Bear’s Love of the Fantastical

As I lay in bed in our loft with my sleeping bubba, I listen to the sounds from the kitchen below, of rolling dice, and the voices of Scott, Bear, and Star. They are adventuring in the world of Dungeons and Dragons. Scott the Dungeon Master, Bear and Star playing several characters each. It has become a regular nightly activity recently, and a growing passion of Bear’s.

Whilst we were away on our road trip last year Bear sold his collection of Pokemon cards and used the money to invest in a trading card game Magic, The Gathering. As we travelled his love of Magic grew and he played in his first tournament at The Wicked Goblin games shop in Cairns. By the time we returned home late last year it was apparent that we needed to find a games shop so we could support Bear’s growing interest.

We found Battleaxe at Kingston, and shortly after started taking Bear to weekly game nights of Magic, The Gathering. His collection of cards grew, his knowledge and skills of the game increased dramatically, and he developed his own individual playing style and stratagem. During this time we noticed that there was also a Dungeons and Dragons game night at Battleaxe. Bear has had a long held interest in D&D, years before we had bought him a starter set, it is also a game Scott played when he was younger, and something we knew we could share as a family.  We couldn’t manage to take Bear to Kingston twice a week but after playing Magic for a few months he decided to give D&D a go.
Bear has now been attending the D&D game nights for a few months and he may love it even more than Magic. More recently we were able to purchase for Bear a Monster Manual, Player’s Handbook, and Dungeon Master’s guide so he could really immerse himself in the world of D&D, be better prepared and knowledgeable for the campaigns played, and be able to develop his characters more easily and in more depth. He has devoured these books, having read them all completely, and astoundingly to me remembers all of what he’s read, able to call upon facts, figures, and information with ease.

A couple of weeks ago he also asked for special writing books. He is using these to create characters and monsters, write his own campaign, keep a book of spells and game notes, and one of his character’s Hannaman is writing a book of his adventures (Star also now has a special book that she too is using as a spell book and for game notes for one of her characters Hamfast). Bear’s writing, which has always been a source of laborious and tedious frustration for him and diligently avoided, has improved dramatically,  his Lego even packed up to clear his desk! It’s amazing how Bear’s passion has transformed writing into a useful tool that he is using to expand and further his interests!

Two nights ago Bear and his sister played D&D on their own. For several hours sounds of laughter, excitement, and exuberant enactment emanated from  his bedroom. Bear embracing the role of Dungeon master as they adventured in the beginnings of his own campaign.

In addition we also bought a campaign book (Scott, Bear, and Star had been playing a short campaign from Bear’s old starter set but needed something more) and after days of preparation; Bear and Star developing their characters and Scott reading and preparing for his role as Dungeon Master, they have started adventuring! I hope to join in and play soon, when Strong is a bit older, but for now it makes my heart glow to hear their adventuring and time shared together from above.

As well as Bear’s adventures through Magic, The Gathering and D&D, another fantastical love that he has been pursuing is Manga. He has always enjoyed reading Manga but his interest has grown in intensity over the past months and we have been supporting this as much as we are able. We gifted Bear several novels at Yule just past, after finding a much larger source at a shop in Hobart; Area 52. The only problem is how fast he reads them! He does come back to them though, reading them several times, and appreciating the artwork, his favourite of his new additions Biomega by Tsutomu Nihei. There’s something I also find particularly awesome about Manga, perhaps it’s the artwork and the way it conveys so much of the story, combining the art of storytelling with the visual art of drawing. We will endeavour to keep up with Bear’s insatiable appetite for Manga, which also extends to Anime!

Apart from these passionate interests of Bear’s he also, of course, continues to explore alternate worlds through his mainstay loves; reading fantasy and science fiction novels, gaming on his Xbox, role playing, and Lego construction.

Bear has always thrived when immersed within his very active imagination, and through his passion for the fantastical he is life learning in HIS way.


Star’s Reading Journey Continues

A year or so ago I wrote a post on my old blog about Star’s reading journey and how she was learning to read through life and her own determination. At that point she was 9 years old and was at a place in her journey where she could technically “read” but not at a place where she could read anything she wished fluently and with confidence.

Star’s learning to read journey has been mostly following an unschooling path. The only directed learning being when we were still homeschooling with a Waldorf curriculum and Star learnt the alphabet through Waldorf main lessons, and completed Waldorf language based main lessons when she was 7 years old. 

