Fairytale Heroes

I love fairytales. I mean I really, really love them, and I’ll readily admit that I LOVE Disney. Sleeping Beauty and Beauty and the Beast were my favorite growing up, and recently Tangled, Frozen, and Brave? (Yes I still watch them as an adult, and go around singing with great exuberance).

October, in my kindergarten school list, is marked as Hero Month. And according to the calendar, Oct. 1st is the Storytelling Festival, so I have made it Fairytale Month for my 2nd Grader.

Everyone should know the classic fairytales, and everyone should see the Disney films… I love showing them to my boys, and this year, after every movie, I asked them, “Who was the hero?” They were confused at first, and hesitantly said, “The Princess?” and I realized that boys are rarely taught about the heroes of fairytales. Fairytales are thought of as girl stories, with heroines, not heroes. But that’s not true. I want my boys to learn about courage, perseverance, bravery in the face of fear and danger, nobility, honor, and true love. So I began to talk about it, starting with Snow White, the first movie we watched…

Me: “Look at how kind those dwarves are… they are opening their home to this poor, scared girl and they are going to protect her. Look at how brave they are when the wicked queen shows up!”
Kindergartner: “Yeah, they are running as fast as they can to try and save her!”
2nd Grader: “Even though she is like a witch, she does bad powerful magic. That’s really brave.”
Me: “What about the prince?”
2nd Grader: “He’s not really the hero. He just shows up.”
Me: “But look at what it says… that when Snow White disappeared, he looked and looked and looked for her for a year. Does that show true love? How long is a year?”
2nd Grader: “But he only talked to her once.”
Me: “They show that in the movie, but he was a prince and she was a princess. Do you think they’ve met before? Do you think they spent some time talking? Would a man look for a year for a girl he didn’t love?”
2nd Grader: “You’re right… he must have been sad and worried when he couldn’t find her! And then he heard about the sleeping girl, and came to see, and it was Snow White… he must have been so sad.”

Right there we got to have a talk about bravery, about helping someone in need, about jealousy and vanity, and about love and perseverance and how love never gives up.

We watched Sleeping Beauty, and, boy, does Prince Phillip show boys what a hero is… when he falls for Aurora, he commits to her completely. He is not so enamored of palace life that he clings to it, but is willing to go from being a prince to a peasant just for her. When Maleficent captures him, you can see his distress at the thought of what’s happened to his love, and when the fairies free him and give him the Sword of Truth and the Shield of Virtue, Phillip does not hesitate to rush to Aurora’s aid. He fights through goblins. He is caught in a forest of thorns (my sons have gone blackberry picking, so they sympathized), and when he finally gets through that he has to fight Maleficent who has turned herself into a great black dragon, using the powers of Hell.

(I would like to point out that this opened a great talk about how Satan will trick us into feeling powerful, or even give power, but that the only true and good power is God’s, and anything else is evil. And with the Sword and the Shield, we were able to talk about God’s Power, how He gives us weapons to fight against wickedness… see the Armor of God.)

Prince Phillip felt fear, felt hopelessness, but he kept fighting and didn’t give up. Ever. And in the end he won, and he woke Aurora up, and they got to live happily ever after.

Fairytales are not just about the Girl or the Princess who must be brave under attack, who must be strong in bad circumstances. They are also about the Men and the Heroes, who don’t give up, who keep fighting. Fairytales are for girls and boys.

It was such a joy watching the light turn on in my boys’ eyes, watching them swell with courage and a desire to be noble and brave. After two weeks it has become second nature now for them to come to me and tell me who the heroes are. My daughter can identify with the princesses (her favorite is Rapunzel), and now my boys have characters they can identify with, too.

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DC – The Prince and Snow White (color) by vanillacoke-disney on DeviantArt

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Prince Phillip by FreeLikeWater on DeviantArt

Summer, Diary 3, 2016

We may or may not have strep throat. As a family. Whoopee!

So I made blood jello with my kids today.

As in: I mixed up raspberry jello and called it plasma, and they dumped in strawberries (red blood cells), marshmallows (white blood cells), and strawberry licorice (platelets).

Homeschooling is the bomb. 🙂

Waiting for cultures to develop and results to come in, it seemed a good day to learn about the human body. So we watched some Magic School Bus episodes, and went through a book on the human body complete with little flip up tabs with extra facts and pictures. My focus for this day was on blood. What makes it up? How does it work?

