Big Philosophy for Little Kids

A Reading and Writing Adventure Through Time

Fifth Grade Edition, California Standards

©2010 Frank Marrero, M.A.T. These materials may be used freely to educate our children, but do not use otherwise without written permission.





Letters of Praise for The Royal Games
(Predecessor to Big Philosophy)

“The Royal Games empowered me as a teacher and I am certain they have empowered my students -- and even those who know my students.”  

       --- Susan Phaneuf, Sanchez Elementary, San Francisco, 1994



In my capacity as Director of the Joseph Campbell Foundation, I have personally observed numerous well-intended mythological education programs, and while each has been well-intended, most have been limited by their focus on either "the hero's journey" (as a paradigm for personal growth) or on the development of an individual's "personal mythology", and all have been directed at adults or "older" students.

The Royal Games, however, stand in marked contrast to the foregoing. This curriculum is unique in its use of mythological narratives as the contextual bases for activities and Games that focus on the development of character . . . I can attest to the fact that The Royal Games are uniquely suited for use with younger children.

I whole-heartedly recommend The Royal Games to all educators seeking a particularly meaningful program for younger students. Neither you nor they will be disappointed.

Robert Walter,

Executive Director

Joseph Campbell Foundation

Never before has the bell rung so clearly for character development curriculum in elementary school education. For educators, parents, and children alike, Royal Games offers touching and unique Games that promise to both develop character and shape the culture in which we live. This is the kind of education that could benefit every school district in America.

Michael Murphy, Esalen Founder; Author of Golf in the Kingdom and The Future of the Body

Your project to recover the legacy of ancient understanding and wisdom for students today is not just a noble undertaking but an essential one. That legacy lies at the foundation of our cultural tradition; its structures and principles still inform the depth of our collective psyche. Our age urgently needs to reconnect with this treasure, and there is no more important place to begin that task than with the education of the young. I am genuinely impressed by the insight, creativity, and gentleness with which you have engaged that effort.

-Richard Tarnas, Phd.

Professor of Philosophy & Psychology, California Institute of Integral Studies

Author of the highly acclaimed, The Passion of the Western Mind

I am writing to voice my strong support for the Royal Games Project. It has already reached a great number of students and the teachers have testified to the fact that the Games have been highly successful.

The character education education students receive for the Royal Games is very much in need. The Games often reinforce what is being taught in the home, and for some, offer essential Games not experienced in the home.

I believe this project can make a difference in our students and our society.

-Frank R. Elliot Ed. D.

Superintendent of Schools Ross Valley School District



To Whom It May Concern:

I express my whole hearted support for the Royal Games Program. Both of my children have participated in training sessions. My daughter participated as a fourth grader. My son received training as a second grader. I am a second grade teacher at another school.

If you are a parent, you are probably aware of how little children are willing to talk at home about school. Both of my children would share at the dinner table the Royal Game they played that day. They shared it in a thoughtful way expressing feelings as well as retelling the event. This illustrates to me the impact these Games had on my children. My seven year old son learned a vocabulary to categorize human behavior. For example he would say, 'He is being greedy like King Midas.' We vacationed in Montana and visited the Battle of Bighorn site. We were able to convey a picture of Custer to the children by saying he was like Narcissus. My nine year old daughter also gained vocabulary, but more importantly started to define her value system. She saw consistency, concentration, compassion and self-knowledge as valuable traits. She personally was dealing with some fears; nightmares were difficult for her. By using the Royal Breaths she was able to control the panic she was feeling. It has been a tool she has used many times.

I have given only a few illustrations of how the Royal Games have effected my children. There are many more. The wisdom they gained by these activities and discussions will stay with them for a lifetime.

Amy Anderson, Mother & 1st Grade Teacher



In September of 1994, the school social worker introduced me to the Royal Games curriculum. I was immediately interested in implementing this program of teaching leadership and character building skills to my 3rd and 4th grade students. The student population I work with can be generalized as low income and of diverse cultures (85% are on govt. assistance of some kind). Upon reading the Royal Games curriculum, I felt an opportunity of long lasting and meaningful Games had finally arrived for me and my students. I wholeheartedly embraced the Royal Games with my class and the outcomes have been rich and plentifully witnessable.

