Redeeming the Van Time

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The kids and I spend a good amount of time in the van.  And sometime last year I felt like maybe I was gonna pull my hair out as we fought over everything from whose turn it was to ride in the middle row, to whether or not we wanted the air blowing from the vents or not.  Someone would inevitably kick someones seat, someone else would break out into an annoying song and before long ALL of us were grumbling and complaining.

Then one day in the church library I stumbled across a cd series called Johnathan Park.  It was about a boy whose dad was an archeologist and it explained the science behind Creation.  I instantly thought of my niece who was obsessed with all things dinosaurs and thought we could listen to it to see if it was any good.

The kids were hooked.  The ended up listening to all 9 cd sets.  It got a little crazy in the adventures the family went on (a trip to outer space, really?).  But it did stem many wonderful conversations.   I decided it was a bit young for my niece at the time.

When it was finished I pulled out the readers theatre version of the Chronicles of Narnia that I had bought years before but the kids hadn’t shown interest in.  This time around they were enthralled.  We spent every van ride to and from practice last summer listening to the Chronicles of Narnia.

Instantly our van rides went from something to be endured to something to be cherished.  More than once I’d pull in the driveway and they would say, “Please mom don’t turn it off, let us listen a little longer.”

We finished Narnia and moved on to a few others readers theatre stories and then some poorly acted out biography accounts.  I thought for sure the kids would find them cheesy but we were all hooked and we learned so much about so many historical figures.  Our entire winter was spent listening to biographies. 

This spring we had used up most of the cd’s in the church collection, so I moved on to actual books on cd from the public library.  We studied WW I a few weeks ago so I checked out a book called Lord of the Nutcracker Men.  This is by far the heaviest subject matter we’ve covered and the writing is definitely above that of my youngest, but it does a great job of tackling the difficult concept of war for children.  So often my oldest son has this almost romanticized view of war, as I am sure most young boys do.  But, this paints a more realistic picture.  The book takes place in England and has a series of letters the father writes home to his 10 year old son about life on the front lines.  It was written in such a clever way, and the writing itself is well done. I have truly been impressed.

We have had so many wonderful discussions in our van rides this past year.  Talks about our faith, talks about the allegories in the Chronicles of Narnia, talks about slavery, and prejudice, and honesty and even a few talks about dating.  But, today my son said something that just made me smile from ear to ear.  We were listening to the book and my 10 year old said, “Mom, this writer is so smart.  He totally brought in the Iliad and the Greek gods earlier, and fit it in with the toy soldiers in his garden. He knew what he was doing when he wrote about those gods earlier.” Now unless you have been listening to the story I can’t really explain what it all means.  But I just loved the fact that he was commenting on the writing, on not just the events in the story, but in the way the author crafted the story.  This, I thought THIS is why we read aloud to kids of all ages.  And I just haven’t been doing that.  In fact, even though I know from all my elementary education classes how valuable it is, even still, I haven’t been doing it.  BUT, now thanks to the cd player in the van, now, we are!  And I love it!  And I love the conversations we’ve had.  I love when they giggle at the British humor, when they speculate over what they think will happen next.  I love how they will say, “wait hit pause,” and ask a question about the plot because then I know they are actually listening. 

And I Love, I LOVE the fact that our rides in the van have turned from something to be endured to something we cherish.  I love that it is no longer wasted time, but we are sharing in experiences together and learning together.  I love it! 


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