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I would love some input on your thoughts about Charlotte Mason and mythology. I have never even been comfortable reading fairy tales to my kids. However, the more I learn about Charlotte Mason I see that mythology was an integral part of her student’s reading assignments. I have grown to love the Charlotte Mason philosophy and am excited to implement it fully in my home. However, I just can’t understand the reasoning behind reading so very much mythology, especially in the formative years?
I understand that it is important to understand many literary allusions, however do I need to spend so much time learning/teaching the intricacies of these myths to my children. I picked up D’Aulaire’s Greek Mythology and I just don’t feel comfortable reading it to my children at this age (7, 5 and 3 years). My husband and I really want to lay a strong foundation of the Truth in their lives. My struggle is that I respect Charlotte Mason and her educational philosophies, and do not want to exclude part of that feast that I am learning so much about. Can any of you share your thoughts on this topic as I work this through?bethannaParticipant
I don’t read the myths to my children either. We do talk about references to myths that we come across in other readings so they know that the ancient Greeks and Romans worshiped or believed in many gods /goddesses. I myself didn’t read collections of myths until high school.CallalilyParticipant
I, too, had concerns about this and planned to avoid reading any god/goddess stories. But here’s what happened.
My oldest, a 5 yo boy, found a book at the library on mythological creatures and asked to check it out. I hesitated, but decided I could edit while reading as needed. (He doesn’t read on his own yet.) I had already read many traditional fairy tales and he knew fairies were pretend creatures, not real creatures made by God. And that magic in fairytales is just pretend, and that only God has the power to do real miracles and such. (We are intentional about pointing out that the Bible is not a fairytale. We don’t use the phrase ”Bible story” but use the word ”account” and often pull out the globe to show Biblical places and talk about the time in relation to other historical events they are familiar with.) As I read about the creatures it was fine since I didn’t go much into the stories and avoided the god/goddess issue. Well, of course he was completely captivated by that book and wanted to get more like it. He remembered the shelf where he found them at the library and paused saying, ”The librarians should move these books about of the nonfiction section.” It was great confirmation to hear he understood they aren’t true! So, with his interest in mythology and understanding they are not true, we decided to go ahead with the stories. We explained that people who didn’t know about the true, real God just used their imaginations to make up their own ideas about pretend gods.
Now, one of my husband’s colleagues is a classics professor, and whenever we have their family over for dinner, my son begs for him to tell Greek stories. He just loves it and outside he builds mazes and he and his brother (3yo) pretend they have to fight the Minotaur. 🙂
Also, when considering how to handle the myths, I found an article online called ”The Importance of Myths and Fairytale for Christian Children” by Susanna Spencer. Some good points, I think. But if waiting for a few more years makes sense for your family, I think that’s just fine. You know your kids best and I don’t think you should feel like you must read anything, except the Bible, of course. 🙂Sonya ShaferModerator
While I think that it is important for our children to understand mythology, I try to make sure they are grounded in God’s truth first. That’s why there isn’t much emphasis on mythology in the early grades for the Ancients studies in our curriculum guide. Once the children get older and have a solid foundation in the Bible, then we add more mythology into their reading so they will understand the cultural and literary references to those stories.sarah2106Participant
I agree, that you know your children best and when to introduce what! but I read this article a couple months ago about Fairy Tails (you mentioned those as well in your original post) and it had great thoughts about those as well.
My son who is 8 really likes to read some Mythology books that we have. The books we have are for younger audience. We talk about how myths can have some facts in them but that over years fact got mixed with fiction. Similarly to legends like Robin Hood and William tell. I am often amazed at what he will pick up and different parts of a myth he will say “that sounds like “insert name/story” from the Bible. I wonder if the story was originally from the Bible but got mixed up with fiction?”
I also second what Sonya said. The SCM guides don’t include much mythology for the younger years (1st – 3rd grade). If I remember correctly there is a bit in the “cousins” books but those are more about the people, not the mythology that they believe in.
