Candlemas (or Groundhog Day) marks the middle point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. For light lovers, this reminds us of the return of warmth, the lengthening of days and the tides of life turning. It is interesting to know that mid seasons festivals were celebrated in the past as they represented the peak of a season. Often times, the thick of winter occurs close to this date. March will most likely be cold and damp, while May day (another mid-season festival) usually comes accompanied by flowers and certainly more light.
In our class, the beginning of life is fascinating the children. They are curious to learn what my baby is doing in the tummy, often telling me "baby is eating your oatmeal" and reminding each other "not to lie on Ms Lucia's tummy or you'll squish the baby". A student suggested that tomorrow when my baby is finally born, I should bring them to school so they can meet them.
Not surprisingly, because children make sense of their environment through imitation, we have had many "pregnancies" and quite a few "deliveries". Once a friend would go into labor, they would call for the doctor immediately. The doctor came and often times asked a "nurse" to find a knife because the baby needed to come out now. With surgical expertise, they lifted shirts and happily delivered the baby to the mom, who carried on with her baby in tow.
When it happened that the doctor was unavailable, I volunteered to midwife a mom who was in labor. We set some soft blankets down, and I asked if she wanted to give birth alone, or invite a friend. They invited a friend, who held their hand. I asked her to let me know when she was ready, and to take a deep breath, and give a short push, and baby was out! Mom was happy to hold baby on her breast for a bit, and move on when she was ready.
The rest of the children were fascinated by this scene, and it didn't take long before every child, girls and boys, were pregnant as well. We repeated the scenario for the rest of free play, delivering babies, a set of twin bean bags, and many kitties, some of them with their clothes on already!
Eventually, all the children settled around their laboring friend, some quietly observing, some wiping foreheads, some offering words of encouragement or reassuring touch. One of the boys said at the end "That was so much fun, can we do it again?!"
It was heartwarming to see the children organically assist each other, either by taking charge and helping the parent deliver safely, or by being a supportive observer. By acting out and reshaping stories or experiences, children can integrate the knowledge in a more practical way, while rehearsing how to act in every situation. This dual quality of play (instructive and creative) puts the child at the center of their own learning experience, by drawing from past concepts and planting a seed for future behavior.
We have also dived into handwork, with many children trying their hand at sewing with colored thread on burlap stretched over a small embroidery hoop. I have been impressed by their capacity to focus and carry a project over many days, as well as their aesthetic choices of color and pattern.
We worked with the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, first hearing the story orally, then watching it come alive in a puppet show, and finally acting it out. This sequence follows the same pattern as free play, where children are invited to imbue knowledge that they have with their own personality, thus integrating what they have learnt and giving it new life.
The Grimm's fairy tale "Sweet Porridge" tells the story of a little girl who is gifted a magic pot. The right words will make it bubble with good, sweet porridge, and "Stop, little pot, stop!" will make it stop. One day, when the little girl was out of town, mom forgets the final magic words and the porridge threatens to drown the whole town! The little girl arrives just in time to say "Stop, little pot stop!" and whoever wanted to go back home, had to eat their way through.
In this story, the children feel emboldened as it is the child who knows the magic words. They feel the bubbling activity start as welcome, and feel the drawbacks of it getting out of hand. The magic of being able to say stop! saves the day.
This wisdom can be applied when the sillies get out of hand, when a game goes on too far, and when one is searching for the words and courage to say "no more". This is especially timely as the Spring sap starts to run through the children 😉
February will find us making Valentine's Day cards, and looking for the first signs of Spring. We have already observed some brave bulbs peeking through the ground and cannot wait to see what color they will be!
Snowdrop, snowdrop, little drop of snow,
What do you do when the cold winds blow?
I hang my little head and say:
"Cold winds, cold winds, go away!"
Snowdrop, snowdrop, dressed in green and white,
What do you do when the Sun shines bright?
I lift my little head and say:
"Ding-a ling, ding-a ling, ding-a ling,
Here comes Spring!"