Monday, August 27, 2012

An Old-Fashioned Afternoon

He did not want to learn about medieval history.
So I did what any good parent does and tricked him into it.
(Available at the T of L gift shop. Or HERE.)

Two years ago, I bought a slightly gory moving model at the Tower of London and I've been waiting for the right moment to build it ever since. 

Sneaky Rationale:
Summer camp is over. He's all mine until fifth grade starts next week. It's now or never.

So I took out the kit and opened it up and started slicing out figures with an Exacto knife and eventually he wandered back into the kitchen.

Luca: What are you doing?
Me: I'm going to chop someone's head off.
Luca: Can I help?

For almost two hours, we cut and folded and glued the pieces together. And I told him about castles and dungeons and chamber pots and rats and every other grisly detail I remember being fascinated by at his age.

I told him about King Henry VIII and all of his six wives (in order) -- Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Catherine Parr. 

Me: You know an easy way of remembering what happened to each of them?
Luca: What?
Me: Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived. It rhymes. 

When the time came, I accorded him the responsibility of letting the axe fall.




And then came the sentence it would have been impossible to imagine him uttering a few short hours before:

Luca: Where's that book you were talking about earlier?
(HERE and HERE.)

Moral of the story:

1. Don't whisper if you can shout
An opening hook can be a huge draw. What can you do to immediately grab someone's attention?

2. Don't be general if you can be specific
Know your audience.  (A ten-year-old boy is a very particular animal.) Make your story relevant to their world view (i.e. dungeons and rats and chamber pots).

3. Don't recite a list of facts if you can spin a tale instead. 
Make it real. Make it relevant. Make it riveting.

4. Don't talk if you can listen. 
Leave lots of space for questions. The more they ask, the more interested you know they are. 

38 comments:

tokyojinja.com said...

I just love this post! Maybe my favorite ever...In my case, I have a 13 year old girl and we are full on into the period between the wars - Downton Abbey, politics, clothes - the whole shebang, but it happened because we did it together!

Bonnie said...

A wonderful post! You are a wise mother. Have fun!

Alyssa said...

What a great post! You have to love the Tudors and Horrible Histories.

Hels said...

10 year old boys are indeed psrticular animals. You were fortunate in that King Henry's outrageous behaviour might appeal to your young son more than, say, the era of Edwardian tea parties and country house weekends.

However I suppose there are always appealing things to discuss in every era. Your son might love the first cars to be invented and used, in the Edwardian era.

Slim Paley said...

Fun post and project with your lad.
I watched "The Lion in Winter" again just two nights ago. What a movie! (though not age appropriate for your son just yet!)

columnist said...

You're bad. (As in brilliant.)

Alika said...

That executioner is hilarious! Just look at his face!
Funny how kids don't find awful facts from the past appalling.

Michelle said...

That face of the one about to get their head chopped off looks so compliant(!). I've always been fascinated with the Tudor's... and thought I was the only one who had memorized the 6 wives of Henry VIII. Makes me wish I could turn back time and make my 25 year old son 10 again. (However, sometimes the difference between 10 and 25 doesn't seem so great!) I have simply got to get that book(!).

pve design said...

Somehow that sort of old-fashioned behavior seems to be in fashion. Were there snacks? I picture copious amounts of tea and profiteroles.
pve

Nina said...

Fantastic!!!

A Super Dilettante said...

My dear Lisa, Thank you so much for the valuable tips. This topic is something, I find personally, so relevant. This is something similar I confront on a daily basis of how to attract children to looking at the Old Master's pictures. The story telling and dressing up as characters from the historic stories are a good start to engage small children with learning history or looking at the paintings. I hope Luca enjoyed his history lessons. It's one of my favourite subjects at school.

Lisa said...

YOU and your paper crafts are awesome! lisa from japan

Pat said...

Also, take a look at the series of architectural books by David MacAulay that were written for kids. He examines and deconstructs buildings from various periods with beautiful drawings. I always found my students and my sons to be facsinated by them.

AlwaysMe said...

We are discussing the same time period with our 10 year old son! However, mine went like this:
While viewing Frank O. Salisbury's Underground print (which has a picture of Henry VIII, Catherine of Aragon and Cardinal Wolsey) which reads, "A return trip to the tower and a single for my wife." My son asked, "Why is that funny? He cuts his wife's head off and you think that's funny?"

shiree segerstrom said...

Wonderful advice from a mom who obviously knows what she's doing lol. Shiree'

Eithne said...

I loved this post! As a museum curator, I employ lots of the same tools: am a huge fan of dressing up, finger puppets, dioramas and the gory/grisly side of history for getting kids engaged. Also, that Tower of London set is awesome and I plan to buy one forthwith.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

The best mother ever!
By the way... I just read that BBC Two is planning a production of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies! Wonderful words for all us fans of the Tudor age. Your son included!

Maria Speidel said...

Fun. If you and your son have not already read it, I can recommend How The Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous. http://www.amazon.com/How-They-Croaked-Awfully-Famous/dp/0802798179

My 11-year-old girl loves it.

Maria Speidel said...

I meant How THEY Croaked. Either way it's delightful, though a more general biographical survey.

Julie said...

Brilliant, Lisa! This is how I homeschooled for 9 years. She loved and laughed her way through lots of Horrible Histories.

susan at the table said...

Charming!

Jamie Herzlinger said...

This absolutely tickled me! Fabulous post!

Love, Jamie Herzlinger

Veronica Roth said...

Well done Lisa! I remember those books...they were so helpful with my kids. One year I took Chloe out of school for 2 months so we could live in England for an extended time and helped her write a journal of all things Midieval left within the 10 miles of our village of Northmoor for school credit. That treasure hunt project is something she still remembers. (and she still loves that journal) :)

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Diane James Home said...

Sage advice from a wonderful mom! Thank you for sharing your afternoon with us, Cynthia

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mikky said...

Oh you sneaky awesome Mom you! I really enjoyed reading this post. Think I will look for that book and the craft for my nephew. Great post!
:)
mikky
www.todaloos.com

quintessence said...

All great advice and so true. I have a closet full of the most obscure board games, many purchased purely for the intention of round-about learning. Happily quite a few are ones I enjoyed playing as well. I think I have a English monarchs card game somewhere...

Troy Allen said...

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*Chic Provence* said...

A LOT of wisdom there, Lisa!

thanks for a fun post, happy labor day!

Kit

Sara Olsen said...

I get to have old fashioned afternoon every once a week too, when I visit my grandma all we do is have tea on the porch and do cross word puzzle. It is amazing how happy she is when I come for tea.

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athinveil said...

Lovelovelove this. I work with teenagers and the art of teaching them something sideways is always a challenge--and delight!

I still insist that I learned most of my British history from trashy wonderful historical bodice-rippers, like Victoria Holt. When you read a saga about a family who has affairs and deep secrets and brooding mysterious visitors and long-lost relatives, all set against the backdrop of the English monarchy through 400 years, you can't help but keep reading..and learning in the process! :)

jean luca said...

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Unknown said...

Do you know the BBC HH tv series? It's even better than the books - and has songs:
This one is what you've been reading
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-fadCAHjN-s&feature=relmfu

There are rip-offs of tv shows/styles/real songs, and the sketches are funny & gross.

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