The Value of Stories in Home Education

Tell me a story, mama.

Do your little ones whisper that to you as often as mine do? My preschooler snuggles up to my side and asks again: Any story, please. Just tell me a story.

My older children are a little more reluctant to listen to me read, but after a grumbly chapter or two inevitably find themselves caught up in the story. I guess, mom, that it would be okay if we listened to another chapter this morning. And I’m ever so thankful to see my bigger kids developing their own relationships with books and stories, apart from me.

Stories show what happens, how humans are, in all times and in all places.

Stories are so powerful, in part, because they connect us to something bigger than ourselves—they outline for us a history of human nature in an incarnated form not found in textbooks. They show us not just events and things that happened, but they show what happens, how humans are, in all times and all places.

When I read Anne of Green Gables I see that sometimes people who appear brash are truly kindred spirits; when my kids read Make Way for Ducklings, they enjoy it, in part, because it shows the way mothers tend to their babies, and that truly admirable people care for those who need protection.

They wouldn’t say it like this, of course—but they like Mrs. Mallard because of the way she watches over her ducklings, and they like the large policeman for the way he rallies the city to see the ducks to safety. They like them because they are real, in the most real sense possible—they are human (yes, even though they are ducks, they are human! Do you see the power of story there?).

Stories connect us, not just to the author or to the culture or place or time period in the story but to all people. They show us what others are like, and yes, what we are like ourselves.

In “In Praise of Stories,” Daniel Taylor explains the power of stories like this:

We are drawn to stories because our own life is a story and we are looking for help. Stories give us help in many ways. They tell us we are not alone, and that what has happened to us has happened first to others and that they made it through. They  also help us see that the world is larger and more varied that our limited experience. They help us be more fully human by stimulating and appealing to all we are—mind, body, spirit. They help by calling us into relationship—with other people, with other places and times, with creation, and with God. They help by giving us the courage to be the kinds of characters we should be in our own stories, and by making us laugh, empathize, and exercise judgment. But most of all, stories help us by telling us the truth, without which we cannot live.

Daniel Taylor

Don’t you love that? It is so good–I know in my heart that stories have the power to teach me and delight me and change me from the inside out, and my children already know it, too. 

Why We Emphasize Stories in Our Homeschool

Stories Are Important Because They Teach Empathy.

The Bible instructs us to love God and love others–but how do we love others when we don’t know them? I hope my kids encounter a diverse assortment of people as they grown, but stories will enable them to encounter people beyond our daily scope. Furthermore, stories provide insight into how characters feel, something most of their friends (preschool through middle school) aren’t yet adept at communicating.

Stories Are Important Because They Reach Beyond Our Current Times

It is so easy to think that all people in all times have thought about the world the way our friends do today. It is only through regular exposure to history that we learn that in the great big scope of time, we are a minority–our view of the world is unique to us.

If we can learn to be informed by those who came before us, we will so much better understand the way people think in our world today. Chesterton used the phrase “democracy of the dead” in describing the value of tradition–but I believe it applies to reading old books, too. In reading authors who lived and wrote before our time, we allow the past to speak to us and widen our vision.

Stories Are Important Because They Offer Inspiration

Sometimes I think that about stories in terms of what would benefit my children were they ever to end up in extended solitary confinement. That’s perhaps a dark motivation for teaching good stories, but so, so powerful, too.

In the heaviest and darkest parts of my life, the power of story has carried me through more than once. When I had to move forward, even though I was scared, I identified with Frodo approaching Mount Doom–I didn’t want to do the next thing required of me, but I did anyway. At night, when I struggled with insomnia and looping anxious thoughts, I recounted stories in my mind, remembering, for example, the plot outline of a Christmas Carol, and listening to Little Women during a season when my husband was working many late nights provided both comfort and encouragement as a mom. And of course, I clung to the Truest Story of redemption and resurrection when I most needed hope.

I want my kids to become adults with a solid foundation of many, many good stories to turn to. I want them to see examples of goodness, of bravery, of excellent character. I want them to know it is possible to follow the Lord even when it is hard; and not only is it possible, but it is always best to do what is good.

And, Also, They’re Fun

I mean, honestly, who doesn’t enjoy a good story? What a fun, pleasant way to learn about life!