Strawberry flavored Australian Style Licorice, mini marshmallows, and cheerios glued to red tissue paper made up the four components of blood: plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Of course the kids LOVE to make things they can eat, too, so we made the jello, which unexpectedly helped them have an “Aha!” moment in regards to why blood needs plasma, because all of the add-ins just stuck together in the bottom of the dish, but as soon as I poured in the jello it all began to flow and move freely.

Sore throats and mild temps… and a lot of fun.

Summer, Day 1, 2016

It’s really been about a week of this, but today somehow seemed to hit home for me. The air, the sunshine, getting to leave the door open (with the screen closed, of course, to keep the invading wasps outside where they belong).

Sometimes I struggle with being very global-minded, which means I see the entire picture. Not a detail, not one part, but every single part. It means I am very, very good at multi-tasking and dealing with multiple children, and I can tell you the entirety of a movie or book that I have only seen/read once. It also means that I often get overwhelmed. The house is messy? I see the whole mess: dishes, laundry, toys, socks on the floor, food and crumbs on the dining room floor, shoes all a-scramble by the door, coats and gloves-without-matches creeping their way through my living room, kids clothes that are out of season and suddenly too small needing to be changed over and, of course, my boys can rarely keep the clean and the dirty separate… I mean, who puts clothes in drawers and hampers? So sometimes I just melt down because I see ALL OF IT and it’s all equally important, and I just don’t know what to do.

Then I found my old copies of the Little House books on my shelf, lovingly worn books my mom read to me since I was small that she recently passed on to me, and I pulled down Little House in the Big Woods and started to read.

I don’t know what it is about this book. I love all of the books; really, really love them, but there is something about Big Woods that just zones me. Something about Ma and Pa going about daily life, methodical and intentional and simple and happy, refocuses me and helps me look at my own house and see what to do. Suddenly everything wasn’t a mess around me, and by reading a little bit each day I receive a daily dose of Focus and I do the dishes, I make the meals, I sweep the floors, the kids do chores and school… and guys, I am getting extra done. My counters got cleaned off of the miscellaneous stacks that pile up (a result of my youngest now knowing how to walk and growing tall enough to catch things off the table and pull them off onto himself). I de-caned, fertilized, and mulched our patch of baby raspberries. I cleaned out the rhubarb patch. I planned my garden. I finished my book… honestly, I don’t know what happened. Where did this energy come from? Where did my time come from? But I swear that every time I read Big Woods it re-centers me and this miracle happens again and again. I think, in part, it helps me focus on today. I mean, God tells us we’re not supposed to worry about tomorrow. He tells us to just think about today, and it’s so easy for anyone but for a global-brained person it is especially easy to succumb to worry and becoming overwhelmed. And I realized that I don’t have to get it all done today, I just have to get a piece done. Who cares what that piece is; whatever I do, it’s one more thing than I had gotten done before. Hoorah!!!!

We put up the hummingbird feeder today. My kids did their chores, ate a good breakfast, my 1st grader did his school and my preschooler watched his science video, and then out they went into the warm sunshine to play and I got the entire Mount Everest pile of laundry on my futon folded, made a batch of hummingbird syrup, and while that cooled I and the kids marched down to Sackett Man’s shed and found the rain gauge, a piece of garden decor, and the humming bird feeder. We put up the rain gauge, stuck the garden decor in the ground attractively, and the kids crowded around in fascination as mother hung almost upside down on the shepherd’s crook that the feeder hangs decorously from.

You may laugh, but that thing is a beast to force into the ground. I leaped on it, hung from it, planted my feet and grabbed it and heaved, red-faced and sweating, till FINALLY that pointed end sank into the ground deeply enough to be stable.

Then they cheered, I grinned through the pain of pulled muscles, and then they crowded around and watched as I lifted the small sauce pan of syrup and poured it into the feeder, and screwed it shut. I hung it up, and we watched the glass and syrup glitter in the sunlight, and then we went inside for a cool drink and supper.

Now it’s bathtime, and the boys are laughing and playing upstairs while I bathe my daughter. And I feel so good and so happy.

Thank you, Ma Ingalls. Thank you, God.

The Excited School Child vs. The Opinionated Adult

There is such a thing as a child’s age-appropriate lesson being derailed and confused by an unthinking, loud-mouth adult.

