The power of stories

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Congressional Medal of Honor
Congressional Medal of Honor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s been quite a week at Contemplative Homeschool! Between the release of my free e-book and my two youngest boys having the flu, there hasn’t been a dull moment. Welcome to all my new subscribers. I hope you will introduce yourselves in the comments box.

Last week I began a series of reflections on my experiences at the Minnesota Catholic Home Education Conference. Today I want to talk about one theme in the keynote address given by Fr. Mike Schmitz of the Duluth Diocese. Although the title of his talk was “What is the Goal of Education?”, what struck me most was what he said about stories. Whether you homeschool your kids or read my blog for help in your spiritual life, it will give you something to think about.

Referring to Why Johnny Can’t Tell Right from Wrong by William Kilpatrick, Fr. Schmitz said that our morality is shaped by and reflected in the stories we tell. In the past, we read stories of great men and women and were inspired to strive for greatness ourselves. Younger generations, however, are being fed stories of “people just like me.” These stories combat the loneliness that’s inevitable in a society based on experience, rather than truth. However, they don’t give readers a taste for excellence, because they’re afraid to suggest that any one way of living is better than another. They give us characters we can relate to, but not necessarily admire.

Stories of heroes inspire heroism

Fr. Schmitz told a powerful story himself to illustrate how stories of heroes inspire heroism. If you ever read or saw the movie of Black Hawk Down (I did not), you know the true story of Michael Durant. Briefly, after his Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Somalia during the civil war there in 1993, fellow soldiers Gary Gordon and Randy Shughart gave their lives to save him.

Later, Durant was asked to deliver to Gary Gordon’s parents his posthumous Medal of Honor. Durant didn’t realize he was supposed to give a public speech. So when he arrived at Gary Gordon’s  hometown, he went to the library and looked at the only book they had on the Medal of Honor to get some ideas. He read through page after page of stories of soldiers who risked their lives for others. When he got to the end, he noticed the book had a back pocket with a card from the old, pre-digital checkout system. The last person who had checked out the book, 20 years earlier, was a teenager named Gary Gordon.

That’s the power of stories.

Villains. Heroes. Conflict. Warfare. Death. Resurrection. We need stories to inflame our hearts for the good.

Stories take center stage

File:Hacker Arthur Percival with the Grail Cup.jpg

When I first read Elizabeth Foss’s Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home, I embraced her philosophy of making stories the foundation of one’s homeschool curriculum. Over the next few years, I refined what I had gleaned from her and began implementing a Faith-based curriculum. My boys and I read a story from The Golden Children’s Bible, then I flesh the story out into a unit covering as many subjects as I can. And always, there are more stories–both fiction and non-fiction–to go along with it.

Man has probably been sharing stories since people first gathered round a fire. Stories are our heritage. They are a road map for the future.

Whether or not you homeschool, if you have children at home, read great stories with them–even if they are teenagers. Read great stories yourself. If you’re too tired to read, at least watch stories of greatness, not mediocrity. Above all, read the Bible and the lives of the saints.

In the beginning, God wrote a story. Your life is one episode in it. Know who came before you. Prepare the way for those who will follow. Be a hero. Be a saint.

Connie Rossini

Share with us: Whether you are new or an “old-timer” at Contemplative Homeschool, tell us a little about yourself below. What are some of the highlights of your story? What is your favorite Bible story, saints’ story, or work of fiction?

5 Responses

  1. Karen

    Hi Connie. I’m new to your blog, but have been inspired by your writing and thoughts. I home educate 2 young boys and desperately need to find good hero books to inspire them to greatness. My Italian grandmother is a highlight in my story- she had a spiritual peace about her that I hope to attain. Thank you for your blog.

    • Connie Rossini

      Thanks for commenting, Karen. I hope you’ve downloaded your free e-book. I made a list of books for middle grade boys a while back that I’ll post one of these days. The books are out there–most of them classics.

  2. Nancy Wang

    Do you have any stories that you liked and would recommend, especially for younger boys (mine is 7)?

    • Connie Rossini

      I admit, it is hard to find stories of heroes for that age. I’d do a lot of read-alouds. The Narnia books have characters “just like me,” who also become heroes–great for helping kids know they can be saints now. Also, try The Princess and the Goblin and The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald, and St. George and the Dragon by Margaret Hodges. Those are all fantasy, which is typical for the younger set. If any other readers have ideas, feel free to chime in.

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