22 July 2013

the water and oil of baptism

Although Little Sister initially ignored the Baptism materials in favor of the Holy Family and World Communion, she eventually went back to the attic and turned her attention to the Baptism doll. I accompanied her to a sink/basin where she was able to fill our little jug with water. She carried that through to where the materials were, and poured some out into the bowl. She then picked up the doll by its feet and prepared to dip it head-first into the bowl of water!

Never interfere?? All my training fell by the wayside. I gasped in horror and insisted, "No no no! We take water in our hand and put it on the baby's head that way."

Little Sister was much intrigued by the bottle of oil and asked what it was for. I used a little to make the sign of the cross on her forehead, and she did the same for me. But what is this [the bottle of oil] for? It struck me that I make little use of it in the lesson, since our Finnish Lutheran priests don't use any oil in a baptism. I said that we use it in the lesson to help us think about the Holy Spirit, and wound up presenting a portion of the Baptism lesson to her, the part that introduces the Trinity (The Holy Spirit ... is invisible, like the scent of this oil. It is invisible, but still there), and she went completely silent and gave it her full attention. 

We didn't have the Christ candle out, but I just indicated
what I would have done if we'd had one, and that seemed fine.

Afterwards she continued to wonder about the oil, and as we talked I realized and told her that her baptism had been a little different from her brother's in that she had been anointed with oil and he had not. Neither of her parents had been anointed at baptism; nor had I. Later at supper I recalled (and said) that Vandriver had, like her, been baptised by an Anglican priest. Both she and Vandriver had been anointed with oil at their baptisms.

Too late, it now occurs to me that I could have given her the words of a Finnish priest, Mika K T Pajunen, who said to us in a sermon, We are confirmed into a specific denomination, but we are baptized into the Christian Church. Whether our baptism includes anointing with oil, full immersion, the use of a scallop shell or not, we belong to the one body of Christ.

17 July 2013

more order... and concentration

While Little Sister was organizing and ordering the Jesus t'ings, her brother was engaged in somewhat similar work. He had found a new card game in our games drawer, featuring characters from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. He spent a lot of time, certainly more than an hour, working with the cards. Much of the work seemed to involve sorting them into different categories.

When he first found the game, he asked me a couple of questions about it, but as I had never even taken it out of its cellophane wrapper I was unable to help him very much. I encouraged him to open it and have a look, and we had a super-brief glance at the instructions together. At one point during the evening I heard his mother reading some of the instruction leaflet to him, and a while later I heard him ask her questions about a few characters, whether they were good guys or bad guys. Mostly, though, he worked with the cards alone. 

For a brief moment the next day I felt bad that I had spent so little time with him and so much time with Little Sister. But then I reasoned that with a little sister, it's probably rare that Big Brother gets to work alone and uninterrupted. One of the principles of Montessori education is the importance of non-interrupted work times, and the surprising finding that children can work alone and stay focussed for a long time (3-4 hours!). I hope that Big Brother experiences our house as an oasis, a place where he knows he is welcome and where he can get attention when he wants it, but also a place where he can work alone in quiet and calm.

13 July 2013

order - everything in its place

Remember Little Sister, who hunted through my attic for "Jesus things"? It wasn't enough for her to work with them in the attic; she wanted to carry them down to the living room as well. And when I look at the photographs I took, one thing that strikes me is order.

Godly Play is informed greatly by the educational methods of Maria Montessori. Montessori found that children are attracted to orderliness from a very early age, less than a year old in fact. She argued that children are sensitive to order (sensitivity is a technical term here, meaning able and eager to learn) during these early years, perhaps especially in their third year (age 2)). This does not mean that after their third birthday they stop finding order attractive, but rather that already by then they should have learned how to put things away, what belongs where, and how to recognize things that are out of order.

clockwise from left: Noah's ark, the Bethlehem stable, the Table of the Good Shepherd
(laid with a paten, a cruet, and bread), an Anglican rosary, and the Holy Family.

