Friday, July 22, 2011

Choose Wisely

Two must haves for me when I started to home school were a book of Grimm's Fairy Tales and one of Aesop's Fables. Einstein said that if you wanted you kids to be smart, to read them fairy tales. Who am I to argue with Einstein? The problem came one day when I perused the book and found to my great horror that these fairy tales were quite grim indeed. (That pun was corny and totally intended.) Turns out the step-sisters in Cinderella cut off their heels and toes!

"...but the mother, reaching a knife, said, 'Cut off your toe, for if you are queen you need not go any longer on foot.' The the maiden cut it off, and squeezed her foot into the shoe, and, concealing the pain she felt, went down to the Prince."

These are definitely not Disney. How could we read such horrid tales to our children? In fact, fairy tales should not be read to very young children, unless you leave out the more graphic parts. This is best done, by not reading and just telling them the stories. As children get older, however, fairy tales become a wonderful way to teach all sorts of virtues and point out the consequences of vices. Fairy Tales are filled with noble, loyal and loving characters. They can teach children to be brave as they face fear, to be loyal even when it would materially behoove them to be disloyal. It teaches them to be truthful and kind. It also teaches them that evil exists. That they are consequences to one's soul if you stray from a noble path.

Children need to process these truths slowly and within a realm that they can understand. Fairy Tales are perfect for this. When you tell a story or read to a child, the child will process what he can, as opposed to a movie (especially on a big screen) where they are bombarded with imagery that can be scary, even if it's not to us adults. I remember taking my daughter to see Ratatouille. She was about four years old. There is a scene where the rats are going down a sewer pipe. The visual is fantastic from an adult perspective. The water is tumbling rapidly, you see the rat go under, you see him tumbling in the water, he briefly comes up for air and then gets dragged down again by the current. I was enjoying it tremendously when I felt a tug on my arm and I looked over at my girl. She was horrified. She had tears streaming down her cheeks and had a tight hold on my arm. Young children have no filters. She had no way to processes what she was seeing, but she could feel it with every bit of her body. What a wake up call for me.

Now at age seven, we read fairy tales and I've even started reading some of the gruesome parts, but we still don't watch very many movies.