The Power of STORY: Charlotte Mason, Living Books, and a Lifetime of Learning
Stories allure and compel us. The themes and struggles and victories of stories captivate our imaginations whether they are packaged in books or plays or movies or even gossip. Good stories appeal to every generation and to every culture. They speak to the deepest part of each of us. They are universal!
Of course, the value of a good story extends far beyond its plot or its entertainment value. Stories are superb vehicles for imparting wisdom and moral teachings, for drawing inferences, and for communicating timeless truths and ideals. Parents who draw from magnificently penned tales of heroism and brilliantly conceived tragedies will find in them a ready and able partner in character training. Which is more pleasant, sharing a meaningful story with your child, or nagging and lecturing him?
“Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” -Philippians 4:8b
Moreover, in a purely academic sense, stories provide a wealth of context from which to teach our students what might then be rightly termed language arts. As home educators, we—and our children—have the freedom and luxury of partaking of a feast of eloquence consisting of masterfully written stories as fodder for our studies. Rather than unnaturally isolating vocabulary, spelling, grammar, capitalization, punctuation, etc. for rote or mechanical exercises, we may expect to achieve greater gains, and with fewer pains, by availing ourselves of the best works, on the most excellent themes, by the most skillful of writers! What better way?
“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.” -Albert Einstein
Unquestionably, many great thinkers were educated with such a holistic approach and/or advocated such methods. Charlotte Mason, the esteemed British educator whose model we aspire to incorporate within our family’s own homeschool, promoted the use of “living books.” She believed that children derive much more when presented with a rich tapestry of ideas than when laboring over tedious drills.
“Do not let the endless succession of small things crowd great ideals out of sight and out of mind.” -Charlotte Mason
Like Miss Mason, I believe that students are more likely to be inspired by books written by single authors who are passionate about their subjects than they ever will be by those curricula which are pieced together during committee meetings with artificial and contrived benchmarks as their rule and guide. I also believe that delight-driven learning carries our students further and offers more promise than requirements which seem to be little more than dry rigor for the sake of rigor.
Unlike Miss Mason, I have a heightened appreciation for some degree of silliness. Now, I’m not referring to “twaddle” in the sense of dumbed-down texts, but rather a little well-placed (or well-timed) levity for the sake of firing up the limbic system. You see, Charlotte Mason could not have known in her day what we now know in ours: that laughter enhances the learning process by reducing stress hormones, improving memory, and aiding our ability to process information. How fortunate we are!
In keeping with these ideals, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Excelerate SPANISH. I designed it to bring the awesome power of story to your student’s foreign language study. To delight you with themes and situations designed to evoke smiles and laughter, not tears of boredom. To provide you with contexts that mimic real-life contexts, using language that mimics real-life language. And to fire up neurons in your student’s brain like no other foreign language program ever.
Ultimately, teaching kids Spanish is only a small part of the goal. The true culmination of our students’ studies lies in their acquisition of the wealth of knowledge, wisdom, and experience that is attached to language ability. Our students’ proficiency in Spanish opens the vast treasures of Spanish-language literature, history, philosophy, theology, arts, and media from over 20 countries, spanning centuries and even millennia! How is that for incorporating living books? How is that for instilling a lifetime love of learning? What an incredible gift to award to our children!
Rewards to last a lifetime.