I am struck in this photograph by the way that Little Sister has made a differentiation (which is not emphasized in the Godly Play lessons) between the Christ Child's earthly family and the other characters in the Holy Family set - the shepherd, the magi, and the animals. (LS didn't have to decide where to place the "Risen Christ" figure since mine was in England at the time!) Also striking was the way she added several objects to the Godly Play materials. The terra cotta stable was unearthed while hunting through the attic, and is an obvious addition to a nativity scene.

More surprising additions might be the Anglican rosary (which she came across in our living room), and the Chinese triptych. The latter is a souvenir of the Five Oxen, a Tang dynasty Chinese painting. I don't know why she carefully placed it behind her work. Although the triptych is a common form in Christian art, I doubt that LS knows that yet. Perhaps it's because the ox (or cow) is one of the figures in the Holy Family. Or maybe it's just that this, like Godly Play materials, is a beautiful object of a size suitable for children.

adding a pair of elephants to the Holy Family

The last addition is not clear in any of my photographs, but is a set of two wooden elephants. Elephants are not mentioned in any Biblical accounts of the Christmas story... but then again neither is the donkey or the ox! (Indeed, I have seen one or two nativity sets suggesting one of the magi might just as well have ridden an elephant as a camel.)

In the Godly Play classroom, children are encouraged to bring together materials from more than one lesson, making theological connections between stories and seeing how one might illuminate another. But afterwards, the child is always expected to put things back where we always keep them, to maintain the order which is one of the comfortable and reassuring things about our room.

10 July 2013

art on Lindisfarne

Sheila's recent post about Saint Columba and the Book of Kells prompted me to put together a post about my visit with Vandriver to Holy Island (or Lindisfarne) this summer. Like Mont Saint-Michel, Lindisfarne is a tidal island (meaning that you can walk or drive to it, but only at low tide). In 635 AD a monastery was founded there by Aiden, a monk from Iona.

Aiden's tile - front
Among the ruins of the Benedictine abbey (built around 1150 AD), I found several modern "tiles" on display designed by children from the island village. It seemed especially fitting that the first one I came across was by a child named Aiden!
Aiden's tile - back

Can you spot two tiles in the picture below?

(hint: the tiles are white)

Here are two more tiles, close-up:

art by Rowan
art by Caitlin
I was intrigued by this project to engage local children with historic monuments (which then also reminded tourists that this island is some people's home).

While on Lindisfarne I also did some shopping. One purchase was a book which went straight into my store of art materials for the Godly Play room: The Freehand Celtic Knot Manual, written by Mary Fleeson of the Lindisfarne Scriptorium. The book gives instructions for drawing six different types of knots and plaits. Fleeson writes, Ideally you should enjoy what you are doing, exercise your imagination and draw nearer to God through the experience.

05 July 2013

the Jesus t'ings

Our year in England is not yet over, but we recently had the chance to return to Finland for a short visit. We were glad to spend time with one young family who used to come regularly to Junior Church.  After a day's outing together, the children asked whether they might come to our house and we ended up giving a spontaneous Yes. Big Brother found the toy drawer without delay, and settled down with its dominoes and a new card game. But Little Sister...
He saw the dust lying thick on everything, saw the cheerless, deserted look of the long-neglected house, and its narrow, meagre dimensions, its worn and shabby contents— and collapsed again on a hall-chair, his nose to his paws. 'O Ratty!' he cried dismally, 'why ever did I do it? Why did I bring you to this poor, cold little place, on a night like this?'
--Kenneth Grahame

Like the Mole in The Wind and the Willows, who remembers his home as being ready to step right back into, Little Sister seemed disappointed not to find our living room set up for Godly Play. With my permission (and my company) she set off for the attic, and began rummaging. Mother asked her several times what she was looking for, but she found it hard to articulate an answer. Finally, with perhaps a little frustration she cried, The Jesus tings!

It was not hard to find at least some of them, however, and she soon set about working with what we had found.

* in addition to the Holy Family, Little Sister 
is working with some World Communion
materials, Noah's ark, and the terra cotta 
stable which came with the figures we
originally used for our Holy Family (before 
acquiring the Finnish Godly Play set).