June 3, 2010

Week Long Virtues Theme

The kids got a little tired of reading our Central Figures books every morning, so I decided to mix things up a little to get their attention again. In my on-going quest to set the Baha'i writings to music for our humble little devotional gatherings, I had set this quote to guitar months ago and thought it an easy way to commit the words to memory.

Surely all must today be called to love, to unity and kindness, to integrity and friendship, to fellowship and divine worship...

So, each morning this week we sang the song together and made a small piece of word-art for each of the virtues mentioned in the quote. The boys finger painted outlines of large letters while Hannah Jane used colored pencils to detail smaller letters. We used sticky tack to add a couple of new painted words to our wall each day, completing the quote on the last day. Often the boys would team up on one word because their attention span just wouldn't support a full word to themselves. Hannah Jane colored contently while singing and discussing meanings.

Love was an easy one. Not a whole lot of discussion was needed, but we did talk about how love is not a word, but an attitude and action. The kids say the words, "I love you," constantly and this was a nice time to remind them that saying it is great and very important, but words without deeds are empty.

Unity was slightly harder. The kids toss that word around a lot, too, because they are adorable little Baha'i kiddos and there is no word more familiar to the Baha'i child than unity. At least not as far as I have witnessed. But when we talked about what it means, we had a wide variety of examples on the table. So rather than defining it, I decided to simplify the lesson and tell them a variety of stories and have them discuss whether the characters demonstrated unity or not. That seemed to work well.

Kindness was too easy. Instead of talking about what it means, we looked back on our week thus far and discussed times that we had and hadn't successfully shown kindness. There were plenty of examples for each and when we talked about the times we hadn't used kindness, we talked about how we could do better next time.

Integrity was tricky. We tried to define this one without a dictionary, but sadly even I had trouble coming up with a concise definition right off the top of my head. So we called upon our old fried Webster and went with what he had to say! Coming up with a definition was about all we did for this one. I was tempted to talk about people we know who live with integrity, but people tend to lapse into moments of shady behavior and other people should never really be our measuring stick for how we live our own lives, so we opted not to use any one who is still alive as an example of integrity.

Friendship seemed easy enough, but I thought it to be a good time to discuss how important true friendship is in the building of community. We talked about how some people are easy and natural friends, and that's fabulous, but that some friendships take a little more work and determination and that those are just as important as the easy ones. We also talked about the importance of choosing friends who will encourage you to behave in alignment with our values, and although we should love everyone, it can be best to require our friends to be positive influences in our lives and not settle for friendships that strain our character. That's a tricky line to teach children, and maybe shouldn't have even been approached. But when we first moved here to the valley, I saw Hannah Jane so desperate for friends that she tolerated some pretty vile treatment from other kids. Now that she has a plethora of friends, she is less likely to put up with being bullied, but we need to remember to have standards of treatment in even the lowest of times.

No more cool pics because Haven crumpled the words that were low enough for him to reach!

Fellowship went sort of hand in hand with friendship. We looked this one up and I didn't love the definition from a Baha'i standpoint. It is defined as, "the association with people who share common beliefs and religion." We are taught to, "Associate with the followers of all religions in a spirit of friendliness and fellowship." There are sure to be perceived differences in "beliefs and religion" when you are befriending people of...um...different religions... So this definition of fellowship didn't quite work for what we were learning. We decided that fellowship is spending time with friends and loved ones in an uplifting way.

Divine worship was the winner in terms of discussion. Everything we discussed up to that point fed into our thoughts on divine worship. "We should worship God with all of the people who love God. Not just Baha'is!" Hannah Jane suggested. Bingo!!! Winner, winner, chicken dinner! That's what I was going for, sister! "We can be friends with all sorts of people and since we are all worshiping the same God in different ways, we can just do it together" Whoo-hoo!!! They got it!

The kids loved the song and it really did help them commit this list of ever so important virtues to memory. I am lousy at telling people how to play songs on the guitar because I don't actually know all of the names of all of the chords I play (really should have taken lessons!) or any of the technical terminology, so if you really want the song, drop me an e-mail and send you the video or I'll do my best to walk you through it. It's nice and easy with only the most basic chords (since that's all I'm good for) so if you play at all, you could do it! But I won't make the rest of you suffer through my explanation.

There you have it! A super fun week of art and music with an important theme! Give it a go!

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