Stories Shape Culture

Stories Shape Culture

The Influence of Stories

Stories shape culture. I have been influenced by stories my whole life so I know this is true. As I started having children and reading to them,  I discovered that I loved finding good books that would influence the way they saw the world. My goal is that they will grow a heart of compassion, gratitude, contentment, and wisdom – all of the good things that make up a good life. I was asked to share some of these books with you, and it is my pleasure to pass on a few of the treasures I’ve come across over the years. Since Christmas has just passed, these special books have been on my mind!

Everyday Acts of Kindness

young woman reading a christian bookPapa Panov’s Special Day is a classic folk tale adapted by Leo Tolstoy. The version I love is retold by Mig Holder with illustrations by Julie Downing.

This book was gifted to me by my big sister, she remembered it being read to us kids and wanted this classic to be passed on to our children. I don’t know if I’ve ever read this story out loud and not had tears streaming down my face at the end.

It’s a story of an old shoemaker in a small Russian village who was alone during the holidays that year, and while reading his Bible he thought about how if baby Jesus were to come to his place he wouldn’t have anything to give him. Then he remembered a tiny pair of red baby shoes, the best shoes he’d ever made. He thought he could give him those. As he dozed off reading the nativity story, He heard a voice, it was Jesus telling him “ you wished that you had seen Me, that I had come to your little shop and that you could give me a gift. Look out into the street from dawn to dusk tomorrow and I will come. Be sure to recognize me, for I shall not say who I am.”

The next day which was Christmas Day, he spends the day looking for Jesus. In the process, he sees many needs and helps people through small acts of kindness. In anticipation of missing his visitation from Jesus, he tells the story to each of the recipients of his kindness. They thought he was strange for expecting a visit from Jesus but wished him well for being so kind to them.

Over and over, he was worried that while visiting with the others that he had possibly missed the One he was hoping to meet. At the end of the day, His heart was heavy and he wondered if it was only a dream after all. “ I wanted to believe it so much. I wanted Him to come” And at once it seemed like someone was in the room, through his tears he saw a long line of people passing across the little shop, all the people he had seen and spoken to that day. As they passed, they whispered one by one, “Didn’t you see me? Didn’t you see me Papa Panov?”.

“Who are you?” he asked. And he heard the same voice as the night before…” I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me water, I was cold and you took me in. These people you have helped today-all the time you were helping them, you were helping me!”… So He came after all. I’ll remember that whenever I read the Christmas story. The gospel story is so beautiful. I cry almost every time.

An Extraordinary Gift

Ordinary Baby, Extraordinary Gift by Gloria Gather and illustrated by Barbara Hranilovich is a simple summary of the whole gospel story; from the promise God made to fix the mess we made in the garden through the promise that he would come to us. This book focuses on our relationship with God and His plan to redeem what was lost. My favorite quote from this book is: “ who would have ever guessed it! God thought of the best way to have his friends back. He would be an ordinary baby. That’s the way He planned it, maybe, so that we would come to him and not be afraid.”

The first part of the book is that summary and the last part of the book is a poem, which is actually a song. The book originally came with a CD, but we lost it before actually listening to it and we don’t have a CD player anyway. It’s worth typing out- I think it’s beautiful!

He was just an ordinary baby. That’s the way he planned it, maybe, anything but common would have kept him apart from the children that he came to rescue. Limited to some elite few, when he was the only child who asked to be born, And now he came to us with eyes wide open, knowing how we’re hurt and broken, choosing to partake of all our joy and pain,

He was just an ordinary baby: that’s the way he planned it, maybe, so that we would come to him and not be afraid.

He was ordinary with the exception of miraculous conception; Both His birth and death he planned from the start.
But between his entrance and his exit was a life that has affected everyone who’s walked the earth to this very day.

With no airs of condescension, He became God’s pure extension.
Giving you and me the chance to be remade. He was just an ordinary baby; that’s the way he planned it, maybe, so that we could come to him.
So that we would come to him and not be afraid.

Song of the Stars

My newest Christmas book addition is a board book called Song of the Stars-a Christmas Story written by Sally Lloyd-Jones with paintings by Alison Jay.

I love this book! I’m especially fond of good board books both because they are a rare find, and because small children won’t rip the pages. And I love reading to toddlers. This is quick enough for some toddlers but moving enough for any age to appreciate.

The beginning says, “ the world was about to change forever. And it almost went by unnoticed…”

The back of the book has a wonderful summary of this beautiful rendition:

The entire universe is breathless with anticipation… the joyous news spreads out across fields, deserts, oceans—from stars, to trees, to robins, to flowers. Sheep tell their young. Angels sing to shepherds. And together they all join in nature’s great chorus of praise to the newborn King. The long-awaited child has come.

Towards the end of the book after sweet anticipation is built up for the grand finale, “the animals stood around his bed. And the whole earth and all the stars and sky held its breath…the One who made us has come to live with us!…and they gazed in wonder at God’s great gift. Lying on a bed of straw wrapped in rags— a tiny little baby. Heaven’s Son sleeping under the stars that he made.”

A Good Foundation

I’m pretty sure there is no greater task than to share what we know of God to our children, and hopefully, they will build their lives on the foundation that we give them. These types of books are a great start!

