Archive for October, 2008


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Again, we jumped right into our day with beeswax and leaves and began making bookmarks. Each friend made three-one for Ruth Craft with their picture adhered to it—and two for themselves to bring home. Using the same technique, we used miniature leaves, and pushed the edges down to make the leaf stick to the paper. Then, we sprayed the paper with water so it would absorb paint. Finally, each friend decorated their bookmarks by spraying it with wartercolors. We then removed the leaves and will fill in the white leaf prints they made with autumn colors.


Today, we read Lights for Gita by Rachna Gilmore. This is a story of a young Indian girl who moves to the United States and misses her family, her country, and the festivities to make Diwali such a special festival. Because of an ice storm, most of Gita’s friends can not attend her special party that her mother has planned, but one—Amy—is able to make it there. A blackout hits the city where she lives, and the diyas (clay lamps lit with mustard oil) look even more spectacular through her eyes.


Maia led our morning circle a bit lit late today (it was afternoon by that time), but we had nice day, and practiced our peace ritual at the end of circle. We have been using the ASL sign for peace—two hands together like they are shaking and then we spread it out in each direction—and the Indian expression for peace (“om shanti”).


We didn’t have much outdoor time today due to a light rain, but the wood stove was on, and there was time for “cozy couch time” listening to the tale of Desperaux. On Tuesday we will have our own Diwali celebration with some sweets some storytelling, an exploration of Indian clothing, and a small celebration. The friends will wear their “rangoli” necklaces that we colored with pencils and decorated with jewels. Rangoli is the word for welcoming pictures for Lakshmi and friends who come into one’s home. (Thank you, Maribeth, for your donation of chocolate-dipped goat cheese. Yum!)

On Friday morning, Tony(a) will come and do some activities associated with India, and then we’ll celebrate our own festival of Halloween at the Ritchie’s farm with a party. 

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We jumped right into our day with beeswax and leaves and made two collaborative class collages. (Keeping the beeswax warm enough to use so it stays clear and easy to use is challenging with lots of friends dipping, but we managed!) Each friend placed a just-dipped leaf on watercolor paper, and pushed the edges down to make the leaf stick to the paper. Then, collectively, taking turns, we doused the paper with water so it would absorb paint. Each took a turn spraying a color onto a place on the paper, and then we watched as our colors moved around and merged. (Come and see them hanging over our lunch table.)


Maia led our morning circle, and we launched into our study of Diwali, the festival of lights, that will occur on October 28. We read the Story of Divaali retold by Jatinder Verma.

(There are many spellings of Diwali.) Diwali marks the return of Rama (a prince who lived long ago) and Sita (his bride who joined him in exile with his brother after the King’s second wife made the King keep a promise to her although it broke his heart to exile his eldest son.) after a 14-year exile. Rama was said to tell his father that it was his honor to fulfill his father’s promise, and Sita was so devoted to Rama, she could not imagine her life without him by his side. Although they were royalty, Rama, his brother, and Sita lived in the jungle, and survived for many years. This story has much meaning for Indian folks in that it celebrates good triumphing over evil, a child’s duty to his parent, a wife’s choice to be with her husband, and a brother’s love of his sibling. In India, it is the festival that unites many people across a diverse population. People celebrate by lighting diyas—beautiful clay pots lit with oil. The five days of Diwali occur on moonless nights, so these lamps symbolize the lights that guided the triumphant trio home to their rightful place in the Kingdom.


It is ritual for people to make abundant preparations for Diwali. People clean their houses thoroughly to get ready for Lakshmi to visit.  Lakshmi—the goddess of health and wealth—is also honored as she is said to fly over the homes in the area and shower the folks who live there with health and wealth if they have properly prepared for her. She also is honored as people remove their shoes. Children are expected to honor their elders by bowing and touching their feet as a sign of respect. Lakshmi leaves gifts and treats for the children. In honor of Rama and Sita, people are expected to bathe with fragrant oil, as it is said that the first thing they did upon their return from exile was bathe in fragrant waters. (That must have been nice!) It is a day marked by sweets (to celebrate and invite the richness of life!) and gifts. Fireworks (also light the way for the trio’s return) are also a huge part of the festivities.


We began coloring our elephants that we will use for a “parade” that will hang over the capes. These will be decorated with gems. (In India, no celebration is complete without a parade of elephants! Imagine being the organizer of a parade of that magnitude! Imagine the clean-up!)




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Jayden began our morning circle, after we dipped our pressed autumn leaves in beeswax. Each friend dipped five—three for their own mobile to bring home, and one each to contribute to our class mobile and a mobile for Ruth Craft. We spent plenty of time outside today, collecting small leaves for a project that we’ll begin next week. (We also will have plenty stored away for faerie houses that we will construct after the snow falls.) After lunch under Grandmother Max (the giant oak that overlooks the garden and the northern view), we constructed our mobiles.


