Thursday, March 2, 2017

A Note from the Sunshine Garden by Belinda Kenwood

A Note from the Sunshine Garden
By Miss Belinda

As I was perusing my Facebook page the other day, I came across an article from Respectful Parent’s page that resonated with me, because it serves as a reminder of why I have chosen to work with young children as my lifelong vocation, and why I do what I do when working with young children.   When taking a continuing education workshop a few years back, the instructor told us that our job as parents, grandparents, caregivers, most grown-ups really, is to teach children what it means to be human.  Children come into this world not only as beautiful, tiny, miracle beings, but also as a bundle of chaos.  They need we grown-ups to serve as guides on how to manage the social pieces and interactions of living in a world inhabited by billions of other people.   It is crucial that children have adults in their lives who show by example what it means to be compassionate toward one’s fellow human beings.  Do they need us to be perfect?  Heavens, no!  There’s no such thing.  We all make mistakes and will continue to do so.  But what will live in the children is our striving to do better and be better next time.  It’s the most important work we can do.  So, on that note, I bring to you the article from Respectful Parenting’s page entitled, Why “Choosing Your Battles” May Not be an Effective Parenting Strategy, by Kelly Meier.  An important way in which children learn how to be “confident, respectful and kind” is by the setting of limits or boundaries by the grown-ups in their lives. And by the way – All of the questions listed by the author in the first paragraph regarding doubt?  I ask those same questions to myself every day when working with your children.  And I continue to ask them when relating to my now 21-year old son and 18-year old daughter.  Parenting, like any journey, is an act of faith and trust that, indeed, the universe does have our backs.

Happy Reading!

All are Welcome by Jaimmie Stugard

All are Welcome

By Jaimmie Stugard

         Today, people all over the country are protesting the travel ban that prohibits people from certain countries from traveling to the United States.  There has been so much talk of building a wall to separate our nation from the “others” that the school age children in my life are expressing fears and asking questions.  The me first, us and them, competitive and divisive rhetoric is pervasive and unnerving.  Understandably, many of us grown folks are not feeling like ourselves.  The sky is grey.  The news is glum.  Some of us are feeling defeated, depleted and exhausted.  Others are feeling fired up and activated. 
              Of course, the little children in our lives hear our conversations and the stories on the news.  Even those who have little exposure to such adult things can sense when we are feeling edgy or off kilter.  Now, more than ever, it is essential that we practice presence.  If we are brooding about the latest executive order or a tiff we’ve had with a relative on social media, the children we are with will feel our anger or distress.  But, they will not understand it.  They may internalize it or mirror it, but they will not understand.
             At this young age, children are developmentally unready to be burdened with the injustices of the world.  They are still learning to love the world.  They gaze in wonder at the snowflakes that land on them.  They delight in catching a glimpse of rabbit prints in the snow.  As their parents and caregivers, we are honored to guide them as they experience the beauty of the world unfolding before them. 
              When they are older, they will have a solid foundation based on their early experiences that the world is good.  They will have learned to love the earth, its creatures and their fellow human beings.  Then, when they are ready, knowledgeable and strong they will have the life experience to empathize and the power to fight injustice and to confront their fears.  Right now, they are (physically) little beings who are looking to us for reassurance and guidance.  They need to know that the grown-ups in their lives are okay and that we will take care of them.  They don’t need us to tell them.  They need to feel it.

            The current cultural climate may compel us to educate our children about social justice, conservationism, diversity and advocacy.  When considering how we might do this, it is essential that we consider the development of the young child.  Very young children respond to rich experiences, to songs and stories.  Lectures and overt instruction rarely resonate with the toddlers and preschoolers.  At LifeWays we “teach” conservationism by letting the children play in nature and, through their play and explorations, develop a love for the outdoors.  A toddler who is learning to navigate the difference between affection and aggression is learning the basics of social justice.  Sharing simple and authentic foods, songs and folk tales offers an introduction into humanity’s rich and diverse cultural heritage.  Children who experience our openness, compassion and empathy toward all humanity trust that all are welcome. 

A Word About Festivals By Belinda Kenwood

A Word About Festivals
By Miss Belinda

Glimmer, lantern, glimmer,

Little stars a-shimmer,

Over meadow, moor and dale,

Flitter, flutter elfin veil.

Pee-wit, pee-wit, tick-a-tick-a-tick,

Rou-cou, rou-cou, rou-cou.

Glimmer, lantern, glimmer,

Little stars a-shimmer,

Over rock and stock and stone,

Wander tripping little gnome.

Pee-wit, pee-wit, tick-a-tick-a-tick,

Rou-cou, rou-cou, rou-cou.

As I reflect upon our lovely and magical community gathering in celebration of our annual Lantern Walk and Festival, I thought I’d “shed a little light” on why we celebrate festivals here at LifeWays.

Throughout the year, we at LifeWays celebrate festivals in order to help us celebrate the rhythms of the earth which can, in turn, help us to be in harmony with ourselves and find a greater sense of wholeness and balance in our lives.  Our “festival life” also helps establish a yearly rhythm for the children.  Children love their lives to be orderly and predictable as it gives them a feeling of safety and security, and whether we celebrate a festival with the whole community or during the day with the children (think of our Birthday celebrations), the rhythm of the festivals provides them with feelings of safety and security within the endless passage of time.  Our festival life also provides us with the opportunity to reconnect with one another and strengthen our community.  They help to nourish our souls through the sharing of stories, food, songs and activities that celebrate the seasons, and we seek to express them with beauty and with reverence.  Festivals remind us again and again that beauty, wonder, anticipation and reverence are worth making space for in our lives.

Thus, every year around the end of October or early November, we, along with other LifeWays centers and homes as well as Waldorf schools, celebrate a Lantern Walk to celebrate Martinmas, a festival of inner light in the outer darkness of the approaching winter.  St. Martin, for whom the festival honors, became known as friend of the children and patron of the poor.  He is remembered for his good deeds and acts of kindness.  The festival originated in France and then spread through Germany, the rest of Europe and Scandinavia.  Because it is held in November, in this part of the world it occurs as autumn is ending and winter is coming on, marking a time of full barns and completed harvest in preparation for winter.  As St. Martin spread warmth and light to his fellow human beings, this festival of light serves as a reminder that within each one of us lives a divine spark, and that we may spread our own warmth and light out into the world as we enter into the darkest time of the year.

Over the month of October, the children hear stories, create their lanterns and learn the songs in preparation and anticipation of the festival.

Each year, we look forward to sharing this festival of light with you as we see how our own little flickering lantern becomes a shared light, and we experience the full circle from the solitary individual to the fullness of community.