Interview with Jim Weiss Part 3:Telling Stories All Day Long
If you’ve looked at Jim Weiss’ website, you’ll see there is a plethora of recorded stories to choose from. How exactly, then, is a parent to choose? I asked Jim for his suggestions, as who else would know better where to begin?
Jim, you have so many books and stories available on CD. If a parent with elementary students happened upon your site and wanted to order, where should they start?
I think there are several different ways that you can approach this, depending on the age and particular character of your child(ren). One approach is to realize that all of these stories are stories you want her/him to know eventually, and to simply choose whatever you think will turn the child on to a love of learning. That’s really the most essential part of the whole process.
Another approach is to say, “This year my child will be studying X subject (the ancient world, the Renaissance, Mark Twain, Leonardo da Vinci, etc.)” and to look for matching Greathall recordings as an introduction to that subject.
In our brochure and on our website, we offer a timeline in which we organize all the recordings by the eras in which they happened. So one way a lot of people organize their listening is to use that timeline, and in particular, to work forward from the ancient world to contemporary times, tying together their historical studies and their literary studies for maximum impact and clarity.
Other than that, I generally remind people that the two foundations of all Western literature are stories from the Bible or from the fictional Greek myths. From these we get most of our plot lines and stock characters, and we are constantly referring to these stories in conversations or in news stories. (“It was a Herculean task;” “It was like David facing Goliath;” etc.) So those stories are especially important to know in order to take full part in our culture. The three sources most often quoted in everyday conversations are (in order): the Bible, the works of Shakespeare, and Greek/Roman myths.
Finally, we are about to add to our website a section organized according to particular values or virtues, so that a parent wishing to illustrate virtue will see which Greathall stories and recordings best exemplify that virtue. So a parent will be able to teach classic literature or history and, at the same time, do it through a story built around that particular virtue.
One last question: My extended family gets together quite a bit, and there are always lots of children around. If you were there, we would have you telling stories all day long! Do friends and family ask you to tell stories when you get together?
Our daughter, Danna, heard lots of stories growing up, and now she is a published author. I told stories to younger cousins, and on occasion, I’ll tell one rather informally to children of friends to illustrate something we’re discussing. Most people don’t ask for one, I suppose because they feel it’s my work and they’re with me for “free time”.
One of my favorite memories was the year that Danna lived in one of the rooms that Thomas Jefferson designed for the original section of the University of Virginia, known as “The Lawn”. There are 52 such rooms, and to live there is a great honor. Since our home is twenty minutes from UVa, Danna asked if she could invite the other young women (not the men) students living in Lawn rooms for a sleepover late in the school year, as they all had become dear friends.
These were the most accomplished, intelligent, high-achieving students at the university, and they all asked me if I would tell them a story! They instantly transformed from participants in highly intellectual conversations to a group of “kids” with wide open eyes and ears just listening to a story. (FYI, I told them the story of Finn MacCoul from our GIANTS recording, and they loved it.) My experience with adult audiences is that this is always what happens.
I would like to express my thanks to Jim Weiss for taking time to share about the stories he tells. Which ones are your family’s favorites?