No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.  ~Proverb

Happy March Equinox Everyone!

Humankind’s imagination is as vast as the solar system we live in! Out of our imagination comes tools for working, farming, and building. If we let our imaginations soar we become inventors. In fact, inventive thinking and problem solving is something we do everyday. We see a problem and come up with a solution. In the Oak Meadow 5th grade science curriculum, students study technology and design and work on their own inventions.  It’s so much fun to see what they imagine and bring into the world! They construct things that help with a job around the house, create toys for pets, and design many other practical and useful items. Humankind just seems to long for answers to questions!
Long ago astronomers sought answers to the many questions about the universe. When an answer wasn’t in sight, they imagined and created stories or guidelines for their lives. They imagined stories about the stars they saw in the night sky, imagined the sun went to sleep each night, and imagined the world was flat. In future years we have come to understand more about the universe through observation. In observing the rising and setting of the sun, astronomers imagined a great dome over the Earth’s sky and called it the celestial sphere. They imagined the celestial equator as being in the middle of the north and south poles and right above the Earth’s equator. 
During the March equinox, when we have twelve hours of daylight and twelve hours of darkness, “the sun crosses the celestial equator, to enter the sky’s Northern Hemisphere. No matter where you are on Earth (except the North and South Poles), you have a due east and due west point on your horizon. That point marks the intersection of your horizon with the celestial equator, the imaginary line above the true equator of the Earth. And that’s why the sun rises due east and sets due west, for all of us, at the equinox. The equinox sun is on the celestial equator. No matter where you are on Earth, the celestial equator crosses your horizon at due east or due west.”
Photo and quote reprinted from EarthSky, written by Bruce McClure in Tonight
So get outside on March 20th and find due east and due west in your environment! It’s the first day of spring!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

St. Patrick’s Day is an enchanted time – a day to begin transforming winter’s dreams into summer’s magic. – Adrienne Cook

Every year, on March 17th, people who celebrate St. Patrick’s Day don their greenest garb, search for four-leaf clovers, eat corn beef and cabbage, dance the Irish jig, march in parades, and search for the leprechaun and his pot of gold. There are many famous Irish sayings and blessings that come to mind. One of my favorites Irish blessings is: “May you always walk in sunshine. May you never want for more. May Irish angels rest their wings right beside your door.”
Whether you are Irish or not, it can be a joyful occasion for both young and old. As a child, my favorite part of this celebration was wearing a bit of green (so I wouldn’t get pinched). I also delighted in imagining how a leprechaun might appear, as well as hearing the legend of this mythical creature.
Since St. Patrick’s Day falls on a Saturday this year, there is the expectation of extra revelry. One of the oldest worldwide celebrations is a parade. The first St. Patrick’s Day parade in the United States was held in New York City in 1762, which was before the Revolutionary War and prior to its independence. If you’d like to join one in your area, here is a list for every state and throughout the world.
If you prefer to enjoy a quieter celebration, perhaps your family would like to host a gathering that includes educational games and fun-filled activities. You could have a treasure hunt to search for a “pot of gold”. Instead of playing “Pin the Tail on the Donkey”, you could have a geography lesson by pinning the country of Ireland onto a map of Europe.
Playing group games can be a lot of fun, too. Here are the rules for “Leprechaun, Leprechaun! Where’s Your Shamrock?”

  • One child is the leprechaun, who sits in the middle of the circle with eyes closed.
  • One of the children in the circle hides the shamrock behind his/her back. It’s suggested to have an adult distribute the shamrock so everyone gets a turn.
  • Circle children say: “Leprechaun, Leprechaun! Where’s your shamrock?  Somebody has it in their pocket!  Guess who?  Maybe you?  Maybe a monkey from the zoo!  Come on, Leprechaun, find your shamrock.”.
  • Leprechaun opens eyes and has 3 guesses as to who has the shamrock.
  • Child with the shamrock becomes the next leprechaun.

A St. Patrick’s Day gathering could also include a healthy green treat, such as a Mint Patty Shake that will delight the palette of all your guests. Here is a simple recipe:
Ingredients:

  • 1⁄2 cup refrigerated coconut milk
  • 1 pint mint chip ice cream
  • 2 cups packed baby kale

Instructions:
In a blender, combine coconut milk, ice cream, and kale. Cover and blend until smooth. (Makes 2 – 8 oz. servings)
While you are sipping on your green beverage, you could share some St. Patrick Day jokes and riddles:
Q: Where can leprechauns always find gold on St. Patty’s Day?
A: In the dictionary!
Q: Why are leprechauns so concerned about global warming?
A: They’re really into green living.
Here’s a few more theme-related riddles and jokes, just for the fun of it!
At the end of the festive day, you might enjoy reading some special books about St. Patrick’s Day. The site, Fireflies + Mud Pies, has an excellent source of books that will be a delight to story readers and listeners, alike.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Board Games = Fun!

