storytelling

Readaloud of the Week: Wolf Story

In brief: A father's bedtime story (about a determined fox and resourceful hen) stretches on over days and weeks as his son asks for "more Wolf story."

 

What makes it a great readaloud? The continuing adventures of Waldo are a great reminder of how fun—and addictive—good stories can be. And Wolf Story is one of those great books that is enjoyable for readers (who will totally identify with the dad's occasional wishes to just get to a stopping place so he can get some sleep) and listeners (who will love the unexpected twists and turns of the increasingly wacky Wolf adventures).

 

But be aware: You may want to be prepared for your own bedtime storytelling sessions. (Shelli has some great tips to get you started.)

 

Quotable: "Daddy! Stop!" cried the boy. "Stop saying so many colors. You're putting me to sleep!"
"Why not?" said the man. "This is bedtime."
"But I want some story first," said the boy. "Not just colors."


Podcasts for the People: Myths and Legends

Podcasts for the People: Myths and Legends

[It's such a pleasure to welcome Nanette Jula to the HSL blogging team! Nanette's a passionate podcast listener who will be sharing some of her favorite podcasts in this space. —Amy]

I will forever picture the Black Hills of South Dakota when I hear Harry Potter and we still laugh about the fact that I had to pull over on I-78 while listening to The Mysterious Journey of Edward Tulane because I could not see through my tears, one sob away from crashing the car. Audiobooks and road trips go together like peanut butter and dark chocolate, but for our around-the-town carschooling, I rely on podcasts. The right podcast is engaging, informative, and bite-sized. It can delve deeper into a current interest or it can light a spark, introducing you to something you didn’t know existed and igniting a new love. 

And so, without further ado, I present to you... Podcasts for the People, a monthly-ish review of podcasts that will make your commute more educational and more enjoyable.

What has a Korean fox-demon, Vikings, a boot-wearing cat, and appeals to everyone from 6 to 96? It’s Myths and Legends, a podcast brought to you from the mind of Jason Weiser. “Some are incredibly popular stories you think you know, but with surprising origins. Others are stories you might not have heard but really should.” Jason compiles different versions of the same classic story, infuses it with his dry sense of humor, and retells it in a modern, almost conversational way. With the finesse of a gymnast, Jason walks the line between ridiculing the asinine while still honoring what makes these stories great. Myths and Legends strikes the perfect balance between nerdy and cool, which totally appeals to my kids (aged 7 and almost 10) as much as it does to my husband and me. 

Dan Ivette, from The Podcast Digest, interviewed Jason last year. In the interview, Jason talks about how after spending years rolling the idea around in his head, he was uninspired by his day job and needed a creative outlet. He recorded the first three episodes of Myths and Legends and spent months questioning whether he should even release them. His first shows were recorded in his car with such low expectations for the podcast that he was just hoping to make enough to buy books while pursuing his graduate degree. It took about four months for the podcast to gain popularity, which Jason realizes was a blessing in disguise. Had his show gained immediate fame, he wouldn't have had the chance to develop his voice. The turning point was when BuzzFeed randomly mentioned the show online and the next day, Myths and Legends was in the top 10 on iTunes. Jason’s story of following your passion appeals to me on so many levels, but more specifically as a homeschooling mom, I appreciate how reassuring these stories can be.

Now, two years later, Jason has recorded 99 episodes and Myths and Legends is his full-time job. He research, writes, and records each episode himself, typically working on three episodes at once. He gets his ideas by casting a wide net and reading a lot, evident in the spectrum of stories he covers. One of my son's favorite stories is episode 58-Monster, a Native American tale from Cree folklore where a monster skunk farts everyone to death, because as Jason points out, "This is a serious podcast that takes itself very seriously." One of my favorites, on the other hand, is 38A-Korean Literature: Crossing the Threshold, the two-part, heart-breaking story of Hong Gildong. It is a tale of self-discovery and an important part of Korean culture. Gildong is born to a concubine and spends his life trying to escape the shame of his ignoble life. His father, who loves him and is pained by the circumstances, is bound by societal expectations and becomes sick with grief. As someone who lives outside societal norms, I appreciate stories that explore the struggle between living your truth and honoring your authentic self and societal expectations. The story of Gildong is a dramatic and engaging one, and there are dragons and magic—what more could you possibly want? The majority of episodes end with a Creature of the Week, which is always interesting and ranges from shape-shifting Amazon river dolphins to my personal favorite, the barbegazi, a bearded gnome with enormous feet. 

On his website, Jason has a page called Where to Start, and I recommend beginning there. He lists his five favorite episodes, the ones that require no background knowledge. He also has the podcasts organized by categories, such as Disney, Greek Mythology, etc. 