I explained in my previous post how we have always provided our children with a home filled with a love of language. We adore books. We have always read to our children. They have grown up on picture books, fairytales, folk tales, mythology, poetry, songs, and books of non fiction. As Star and Bear have got older we have read longer chapter books and novels; Bear only recently stopping listening to Scott and I read at night (it has been a gradual decrease over the past couple of years) at the age of 15 years old. And they are surrounded by as many books as we can fit into our tiny house!

Over the past year Star has been sporadically continuing to advance her own reading ability. At times it has been difficult for her. She has wanted to be at that place where she can read with the ease and confidence that she sees the rest of the family reading with but has struggled with frustration and not being ready to read books that are at the level of her maturity. During this time, as always, we have supported and trusted

Supported her by offering any help we were able to, in whatever form she wished. Whether that was listening to her read, helping her with words and sounds she couldn’t figure out, helping her with writing, spelling, and grammar, giving suggestions of books to read, visiting secondhand bookshops to look for a book she might like, encouraging perseverance without pressure or expectations, and always, always reading to Star.

Trusted in her. That she would follow her own path and find her way in her time. Showing Star our unshakable trust and certainty in her ability to learn to read with confidence. Reminding her we are all individuals, we all learn in our own way, and that it will happen for her.

To meet Star’s maturity and interest over the past few months we have delved deeper into the wonderful world of fantasy! Earlier in the year I read Star the ultimate classic of fantasy; The Lord of the Rings. This was so thoroughly embraced and loved by her, sparking a desire to learn more about Middle Earth and Tolkien’s amazing world. Star was gifted her father’s beloved Tolkien Bestiary, that was bought for him by his father, which she adores, and also his copy of The Silmarillion. We bought her her own copies of the three books, The Hobbit (which I have read to Star previously), and a Middle Earth Album of painted pictures which she treasures. 

Star began to learn and recite songs and verses from The Lord of the Rings so we bought her a special writing book which she is using to copy down her favourites, pasting pictures torn out from a secondhand Lord of the Rings address book her father found at a tip shop alongside each song. She even began testing us on the verse of the ring, getting us all to learn and recite it! She is now using her book to write down poems from other books, learning them and reciting them for her own enjoyment. 

Star watched the Peter Jackson Lord of the Rings movies (looking away during the goriest parts), and we luckily found a secondhand copy of the old animated movie. We also gathered all of her father’s Tolkien books (Scott has had a passion for The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s books since he first read The Hobbit at age 10; The Hobbit being the book that began his lifelong love of reading) and Scott is currently reading Star Smith of Wootton Major. 

Following on  we read the Sword of Shannara trilogy by Terry Brooks which Star says are now her favourite books besides The Lord of The Rings, and I am currently reading to her First King of Shannara; the prequel to the trilogy. I have also entered into the absolutely Stunning world of Ursula Le Guin with Star; just recently having finished the second of the Earthsea books, The Tombs of Atuan. Ursula’s writing is so well-crafted, original, and intelligent, and Star eagerly awaits the third book. Not too long ago we also found one of Brian Jacques’ Redwall books The Legend of Luke at a secondhand bookshop, Star and Bear both really, really enjoyed this. Since then we’ve been keeping our eye out for more and recently found The Pearls of Lutra, which I have just finished reading to Star, was likewise thoroughly enjoyed, and Bear has snuck away to read himself.

I must also mention that even though we have mainly been adventuring in the world of fantasy, over the past few months Scott has also read to Star books by Gerald Durrel. Her favourite was certainly The Bafut Beagles; at night whilst I was getting Strong to sleep in the loft I would hear Star and Scott rolling with laughter to the antics of Gerald and the Fon (the ruler of Bafut with an insatiable appetite for alcohol), and the little animal characters. Star also enjoyed A Zoo in My Luggage nearly as much, and less so The Aye-Aye and I as it contains much less humour.

In the last couple of weeks Star has started reading Robert C. O’Brien’s Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh (a book I loved when I was young). And much to her delight and all of our happiness she is not finding it frustrating! She has been reading some most nights, has read more than she’s ever read of a book before, and tells me the title of each chapter as she reaches it. I’m so pleased she has found a book that is at a level she can fluently read and is also meeting her maturity and interest. I can see already that she is gaining in confidence and this is increasing daily as she reads with ease from books that previously she would have dismissed as too daunting.

Star has arrived where she is now through her self driven learning, in her time, and along her path, not according to someone else’s schedule and unrealistic expectations. I wonder how her reading would have progressed if she had gone to school; would she have been reading fluently earlier or would her self confidence and belief in her own ability to learn have been shattered. I am just so very thankful that we will never know.