I truly believe that everyone is remarkable. Even the most seemingly average person has amazing stories inside of them. The trick is getting them to tell their story and being prepared to listen.
I think that is one of the reasons I love history: sweeping sagas about great nations, great circumstances, great courage… all taking place in the lives of regular people – people who may be a lot like me. Thinking this way about them makes it possible to look to those heroes of the past and think, if they could do it, why not me?
For the past three years, Newt has been involved in a girls’ history club. Each month the girls would study a different woman from history, then meet to discuss and participate in activities. I took on a leadership role, helping to plan field trips and work out scheduling details. The other moms and I operated the club as a co-op, taking turns hosting. It was pretty successful and a whole lot of fun. However, toward the end of last year, I began feeling that the co-op structure was not working as well as I would like. I was wanting to see the girl’s discussions become deeper and for the meetings to have a stronger emphasis on writing and narration. After much thought, I decided to step down as a leader in the co-op and create a new group that would meet at my home each month.
I was hopeful, but our meetings have been even better than I expected. We have six girls, aged 9 – 11 and one 16 year old assistant leader. Each month, I assign a particular woman from history. The girls choose their own sources to study about her life and come prepared to share.
The “Heroines in Training” take turns leading the monthly discussion. To help them have a starting point, I have prepared a list of basic discussion questions, such as:
- Did you learn something about this month’s heroine that you didn’t know before?
- What is she well known for?
- What were some of the challenges she had to overcome?
- What are her strengths?
- What are her weaknesses?
- In what ways are you similar?
- In what ways are you different?
These questions have led to some interesting discussions, particularly about what is the difference between weaknesses and challenges. It is exciting to see the girls begin to know great women of the past. It is even more exciting to see them begin to believe that they too can do great things.
I have tried to schedule an eclectic group of heroines to study this year. We run the gamut from writers, artists, scientists, chefs, political activists and humanitarians.
Last week we met to discuss Grandma Moses, the American folk artist.
I hope the girls were as inspired by her as I was. Moses was a hard-working farm wife who loved making breads, jams and jellies. She found artistic expression in needlework until arthritis set in and made it too painful. Her sister suggested she try painting and a new passion was born. At the time, Moses was 72 years old. She painted for nearly 30 years, becoming well-known for her idyllic country scenes.
After our discussion, we spent some time looking through several art books at her work. I then passed out canvases and we painted. I asked the girls to each paint a band of white snow, a blue sky and a brown leafless tree. Then I asked them to add in something red. They could use other colors as well, but they were to make red a predominant color.
Even though they all had the same instructions, all the paintings turned out very different. One girl painted a person in a red jacket making snow angels. Another painted a sled. Ice-skating, a woodsy cabin with a red front-door, a cardinal and even a more pop art style Pac-man and red ghost made an appearance in the snow. They all looked wonderful; I was so proud of the girls’ creativity.
I hope that through an association with great women of history, “my girls” will come to see that they too can be great, if they are not afraid to try.
PS: I always get so busy during our meetings that I forget to take photos. Lucky for me, Newt has agreed to become our official photographer. Look for her pictures after next month’s discussion and service project centered around Mother Teresa.