As a final note, many of the episodes have violent undercurrents—think Vikings and pretty much all of Greek Mythology. The episode where Prometheus, who betrayed his fellow Titans and has his liver pecked out by an eagle, could be upsetting to some more sensitive readers—I listened to it with a car-full of kids and we all shrieked and gagged. Jason starts these episodes with a disclaimer, alerting you to creepy or violent content. He never gets too graphic and we can’t remember him ever cursing, but some episodes do contain mature content.

Myths and Legends episodes are available on iTunes and for Androids and can be found at https://www.mythpodcast.com/.


The Gift of Story

The Gift of Story

As we make our lists and fill up our shopping carts, let’s not forget that stories are also great gifts to give. My children may not think of stories as being their favorite presents, but I do plan to pepper the season with stories that hopefully will become special to them as they get older just as they did for me. 

When I was young, my grandmother told me stories about her childhood living on a Georgia farm. I can still remember the sound of Granny’s voice, her laughter and the way she used her hands when she talked.  Since she was the youngest of three daughters, she wasn’t needed in the house, so she became the leader of her three brothers and cousins as they played around the farm and did a number of “tricks.”

Once when they were bored, they spent a day taking the pine needles off a pine tree that stood by itself out in the middle of a field. When my great-grandfather drove by it on his tracker, he couldn’t figure out what in the world happened.  He “fetched” his wife and family to look at the pine tree that “had shed its needles,” and they all looked at in awe. My grandmother and her brothers didn’t say a word.

There were so many stories. There was one about the time they had a water-drinking contest, and she said that almost drowned her littlest brother, James!  My favorite story is about how they took a bite out of every peach on a peach tree because they were told not to pick any of the ripe peaches.

My Granny also told me how my grandfather liked to play practical jokes. One Christmas he wrapped a huge box for my grandmother and put it under the tree in early December. He wouldn’t tell anyone what it was, so everyone had to wait a long time to find out.  All he said was that it was very practical. On Christmas morning, everyone wanted Granny to open that box first.  What was in it?  Toilet paper.

As you can see, I come from a long line of tricksters and practical jokers, and if it weren’t for these stories, I would never know that. True family stories tell children where they come from, and they teach them lessons that their elders learned the hard way. But young children love stories whether or not they are true, and I think every parent should make a point to tell stories to their children. Trust me – it doesn’t matter how bad you think your story is – you’ll have a captive audience.

When my eldest son was four, I began making up stories for him. For several years, I told him a story every night before bed, and it got to a point where he wouldn’t let me go without his story. Somehow, these stories were so much more special than reading him a book. I didn’t think I could always tell a good story, but my son loved them anyway. I would let him pick the main character – usually an animal – or I would use one of his favorite toys to be the hero. Sometimes, I could throw in a little bit of wisdom that I wanted him to learn too. These stories were more personal and pertinent to his life even if they weren’t worth writing down.

This holiday season, I hope you’ll think about starting a storytelling ritual with your children. You’ll be amazed to see that made up stories or family stories can be the best entertainment, the best way to share your values, and the most rewarding gift you can ever give your child.


How to Get Started with Storytelling

Great, totally do-able tips to get started with storytelling with your kids. #homeschool

So you want to make storytelling part of your homeschool life, but you’re not sure where to start? No worries: These five story-generating ideas will give you the inspiration you need to be spinning stories in no time.  

Folk and Fairy Tales

Remember, these stories you know by heart are fresh and new to your child. If you feel blocked by the prospect of coming up with an original idea, retell classic stories in your own words. You’ll find the narratives quickly take on a life of their own.

Family Stories

Your family history may prove fertile ground for storytelling, whether you’re rattling off tales you remember about your mischievous grandmother, sharing what life was like for your family during the Great Depression, or telling stories about life on the old family farm.

Childhood Adventures

Things you remember from your own youth — the day you learned to ride a bike, what it was like selling Girl Scout cookies in the neighborhood, when you lost your first tooth — can provide surprisingly rich fodder for storytelling sessions.

Daily Activities

You may not think there’s much material in everyday activities, but stories about making a loaf of bread, tending the kitchen garden, or taking the dog for a walk can make ideal tales, whether you keep it simple or add your own embellishments.

Everyday Nature

What plans are those squirrels lurking around the birdfeeder making? How does the moon spend the night when everyone else is asleep? How does a caterpillar become a butterfly? Nature has plenty of stories to inspire your tales.

 

This excerpt is reprinted from Shelli’s “What’s in a story?” feature in the spring 2014 issue of home/school/life. To read the full story, check out the issue.