PLAY, PLAY, PLAY!

After the holidays, the one memory that lingers the longest for me is the fun my family had playing a board game together. There is something about sitting together, watching each other smile, laugh, grimace, and pout!

I’m not talking about a video or online board game. I’m talking about an actual game that has a board that one unfolds from a real box. I like to play a real board game in which one can feel the pieces and move them with one’s own hand. I like a game with a lot of pieces that has to be set up before the game can begin. I also like a game in which I could choose to be two or three players, and I also like a game with a bit of intrigue! Catan is a front-runner, and the games of Clue and Monopoly happen to be favorites of my family because they can take so long to play. We start a game and take a break for a snack or lunch and go back to it when we’re ready. Sometimes we even finish a game the next day.

A board game is a lot more than fun. It’s imagining strategy, thinking through moves, and creating logical outcomes. It is also practice for some important skills that we all use in our daily lives. We practice cooperation, we learn how to compromise, we work together through collaboration. Playing a board game with family and friends also gives us time to practice sympathy, compassion, and empathy with our fellow players.

I’ve played so many fun games! I love Scattergories, Apples to Apples, and the new game Sagrada is quick and fun! What games are your favorites?

Favorite Holiday Traditions (Shared by Oak Meadow K-8 Teachers)

If I only had one holiday tradition that I could carry out, it would be quality time with my family and friends every year! I asked my colleagues to send in their favorite holiday traditions, and the responses were fantastic. I would like to share their stories that prove family time is the true joy of the season.
Kay Gibson: I love the idea of sharing traditions.  I tend to celebrate the season.  I usually go to a solstice gathering where we have a bonfire and lots of good hot food and drinks.  Hot apple cider and a warm bowl of chili in the glow of a fire is a great tradition for me.  It is especially fun when there is snow on the ground, as it brings more light into the darkest part of the year (here in the northern hemisphere). 

Photo Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:6KolaceCookies.jpg

Sarah Antel: Foods connected to my family’s heritage have always been important and taken a center stage especially at the holidays. Growing up and into present time, Hungarian lekvar cookie dough was rolled out on my great grandmother’s wooden board, systematically cut, filled with prune butter, rolled around the filling, and baked. At some point during my childhood, Christmas Eve dinner consisted of Polish peirogies, shrimp, and a light mushroom soup. I’ve continued this tradition in my own home on Christmas Eve. And now that Sicilian traditions are also a part of our life, Christmas Day includes an abundance of seafood, eggplant parmesan, and Italian wedding soup.
Photo Credit: Meg Minehan

Meg Minehan: Our family has a few favorite holiday traditions. Ever since my kids were quite young, we have decorated a tree for the animals. We create edible ornaments, such as birdseed and peanut butter pine cones and popcorn cranberry garlands. We choose a spruce, pine or balsam fir that is “just right.” It is especially fun during a snowy December when we can go back a few days later and inspect the visitors tracks!
Another favorite tradition we’ve incorporated in more recent years is our family, homemade gift exchange. We draw names, and the only rule is you must make the gift. These gifts are simple and fun. Sometimes treats are concocted in the kitchen or treasures are created with wood scraps, paper, or yarn.  It is amazing how much thought goes into these presents. One year my son made his oldest sister a rustic birdhouse because he knows how much she loves birds. 
Of course, food is always a part of our holiday gatherings. Even though most of the year we try to limit ourselves to more wholesome treats, this time of year, we bring out the white flour and colored, sanding sugar for holiday cutout cookies. These are in addition to the other traditions… i.e. Santa, our Christmas tree, etc.
Photo Credit: Andy Kilroy

