Using storytelling in your home education

The following is a guest post written by Shelli Pabis of Mama of Letters

What I loved most about my “Granny” was the stories she told about growing up on a farm with four brothers, two sisters, and all the “tricks” they pulled.  This was my first introduction to the power of a story.  Not only did they captivate me, but they gave me insight to where I came from. I can still hear her voice telling them in my mind.

In my twenties, I took a storytelling class by the late J.J. Reneaux, a well-known raconteur in the storytelling world and award-winning author.  She became my friend and reinforced my love of storytelling.

Though I don’t have the disposition to become a storyteller who travels and performs in front of live audiences, I decided that I would honor my grandmother and J.J.’s memories by telling stories to my children.  I want them to appreciate the art of oral storytelling and benefit from the wisdom that stories impart.

This is why I was thrilled to find Chase Collins’ book, Tell Me a Story: Creating Bedtime Tales Your Children Will Dream On.  It was just what I needed to jumpstart my imagination and start making up stories for my five-year-old.  If you think you can’t make up stories, then you need to read her book!

Collins offers what she calls the nitty-gritty story structure:

  • There was a likeable hero
  • who had reason to set out on a journey
  • when a threat occurred
  • from which there was a hero-inspired way out
  • which resulted in a safe return and a happy ending.

Truth be told, I don’t always use that structure, but I have found it helpful at times.  What I have done is create two loveable characters named Jack and Piper, and now my son requests a story about them every night.  Sometimes it’s easier for me to tell a story that is more like a “slice of life,” but I always use another suggestion that Collins makes.  She says to use something from your child’s life that has special meaning for him or her.

For example, my son has been into snakes lately, so many of my stories about Jack and Piper include snakes.  When my son was showing interest in learning how to play a musical instrument, I had Jack take flute lessons, and I explained what hard work it was to learn how to play!

Though I love books (and if you came to my house, you would see that we are book people), telling a story to a child is much more meaningful than reading a book to them.  As Chase Collins writes, “Your children will be touched to have you affirm the imaginative world they live in, and you will show them that, along with the facts, you also see some magic in the universe.”

My son has never turned down an offer for me to tell him a story.  I was also thrilled when after telling him stories for a few weeks, he wanted to tell ME a story!  What better way could I have ignited his imagination and given him a chance to polish his speaking skills at the same time?

Simply put, telling stories to children is an expression of love, and by telling your own stories, you will unconsciously share your life, wisdom, beliefs and values with your child.

Here’s a list of some of the benefits of storytelling:

  • You can teach your children in a unique way that they will want to listen and remember.
  • Storytelling ignites the imagination.
  • Stories both entertain and impart wisdom.
  • It fosters listening and comprehension skills.
  • It teaches speaking skills.
  • Storytelling is part of our language arts, which is a vital part of any child’s education!
  • Stories help people understand their place in the world.  For children, stories can help them understand who they are, where they come from, and the world they live in.
  • It’s relaxing.  A stress-reducer!
  • Storytelling provides valuable one-on-one time between the teller and listener(s).
  • Similarly, storytelling connects people and communities.  It’s a positive form of communication that fosters compassion and understanding.
  • Stories preserve cultures, beliefs and values and share those cultures, beliefs and values with the rest of the world.

Start telling stories to your child today, and you’ll give them a gift that they’ll treasure for the rest of their lives!

How have you found storytelling useful in your homeschool?


  1. I loved having my grandma tell me stories about her childhood on the farm as a kid too!
    Anna@The DIY Mom’s latest post: Family Fridays: Speeding Up and Slowing Down

  2. Some great tips. I am not a really good story teller, but my husband is. The kids often like to have him tell them stories. I haven’t learned the knack of creating on the fly! I’ll use some of these tips next time and see if it is better! I do love the idea of creating characters that you keep coming back to!
    Johanna @ My Home Tableau’s latest post: Reasons to instill good habits in your children.

  3. Like Johanna, storytelling isn’t my strength but my husband is great at it. Our daughter is still pretty young but I’d bet she’d love her daddy to tell her a few stories. And I’d love to learn to do it. Thanks for the ideas.
    Steph’s latest post: Thoughts on the Pervasiveness of Grace

  4. I am also not much at making up stories, but I do tell stories about what happened when they were babies and about myself as a child as a way of journaling/remembering with them. We have a local storytelling festival that we attend every year and enjoy very much. Many of the stories that we enjoy the most are reminiscences. I also enjoy listening to CDs of storytelling, and we listen to these often when we are traveling in the car.
    Jen @ anothergranolamom’s latest post: Happy Sunday

  5. Thank you, ladies! I guarantee you can do it. It just takes practice and getting used to — you have to build your confidence. Kids don’t care if it’s a great story. They just want to hear you telling them something. And getting ideas from them always helps. Since I wrote this post, I’ve created a section on my blog about storytelling and how-to, and I’ll be adding to it over time.
    shelli : mamaofletters’s latest post: GA HB 39: Georgia Homeschooling Law Changes Beginning 2012 / 2013 School Year

  6. I am no superb story teller, but my daughter still loves hearing me make up stories. We have to remember that too- sometimes it’s worth telling them a poorly done story made up on a whim simply because you are mom and they love hearing you. My daughter’s favorite is to request stories about an imaginary version of her. It really is a great teaching tool since she naturally connects with the version of herself in the stories who gets fustrated with angry words and tears but realizes she can work through a disagreement with her words. Or, the self who is nervous about trying something new but sets her mind to it and after trying and trying eventually can do it. I really like the idea of eventually creating characters I return to for every story, but for now I’ll stick to special requests for stories about “her”
    Queen of Chaos’s latest post: When it’s not really working.

  7. One of my favorite books is Healing Stories for Challenging Behavior. Stories can everything.

  8. Shelli!!! Congrats on this guest post!!
    Kimberly B.’s latest post: Moments from Family Life

  9. What a great reminder of a special way we bond with our kids and show interest in what they are into!
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  10. This is something I have never ever conisdered.

    How lovely.

    I’ll be pondering this today – and maybe dreaming up some stories, too.

    Thanks so much. Have a great day!

    – Kate 🙂

  11. This is a wonderful post, and reminds me of being a little girl and my grandmother telling me stories. Everything from true, to scary, life and all in between.

    She made you feel as if you were right there with her.

    I love Storytelling and believe in passing down stories to my kids. I will look into the book.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Elizabeth Ashe’s latest post: DIY: Homemade Citrus Facial Scrub

  12. We love to tell stories, too! I think it’s an often overlooked skill. One way that we encourage it is through games. I love the eeBoo Tell Me a Story cards, Rory’s Story Cubes, and Fairytale Spinner- just to name a few. I love listening to my kids make up wonderfully imaginative tales! Thanks for this 🙂
    Cait @ My Little Poppies’s latest post: Family Kindness Project {Have You Filled A Bucket Today?}

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