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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that When Calls the Heart is a faith-based drama series inspired by the Hallmark TV movie of the same name. It follows an indomitable frontier woman who takes a teaching job in a Canadian coal-mining town recovering from tragedy. Her courage, kindness, and perseverance make her an excellent role model, and she's surrounded by other heroic female figures. Because it's set in the past, some of the characters' experiences may seem foreign to kids, but this also means it's a good opportunity for history-based learning. When the plot touches on serious issues such as sexuality, it does so in gentle and vague terms that will sail over young kids' heads (as when a woman speaks of a man wanting her to "be friendly" toward him). But the show takes great care in presenting other harsh realities of life, such as illness and death, for what they are, so be ready to reassure sensitive kids.
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What's the story?
WHEN CALLS THE HEART is the story of Elizabeth Thatcher (Erin Krakow), a well-to-do member of an upper-crust Canadian family who leaves privilege behind for an uncertain future as a teacher in a western mining town called Coal Valley. The town's residents are recovering from a recent mine tragedy that killed many of the men and left families without husbands and fathers, threatening their very survival. Elizabeth finds fast friends in widows Abigail Stanton (Lori Loughlin) and Cat Montgomery (Chelah Horsdal), who resort to working the mines themselves to safeguard their families' futures. But her relationship with Constable Jack Thornton (Daniel Lissing) is less idyllic, given that he suspects Elizabeth's father had a hand in his assignment to Coal Valley. As changes come to this small community, the townsfolk rely on their faith and their neighbors to carry them through the difficult times.
Is it any good?
This Hallmark series touches on some serious issues, which adds to its credibility as a historical drama, but it explores them with such care that their positive messages leap off the screen. Your kids may have questions about the characters' physical and emotional struggles -- particularly as they relate to the miners' recent deaths, which are referenced often -- but the show is a testament to human perseverance and faith in a higher power.
Based on Janette Oke's book series, When Calls the Heart picks up Elizabeth's story where the previous movie left it, but it does so with an almost entirely different cast (only Loughlin reprises her movie role). Nonetheless, it's easy to make the jump if you've seen the movie, but the series' plot works fine as its own entity as well. This is a beautifully crafted period drama set against the lovely backdrop of western Canada, and it's rich in historically situated content; positive messages about faith, family, and courage; and strong female role models, with Elizabeth leading the charge.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the female roles in When Calls the Heart. What qualities about these women enable them to carry on after tragedy? How do they challenge the gender expectations of the time? To what degree is modern society still rooted in traditional gender roles?
Kids: In what ways was life simpler during this story's time period? How did their problems compare to ours of today? How has technology changed how we communicate and spend our free time? What are the pros and cons of this evolution?
The show's main characters demonstrate impressive emotional strength. What do you call on for inspiration when you face a tough challenge? Do you have a favorite saying or prayer that encourages you?
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