The Royal Games are delivered to children in such a way that any one of them can use the stories and games, and understand them-from wherever they are on the developmental scale of "readiness to learn." A teacher's lesson may well be organized, planned complete with learning objectives and outcomes in mind, but if the message is not delivered in a way that touches the child's world view, it loses it's meaningfulness and my effort was all for naught. I was drawn to the Royal Games because the universal messages therein would be relevant to anyone of any age.

The Royal Games cover four basic life skills or life experiences that have a ring of universal truth resounding throughout. The four Games or areas of focus are domains of "self and other" that all of humanity experiences. They are: 1) Learning the value of paying attention; 2) Learning to discriminate what makes you truly happy vs. temporarily happy; 3) Learning how to understand self-acceptance vs. selfishness; and 4) Learning how powerful our breathing can be in situations of distress. All of these Games can be illuminated in one's life both in or out of a classroom setting. The connection of the Games with real life allows the teacher to utilize events in the students' lives as reinforcing examples of the usefulness of the Royal Games skills being practiced. By asking the students to reflect upon their own lives in relation to the various myths and stories that are relayed in the Royal Games, they began to develop true strengths for their present and future days. Their levels of self awareness became more heartfelt and meaningful. I believe the students who are normally not thought of as very powerful social members, become more powerful because they take on a new sense of self and goal setting when they practice the Royal Games. The activities ask them to think of their strength and weaknesses and challenges to look to their futures. It is emphasized that when one can master the four Royal Games skills, one has the key to any door in the big game called "life." The Royal Games offer to students a tool they can carry with them in their hearts and minds forever.

The Royal Games teach skills to the individual as well as to the group as a community. The sharing with each other of one's personal anecdotes that are relevant to one of the Royal Games Games is a powerful component in the classroom. An Royal Games JOURNAL is kept by each participant allowing for those too shy to share out loud a place to affirm their experiences. Students often gave me their journals to read out loud (anonymously) when I would share my journal entries with the whole class. They might have been shy, but they were proud of their stories. The habit of applauding shared stories became a norm in our class. I had to put a time limit on the sharing time of our day or it would have gone on indefinitely. Each child's response or personal experiences shared would have a "popcorn" effect, and as much as I enjoyed the energy, as the teacher I had to play the "heavy" and put a limit on how long we would share daily.

The journals were also important in linking the classroom with home. Assignments of collecting "elder" stories were a strong component for me and the students. In a time of T.V. heroes, the Royal Games offered opportunities to the students to discover real live heroes right in their own families. In a very real way, the Royal Games made the mundane sacred by recognizing individual will and achievement. The students literally "took home" the message of the importance of paying attention in one's life. Stories of self determination and love were shared and confirmed in the children that one of the secrets in life is learning how to lose but keep on going without giving up on hope and one's goals. This year Wilma Rudolph's life and death had an enormous impact on my students. Her example of overcoming defeat in life was a weekly referent in our room. The kids can be heard saying things like "...things come in cans, not can'ts....", and "...don't give up, be like Wilma...". As an athlete needs to build up their bodies, skills and competencies in a disciplined manner, so too do students. The Royal Games teach this.

The Games of "paying attention" carried over from our class to other classrooms at Sanchez. In our after-school program, the computer teacher had seen my homework assignments relating to the Royal Games and the Games about paying attention. Without me knowing it, she adapted some of the 'Royal' assignments to her 2nd and 3rd grade room. She even had the entire computer lab "coming to attention" in the same manner that had been used in our room after the introduction of the Royal Games. At a technology committee meeting, yet a third teacher asked Judy how she was getting the lab students to produce so much work... ...she turned to me and said,"Susan, do that balancing trick you do... Show Cece those attention games..."

When I have a substitute teacher come in, I always instruct them to ask the children about the Royal Games. Every sub I have had has gone out of their way to complement me on the behavior of my class, praising the excellent behavior patterns developed by use of the Royal Games.

