With December here now, we are beginning our season of Advent at Appleseeds. Many cultures celebrate this season in different ways and by means of different beliefs, but the symbol of light in darkness remains the same. I choose not to explain all this to children, but rather create a rich visual picture. So each day, we watch a candle that is embedded in an apple, move a little closer to a stable or house. Each day, one child gets to add a golden star to the sky above the scene. At our table, we have placed a mossy "Advent garden" with 4 white tealights. This week, we just lit one candle, and added treasures representing the mineral elements of Earth--a couple of pebbles, a sharks tooth, and a shell. Next week, we'll light two candles and add some plant treasures to the garden. I will put pictures on the blog next week as it builds up. This again provides a visual picture to the children of light increasing and the idea of abundance, though in this case the abundance is not in presents, but in the gifts provided in nature.
This weekend, we will gather in the early evening to have our lantern walk. This is a practice normally done during Martinmas, which occurs in early November, but we are doing it now, as part of our Advent season. The children will see a beautiful puppet show and then proceed outside in the darkness with our lanterns we've been working on, to sing songs while we make our way to a bonfire. It's meant to simply provide children with the rich experience of going out into the night (with the comfort of friends and family) with a little candlelight. Again, the purpose is not to explain anything, but just to allow the experience to unfold for the child. For the adult, if given time and space, Advent is a wonderful time to form our own rich imagery to strengthen our courage in our parenting task.
We have had such a busy past few weeks, and it is time to catch up a bit on the blog! In mid-November, we had a little cold snap for a few days, which brought about some new play outside. Of course on the coldest day, we did not use water outside, as it would make everyone quickly uncomfortable, but the children discovered ice all over the yard, and had a wonderful time picking it up, playing with it, and also hammering it! Ice can be a wonderful diversion in cold weather. Also, now the forest is cleared out from the leaves dropping, and it is easier for the children to navigate. They have found new places to play and roam, and can spread out a bit more, and still be within sight! Some children love to tread through the stream bed, ducking under vines and climbing over logs, back and forth and back and forth they'll go, working their whole bodies over and over. Some children like to climb the steep banks over and over again. Others like to play on the flat areas and scramble around in vines.
Indoors, we've had some new "cozy" stories. In one, Mother Earth goes out into her garden and seeing that the leaves on the trees are all turning golden, she busily prepares beds for all of the seeds and bulbs to sleep in. Some fairies close by discover some apple seeds left by the children and quickly bring them to Mother Earth, who tells them to tuck them into the folds of her mantel. Mother Earth then gathers the fairies into the folds of her earthy gown and covers them up. She calls the leaves down from the trees to make a warm blanket over the seeds and fairies, whom she is holding close, then calls jack frost to make a frost blanket, and finally calls the snow to make a white blanket to cover everything. She sings to them and rocks them all through the winter. Now we've been hearing about an acorn who is afraid to fall from his mother tree, but finally after being coaxed by Mother Earth, he drops down beside his brother and sister acorns, and Mother Earth again covers him with all the blankets that nature provides.
The cold weather has meant that our guinea pigs have also played with us inside, so that they too can stretch their legs. The children love feeding them vegetables and watching them nibble. For Thanksgiving week, some of the children helped to make cranberry relish, which was a fun and messy job that required cranking a mill and carefully putting in cranberries and oranges. We've also been continuing to crack pistachios and peanuts on some mornings for a little "squirrel snack".
And lastly, with all the stories of Mother Earth tucking the seeds and bulbs into bed, we too tucked some bulbs into bed both outside (tulips) and inside (amaryllis). Here's hoping that like the song Mother Earth sings, "when the springtime comes again, up they'll peep!".