Andy Kilroy: Our family does advent calendars, but a little differently. In Denmark, there are little elves called Julen. These little guys wear big red hats and the night of November 30 creep into the house and put chocolate on the calendars, which are embroidered and hung up on the wall. They then go and help themselves to sugar in the sugar bowls or canister leaving tiny footprints in the sugar they spill. In the morning of December 1, the children wake up and fly down the steps and discover 24 pieces of chocolate hung on the calendars – one for each day before Christmas to count down to the big day. Here is a picture of the calendar I made years ago for my son. 
Lesley Arnold: When my kids were little we invited all their friends and parents to our house for a production of “The Night Before Christmas”. Our friend, a music teacher, interspersed the show with Christmas songs we all sang. Each family brought a present (in secret) wrapped with their own child’s name on it. (We tried to have it be a small gift so none were “outdone” by someone else’s gift.) I read “The Night Before Christmas” and my husband and friends acted out the poem. It was a big production with costumes and all! We even had a tiny sleigh and reindeer that we made and put on a pulley across the ceiling. The big event, though, was Santa Claus arriving. We put a picture of a fireplace in a doorway and he arrived through that! My father played Santa Claus and no one even knew it was him. In his big bag were all the presents for the kids. He called out each name and they came up and got their present. What a celebration it was! We still talk about my oldest daughter playing the sugar plum fairy at age 4! A wonderful event and the memory is the best gift!
Anna Logowitz: My sister and I were always in charge of choosing what color Chanukah candles we wanted for each night, and as we got older we also learned how to melt the ends so that they would stay upright in some of our shakier menorahs. The family menorah was simple dark metal, but over the years we accumulated two more. Our Aunt Nancy died when I was 9, and she had a flat little menorah, which became my sister’s and is now with me. My parents also went on a trip and brought back a beautiful one from an art school fair that branched like a tree and had birds sitting in it. We came up with different candle patterns, new ones each night, and watched to see which candles would last the longest.
My mother grew up Christian, and she repurposed two of her family’s traditions for us: Christmas cake became Good Luck Cake, to be eaten on the new year, and every year we made cookies – using Jewish and secular cookie cutters and a lot of very colorful homemade icing – to take to a party that we had with two other couples who had all been in a mixed marriage group with my parents before we were born. We ate them for dessert after latkes and corned beef, over a very large game a dreidel. That party is still going on after 35 years, I believe. 
We usually managed to do at least one special thing every night, whether it was being out and about or doing something at home, and we would always pick one night to do Chanukah full out, i.e. make latkes, which are a lot of work and leave the house smelling like oil and onions for days! I used to love to go to school the next day with the smell still in my clothes, because it meant that this was a special time of year. 
Photo Credit: Michelle Menegaz

Michelle Menegaz: We have started a new tradition based on an old one. Every year we had the most beautiful poignant Advent Spiral celebrations in a beautiful round healing sound temple. We used our own apples, drilled holes for candles and made a spiral of greens, stones, shells, small wooden animals, wild berries of winter, etc. Along the path, we placed large golden yellow paper stars. Children would walk alone (if old enough) into the center of the spiral, light their apple candle from the lit pillar in the middle, and then walk back out, placing their apple on one of the stars. We had quiet singing and music as they traversed this highly symbolic journey of traveling through the dark to find light at the center of it all, then bringing their light back out to the world.
Over the years my growing daughter got tired of this and we got tired of the huge effort of making it. For a few years, there was nothing and it felt sad. Last year, we had an impromptu gathering of about 7 teen girls, some of whom helped me create a huge labyrinth of greens outside in the snow atop our pasture hill. We had a campfire down below and when it was dark and the mood was right, each girl trudged up the hill, took up an unlit beeswax tea light in a pint mason jar, walked the snowy path between the greens, and lit their candle from the same pillar in the middle. Those waiting sang songs of light and joy. They headed back out and nestled their jar amongst the greens, and cavorted down the hill. There was more laughter, more shouting, more action, more unbridled LIFE so it had a different tone. But every single girl thanked me profusely and said it was the best thing they had done in a long time and that they missed this sort of thing. We will be doing this again this Solstice!
So, review the essence of what you treasure about your traditions and see if you can bring that to meet your growing children, even the young adult ones, in a new way that feeds them still.
We will love to hear from you! What are your favorite holiday traditions?
 

NORAD Tracks Santa!

