Sowing seeds of gladness

My three-year-old working with the baptism story during Godly Play.
I wrote recently about a Faces of Easter story in Godly Play that got a little hectic. It’s been a little hectic in our classroom lately, and I’ve been praying about it and trying to figure out what is wrong. I’ve talked to our priest about dividing the kids by age (a preschool group and a elementary age group) when we move into our new space, but choosing which group I’d do Godly Play with makes me a little sad. I chose this curriculum for my girls, and they’d be in two different classes, then, and chances are, the other class, the one I don’t teach, will use a different curriculum, due to the expense of the materials, the training involved, finding a volunteer willing to be trained, etc. And I believe that a few parents in our church aren’t Godly Play fans (though, in my opinion, they don’t know enough about the program first-hand.)

Last Sunday, I had four kiddos — my two and two other boys, sons of our theologian-in-residence. One of the boys, who has recently started on a behavior chart at home and in children’s chapel, asked me if I’d make him a chart for Godly Play and write down if he “is good.” I didn’t think much before my response, but I said, “I’ll think about making you a chart, but you know what? You are GOOD! God make you, so you are good!” (I could have parralleled that with the creation story, but I didn’t think of that on the spot.) So, I agreed to write his mom a letter about what he did during our time together and told all the kids that this would be a good time to sit together and decide what “good behavior” looks like. As we had our feast, we talked about that, taking some examples from our real-time moment together (like use good manners — prompted by the above pictured three year old putting her pretzels into her water glass, which she had seen another bigger kid do a few weeks ago.) We came up with a nice list, and I rewrote it during response time and had each kid sign it. We were missing quite a few kids, but that will give us the opportunity to revisit our list over the next few weeks and have them sign it. It’ll hang in our room on the wall.

One of the items on our list is “Follow our routine.” And I think that is going to be most helpful to kids who attend sporadically or are new. I included our routine as well.
1. Prepare for feast
2. Pray
3. Feast
4. Story
5. Response
6. Put materials back in place
7. Be blessed

I hope I am not bringing too much of my teacher training in to our room. I want us to work together well, but I don’t want to recreate school. School is different for pretty much every family in our church — we have public schoolers, homeschoolers, charter schoolers, private schoolers (and preschoolers!) I want our time together to be fun, something the kids look forward to and learn from.

I love the conversations God has with me when I seek and listen. As I worried over all of this Sunday evening and Monday morning, Monday afternoon, I watched a friend’s kids. I had five kids in my backyard, ranging in ages from almost two to eight — similar to the age range and numbers on a typical week in Godly Play. We were talking and laughing and learning and growing together. It was truly fun and special, and in that moment, I realized that is what I want in our Godly Play classroom, that is what the kids want. How did it happen? I had a prepared environment set up, we had enough space (we were outside), we talked authentically (not scripted), and I had no preconceived expectations about how the kids responded. I realized that I have been unconsciously turning response time in to an evaluation. Did I get the story across? Do the kids understand it? Are they reflecting thoughtfully? That zaps the fun, for sure!

So, what can I take away? I need to make sure I throughfully and prayerfully prepare our environment. We need to have enough space (working on that one!). I need to let go of my teacher-brain and let the Holy Spirit work through me and the kids and the materials — let those seeds fall on the fertile ground and do what I can to keep the birds away.

I’m joining Wonderful in an Easter kind of way and Explore and Express with the Lenten Link – Up Party

Faces of Easter I

As much as I would love to write this entry about how much I love these Faces of Easter stories and how they allow the kids to enter into such higher level thinking, making text to text connections (and I do feel that way), I am instead going to try to piece together why today’s education hour went so poorly.

Maybe it started during feast (which we do at the beginning of our time together because our service is at 4:00 in the evening with education hour following at 5:15. The kids are hungry then and I don’t want to leave the feast until the end when the kids are leaving to go right home for dinner.) As I was preparing the kids to pray, reminding them that we’re just talking to God and they can say whatever they want — asking for help with something or for someone, thanking God, saying we’re sorry, or just saying that we love God, or just talking, like we do with our friends, one asked me if they could tell God a joke. I said I thought God would love that! We went around our circle praying, and when it came that child’s turn, she told God a knock-knock joke. It was sweet, and I actually think it was a nice conversation, but maybe it set the tone for rowdiness the rest of the hour.