The two books we focused on were In the Village of the Elephants by Jeremy Schmidt, and (once again) Lily’s Garden of India by Jeremy Smith. The former tells of the Mahouts—the men and boys in the Nilgiri Hills in Southwestern India—who tend to the elephants. They use both, their feet and verbal commands to have the elephants move heavy logs and do much heavy work for the villages.


We did a short review of the letters a, s, m, t, c, and d with sounds and signs and spelled simple words. We had half an hour of reading time as we completed other work.


My biggest challenge as a single teacher for just two days per week is fitting in lesson time while trying to teach all I have planned in cultural studies. My plan is to spend 45 minutes per day for “book learning” where we focus on reading, spelling, and writing in workbooks, along with math games and simple math worksheets/workbooks. If folks can be responsible for getting workbooks back to me, these workbooks could be vehicles that reinforce lessons separated by 2 or 3 day periods. I would send them home, and you could use them for 10-15 intervals with your children on the other days. Please let me know what you are thinking about this particular idea—thanks!

Upcoming events include the Indian (Hindu) celebration of Diwali beginning Friday, October 24 and culminating on Tuesday, October 28. We’ve been reading general stories about India, and now we’ll focus on this important “festival of lights.” (For children in India, this is best described as a combination of our Independence Day and all the December holidays. According to one Indian youth (Prateek Kedia, http://www.diwali.com), “Diwali is considered the best festival all over India. It is called the festival of lights. It gives a message of love, brotherhood and friendship. The heart of every one should be illuminated with light.” During the five day Diwali, there is much gift-giving, fireworks and firecrackers, and family rituals that celebrate the story of the return (after a 14 year exile) of the Rama and his wife, Sita as he defeats the evil king/monster, Ravana. This five-day celebration takes place on moonless nights. Therefore, lanterns are lit to symbolize the lights that guided the victorious couple back home. This holiday takes its roots in Hindu tradition and celebrates the defeat of good over evil. In addition to the many other gods that are celebrated at Diwali, Lakshmi, Goddess of Material and Spiritual Abundance (Health and Wealth), is honored with rich and sweet foods symbolizing joy and celebration, and to symbolize the sweetness of such things. There is also much game playing and merry making in regard to cards and gambling. (We may play a few educational card games, but we’ll skip over the gambling!) We will celebrate by reading poems, stories, and books for and by Indian children. We’ll make a special treat and draw some rangoli (decorative drawings, many times the elephant Ganesh) on our “doorstep.”

A friend of ours, Promod Jahaur, will be with us this weekend, and I plan on asking about the best ways to introduce our peace travelers to this festival in a context that makes sense to them.

Some of our parents have also been to India, and I invite them to share their stories and pictures with us. Thanks!





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Jayden began our day as the morning meeting leader, and we used our talking orb to discuss what was fun about the long weekend. This is what friends had to say:

Jayden: I liked the fall festival. I got a cool game, and we had a sleepover.

Maia: I liked the fall festival and Zoe’s birthday. I was very happy because for two days my Grandma and Auntie and I had a sleepover, and left yesterday. I got to fun with zoe.

Sebastian: Yesterday my cousins came from Boston and stayed from lunch until dinner, and we had pizza.

Zoe: At the fall festival, I got to have candy. At my birthday party, the science experiment squirted all over me and my mom.

Annika: I liked everything and I was happy because I got to have oatmeal.

Leora: I got to see Anthony and his girlfriend, Gabriella for the first time. She has a name just like my brother’s!

Elias: I got to have a sleepover with my grandparents, and they are a lot of fun!



The friends were able to view their “World Citizen” passports for the first time. The first page is devoted to their Native American study, the stories they learned, their totem animal, and the blessing to the Great Spirit from Derek Ritchie’s naming ceremony for friends. (Thanks again!) Also included is a picture that each friend made that summarized what we learned. Finally, each friend put their thumbprint on the American Indian page of their passport signifying the end of the unit. This afternoon, we will “travel” to India, and begin our study of our first Asian country.


This afternoon, we read a short story called “The Cruel King Who Became Kind” (Cricket Magazine, October, 2008). It simplistically summarizes the idea of karma; that is, what you “put out there” comes back around. We discussed ways of being in the world: using gentle words, doing kind deeds, and being helpful around our homes and with friends and elders. The basic summary of the story was this (in the King’s words):

“I realized the truth was simply this: Anyone who hurts someone else will, sooner or later, be hurt. And the opposite must be true, too. Anyone who helps someone will, sooner or later, be helped in turn. And that is why I have become a kinder king—and why I am now a much happier man as well.”


We collected piles of leaves and dried and pressed them in books as we worked in teams of two and three. These leaves will be used to make mobiles (dipped in bee’s wax) and some bookmarks.


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