Now that December has arrived, the holiday spirit is in full gear and children and families around the globe are excitedly making their special preparations. If Santa is celebrated in your home, you might like to join the NORAD Tracks Santa countdown that begins every year on December 1st.
This particular event hosted by NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command) has a wonderful story relating to how tracking Santa actually began. According to the NORAD Tracks Santa website:
On Dec. 24, 1955, a call was made to the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. However, this call was not from the president or a general. It was from a young child in Colorado Springs who was following the directions in an advertisement printed in the local paper – the youngster wanted to know the whereabouts of Santa Claus.
The ad said “Hey, Kiddies! Call me direct and be sure and dial the correct number.” However, the number was printed incorrectly in the advertisement and rang into the CONAD operations center.
On duty that night was Colonel Harry Shoup, who has come to be known as the “Santa Colonel.” Colonel Shoup received numerous calls that night and rather than hanging up, he had his operators find the location of Santa Claus and reported it to every child who phoned in that night.
Thus began a tradition carried on by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) when it was formed in 1958. Today, through satellite systems, high-powered radars and jet fighters, NORAD tracks Santa Claus as he makes his Yuletide journey around the world.
Every year on December 24, fifteen hundred volunteers staff telephones and computers to answer calls and e-mails from children (and adults) from around the world. Live updates are provided through the NORAD Tracks Santa Website (in seven languages), over telephone lines, and by e-mail to keep curious children and their families informed about Santa’s whereabouts and if it’s time to get to bed.

Photo Credit: NORAD Tracks Santa
Photo Credit: NORAD Tracks Santa

If you visit Santa’s Village, you will discover there is even more than just the tracking of Santa on Christmas Eve. In Santa’s village, there is a Theater to watch movies, an Arcade to play a new game every day, a Music Stage for listening to Santa’s favorite holiday songs, and a Library to learn about Santa, his magic sleigh, and holiday traditions. There is even a gift shop you can visit!
For the past 62 years, NORAD Tracks Santa has provided a magical delight to families all over the world. If you are a Santa “believer”, then you just might like to join in these annual festivities!

December 10 is Human Rights Day!

On December 10, 1948, the United Nations General Assembly adopted The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It had taken the committee, led by Eleanor Roosevelt, over a year to complete their final draft. When the General Assembly gathered in Paris in 1948 to adopt the declaration, it was a remarkable event.  One member wrote: “I perceived clearly that I was participating in a truly significant historic event in which a consensus had been reached as to the supreme value of the human person, a value that did not originate in the decision of a worldly power, but rather in the fact of existing—which gave rise to the inalienable right to live free from want and oppression and to fully develop one’s personality.  In the Great Hall…there was an atmosphere of genuine solidarity and brotherhood among men and women from all latitudes, the like of which I have not seen again in any international setting.” Hernán Santa Cruz of Chile
On the United Nations website it reads:

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948, was the result of the experience of the Second World War. With the end of that war, and the creation of the United Nations, the international community vowed never again to allow atrocities like those of that conflict happen again. 

So what does the Universal Declaration of Human Rights say?

This simplified version, from the Youth for Human Rights International (YHRI) website, of the 30 Articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been created especially for young people:
1. We Are All Born Free & Equal. We are all born free. We all have our own thoughts and ideas. We should all be treated in the same way.
2. Don’t Discriminate. These rights belong to everybody, whatever our differences.
3. The Right to Life. We all have the right to life, and to live in freedom and safety.
4. No Slavery. Nobody has any right to make us a slave. We cannot make anyone our slave.
5. No Torture. Nobody has any right to hurt us or to torture us.
6. You Have Rights No Matter Where You Go. I am a person just like you!
7. We’re All Equal Before the Law. The law is the same for everyone. It must treat us all fairly.
8. Your Human Rights Are Protected by Law. We can all ask for the law to help us when we are not treated fairly.
9. No Unfair Detainment. Nobody has the right to put us in prison without good reason and keep us there, or to send us away from our country.
10. The Right to Trial. If we are put on trial this should be in public. The people who try us should not let anyone tell them what to do.
11. We’re Always Innocent Till Proven Guilty. Nobody should be blamed for doing something until it is proven. When people say we did a bad thing we have the right to show it is not true.
12. The Right to Privacy. Nobody should try to harm our good name. Nobody has the right to come into our home, open our letters, or bother us or our family without a good reason.
13. Freedom to Move. We all have the right to go where we want in our own country and to travel as we wish.
14. The Right to Seek a Safe Place to Live. If we are frightened of being badly treated in our own country, we all have the right to run away to another country to be safe.
15. Right to a Nationality. We all have the right to belong to a country.
16. Marriage and Family. Every grown-up has the right to marry and have a family if they want to. Men and women have the same rights when they are married, and when they are separated.
17. The Right to Your Own Things. Everyone has the right to own things or share them. Nobody should take our things from us without a good reason.
18. Freedom of Thought. We all have the right to believe in what we want to believe, to have a religion, or to change it if we want.
19. Freedom of Expression. We all have the right to make up our own minds, to think what we like, to say what we think, and to share our ideas with other people.
20. The Right to Public Assembly. We all have the right to meet our friends and to work together in peace to defend our rights. Nobody can make us join a group if we don’t want to.
21. The Right to Democracy. We all have the right to take part in the government of our country. Every grown-up should be allowed to choose their own leaders.
22. Social Security. We all have the right to affordable housing, medicine, education, and childcare, enough money to live on and medical help if we are ill or old.
23. Workers’ Rights. Every grown-up has the right to do a job, to a fair wage for their work, and to join a trade union.
24. The Right to Play. We all have the right to rest from work and to relax.
25. Food and Shelter for All. We all have the right to a good life. Mothers and children, people who are old, unemployed or disabled, and all people have the right to be cared for.
26. The Right to Education. Education is a right. Primary school should be free. We should learn about the United Nations and how to get on with others. Our parents can choose what we learn.
27. Copyright. Copyright is a special law that protects one’s own artistic creations and writings; others cannot make copies without permission. We all have the right to our own way of life and to enjoy the good things that art, science and learning bring.
28. A Fair and Free World. There must be proper order so we can all enjoy rights and freedoms in our own country and all over the world.
29. Responsibility. We have a duty to other people, and we should protect their rights and freedoms.
30. No One Can Take Away Your Human Rights.

