Stories are what hold our social reality together. Physical reality takes care of itself – eat, wash, build shelter, and so on. Story reality, however, is actively created, shared, and upheld through common agreement. Various cultures have their own stories and thus in accordance have their own customs and ways of being (i.e. mannerisms, cultural beliefs).
Every now and then I get the bug to categorize my homeschooling method. In this way I bring my mind into alignment with a given homeschool story line, complete with educational beliefs, mannerisms, and ways of being.
Sure, sometimes I like to make up my own ideas about what the ideal homeschool will look like: gardening together, playing outside, travel, wild foraging, and sustainable living. Other times, I mix and match the story elements of developed homeschool methods such as Waldorf and Charlotte Mason.
As much as I admire the concept, I have never been the beautiful, crafty, homespun wool, Waldorf mom. I do perhaps flow with some Waldorf practices, such as reading kind and gentle stories in the early years, watercoloring, and taking up a slower mindful approach to living in tune with the rhythms of nature.
I am also not a Charlotte Mason educator. My personality is more lenient then the tight schedule bound curriculum provides. Although I love the nature studies and call to studying topics through living books.
But then, Waldorf teachers are guided to read the Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales which are pretty frightening. And Charlotte Mason followers are given instruction for teaching the Bible (also containing frightening stories).
As a sensitive person I cringe at violent stories – be them Fairy Tales, Greek Myths, famous plays or wisdom from The Bible. Growing up watching Disney movies, I hated the parts where a villianous character took over the screen. I wished I could cut out all the scary parts and watch the lovely animated stories in peace.
I can’t imagine sharing stories about murder with my children. Is it denial? Am I trying to protect them from the terrors and sorrows of the world as long as I can?
My son (now almost 6 years old) has long been fascinated with superheros. I tried for a time, and unsuccesfully at that, to redirect him to other adventurous tales. Instead I found myself grudgingly seperating those versions of the heroic triumphs which I found acceptable from those I found too graphic in their language or illustration. “Bedtime for Batman”, sure babe, we can read that one. Still, the grocery store and library are full of bright images of flashy characters fighting one another.
What is it about all these violent stories that has had people captivated for generation after generation? Why are they so prevalent? What is their value? Can’t we just read Ghandi and call it good? Doesn’t Jesus speak about kindness and compassion?
I consider myself a spiritual person. I pray, I believe in a Higher Power, I value the teachings of Jesus, and I try to align my mind and actions with compassion and understanding.
My ultimate question is, how do I bring home stories that are full of wisdom, spiritual depth and beauty? Will they have to be violent in order to convey their meaning? Are the struggles meant to offer our children (and our selves) tools to overcome the meanness we will inevidablly encounter in our life? To battle the feelings of anger, jealousy, or despair that take us into their grip?
I have tried to find the homeschooling method that most fits with a lifestyle of non-violence. Despite my efforts, even as I write this my daughter speaks the words “kill” and “defeat” as she watches her dad play an old arcade game on his phone. Yet, are my children mean-spirited? No. Are they playful, imaginative, and loving? Yes. Do they like dramatic storytelling? Yes. Do they wrestle with fear? Yes. Do they at times loose control of their emotions and fight with one another? Yes. Do they identify with the hero archtype? Yes.
As my heart explodes with love, I realize my children are growing. Expanding our adventures in the written word is a growing pain I have tried to ignore. So what will it be, a childrens’ Story Bible, Harry Potter, or some other fabulous tale of the battle between good and evil, the fight for life, peace and love?
What we learn through storytelling are directions for navigating our shared experience. Saying, this is how people speak, this is how they think, and this here story is how peoples’ actions and ways of being affect one another. We are all connected, therefore listen closely so you can form judgements for yourself and choose your own character.
One might even go as far as saying this is what education is all about, choosing who you want to be, what you want to be, and how your life will contribute to the greater whole. What will your story be in this life? What legacy will you leave behind for others?