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Fairy Tales and Scholars

My last blog focused on the foundational truths of fairy tales and how these truths help children with empathy, knowing right from wrong, and focusing on positive future realities for their lives.

Fairy tales are filled with educational treasures
With childlike simplicity, fairy tales punctuate independent action and personal responsibility.  The tales demonstrate not just what to think, but how to think positively about life’s difficulties and barriers, and what it means to positively influence others.  

I am excited to continue sharing how fairy tales can be even more useful in teaching and training your child.  In this article, we will explore how these old tales give children a patterns to apply in education, leadership, goal achievement, use of imagination, rational problem solving, opened-minded thinking, and disciplined character!  

“Once upon a time” is also about the here and now
There’s so much to say on the benefits of “ once upon a time” narratives.  Here is what some legendary notables have to say!

Einstein was once asked by the mother of very young aspiring scientist, how she could better prepare her daughter for academic excellence.  Einstein answered: “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.  If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”   Surprising? Simplistic? Childlike? Yes, and he was one of the greatest, accomplished minds in all the world.

Now, before you write off this ridiculous comment, and chalk it up to one of Albert’s bad hair days (which we know he had many)  let’s look at a few of the characteristics found in fairy tales that inspire the young mind!
“I was acutely aware how far superior an education that stresses independent action and personal responsibility is to one that relies on drill, external authority and ambition.
Albert Einstein

Scholarly Traits Found in Fairy Tales

Fairy tales provide the launching pad for imagination to soar  
A very essential commodity for intelligence.  Well, let the man explain it himself…
“When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking.” 
Albert Einstein

Fairy tales develop critical thinking for better future possibilities
By exhibiting the consequences of choices, both good and bad, critical thinking skills are engaged. The definition of critical thinking, from the Foundation of Critical Thinking, is ” A mode of thinking about any subject, content or problem in which the thinker improves the quality of his or her thinking by skillfully analyzing, assessing and reconstructing it.  Critical thinking is self-directed, self-disciplined, self monitored, and self-corrective thinking.”  

Tales inspire a child to want to be the hero, not a scoundrel. Thus, a child begins to think like a hero and sees the possibilities of good endings and honor, developing from even the most frightening and difficult experiences.

Fairy tales provide life lessons in leadership and responsibility 
Characters who exhibit passionate, take-charge attitudes and  creative solutions to various adversities and situations can inspire children to take on life in the same manner  

“Leadership is a choice, not a position.”
Steven Covey

Stephen Covey wrote The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. He also has a program for children called,  The Leader In Me, which was inspired by two of the United States’ Founding Fathers, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.

Gleaning from these giants, Covey developed seven habits he feels people should incorporate into their  lives to be more effective, goal oriented, and successful.

The first habit is to be proactive and take responsibility. Covey emphasizes that without adopting the first habit,  all of the other habits are pointless.  I think Albert Einstein would agree!  

If inspirational leadership, critical thinking  and imagination can be cultivated in our children, and help shape their pursuits of education, we need to provide our children with the seeds for this most important harvest...fairy tales!  

“In a utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a matter of grave importance that fairy tales should be respected.”
Charles Dickens

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Reality Teaching Through Unit Studies

Unit studies are a hands-on approach to learning.  Through multisensory activities and immersion learning, children relate to concepts, confront challenges, solve open-ended questions, and come face-to-face with the difference between knowledge and wisdom.

Our Family’s Decision to Use Unit Studies
When I made the choice to use unit studies for homeschooling, my decision was based solely on the fact my kids were willing to participate in the lessons, not because I loved doing teacher prep activities.  But, over our 14 years of using unit studies, I learned to embrace the intensive teacher prep side, because in the end, the prep made our lessons quicker and more effective. 

Teaching More in Less Time
The reasoning behind the effectiveness of unit studies is how they approach the process of delivering learning material to students.  The unit study approach allows parents to prepare specific educational encounters for their children based on how best their children will connect with the content.  These encounters contain a great amount of information, as well as practical knowledge, but moreover, they provide experiences which touch the hearts of children and help them synthesize difficult concepts into their own knowledge base.

In this video below, I explain how my children learned about communism through one of these planned encounters while we were doing a unit study on Russia.  This lesson is one we all still remember vividly, and which brings me to tears (I can’t tell you how many takes of this video I had to shoot before I captured one without bawling), because of how deeply the lesson impacted us all.

Knowledge vs Facts
Contrary to popular belief, real knowledge isn’t being able to memorize facts and regurgitate them on a test.  Instead, real learning of knowledge happens when a student is able to take the information presented to them and create ties with it to their heart and life. Facts are great to know, but if a child cannot synthesize those facts into useful tools for thinking and solving more complex issues in their everyday life, then they are of little use.  