On December 10th I encourage you to read aloud and discuss the original Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Know your rights!

 

 

Favorite Family Traditions

December has arrived, which finds most of us in the full swing of holiday activities that connect us with seasonal rhythms of nature. Many of these festivities are surrounded by family and food, and a time for celebrating traditions. The most important tradition for the holiday season isn’t purchased at a store or doesn’t come wrapped in a package. Instead, it is spending time with family and friends. The memories made with those most precious to you can last a lifetime.
Here are ten ways to enjoy your holiday season with favorite family traditions:

  • Start a Family Memory Book – Everyone loves something made by hand, so why not create a family memory book? Every year, have each family member draw a picture of a favorite holiday activity, or even add a special photo to the book. These will be treasured as the pages and years grow in numbers.
  • Play Family Games – Holiday-themed charades can fill your home with laughter and joy! Playing a new board game every year is another enjoyable way to share quality time together.
  • Camp Out in the Living Room – Enjoy a family campout right in your living room. Light candles or a fire in the fireplace, play holiday music, sing songs together, and cozy up for a night with visions of sugarplums dancing in your head.
  • Share Stories – Read one of your childhood’s favorite holiday stories aloud as a family. Telling stories about your personal childhood will especially delight your children.
  • Act Out Stories – Acting out a holiday story can be a memorable tradition. Writing your own family play and presenting it to extended family members and friends is always exciting. You might even like to videotape it, start a new videotape every year, and then plan to watch the video of your family’s past year’s performance.
  • Be Playful – Your imaginations can soar with creativity and playfulness! Hide some of the holiday gifts instead of putting them in their regular place. Write out little clues and follow footprints made by the elves.
  • Be Secretive – Children love secrets! Make some extra traditional holiday cookies or special treats and secretly place a plateful at a neighbor’s door. There is nothing like making everyone smile as this little mystery is unfolded and solved!
  • Learn About Other Cultural Traditions – Go to the library and pick out stories of holidays in other cultures. Make a traditional meal or complete a craft project related to one of the cultural festivities.
  • Gift Yourself by Giving to Others – Have your children pick out one of their own toys, games, or clothes – something they like and think would be a joy to share with others. Go together to a local shelter to hand out the presents.
  • Invent Your Own Family Tradition – If you’re looking for a special way to bring your family closer this year, come up with your own favorite family tradition. The most valuable and long-lasting traditions start in the heart of your family.
Photo Credit: Spreading a Little Kindness

The Nutcracker Ballet

One of my favorite traditions during this time of year is watching the annual production of “The Nutcracker Ballet”. This grand holiday tradition dazzles and delights the audience with spectacular choreographed dancing, beautiful costumes, glorious scenery, and pyrotechnical magic as the brilliance of Tchaikovsky’s symphonic music is brought to life. “The Nutcracker” production is a very special performance for me, as it always brings back warm and wonderful memories of a magical family event during my children’s early home schooling years.
If taking your children to see “The Nutcracker Ballet” is a part of your holiday plans, then I highly recommend filling your home with the amazing orchestral soundtrack before you attend the performance. Since the performance is “told” in the form of music and dance, I also recommend reading aloud the story so your children can better understand the storyline during the performance. There are many books written about the Nutcracker and the Mouse King. One of my favorites is the original tale of Nutcracker, written by E.T.A. Hoffmann (in 1816), translated by Ralph Manheim, and illustrated by Maurice Sendak.
If you are also interested in sharing a little history of this special ballet with your children, then I recommend the book, The Nutcracker Comes to America: How Three Ballet-loving Brothers Created a Holiday Tradition, written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Cathy Gendron.
Who would ever have thought that during WW II, three small-town Utah boys interested in ballet would have  started this annual holiday tradition? “The Nutcracker Ballet” has retained its freshness because it appeals to the sense of wonder in both children and adults. It is a memorable and magical event that every family should enjoy together at least once, if not every year as a family tradition.

