By: Susan Richardson
Our ancestral elders and Shaman used storytelling to not only entertain, but for educational purposes and for cultural preservation.
I presume that they also used storytelling as a means to ensue morals and self-awareness in their youth.
It most certainly wasn’t just the words that captured their impressionable audience. The storytellers of an ancient time used tone, inflection, gestures and expressions to obtain and maintain the spectator’s attention and initiate their imagination. (Unlike today, they did not have colorful pictures in books to grab their attention and they definitely didn’t have electronic boxes with flashing colors, sounds and strangers relaying stories.)
Through the art of this ancient storytelling their children learned life lessons and essential wisdom for a productive future.
Often the lessons in the stories were not obvious. The children had to hear the story over and over while processing the content. Eventually they would make conclusions and integrate the lesson within their being.
Unfortunately, as we moved towards a more industrialized world, we have not only lost many of our stories, but we have lost the art of storytelling. Today, our teachers and many parents tell a child what to do and what not to do. They are told who they are to be and what expectations are set upon their being.
Instead of listening to and integrating ancient stories to nurture who and what they become, we are conforming them to a one size fits all model. When we tell the children our expectations in this manner they often become defensive and rebel; self esteem is lost.
One of our children had the privilege in attending a Waldorf preschool, Briar Rose Children’s Center (BRCC), where storytelling played a large role in the curriculum. The stories told captured the adults as much as the children present.
Recently I was sharing with the lead teacher from BRCC, Rebecah Freeling, some of the raw emotions I had about our personal public education experience. I was telling her that I felt frustrated that the public educators didn’t see my child’s strength, potential and brilliance. I felt like her essence was being lost at the hands of public education. I concluded that I wanted to home school this child with a twist of the Waldorf philosophy next year.
A couple of weeks later, Rebecah and I met at a coffee house. We greeted each other enthusiastically with a hug. She handed me a piece of paper, warmly smiled and said she’d be back. As she walked away, I eagerly opened the piece of paper and my heart flipped.
I was holding in my hand the story written by Rebecah for my daughter five years earlier upon her graduation from pre-school at BRCC. As I read the story, I remembered a flash in time… Emily was sitting on the floor nestled between her father and myself with preschool children all around us. Facing us was an animated Rebecah telling this beautiful story about a girl named Emily and her house.
Emily’s House For Emily Richardson, August 2005 By Rebecah Freeling
Once Upon a time, a woman named Emily decided to build herself a new house. The house she has was very beautiful, but it had no walls – only a roof. She liked being able to see out, but the wind blew right through even when Emily didn’t want it to. So she asked her friends for help. They all came together on house building day and this is what they did:
A house we will build for you.
It will be strong and straight and true.
Gnomes will build a firm foundation
We will sing with jubilation!
Strong and steady, walls are tall.
They will have no holes at all.
Fairies make the window now;
Light can enter, wind can blow.
Doors that open, doors that close.
You can let in what you choose.
Fire Spirits make it warm.
Build a roof in perfect form.
Here we dance and now we sing;
Happiness is what we bring.
Water Sprites now do flow,
Make a garden of flowers grow.
Plant your seeds and we will see
They’ll grow as strong as they can be.
Now at last the Angels come,
Wrapping Love around you home.
Emily now here you stand.
Here’s your heart, your mind, your hand.
Open up just as you like,
Or close the window, tight as tight.
You’re the Master – you can say
Who will come, who goes away.
Trust your friends, we’re always here.
Our love and help are always near.
And Emily lived in that house, happily ever after.
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