Special Education Homeschooling Bonus
Kids who often struggle with how information is presented in traditional education models, usually thrive and learn concepts much quicker in this more interactive learning environment.  Part of the reason for this shift has to do with the fact that you, the parent, can choose specific learning activities/encounters you know your child will connect with.

In our homeschool I choose activities that focused on reenactments, building structures, making costumes, and taking field trips.  But, activities involving singing, dancing, and coloring were quickly crossed off the list of possible activities.  The beauty is you can pick and choose whatever you want from a unit study, and leave all the rest, which I give you permission to do if you happen to be one of those people who feels every activity must be done so your kids are getting the best education.

10 Unit Studies to Consider
If you are looking for some ways to incorporate unit studies into your homeschool, here are 10 free unit studies to get you started:

For more unit study options, check out the SPED Homeschool Pinterest board.

Unit Studies in High School
And, for those of you who think unit studies are just for the elementary grades, you will want to check out this video on how unit studies can be used through high school.

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Tips for Raising, and Homeschooling, Very Energetic Kids

Are you homeschooling children that have been gifted with extraordinary energy like mine?  If so, you will relate to their behaviors:
  • Little patience for anything not involving movement
  • Constant climbing, running, wrestling, fidgeting and talking.
  • Energy levels that push them to engage in risky behavior
  • They have two speeds:  whirling dervish and sleeping
While these characteristics are slight exaggerations to make a point, if you are raising children with high energy, you will already be picturing how this plays out in your home. This type of child demands more than typical parenting strategies.   Here are some strategies I have learned that help embrace my children for who they are and have helped ensure we all survive their journey to adulthood.

Tips for Raising and Homeschooling Very Energetic Children:

Tip 1 - When possible, start every day with physical activity  
Our two young men need to run every morning before school.  This began when they were three years old.  We used to live near a park and it became the venue for our morning running circuit.  Working out my boys’ energy before school, prevented many tears, lots of frustration, and saved time in getting them to focus.

Tip 2 - Find safe places for them to take risks and let them go  
This recommendation runs against the grain of current parenting trends.  As our culture over-shelters and protects children in many areas, they become stunted in their initiative, tolerance for risk, and problem-solving skills.  

Our sons have been risk-takers from toddlerhood.  For us, state and national parks provided a refuge where our children could be wild and not bother other people.  When younger, our sons ran miles of trails and climbed many of rocks.  Now, at 12 and 14, they climb 14,000 ft. mountains for fun.  My sons have tackled challenges usually reserved for older children.   At times, their daring feats have caused onlookers concern, but they have always operated within their abilities.

Tip 3 - Encourage exploration and experimentation
Overly active children’s abundant energy, often comes with inquisitiveness and ingenuity. These are wonderful traits that will serve our children well as they mature.  Encouraging these traits means you will have a messy house at times, often leave workbook learning behind, and won’t be in control of this aspect of their learning.  What you gain is worth every bit of the cost.

Tip 4 - Set strong boundaries around personal property and people
High-energy children can literally crash through life.  To help avoid the social problems caused by this propensity, we must teach our children firm boundaries.  This takes direct teaching, lots of repetition, and opportunities to practice.  Teaching our children to respect others’ property (not touching or grabbing things without permission), not rough-housing unexpectedly with other children, and to confine wild play to the outdoors can help prevent behaviors that overwhelm or repel others.

Tip 5 - Limit or avoid times they are required to be still
In our family, we expect our children to sit quietly during worship, funerals, weddings and in time-out.  These times teach them self-control and self-regulation which are essential skills. However, their ability to do this successfully was much less-developed than their peers.  We have had to closely assess what they could tolerate and not push them past their limits. When they do not have to be still, I try to let them move, fidget and chatter as much as possible.  As they have grown, maturity has tempered much of this overactive behavior.

Dyana with her very energetic boys

Tip 6 - Participate in shared activities with them
My husband has helped immensely in this area.  He started taking our sons running from a very young age and cultivated a deep bond with them in doing so.  It has been more challenging for me as the boys have grown into young men.  I cannot keep up with them on trails anymore and time constraints also make it difficult.  So, a couple of years ago, I did something absurd and wonderful:  I signed the three of us up for martial arts classes.
I am over forty, struggle with weight and health issues, and was frankly terrified of getting out on the mat.  However, two years in, we have grown closer to one another, discovered another great outlet for their energy, and gained a supportive and loving community.  This experience has also helped us stay connected as they are becoming young men.

It is easier to schedule things for our active children and watch from the sidelines to get a much-needed break.  I am not discouraging that altogether.  However, I want to encourage you to find shared activities as well. Close bonds develop from shared hobbies and wonderful, lifelong memories are made.


