Welcome to LOLIPOP

LOLIPOP began as my master's thesis - an experiment in group learning with twenty homeschool families, including over sixty kids between six and fourteen years old. I coordinated 2-4 projects happening simultaneously, in 6 week sessions. The kids had a lot of fun, and the parents learned a lot about how this energetic and enthusiastic age group can have a successful learning experience. Since this first experiment, I have conducted seminars and webinars based on the LOLIPOP concept, and published For the Love of Learning: Giving Your Child a LOLIPOP Education.
This BLOG is for all those out there, trying to give their children and students the foundation they need to grow into great scholars, thinkers, and leaders. The principles align with the Leadership Education model and foster a love for learning, build individual confidence, and teach learning strategies that apply to a life time of great learning.
Check out more info about the book, seminars, webinars, and more at www.sdlaa.com.

Lolipop Learning, and terms and concepts such as "Love of Play", "Love of Sampling", and "Love of Producing" are the sole property of Amy Edwards. “TJEd", "Leadership Education", “Love of Learning Phase”, “Inspire, not Require” and other similar terms and concepts are taken from the works of Oliver & Rachel DeMille, and are used by permission and under license. For more information, visit http://tjed.org/.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

What is a True Hero?

     In my last blog post, I discussed the importance of reading classics with your children, and one of the criteria I gave for a story to be a "classic" is that it contains a true hero.  I'm following up on that here, to explain what a true hero is, so that you and your children can better identify true classics.  We all idolize "heroes", especially our children.  It is important that our children to have a clear understanding of what a true hero is, so that they idolize the right role models and character traits.
     There may be many criteria that you have for your own, personal heroes.  That is fine.  I would like to define "hero" in the classic sense - that is as "heroes" have been portrayed in classics for the past 4000 years.  So what are the classic characteristics of a true hero?

A Hero Answers a Call to Action
     A true hero answers a call to action that takes him away from the safety of home and his known world.  Odysseus sailed to far away Troy to fight for his country.  Bilbo and Frodo Baggins answered such a call, traveling far from the safety and peacefulness of the Shire.  Luke left his quiet farm life on Tatooine.
     A story in which the main character never leaves his homeland or never actively chooses to do so (but is forced) does not portray a true hero. Sometimes a hero does not physically leave, but he must go outside of his comfort zone in order to answer a true call.  As you read books with your children, talk about the hero's call (mission or goal).  What did the hero need to go and do? Did he leave home?  Did he need to try something new that was scary? Who would be helped if the hero succeeded?

A Hero has a Mentor
     No hero can do it alone, no matter how brave or smart.  Classic heroes have mentors or guides who teach them through tests, comfort them through trials, and help them to be honest with themselves and face their character flaws to escape traps. Bilbo and Frodo had Gandolf.  Odysseus had Athena. Luke had Obi Wan.  Kirk had Spock.  Mentors help each of us succeed in life.  Choosing the right mentor is critical to our success in life.  We can teach our children the importance of choosing the right mentors (friends) and accepting help when needed as we read with them from classics containing great mentors.

A Hero Endures Tests, Trials & Traps
     A true hero overcomes tests, trials, and traps.  A test is a task to be completed or an obstacle to be overcome that will teach the hero knowledge or skills that he will need to complete his call (task, mission, goal).  A trial is an event or obstacle that the hero must simply endure.  A trap is an obstacle the hero must overcome that is created from his own character flaws or weaknesses.  All heroes have a fatal flaw, which is a character flaw they must overcome in order to succeed.  It is the turning point of their journey.  The difference between a hero and villain is that a hero overcomes his fatal flaw, while a villain submits to it and allows it to guide and even empower him.  Odysseus needed to overcome his hubris (a common fatal flaw in hero stories).  Percy Jackson needed to overcome his allegiance to others over what was right.

A Hero Overcomes his Fatal Flaw and Completes his Call
      Beware of stories in which the main character does not overcome a fatal flaw.  Just because the protagonist is successful by the end of the story does not automatically make him a hero.  Some stories contain main characters who are proclaimed the "hero" of the story, but events just seem to work out for him rather than him truly overcoming his own weaknesses.  True heroes have weaknesses, and they must learn to overcome them.  We need to expose our children to true heroes to show them the importance of working hard to overcome weaknesses and the importance of good character.  Exposing them to stories in which the hero always wins, simply by virtue of being labelled the "hero", is not only a bad story, but a dangerous example to set before them in life.

A Hero Returns Home to Help Others
     A true hero is not done when he achieves his goal, gets his gift, or completes his call.  A true hero then returns home, with the new knowledge and skills he has gained, to help the people he left behind.  In many stories, he must return with something that will save his family, his village, or even the world.  But in some stories, he simply needs to return, as a better, wiser person who can now help others and serve as a mentor to future heroes.  It is important to teach our children that life is not simply about achieving the goals they want to achieve.  Being a true hero is about achieving goals, acquiring knowledge, skills, and gifts, that will empower us to contribute to our family and our community in meaningful ways.

Death is not Tragic for True Heroes
     Recently, as I was teaching a high school literature class, we got into a discussion about the definition of tragedy.  I was fascinated that these young scholars, who had a rich background in classics, believed that any time the hero (protagonist) dies, a story is a tragedy.  Shortly after this class, I watched a movie in which all of the main characters survived the entire movie, including a fierce battle. I was disappointed in the author's choice to save all of the main characters, since it was so unrealistic and unnecessary to the story.
     A story is a tragedy if the protagonist is a virtuous hero who fails in his call (mission) or dies due to his inability or unwillingness to overcome his fatal flaw.  Death alone is not tragic, since we all die.  In some stories, the hero can only complete his call with his death, but if his death completes his call and saves others, it is not tragic. There are causes worth fighting and dying for in our world.  Our children can learn about these through classics and through the stories of true heroes.

     If you want to learn more about classic heroes and the Hero's Journey, I recommend Joseph Campbell's work and primary book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Campbell describes the common elements found in myths and stories for thousands of years, spanning the entire globe.  His thorough account of the Hero's Journey found throughout cultures who had no interaction is fascinating.  This is not a book to read to your children.  This is a book for parents and teachers who want to better understand the elements of the classic hero.  I have included just a few, main elements of classic heroes in this blog entry, because my purpose is dealing with children, but Campbell identifies many more and goes into detail with examples from cultures throughout time and all over the world.  I will say that I do not agree with Campbell's conclusion that these common elements are a result of our Freudian psyche, but I appreciate the richness of his examples and explanation. Give it a read, and draw your own conclusions about why the mono myth exists.