It is difficult to say which Royal Games lesson stands out more than the other. They are a holistic unit, like life. When death was experienced in families from our class, the Royal Games helped us work through those times. When stress occurred, the kids would remind me or themselves about the ROYAL BREATHS. Fighting on the playground has all but disappeared because my students are more thoughtful of themselves and others.

I have recommended the Royal Games to many, many people, teachers, parents, and friends. I have many, many stories to tell of their impact and enrichment. The Royal Games empowered me as a teacher and I am certain they have empowered my students-and even those who know my students. The Royal Games have become an integral part of my teaching. I fully expect to use and develop them for my whole life.

Susan Phaneuf 
Sanchez Elementary School
San Francisco, California
February 1995

I want to thank you for initiating the Royal Games in my fourth grade class. Once the myths were presented, they were reinforced with the playing of games until the Games from the myths were internalized by the children. From there the Games were used in conjunction with the everyday curriculum of the classroom and any social problems that might occur within the class-room and out in the yard. It has become the core, if you will, that the children always reflect back to in making decisions, both large and small, and also in reflecting on their own personal behaviors.

The lesson of each individual myth has given the children a focus for their own personal growth. It seems to work more successfully than teaching self esteem, in the sense that the myths ask each child to give outwardly something of themselves where self esteem Games tend to focus inwardly.

One of the beauties of the Royal Games for me is that I haven't had to add anything new to my curriculum, that it acts as a focus from which the curriculum and classroom dynamics radiate.

The enthusiasm of the children is an exciting process for me to observe and participate in. They have carried this enthusiasm back to their homes and have piqued the curiosity of their parents, which in turn, has resulted in the parents requesting their own Royal Games information evening.

I see the Royal Games as having much potential and flexibility. I envision it as a sequential program, which the children can carry on to the next year and beyond. I look forward to your great expansion.

Joan Owen
Brookside Upper Campus
San Anselmo, California

To Whom It May Concern:

For the last eight weeks my second grade class at Brookside School and I were able to experience the Royal Games. The Games were easily adapted, and highly suitable for my second grade class.

The Games have had a profound influence on the class. The children are now able to demonstrate an increased ability to deal with disappointment when they don't immediately succeed in reaching their goals. They are say, "learning to lose is the secret." This is what the Games intended and what I had hoped for.

The children often make reference to Narcissus, Icarus, and Psyche, as if they have met these mythical characters personally. Imagination in the second grade is a wondrous thing, and I believe the children have painted many lasting pictures in their minds from having participated in the Royal Games.

I sincerely believe that there will be an enduring influence on the children from having participated in the Royal Games. I already have witnessed this strong influence on their behavior in the areas of improved attention skills; greater empathy for others; and improved ability to deal with peer relationships.

The Games are very easy to follow. They encourage the teacher's personal interpretation, and creative approach. At the same time, the curriculum guide is so well detailed and complete, that the Games are self-explanatory, and very easy for the presenter to follow.
Needless to say, I highly recommend including the Royal Games in the second grade curriculum.

Joan Taylor
Second Grade Brookside School
Ross Valley School District


KIDS (ages 9 & 10)

About a week ago I said to my sister, "I bet you I can climb higher than you can on the tree." So she said, "Let's see."

So we went outside and I thought it would be easy for me since she is only six. So I started to climb up as fast as I could go so it would be over with, but when I was not high up I slipped and fell, but I did not hurt myself a lot. But when my sister tried she focused and almost got to the top and beat me.

Cause I was being Icarus and she was being Daedalus.


A lifelong lesson that I will always remember is to be focused and concentrate to get something done well.


The myth that will help me the most is the Royal breaths because I always get mad at my brother. I get sad alot also. I'll remember these lessons my whole life.


You have taught me so much I don't know how to repay you. I will always remember the royal breaths because I always use them. I will remember deep happiness. I will remember high happiness and how it is meaningless. I will always remember to be like Daedalus and focused and not to be like Icarus and impulsive. But most importantly I will not be like Narcissus. I will care and have empathy for others. You are great for teaching me this.

Terry (age 10)