later years.  

My husband and I loved the Belgariad series before children, so when they were old enough to understand it, but not quite old enough to read it themselves, I started reading it out loud. My husaband wanted to hear it too.   As subsequent children became old enough to appreciate the story, I read it again.  Sometimes an older kid or my husband would request it saying, "Hey its been a few years since we read that, maybe its time to read it again."    I have read many other books.  Charlotte's Web, Narnia, Black Stallion, and Harry Potter, but the Belgariad is our family story.   Don't be afraid to read an 'older' book.  The beauty of reading out loud is that you can 'edit' as you go when necessary with something you would never let them read on their own. Within reason of course.  You get pretty good at it.   

So now, I am reading the tale of Garion all over again and it washes me with memories, warmth and love and I hope to pass it all on to the current crop.  

We do love series books. One book is simply not satisfying enough. So we tend to read during holidays.  At the birth of a new baby my husband takes the week off and we all lay around the bedroom while I read.  Sometimes late into the early morning.  

Our second favorite time, and more regular, is Christmas Break. Again, Dad can usually take days off or 'work from home' because offices aren't open and everyone is more or less around to join in.   

And lastly, we read on vacation. My husband taught me that the purpose of vacation is to slow down and relax. We like to go to the beach.  We'll go for 2 hours in the mid-morning then come back to the condo for lunch and a reading session or we'll stay longer at the beach but read together on our beach towels. . We'll go back to the beach for 2 hours or so in the evening  when everyone else is  leaving to clean up for dinner.   We head to the condo as the sun is setting, eat a late dinner and read most of the night.  Oh did I tell you we were mostly night owls?

We did a similar schedule even at Disney World.  Condos are usually rented by the week, so that gives us plenty of days to see what we want and lounge around in the hotel room and read.  Don't try to see it all. 

Lest you think I have alien children, let me assure you, I do not.  Our family reading almost always included an infant, toddler or young child.   I have 2 bam bam boys. [they're older now and might not like that description but it was true] and the rest of my children were or are normal antsy, wiggly, talkative types.   It was and is hard and there's a lot of scolding sometimes, but mostly we planned well and took plenty of breaks. 

Some of the ways we coped with children too young to sit still and quiet:

1. Allow reasonable movement.  an exercise ball they can sit on and bounce. Beware of fighting over it. Maybe they switch with each chapter, the child on ball needs to be far enough away from all others to lesson temptation. 
I have a rocking ottoman a child can lay across and rock. A rocking chair would work too.  
Setting up 'stations' that they can walk to while listening helps them stretch their legs and allows them to 'switch' attention while still listening.  Especially my bam bams; they could be running circles and hanging upside down but they heard and retained every word.  I did have to keep them confined somewhat because it distracted the others, but if I was reading just to them, I let them move more. 

2. Provide snacks-  This can be a 'station.'   Christmas Eve is always hors d'oeuvre and hot chocolate. That just means ritz crackers with various toppings: sardines, sliced boiled eggs, cheese slices, pepperoni, olives, and mayo for example.  Building their own little masterpiece gives them something to do. Popcorn is another favorite.  Fondue could work.  Food that one assembles as one eats does double duty. 

3. Provide something for the hands to do.  
A small pile of legos on a hand towel for example. A small amount because digging through a large bin makes a terrible roaring noise. They are to pick out what they need before the session begins. A small hand towel helps muffle noise and also designates one child's stash and space from another's. If it's on his hand towel it is NOT for you.   
Play dough and other modeling agents are also good. It's good therapy and they can start over w/ new creations as they get bored of older ones.  
Paper and drawing/ coloring supplies are the most common around here. I like those design coloring books with all the little spaces to fill in- very time consuming. They come in geometric shapes, butterflies, leaves and many other themes.  Try Dover brand.  
One of my favorite activities is a puzzle.  You can do small individual puzzles or you can have one big family puzzle that several are working on together.  
My older girls know how to knit, so they did a lot of knitting.   
        If I am reading for bedtime though, I read in the dark using a flashlight and all children have to be laying down w/ their covers so they will be more likely to fall asleep. But that's a different goal. 

4. Take breaks. Some books are simply too difficult to put down, but when the kids are getting too restless we take a break. Everyone gets a chance to restock on food, use the bathroom, check their email, or whatever. We might reconvene in 20 minutes, 2 hours or 'after dinner,'  just depending on the situation. 

5. Switch readers.  I don't do this if I can help it. I am visual and prefer to 'see' the story in print. But I did take turns with my oldest, I think she was like me and enjoyed the long stretches of reading. None of the others showed as much interest, so I didn't  encourage it as much as I probably should. It gives the new reader something to do if they're getting bored with the station offerings and the new voice helps the listeners have something 'new' to listen to as well.  If you can relinquish control. 

6.. Allow some discussion and bantering. After a really great part everyone may be laughing and high Fiving one another, or discussing how stupid the character is being. Allow a little steam to be let off. It's like comedians learning to pause until the laughter dies down.  You need to be able to do the same. Young children may have questions about something or you may need to define a word or explain a skip in G-rated terms.  Take the time to do so.  

7. Take your time.  One of the Begariad rotations took almost a year to complete. We started it with the new baby, took it to the beach and finished the series over Christmas.  We read in-between times, but during normal busy family schedules it is just hard to get in the extended reading times needed.  I also read just to the current kids at home and that's easier to schedule as I count it towards 'school' and I don't have to compete with other adult or busy teen schedules.  I try to always have a book or series in progress to the currently homeschooled. 

NO-NOs: I don't allow electronics.  Computer games are 'stories' of their own and I can't believe they can really get into a book if they are looking at a screen, it's just not the same to me as drawing or knitting.  Nothing with a battery has always been our rule.  [and what parent doesn't want another opportunity to ban them for a little while?] 

I do hope you take an epic adventure with your family real soon!

ps. The series is now printed in two large volumes: There are also additional tales from the perspective of other important characters. We've read those too. 

1 comment:

  1. You forgot long illness ^_^ I remember when I had my tonsils out we were in the middle of reading Belgarath. Pretty sure we read something when we all had whooping cough too.