Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Life Lessons with the Little Engine

First, let me say that we love the library!  Most of the time these days, I go by myself because my toddler loves to run away from me and hide in the aisles, and I now have an infant to keep attached to me.  Sometimes I take the older two with me while daddy’s home, but sometimes the library is my 1 hour detox break.  It’s like free shopping : )

And…when I come home with my bag full of books, you’d think it was Christmas morning around here!

Last night I made my bi-monthly library trip…alone…ah.  I borrowed lots of great, fun books.  Just as I was heading to check out the books, an oldie but a goodie caught my eye:  The Little Engine that Could.

Now…we’ve been talking about the character trait of perseverance for a couple of weeks.  Micah (5) has got it.  There are some things that he’s working on mastering in life that frustrates him.  What used to end in tears now mostly ends in a frustrated sigh with a low mumble of “o.k…just have perseverance.”  This is a big victory for us friends!

Noah (4) isn’t quite so quick to learn new things.  With him, it’s in one and ear and out the other.  Though we’ve been reading stories, coloring pictures, and talking about perseverance when relevant, I didn’t think he quite understood the concept.

Enter: The Little Engine that Could.  This particular version, written by Watty Piper and illustrated by Loren Long, is a beautiful rendition of the classic story. 

This afternoon, Noah was practicing drawing some shapes.  He’s just now starting to become interested in practicing some pre-school skills.  And like most kids starting this grand feat, he’s quite rusty.  He’s not one to buckle down and master something…he’d rather just give up; hence the reason perseverance is on our character radar.

After some shape-drawing practice, I decided it was time to bust out this Little Engine.  Micah, Noah, Sam and I sat down and read the book together.  The illustrations were so catching that even my “I won’t sit still” Sammy sat through it!  When we were finished, we talked about the two examples of perseverance in the book (answer key:  the little engine of course, and the silly clown that wouldn’t give up asking for help).  I asked them who had perseverance and why, and what do you know?  Noah answered correctly! 

Next, I decided on a whim to drive this home with a craft…this is so simplistic, so please don’t think I thought this was some fabulous, genius idea.  I simply wanted him to practice what we just had a breakthrough on.

Noah’s other challenge is cutting curvy lines.  I decided that we were going to trace rectangles and circles (reinforcing our shapes of course!), cut them out, and paste them together making our very own Little Engine that could.  We had some frustration, but it was quickly extinguished when we recalled that darling Little Engine. 

Start to finish, the craft took the three of us probably 40 minutes…remember, cutting is a challenge.  During the craft, Micah (my in-home evangelist!) said, “Mom, this reminds me of a Bible verse: I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”  Hmph.  Way to tie in a Biblical truth to our character lesson!  So, I wrote Philippians 4:13 in glitter glue and they finished their little engines by decorating them with some more glitter glue, a new favorite art supply.

I love afternoons like these when the time flies by because we had some spontaneous, meaningful, quality time together.  Tonight, we took a walk and Noah said thank you for explaining perseverance.  He didn’t understand what it meant all this time and now he gets it.  I have to remember that they are different boys, learn different ways, and don’t always speak up when they don’t understand! 

Now, if only I can get them to stop running through the house chanting “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”

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