Learning on Halloween?

My oldest niece Barrett asked me to post about their Halloween. Seeing that I love the active interest my children and their cousins are taking in this blog, I gladly agreed. Not to mention that Halloween also provided so many opportunities for learning and creativity.

From a very early age each child has chosen their own costume for Halloween. It is great to see the thought that they put into each one, and how it reflects their individual style. This year between my 2 children and their 3 cousins we had William Wallace, a witch, Sailor Minnie, Queen Elizabeth 1, and a Sour Key Candy.

Ronan chose William Wallace after hearing his dad and uncle quote line after line from the movie Braveheart. With Scottish history in the family, and of course a chance to make and wield a sword it was a perfect costume for him. The sword was the part of the costume that he actually was the most interested in and researched the most.Finding out that the famous sword of William Wallace was quite large he was adamant his costume sword was to be as close to scale as possible. He had his own process for this. He found out the size of the sword and the size of William Wallace( William Wallace was said to be 6 foot 6 and his sword 5 foot 4). Knowing this he deducted how high the sword would have reached William Wallace. He then measured his body on a large piece of cardboard and sized the sword length from there. He found a site that showed how to design and build the sword he wanted and he finally finished the day of.

When he researched further he found that the costume from the movie Braveheart was not historically correct with what William Wallace would have actually worn. He still chose the movie version costume instead. This is how he looked when it was all complete. (We of course had to account for cold Northern Alberta weather).

Ronan as William Wallace

Ronan as William Wallace

Who says that the holidays are not a time for learning? That is the masterpiece of engagement and interest. It leads to extensive learning when given the chance to flourish. Learning is not assigned during a certain time of day, or only in a certain room or desk. Learning is not proven by a grade that you receive. Quite the opposite. Learning is active. Learning is hands on. Learning is empowering. Learning is creative, practical, fun and happens anytime, anywhere, even on any holiday.

My niece Barrett (who is in school) chose a costume that was of importance to her. She is fascinated with Queen Elizabeth 1. After reading a biography on her last year she has searched all she can to learn more. When I asked her why she is so interested in this historical figure she told me that she felt she was a good queen that supported her subjects. She felt she was courageous because she herself would ride out to battle to encourage her troops. She lived under a tyrant of a father that murdered the wives he didn’t like (including her mother) and who could not bear him the children he wanted. She felt she was a female historical figure that lead a life that really interested her. My niece is in grade 5. I would say she has a true interest in this subject and it has been allowed to flourish and grow thanks to a very supportive and hands on family.

What other areas do you see your children engaged and creating? How do you encourage this further in your home?

William Wallace, Queen Elizabeth 1, Sour Key, Sailor Minnie, and the Purple Witch

William Wallace, Queen Elizabeth 1, Sour Key, Sailor Minnie, and the Purple Witch


What is a Teacher?

Big Smiles

Big Smiles

A teacher can be someone who teaches lessons, lessons of skills, knowledge and facts.

A big part of being a teacher is compassion. Compassion isn’t teaching morals – what’s right vs. what’s wrong.

Compassion is in what you say to others, the attitude you have, the way you greet people, the way you look or don’t look at them, the comments you make, the feelings you hide and the feelings you share.

Compassion is the teaching guide that shows our students, our children, how to approach the world, how to approach something new, how to approach another person, another living being.

It’s in the side comments you say, the remarks you make to and about others whether it’s to their face or behind their back.

This is what our children and students hear and reflect. We may ask politeness and manners of them, but if in the same breath we downgrade another person, our children will repeat this when they’re not with you, because as their teacher this is what you’ve taught them.

My children and I visited a local school here in St.Mary, Jamaica yesterday. We are “foreign” and therefore apparently different to everyone else in our environment.

I believe human beings are all the same, but the way my husband and I have chosen to raise, educate, and be with our kids is not the norm. Therefore, our family and children are different from the norm, no matter where they go.

I’m grateful for this but am also reminded of the importance as a parent to instill self-love in them. This difference will be a blessing for our kids, but others can see them as a threat, and will sometimes try to make our kids feel as though they don’t belong. I want them to be able to feel, reflect, show, and let love in.

Love and compassion.

As we visited the school I was reminded that all children have natural love and curiosity. That is the joy that comes from working and being around children: being a part of their joy and wonder. It’s a gift that teachers can experience every day.

Our visit to the school brought much curiosity and interest.

We look different from everyone. This fact is true in Jamaica, in our home in Canada, and anywhere we go. As a mixed family we’re not easily categorized.

It’s especially true for my daughter in her pink ballerina tutu that she wears like anyone else would wear shorts and a t-shirt. She looks like a walking fairy princess. Some kids wanted to touch her hair, which they did, some wanted to talk, some just wanted her to come and play.

She is reserved at first, so she didn’t leave my side, although she was never rude or unkind, she still had her own interest and curiosity from the safety of my hand.

I was reminded of the divide between our life and others. I was reminded of the opportunity my children (by being born into this life) have been given, because of the divide. Is it luck or fate? Who’s to ever know?

There was one classroom with a little girl (3 or 4 years old) who made a comment about our color – particularly my children’s color. I was grouped into that category even though my color is much different than my kids’ color.

The little girl observed our color and stated it aloud with an, “ewww” for emphais. A little boy then copied what the girl said. I didn’t hear the teacher correct it, maybe she did when we left the room, but I didn’t hear anyone say anything about it, even though (to me) it was heard.

What about that? Was I the only one that heard it and was bothered by it because of an old memory or feeling that I still carry? Growing up different myself I carry a feeling of being different from others and therefore less than them. A memory comes to me from when I was 5 years old. My family at that time was living in San Anotonio, Texas. I was attending a small private school and as far as I remember I was a very small minority, as in the only minority at the school. I had never given it second thought as my family travelled quite extensively and this was the fourth country I had lived in by that time. Being a child of an interracial marriage, diversity was a part of my life, so I had never seen any difference until one day at the playground. My class was outside playing in different areas of the playground. I was riding trikes around with a new student. I stopped what I was doing to join all the girls who were hanging out on the playground. They were standing around talking about which boy in class they wanted to marry. I immediately joined in and told them which one I would like to marry. One of the girls immediately started laughing and said to me “you can’t marry him silly!” I replied with “why not?” She very matter of a factly said to me “because your not white.” All of the girls laughed out loud. I was hurt and walked away to play by myself for the rest of the time outside. It hurt. It also didn’t make any sense because I myself came from an interracial marriage. Everyone at the school and in my class had always been so nice, but that comment had left me feeling very much like an outsider.

Is that why I don’t think that any comment like one from the girl in my past, and the one from the little girl at the school here, is okay? I had to remember this is a small child reflecting what the teachers in her life have taught. She’s yet to create her own understandings and beliefs that life experience and personal choice help create. To a certain point children aren’t responsible for their personal views. Understandings and beliefs are those that have been taught or shown to us by our life teachers.

My instinct as a mother is to protect from any hurt I experienced in life. But, is this a lesson in compassion for my children and myself? By feeling, reflecting, showing, and letting in love can we show/teach that little girl that people with a different color skin aren’t so different from her?

Can we teach her through compassion that love is everywhere? Maybe that little girl will then go home and become a compassionate teacher to her family because of her experience with my child. Or maybe I will go home and become a compassionate teacher to my family as I slowly realize that compassion is needed most when anger and judgment are the easiest emotions to reflect.

Compassion is most needed at the exact moment we’re about to fool ourselves into thinking we always have and everyone else should have. I’m thankful to the little girl for becoming my teacher.