Thanks for your thoughts Sonya and for your personal experience, Callilily. For our family, I do really want to ground them in God’s Word first. I always think about the analogy of how training men to recognize counterfeit money always begins with only studying genuine money. This makes sense to me even when it comes to what I expose them to as I train them to know the Truth. However, I am trying to understand the other side of the argument, as it seems that there are Christians who read mythology to their little ones. Again, I feel that Charlotte Mason always had a ‘why’ behind what she did and I am wondering what that ‘why’ may be in regards to mythology as it seems that a lot of their literature readings was mythology at the beginning?
Sarah2016, I am just now seeing your comment, so thank you for your input as well! I have read the article that you linked and wanting to ponder over other’s experiences. I have actually decided to do American History with my 7 year old, but have been thinking about mythology in regards to literature.Morgan ConnerParticipant
I have struggled with this as well and delayed introducing my children to fairy tales and myths. I have softened on this bc I can see how they are fascinating, creative, engaging stories. We began reading them this year (after trying to follow CM more closely) with ages 8 & 11. Both easily recognized the absurdity of the stories but have thoroughly enjoyed them. We are also listening to Blue Fairy Book with 4 & 6 yr old. It is so full of rich language and vocabulary! I wish I would have read it to my older girls at this age.
Another factor that changed my mind was that it isn’t like we (as a family) only watch or read non-fiction. We watch Disney movies (with magic & fairies) and PBS (great shows full of total make believe) and we read books about talking animals & such. So why exclude a whole genre of classic lit just bc they *might* get confused about what’s real or not? What kid doesn’t go through a phase of “real or not real”?
I think the true test of whether a child believes the Bible goes far deeper than exposure to myths & fairy tales. I think it is so much more about the environment of the home & if your children see you living out your faith. And if you are part of a vibrant church who loves the Lord and serves joyfully. I think we are underestimating the power of the gospel if we think reading a fairy tale to a 4 yr old may permanently damage their ability to accept the Truth of Christ.
MerryHeart5, thank you for sharing your story as it so helpful to hear how other’s have worked through this topic. I have read others say that they are intriguing stories for kids, but when I read about King Aegyptus giving his fifty daughters daggers to kill their husbands, putting these characters in chests and throwing them into the sea in D’Aulaire Greek Myths, I think it sounds pretty evil and not something I want to fill their minds with. Have you come across things like this yet with your children?MelissaParticipant
This is a great discussion. I agree that very young children don’t need time with myths (or the more graphic parts of the Bible). However, I do get concerned with presenting too rosy a view to our children. If we just sing “I love you, you love me” they aren’t really equipped to deal with the realities of this life. By 4th or 5th grade they realize that this is just not the way of the world. Myths and fairy tales overexaggerate these things which makes it easier to see the flaws and perils. Stories give them a chance to think through some of these issues and deal with fear, worry, anxiety, etc. and see how others deal with it and the consequences.
With older children (4th grade and up) I think it is helpful for them to see just how DIFFERENT our God is from those of the ancient world. What do “man made” gods look like – well a lot like us at our powerful worst. This makes the love and sacrifice of God in Jesus even more powerful – he lays down his life.
Understanding the stories of ancient and current culture can help our kids better share THE STORY of truth. If they don’t know anybody else’s story how can they connect with them? Practicing with old and obvious myths can help equip them as they get older to deal with more current versions of the same lies. Paul did this often – taking the unknown God and explaining who Jesus was.
Also, if they are going to read great literature they will miss many references if they don’t know these stories. They won’t get the full impact of the author’s point because they don’t know who the Sirens are or Echo’s sad story. They can look it up but that is sort of like having to explain the punchline of a joke.
In the end, I want my children to be innocent of evil – not naive about it. I think that myths (at the proper time) are one way to help introduce what happens in a godless or pagan world. The character of our God becomes even more amazing in contrast. Who wants a marriage relationship like Hera and Zeus? Our God is like Hosea – talk about a contrast!?
This was a thoughtful post about approaching stories with questionable elements https://www.circeinstitute.org/blog/how-be-charitable-reader. He discusses trying to figure out “What conversation are they trying to start with this story?”
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