I love to share the story of Jesus!  To communicate the meaning of the nativity and shape the culture and atmosphere in our home is a joy to me. I encourage you to drop the focus on material things that is typical of the Christmas season and the stress of starting a New Year and pick up a few good books that bring us back to the greatest story of all time: the precious story of Jesus and His plan to redeem the world unto Himself.

If your New Year’s resolutions include adding more reading or more read alouds to your homeschool, I hope you will add one or more of my beloved books to your wishlist. Include them and their joyful message in your holiday celebrations and everyday reading! And remember that we are what we read – stories can shape our culture and our hearts!

About the author: Becky Brunz is a homeschool mom of 7 and avid reader of literature!

 

The Power of Habits for Parents

Last month when I was here I talked about How to Get Everything Done. Or, rather, how to reframe your ideas of “everything.” 

 

I didn’t talk much about habits. Probably because I’m much better at the philosophical assent part of habit (I think it’s important!) than the actual practice thereof (but I don’t wanna!). Habit, though, is the secret sauce to actually getting a lot of things done. 

 

As parents, habit is incredibly valuable.

It does two things – one it gets things done and two it supports the atmosphere of the home, and by extension, homeschool. 

 

When we truly follow through habitually, we get important things done. I’ve made my bed every day (except Sundays – that’s my reward) for a month now. My room does look nicer with the bed made. It also makes it so I don’t eventually steal all the covers from my husband’s side because I reset them daily. I think he appreciates that. 

 

If we have the habit of running and emptying the dishwasher twice a day, the kitchen stays more functional for the cook at the next meal. I run it at bedtime and empty it first thing in the morning while my coffee brews and the kids empty it in the afternoon. I timed it once, it takes significantly less time for me to empty the dishwasher than my coffee to brew, so I might as well get the job done. Also, the dinner cooking implement and tableware is more difficult to put away than the breakfast/lunch dishes, so this is a fair trade of labor. 

 

If I have the habit, however, of setting up the coffee the night before, I can still empty the dishwasher before drinking coffee. Better still, if I prep breakfast and can put it in the oven as it preheats, empty the dishwasher, and then drink coffee – I can face anything in the day. 

 

The most important habit is being in God’s Word daily. There are so many ways to make this happen! Read it with any of a myriad reading plans. Recently, I’ve been listening via podcast each morning as I’m slowly convincing my eyes to open. If I require of myself that I listen to the Word before anything else, this is a great way to go! 

 

Some habits are best done from time to time. We have the habit of Baking Day on our PREP week. We do school for six weeks, and then take a week off formal academics for rest, planning, and preparation of the coming term. We plan and bake all the snacks for second breakfast during that PREP Week. That habit is so helpful throughout the school term! 

 

What habits can you establish to get things done? 

 

The other way habits are important is that they are a part of the scaffolding of your home and homeschool. 

 

The idea of scaffolding is a little tricky because it can apply to little things and to big ones. You scaffold an individual lesson, yes, but you also scaffold your whole homeschool. The idea of scaffolding is to build supports so your children can learn without fear. They know what to expect, when, and how. Scaffolding in this context, is less about the physical, but emotional and intellectual supports. 

 

Kids note our emotions. How we’re feeling affects how we interact with them and respond to them. They know when we’re happy or sad, confident or worried. They respond to those emotions in many different ways, whether by imitation or sometimes by lashing out.  If we are habitually glum or habitually joyful matters in our homes. It can be sensed by all who enter. Sometimes it can be observed by all who enter because we don’t get done what we expect. 

 

Beyond that, though, our lifestyle habits and learning habits affect our homeschool. By establishing routines throughout the day of a set apart learning time or even that we “do school” day in and day out help our students to succeed. If there is no question whether it’s a school day, one battle is fought. If children are assigned a written narration daily, then there’s no argument whether there’s a narration today or later in the week. Standards of what lessons happen when passing confidence on to our kids that pay off in really important ways. 

 

Your habit of self-education, of listening to narrations, of being engaged in their schooling is just as important. 

 

What habits of learning are you working on, personally? 

 

  • If it’s your habit to read challenging books or to keep a commonplace book or book of centuries; 

  • or if it’s your habit to write letters to the editor and be active in the community; 

  • if it’s your habit to learn a new handicraft or artistic skill, kids see that. 

 

They see that learning and participating is what adults do and it helps them be excited about and want to learn themselves. Their feet follow the paths we lay down. Lifelong learning helps moms have sympathy with how much hard work the children are doing, too. 

 

Perhaps when you read the title, you thought this would be about habits for your kids, but I think it’s really important to consider how your habits as a parent, teacher, friend affect your students and their learning. Establishing your own habits will eventually trickle down — the trickling isn’t necessarily immediately apparent — but consistency on your part will breed consistency, feet will follow in your pathways, and that will be felt by all. 

Contributor

Dawn Garrett blog contributor

Dawn Garrett

Dawn Garrett lives in Central Ohio with her husband Jason and their three always-homeschooled children, ages 13, 12, and 11. In her homeschool, she and her children learn about God and His cosmos by studying the seven liberal arts in order to know Him better, imitate Him and His ways, and share about Him with others. She follows the AmblesideOnline curriculum. Her home blog – about books school and life – has been at ladydusk for more than 15 years.

She is the author of the free ebook: I Am, I Can, I Ought, I Will: Charlotte Mason’s Motto Explained for Upper Elementary Students.

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