Clara's Clearing

Clara's Clearing

Lesson Two: Stories

Thursday, January 20, 2011

This blog is part of Educating My Boy: Chronicles of a Free-Schooler

Volume Two of My Book House series: “Story Time”


“Story Time” is a collection of fairy tales, folk tales, animal fables, stories from the Bible, and a few anecdotes about actual people (Chopin and George Sand, for instance). Again, the editor, Olive Beaupré Miller, has done a fine job of drawing on sources from all over the world: Aesop’s Fables (Greek), Panchatantra (Indian), Jatakas (Buddhist), Kalileh-va-Demne (Persian/Arabic/Indian), as well as Native American and African stories.  

I had assigned a number of stories from this collection for Jack to read before having our lesson. On the day of the lesson I was curious what he remembered from the first lesson.

“What did Aristotle say was the purpose of poetry?” I asked.

“To entertain and to educate."

Good. He remembered!

We then discussed the stories he had been assigned to read. He brought up an excellent point. “The morals of stories make a bigger impact when they are told in stories,” were his exact words. “If they just tell you do this and do that it is not education. Stories show you what to do and why to do it and what happens if you don’t do it.”

From our discussion of individual stories I could see that Jack had no trouble identifying the “morals” of the stories, i.e. what “lessons” the stories were trying to teach. Then I took the discussion a step further. I brought up the question of how these stories “entertain” – i.e. amuse and give pleasure. We both thought it was much harder to pinpoint how stories, or poetry or art or music, give pleasure.

It was much harder to find answers to “why do you enjoy stories” than it was to find out what instruction they were giving. We acknowledged the difficulty and left it as that.

During the lesson, Jack was again sprawled on the floor, engaging in all kinds of unrelated activities. At one point he crumpled a piece of paper so thoroughly that the sheet became quite limp and much smaller than a non-crumpled one. He asked me why that is. I said that I’m sure there are scientific explanations for it but I have no clue. We left that at that too!



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