27 January 2015

Homeschooling With Fairy Tales

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.
You've probably seen this quote before. It's typically attributed to Albert Einstein, although this may or may not be accurate. Regardless, the implication that imagination and creativity gained through the reading of stories have such a positive influence on mathematical and scientific study is pretty interesting stuff. 

My third grader and first grader are kind of obsessed with fairy tales right now. Following are some ways we are capitalizing on this current interest in our homeschooling.


Reading. Our local library has an entire wall dedicated to fairy tales and folk tales. Not to mention the huge number of "updated" stories available in juvenile fiction. We could spend the rest of the school year reading nothing but classic and modern fairy tales and not get to half of them. The Senior Agents have enjoyed the "original" versions in various anthologies and are/were not nearly as creeped out by them as I feared. They have also discovered a number of chapter books offering a new twist on familiar characters. Two of their favorites include the Ever After High series by Shannon Hale and the Whatever After series by Sarah Mlynowski. They have also enjoyed the junior novelizations (as well as various other adaptations) of the Disney princess tales.

(Side note: Agent E tends to be a movie first, then book kind of person. Which I know is the exact opposite of most folks. Personally, I have no preference.) 

Watching. Of course, we have seen all the cartoon-ified versions of every fairy tale multiple times. We also read different versions of the accompanying story before or after and do lots of comparing and contrasting. In addition we've also watched many of the newer takes on the fairy tale world (e.g., Ever After High, Monster High, Once Upon a Time). This leads to lots of chasing random thoughts down rabbit holes. If you don't think watching television or a movie can be educational, clearly you haven't done so with questioning kids on the couch next to you.

(Side note: At first I was a little concerned about having the girls watch OUAT with me because, well, you know. But I've found that anything I was worried about as potentially, um, unsuitable for little ears/eyes is either easily explainable or goes over their heads anyway. We simply discuss whatever theme or issue that comes up in an age-appropriate way and move on.)

Writing. I love to write. (Obviously.) My oldest does not exactly share my enthusiasm for the written word. For reasons I have not yet ascertained, she seems to dislike the actual physical act of putting pencil to paper. Even needing to compose full sentences to answer comprehension questions brings out some eye rolling. So, I suggested something. We would take a favorite show (Once Upon a Time) and start watching it again from the beginning. (Go, Netflix!) After every episode, I would print out a few questions for her to answer. (Confession: I often need to use the online episode guides to jog my memory. I'm old, people; it happens.) Some require simple recall and one-word answers, others a sentence or two, and at least one query from each show would necessitate some critical thinking and a longer reply. We've done this for about a dozen episodes so far, and while there was much hand-holding at the beginning, she is showing improvement and she thinks it is great fun. Win-win.

Creating. Sometimes good old free time play is all you need to make concepts click. The Senior Agents have scripted, directed, and performed their own versions of just about every story we've come across. Agent J found the book How To Write a Fractured Fairy Tale while browsing her Kindle books one day, and immediately began working on her own. They've also written poems and created art work based on the stories they've read or watched.

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