Samhain

The last of the harvest is collected.  Bonfires bring light into the dwindling sunlight hours.  Masks and costumes decorate the night full of merriment and somber reflection.  The cycle of the seasons mirror the cycle of life.  And festivals acknowledge these annual events.  Around the world different festivals are celebrated remembering those who have passed.  Samhain, (pronounced  sah-win or sow-in)  in the Celtic tradition is one such observance.
Samhain means summer’s end, which celebrates the end of the harvest.  It is also a festival of the dead, where families and friends gather and light candles in honor of the departed.  The date of the festival is observed at the midpoint between the autumnal equinox and the winter solstice, October 31 – November 1.
Samhain is celebrated in many ways including reflective nature walks; seasonal decorations; an altar for the dead; stories of the dead;  bonfires and feasting, and wearing of traditional costumes.  It is thought to be one of the original festivals connected to the Halloween traditions of many western countries, (All Hallow’s Eve).

Photo Credit: Liljegren Family

Whatever traditions you observe at this time of the year, keep your inner light shining, notice the changes around you, and listen to or tell stories of your ancestors or other important aspects of your culture.  
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…
For those of you living in the Southern Hemisphere, what traditions do you have at this time of year?
“Celebrating Samhain.”  Circle Sanctuary, www.circlesanctuary.org/index.php/celebrating-the-seasons/celebrating-samhain, Date: October 21, 2017
This post was written by Kay Gibson, Oak Meadow’s Interim K-8 Director. 

A Festive Time of Year!

See the little candles shining, shining bright?
Oh, how we love to see their light!
E. Kudor and T. Melia
The winter solstice has arrived in the northern hemisphere! For many people and many cultures, it is a festive time of year, and the activities are often centered around festivals. Festivals connect us with seasonal rhythms of nature and the cosmos. These celebrations can be as simple as preparing a seasonal food, sharing a special story, completing a handcraft project, making a seasonal table, or having a party with friends and family members.

Photo Credit: Rhonda Baird

In celebration of the winter solstice, I annually host a Winter Garden Spiral Walk for my local home school students and their families. It is a time when all are “invited” to go inward and kindle our inner light to bring into the world and share with others. For those who are unfamiliar with the Winter Garden Spiral, or Advent Spiral as it is often called, it is an old European tradition. Evergreen boughs are laid on the floor (if held inside) or on the ground (if held outside) in the form of a spiral. I like to adorn my spiral with watercolor painted stars, wooden animals, felted gnomes, elves and angels, and elements of nature (such as seashells, pine cones, rocks and crystals, colorful berries, etc.) In the center of the spiral is a lit candle that represents the coming of light into the darkness. With only this one candle initially lit, each person takes a turn to walk the spiral holding an apple containing an unlit candle. Some individuals choose to walk in silence, while others choose to recite a verse or to sing a song that others can help sing. As the person reaches the center, the unlit candle is lit from the center candle. Walking back out of the spiral, a place is chosen along the spiral to set the apple with the lit candle. As each person has a turn, more and more lit candles grace the spiral, and the space becomes increasingly filled with light. It truly is a beautiful experience and one of my favorite festivities of the year.
Photo Credit: Leslie Daniels

Some of my favorite winter solstice books for children include: The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice by Wendy Pfeffer, The Winter Solstice by Ellen Jackson, and A Solstice Tree for Jenny by Karen Shragg. If you are interested in learning more about other seasonal festivals, here is a list of books that offer creative ideas and projects: Festivals, Family and Food by Diana Carey and Judy Large; A Child’s Seasonal Treasury compiled and written by Betty Jones; Celebrating Festivals with Children by Freya Jaffke; The Nature Corner: Celebrating the Year’s Cycle with a Seasonal Table by M. V. Leeuwen; and A Time to Keep – The Tasha Tudor Book of Holidays by Tasha Tudor.
Happy Solstice! Happy Holidays!! And Happy New Year!
 

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