Christopher Columbus discovered America. My son Roman was thrilled, soaking in a ton of new knowledge like a sponge. He was fascinated with how they sailed back then, with no electronics whatsoever. No gps, no phones, no internet or google maps or anything. Using hand-drawn maps, of only that part of the world that had been explored so far, and hoping the maps were accurate? Using only a compass (and a few other tools) and your knowledge of the stars to tell where you were on the big, open ocean and hoping you didn’t make a mistake? Setting out to cross an ocean there is no map for and hoping to find land? Roman was fascinated, in awe, and excited to learn all of this. Studying the map that Columbus had and comparing it to one of today’s maps blew his mind. His understanding of continents and where they were and how people traveled was like discovering a new world. His confusion as to how Columbus could mistake the Americas for India morphed into wonder and then glee as his mind suddenly connected the dots and he got it.

We visited some extended family the week after; a somewhat large gathering. Roman couldn’t wait to share what he’d learned with them; surely they’d find it as amazing as he! Who wouldn’t? So he began to tell them, his big eyes shining and a grin on his face. He barely got beyond saying “I learned how Columbus found America…” before one of these extended family members, one whom Roman looks up to and loves a great deal, interrupted.

The man exploded out with a scoff and declared loudly: “Yeah, and then he murdered more than half of the Indians.”

Roman froze. The joy fled from his face to be replaced with confusion, doubt, and mortification. He was wrong? This man who he’d thought was brave to cross the ocean was really a murderer? He’d been about to share his excitement over a guy who was actually horrible? Roman clammed up and refused to share anymore.

I took a step closer to my son, and said, politely but clearly: “He’s in kindergarten. We were just learning about how the continents were discovered, and how people explored back then. Columbus put the Americas on the map. That’s all.”

There was this long, uncomfortable pause.

Conversation soon flowed again onto other topics, but Roman stayed back, hardly smiled, and barely talked (he’s usually a talker). I, for my part, was furious. Yes. Furious.

I don’t know much about Columbus as a human being; his character, his morals, etc. There are too many figures in history to study every single one of them in such great detail, and for my part he didn’t make the list. There were other men whose character intrigued me more, so I’m not going to talk about whether or not Christopher Columbus was a stand up guy or a butcher.

Roman is six. Six. When he’s fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, he will be old enough and mature enough to learn about some of these issues, how some people we credit with great things in history also did morally questionable things. He will be mature enough to struggle with it, ponder it, think about it. Even debate it.

But right now he’s six. At age six: “In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” That’s it.

This man, who I’m learning has a very, very low opinion of America and American History (much of which I take issue with, because a lot of it seems to be his perspective and opinion rather than research or fact), was more concerned with making a loud statement for everyone to hear than he was in listening to this little boy’s excitement for learning. He didn’t actually care about what Roman was saying. He just nabbed an opening to spout his own opinion and squashed my son under his soap box.

I wish adults wouldn’t do that. We’re at a point, obviously, where we know so, so, so much more, and understand or at least recognize the different complexities and contradictions and grey areas that make up history and life, but we have to remember that for a young child there is: right, wrong. Yes, no. Up, down. Day, night. They are still learning the basics. Sometimes, too often, an adult forgets that and says something that turns, for the child, everything they’ve just learned upside down because they’re not ready for it. They will be, in time. But not yet.

We need to remember that. When a kid is sharing with you something they learned— unless it’s glaringly wrong (misinformation), just be quiet and listen. This is how the love of learning is nurtured, not just by teaching them things, but letting them share what they’ve learned. Listen to them. Bask in their wonder with them. Be excited with them as they talk.

So I will teach my kindergartener that Columbus was brave enough to sail into the unknown, and that he found the Americas, and because of him this great land is now known and on the map.

We’ll discuss his status as a butcher and murderer a different time.

Enter Wonder Woman: The Homeschooling Mom

My oldest started kindergarten this year, and we’re homeschooling. This Summer, with great excitement and much trepidation on my part I mentally began to prepare for schooling him. I was giddy and nervous. Was I going to do a good job? I love teaching kids, but I’ve never taught one to read before. What if I didn’t know how? What if I couldn’t do it? What if I couldn’t find the resources I wanted/needed? What if there were too many resources to choose from, what do I do then? How would I know what to get? What if I got something terrible that didn’t work at all and just made him miserable? What if I was so unprepared that we got to Spring and he didn’t know ANYTHING?

