One of the major things I have grasped is that the behaviors that sometimes drive me crazy right now are the behaviors that a great man (a great leader) needs. Men are designed to protect, defend, fight, and rule. It's part of who they are, and it's a good thing!
Century after century of world history demonstrates the need for warriors, defenders of freedom, fighters of injustice, and dragon slayers. Without these valiant men, where would we be? Where would America BE? The answer: it wouldn't even exist.
So, as much as I would like to have my little boys sit down on the couch with nicely combed hair and clean shirts, reading science books and quoting dates and timelines, I also need to let them act like boys. Because in that behavior, they are preparing for who God made them to be. They desire to wrestle, compete, fight, climb, jump, and yell.
Sometimes my house feels like this:
|Mel Gibson as William Wallace|
|David and Goliath|
Now, it's all really nice for me to say these things, but how does it translate to the real world? Well, there will be lots of noise and action. And weapons. But there is lots of passion, too. I see real excitement when my boys learn about a new book or story that involves a hero they never heard of. Give them lots of things to read, and not just superhero comics.
The Bible is a great place to start. Ditch the cartoon kiddie-Bibles and let the boys hear and read the real stories. David, Samson, Moses, Joshua, Caleb; there are so many exciting stories of warriors who served God. The only Children's Bible I really love is The Childs Story Bible by Catherine Vos.
History is packed with real stories of heroes, and literature adds even more. For every classic tale, there's an easy version for the young readers. My boys have some favorites (and these change constantly): Eric the Red, King Arthur, Robin Hood, Treasure Island, stories of samurai warriors and ninjas, Ivanhoe, Lord of the Rings, and Saint George and the Dragon. We recently read The Great and Terrible Quest and they couldn't stop asking for "one more chapter!" My favorite abridged versions are the Classic Starts Series. But full versions are not out of the question. I've said it before and I'll keep saying it: let younger children listen while you read the unabridged versions, or get the audiobook for them to listen to. Later, when they grow older, they won't be afraid of classic books.
What do these stories have in common? I saw the best description in this article Toward Understanding the Moral Imagination, or Why Fairy Tales Are Necessary, that said,
Good is good, evil is evil, and good always triumphs over evil.
When boys grow up with the conviction that they are powerful and strong and can by all means defeat evil, there is no stopping what they can do! C. S. Lewis said, "Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage."
What else do we do to encourage the manly attitude? Ahem....costumes. When a boy dresses like his hero, he is reborn. There is no other way to put it.
|Shopping for weapons at the Fur Trader's Rendezvous|
|A jungle hunter|
|Cowboy, cowgirl, and Indian|
|Cousins protecting the princess|
As often as possible, when we discover a new hero, we try to assemble a costume to let the boys "play." And we recently downloaded The Battle Book at Warfare by Duct Tape. This is a great starting point for ideas. After a little more online searching, I found this DIY post:
And from there we went wild. It was so much fun, that I decided to teach a class at our homeschool co-op for a bunch more boys! Here is the result of 10 weeks' crafting:
It was a wild, fast-paced class, but I think they had fun! We made swords, daggers, sheaths, helmets, breastplates, shields, and gauntlets. A few kids made axes and throwing stars with their free time. Instead of giving you a list of links, I'll share my Pinterest Board with all the DIY links, real weapons pictures, and even some ideas we didn't get to (like bows and arrows, and armor made from foam).
Now, I know that not all boys will grow up to wield swords, so to speak, but the spirit is the same. Warriors and fighters take many forms: fathers, pastors, teachers, coaches, and world leaders. If they grow up knowing that good is good, evil is evil, and good triumphs evil, they become men who know they can change the world.