This month a sad turn of events in my own family reminds me of just how important it is to help ignite the emotional intelligence that resides in our children. Among the greatest gifts we can offer is our children’s repeated exposure to works of great literary, visual, and natural beauty. During times of intense grief, our children can return to these sources seeking solace, strength, hope, and perhaps some form of resolution or clarity.
My father, or Pop Pop as he’s mostly called these days, lived up the road with my mom and his horse and ponies. His presence has long been an integral part of the rhythms and routines on our farm, where he always helped out in innumerable ways. Four weeks ago he was walking my dog four miles a day and just two months before that he was gathering sap from our sugar bush. His plans for the upcoming summer included helping my sons start their first market garden when suddenly he fell ill. Just days later my family and I tried hard to make sense of a shocking diagnosis of terminal cancer that gave us just weeks to say our goodbyes.
I once thought few things could be harder than parenting kids while sick with the flu or some such similar discomfort. If only this were true. Watching a loved one die and then simultaneously seeing the process through the lens of one’s children is gut wrenching.
Perhaps you are wondering why I am sharing this story here. One might ask what any of this has to do with the facets of learning we usually explore here at STEAM-Powered Classroom. I am sharing this story because as I help my sons maneuver this difficult passage, I find myself leaning on the same love of literature that carries my kids through our standard homeschool routine. I am more grateful than ever for the books on our shelves and beloved poems they have memorized during happier moments. I am thankful for the rich vocabulary and love of metaphor that books have imparted upon my sons. It makes heavy heart-to-heart talks a bit easier.
Educators, policy makers and parents alike speak often about the importance of a quality education. We consider how it will impact our children’s likelihood of getting into a good college and securing a lucrative career and also determine our nation’s ability to help address critical issues. Rarely in such discussions do we see mention of what is arguably the most vital reason for mindful education; our children’s emotional well-being.
I came across this quote in Psychology Today written by a knowledgeable acquaintance of mine, Dr. Trevor Tebbs. I think it is a beautiful summation of what education provides for us when it is done right.
I concur with the notion of education being the art of cultivating the moral, emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual dimensions of a developing child. I also believe it is vital that a child is enabled to perceive and understand the various contents that shape and give meaning to life. Transfer of learning is an essential element of critical thinking and so I see no lasting purpose in a child experiencing an education that does not help the child learn about himself or herself, associate with others at various levels for healthy and beneficial reasons, develop and maintain emotional health and the psychological stamina to face the exigencies of life in whatever context they may occur.
Now, as I help my children navigate the trying season in which we find ourselves, I feel myself drawn to the places where my family often gathers–around bookshelves and the worn green couch where we snuggle and read together. I am grateful for the friends who lovingly suggested book titles to help my family better traverse these difficult waters.
If ever you should need such resources, I hope the books listed below might bring some comfort to your family. In the meantime, might we always be mindful of seeking out the most beautiful words, vibrant art and soulful music and knock our kids socks off with these gifts every chance we get!
I would love to know your book suggestions. Please share! How have you used literature to help your children navigate challenging times?
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