I took a deep breath and made myself a cup of Earl Grey tea. Then I huddled away on pinterest for a while till I had calmed down enough to be rational.

I was going to be fine. I would plan, research, and organize the way I always do. I had all Summer to do so, and my mom — who homeschooled me and my six siblings from kindergarten through highschool — was happily hauling out everything she’d saved and sorting through it for me. I was going to reach September with a folder of weekly school lists ready and every book/craft/project/resource I could possibly need all filed neatly in my bookshelf. That’s what I would do; I was going to plan the whole year and have stress-free schooling. I was going to be the On It Mom.

Turns out I’m more of the Almost On It Mom Who Plans The Day Before. Actually it was two weeks before, sort of, and mostly the week before, when I showed up at Mom and Dad’s for the weekly visit and frantically, with Mom’s help, figured out my first week’s schedule and went home with boxes of stuff from her. I have accepted that I am the Almost On It Mom, because even though I have an overall grasp of what the year will consist of the actual schedule only gets made on a week-by-week basis.

And that’s okay. To Roman I’ve got it together and he’s happily learning away, and that’s what is important.

Then, going into the year with renewed confidence, I decided I would be the Make It Yourself Crafty Mom. Flashcards? I’m an artist, I can make flashcards! Pictures for coloring? Who needs to spend all that time researching printables on the computer! I can draw those! Crafts? I am crafty enough, I can figure it out and spend the time to make shapes, draw and design, and cut everything out. Such as this week: we’re learning about leaves for science; what chlorophyll is and why the leaves change color in the fall. For the craft we’re making leaves to either turn into garland or tape on the windows.

I can do that. I’m the Crafty Homeschool Mom who is so amazing I make everything at home!

Turns out I’m more of the Find Printables Online Mom. Because really… when you have three children, all under the age of six, plus laundry, dishes, house care, and schooling… who has TIME to completely do it yourself?! I glared at the inner crafty me who was wailing with guilt, and gagged her. It is plenty crafty to print templates off the computer for school crafts. Think of all the time it saves so that you have the time to actually DO the craft with your child! Think of the time saved to plan other parts of school and take care of your house and other children, instead of being hunched at the table trying to get his next coloring picture done!

Flashcards? That I only, in two months, had time to create four of? I found an awesome printable for that! In color! He now has the entire alphabet in flashcards. Easy peasy.

Fall leaves to decorate the house in? I found an awesome printable for that! I took colored paper (I chose red, orange, and yellow) and printed out a whole bunch of sheets of gorgeous leaves for Roman to cut out and tape all over the house. Shazam.

I utilize many things I never thought I would. I use youtube all the time. Learning about Columbus, I found a wonderful 15 minute video done in dramatized storybook format for him to watch and learn about Columbus. Today, being our weekly Library Day, we’re going to look for some Columbus books. And maybe some other fun exploration books. And a Dr. Seuss or two.

So I’ve made my peace with not being the ‘Perfect’ On Top of It, Awesome, Make-It-Yourself Wonder Woman Homeschool Mom. He’s learning to read. He’s learning a bit of history. He’s learning some science. He’s becoming a whiz at math! (I wish math had been that easy for me to pick up!)

As far as my son is concerned, I am the Wonder Woman Homeschooling Mom.

He’s learning, and he loves it. And that’s what matters.

He was having trouble understanding how Columbus could have made the mistake of thinking he'd reached the Indies. So I found a map and printed it twice: a full one, and then just half of it (the Eastern half, which is the world as Columbus knew it). I taped them together so he could see the 'roundness' of the world, and then pointed out the similar distance between his starting point and intended/real destination, and voila! With the visual aid, he got it!

He was having trouble understanding how Columbus could have made the mistake of thinking he’d reached the Indies. So I found a map and printed it twice: a full one, and then just half of it (the Eastern half, which is the world as Columbus knew it). I taped them together so he could see the ’roundness’ of the world, and then pointed out the similar distance between Columbus’s starting point and intended/real destination, and voila! With the visual aid, Roman got it! He even got a good giggle out of it. That night he nearly ran Sackett Man over holding the two ‘globes’ and explaining about Columbus. 🙂