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The "G" Factors of Childhood Depression

As I keep on with this series addressing childhood depression, I am thankful to those of you who have reached out to me to let me know what I am writing is offering you hope and encouragement as you walk this tough road with your child.  I have taken all your situations to heart and have been praying for you and your children. Thank you for sharing with me and being open to how important this subject is to be talking about.

Once again, I am using a letter in the word “LIGHTS” to highlight this third post in this series.  Today’s letter is “G” and the warning light subject we are going to address is Guilt, while the guiding light discussion will be focused on Grace

Warning “G” – Guilt, and Continuing Shame

Guilt, if left to fester, can enslave anyone.  The two most typical ways a child will be swallowed up with guilt is:
  1. Reliving past mistakes or missed opportunities
  2. Taking on responsibility for being abused or taken advantage of

David, in Psalm 38, perfectly describes what festering guilt can do to a person’s life:
“For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.”  Psalm 38:4

Guilt Over Past Mistakes or Missed Opportunities
Children who place stiff requirements on themselves for how they are to perform, how they should be able to act, or even how others should perceive them often heap guilty burdens upon themselves without even knowing.

Parents who realize they have a child who struggles in this area needs to work very hard on being transparent with their own child of how they mess up as well as people their child admires.  If a child can see how perfection is a facade and everyone, even the people whom they most admire, are fallible and miss saying or doing the right thing all the time, they are better able to set more realistic ideals for their own life.

Guilt Over Abuse/Bullying
On the other hand, children can also take on the guilt of someone else who has abused or mistreated them.  This type of guilt, a child should not have any reason to take ownership of, but it’s often how most children who have been victimized react. Usually it is not enough for a child to be told that their assailant was in the wrong and they are not to blame because the root for their guilt lies deeper than those reassurances can reach. 

Instead, a child needs to slowly heal through a repetitive forgiveness process…one that takes much work on the part of a parent, and sometimes a counselor.  As a child lets go of the hurt little by little, the healing begins to repair their heart and heal their soul.  Truly it is a work that God must be part of and it is not something to be rushed.  In the end the goal is to help the child see the sin, heal from the hurt, forgive the person who hurt them, and eventually understand the purpose God had in allowing them to go through the experience AND the healing.

Guiding “G” – Grace of God

Being completely forgiven by the grace of God is sometimes a fact taken so simply by Christians that we often don’t break it down as we should so we can fully embrace how it moves us from being sinful or guilt ridden, to being completely redeemed before God.
A method I developed to help myself and my boys when they were younger, is called the ABCD Grace Method.  In using this method, my children and I learned not only to accept God’s grace for our shortcomings, but also how we must move forward freely in the grace God provides.

ABCD Grace Method
A – Accept
Accept that I am a sinner and that my sinful act was a result of my natural inclination to seek the things of the flesh instead of the things of God

B – Believe
Believe the work Jesus did on the cross, His perfect sacrifice and shedding of blood for my sins, was all that is necessary to wipe away my sin

C – Confess
Confess to God that I can’t do life on my own.  I need Him and I need His forgiveness and I need His help as I keep on going

D – Decide
Decide to learn from my failure, move forward leaving the sin and guilt behind but taking forward the lesson God allowed me to learn about myself and the fallen world I live in

Silver Lining of Guilt and Grace

Learning to Give Grace
As a child, I was a perfectionist and I didn’t give myself any room for error.  I constantly beat myself up with my thoughts and expectations for how I didn’t handle life as well as I felt I should have.  It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I first encountered the word grace and how God’s grace applied to me.  I was overwhelmed at the idea that I had been perceiving life from the wrong perspective for so long.
Over the years I have learned not only give myself grace, but also give grace to others realizing they too suffer from the same sinful condition I do…and they too are just trying their best.

Burdened for a Purpose
As I look back at the contrast how living in guilt versus living in grace has affected my life, I realize how much lighter my life feels now. But, in carrying those guilt burdens for so many years, I know I can more greatly empathize with the great heaviness those without Jesus carry.

Be encouraged parents.  Your child who is struggling with depression may not yet understand how much they need grace, but God will not allow them to carry their unnecessary guilt any longer than they need.  His grace is freeing and it will come into their lives at just the perfect timing.

Links to All the Blogs in this Series
The “I” Factors of Childhood Depression
The "G" Factors of Childhood Depression
The "H" Factors of Childhood Depression
The "T" Factors of Childhood Depression 

The “S” Factors of Childhood Depression


Did you know SPED Homeschool is 100% donor funded? 

Your contributions keep our ministry running! 

Donate today on PayPal

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