Or maybe we have too many kids now and need to form a second class (where will we find a teacher!?) If every kid who comes regularly were there and stayed for education, we’d have fourteen kids ranging from three to ten. That has never happened. Most of the kids come in packages of two (siblings) and we’re always missing a couple of families any given Sunday, so I usually have seven or eight kids. Today I had eight. That really is a manageable number, though.

Perhaps it was a bit of chaos that grew from large item connections to the first Face of Easter — the entire Books of the Bible lesson, the desert, the World Communion lesson — all big and very interesting stories to explore all out at once when we were still in our circle. I actually think that is when my headache started. Perhaps next week, I’ll just have them bring one small item from the story rather than an entire story. But I still loved seeing their connections to the Mother Mary and the Father Joseph and the Word born flesh as a wordless child. They are profound, the kids! Maybe next week I’ll bring some ibuprofen and just appreciate the controlled chaos.

Lent is Lovely

I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. I enjoy Lent. I like the start of every season, really. But Lent is so deep, so thoughtful, so beautiful. Today, I did a toy rotation and set up our Lenten activities at home and prepped for my children’s Sunday School class at St. Julian’s.

At Home:
I have recently discovered play sets from Tales of Glory. I’ve ordered several for use at home in different seasons, but for the beginning of Lent, I have out the Disciples and Jesus on the boat in the sea of Galilee. The playset comes with the story of the calling of the disciples, the “Fishers of Men” story. But the boat and figures can be used to tell the story of Jesus calming the sea and walking on water. I have a picture book of Jesus’s life that I’ll read along with the playsest the first two weeks of Lent. Then I’ll replace that with a felt storyboard of Jesus’s miracles. And finally, that will be replaced the week before Holy Week with a Palm Sunday set I ordered from Oriental Trading. I bought their Resurrection scene a few years ago, and while it is not very sturdily made, we have enjoyed playing with it. That set will come out during Holy Week also.

I have a great stash of books about Jesus’s life and ministry and Easter. My favorite is My Easter Basket. I’ll start with books more focuses on Jesus’s life and add to them each week of Lent, adding that one toward the end. I also bought the book Benjamin’s Box today to go with our Resurrection Eggs, which I’ll bring out during Holy Week.

We’ll do our blessing tree again, and I’ve stocked the basket with new ribbons. The blessing tree starts as a bare branch in a pot. Each evening, one of our family members thanks God for a blessing in our lives and ties a ribbon to the branch. By Easter, we have a “blooming” tree to show us how blessed we are.  I’ve also put out the Christmas cards we received this past year on our dinner table, and we’ll choose one or two at dinner each evening to pray for the family who sent the card.

In Sunday School:
We’ll follow the Godly Play Lenten unit and start with the Holy Family story as I change the underlay from the green of ordinary time to the purple of Lent. Then I’ll share with the kids the Mystery of Easter using a cross puzzle of six pieces (because Lent is six weeks long — even longer than Advent! Maybe the mystery of Easter is even more important than Christmas…) One side is purple, but the other side is white — beautiful, joyous white — Jesus doesn’t stay on that cross or in that tomb! I made our cross using die cut crosses I bought in a pack of 30 at Hobby Lobby (for $1.99, I think.) I colored one side purple with a marker, and then cut it into six pieces. I picked up a small purple tote bag at Hobby Lobby also to keep it in. I took several more of the die cut crosses from the pack and drew in pencil six pieces on each so kids who choose can create their own puzzle to take home. They’ll just need to color one side purple and then cut along the lines I drew. I hope they’ll share they Mystery of Easter with their families at home! I also found some neat weaving crosses at Hobby Lobby that I’ll offer as a response activity during Lent. I know Caroline has really enjoyed paper weaving before, and these came 24 in a package for $8.99. I used my 40 percent off coupon, though, of course! For the rest of Lent, we’ll synthesize what we’ve learned so far this year using the Faces of Easter cards. We did not have education hour on the Sunday we usually do the baptism lesson, so I may do two lessons one of the early weeks of Lent and teach the baptism lesson along with one of the face cards.

I discovered two blogs today that I’ve added to my Google Reader to help me in my Godly Play planning and practice. And they’re hosting a Lenten Link Party that I’ve decided to join in on. Thank you for having me, Wonderful in an Easter Kind of Way and Explore and Express!