At Home with the Editors: Shelli's Homeschool

Inside Shelli's Homeschool: At Home with the Editors

When Amy approached me about working on home / school / life, we both agreed that we wanted a magazine and website that would welcome all homeschoolers no matter what their style or reasons for homeschooling. We continue to strive to bring you a variety of resources that will inspire you as you consider what is best for your family. Because we know most homeschoolers enjoy sharing the resources and insights they have learned through homeschooling, we thought we would start a series on our blog about our own homeschools. If nothing else, you will get a behind-the-scenes look in the homes of the editors of home / school / life, but if something here helps you, all the better!

This year, I’m homeschooling my eight- and five-year-old sons….or, 2nd grader and pre-kindergartner. But those grade levels are mainly for the sake of family members and my planning purposes. I don’t worry too much about grade level because I want my boys to learn at their own pace. So, while they may be at grade level in most subjects, they may be above or lower in other subjects. None of it matters to me as long as I see that they are progressing, and more importantly, becoming life-long learners, which I know they are!

When I started homeschooling, I felt strongly about a few things. First, I wanted my boys to be able to move around, play, and use their imaginations frequently. I felt young children learned through play more than through sit-down lessons, but there were things I thought they should be exposed to, and I still feel that way. Back then (which wasn’t very long ago), my focus was to immerse them in literature and storytelling and explore the world together, especially the natural world. We still do that, but as my boys get older, we are adding more to their curriculum, and we are also following their interests.

I let my children’s interests, abilities, and learning styles guide me when I’m picking out resources to teach them with or finding extracurricular activities. When it comes to my own teaching goals, I let my sons’ abilities lead me on what to stick with and what to wait on. But I especially want my children to have significant input in their education. I explain to them why we have to learn some things, and then we discuss what they want to learn, and we put a lot of time into their ideas and projects. I use project-based learning techniques to help myself in this area, and I’ll write about that in another post.

Having said all that, what do I use for their formal lessons? Here’s a list of what I’m using for my eight-year-old right now and also a few resources we have used in the past and that I plan to try again with my five-year-old when he’s ready.

Reading & Language Arts

The closest thing to a curriculum I have used for my eldest son was Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons, but we’ve used various resources over the past few years. One of his favorites was Starfall.com, and my five-year-old has enjoyed that too.

Now we use Brainquest’s Star Wars Workbooks because both my boys love Star Wars. He is currently using 2nd Grade Reading.

I can’t begin to list the books we’ve read together, or write about all the storytelling, or the puppet shows we did when he was little. Let’s just say our homeschool is rich in language arts. (But you can read my article, What’s in a Story?, in the Spring 2014 issue of home / school / life to learn how to start a storytelling ritual in your homeschool.)

In order to teach writing, I’m using some methods that I learned about on Patricia Zaballos’s blog, and I’m happy that my son has recently started dictating a book to me.

Photo by Shelli Bond Pabis

Photo by Shelli Bond Pabis

Math

My son loves the Life of Fred series. We are currently at Dogs, but we’re taking a break from it. I love Life of Fred too, but I find it lacking in teaching a strategy for adding and subtracting easily and helping him memorize the facts. Because of that, I have recently started both my boys on the Singapore Math curriculum, and I like it. Though it’s still too early to say if we’ll stick with Singapore, I think with both Singapore and Life of Fred, they’ll have a strong math foundation. I am taking my time with teaching math to both of them because I want to make sure they are solid on every concept before we move forward.

 

Science

There has been no need to do any formal science lessons yet. Our daily lives are rich with science because it has been my son’s biggest interest. We have learned a tremendous amount together through various resources. Together as a family, we watch nature and science documentaries everyday – yes, everyday! We also attend the monthly homeschool science classes at our local nature center. My son has also attended programs and camps at the local botanical garden. (You can read my Hands On Science column in the magazine for more details about our science activities.)

 

Social Studies

I have not felt the need to do anything formal here either. Through the documentaries, conversations with his parents, visiting places of interest, and celebrating the major holidays, we’ve got this covered. It also doesn’t hurt that daddy is a history professor. I am planning, however, to use the Story of the World books at some point. My husband skimmed the first volume and gave it a thumbs up!

 

When do I teach?

I do formal lessons with my boys Monday thru Thursdays for no more than 1 to 2 hours each morning after breakfast. Fridays are art days. (I get most of my art lesson ideas from home / school / life’s art columnist, Amy Hood.) I spend the rest of the mornings, and sometimes the afternoons, helping my son on his own projects, or we might go visit our friends, go on a hike, or do any other number of things that although my boys don’t consider “school,” I do. Most of all, they have plenty of time to move, play, and use their imaginations, which is what I always wanted for them.

 

Questions? Ask away! And please feel free to share what has worked for your family too.