Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day! I certainly hope it was a peaceful and enriching one for you. For us, it was a feast of last-minute lessons.
This morning, as I was making baked oatmeal and banana-nut muffins, I glanced at the calendar and realized that it’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
Again? I thought. Another holiday I am unprepared for. I am not sure why it is, but back when I was classroom teacher, I almost never missed tying official state holidays into lesson plans and often found fodder for classroom projects and fillers in more obscure every-day’s-a-holiday sort of observances, but, now, as a homeschool mom, such holidays creep up on me. I find myself with nothing special planned for special days.
Enter, the Internet, a quick rummage through our home library and some quick-thinking and – ta da! – a satisfying smorgasbord of holiday-related learning activities was tossed together:
Language and Social Concepts
We began by trying to read the “puzzle word” peace. Then, we chatted about what the word means by having Luke and Nina offer suggestions about what peace looks and sounds like, places we feel peaceful and how we demonstrate a feeling of peacefulness.
Some of the ideas we listed were that:
- The beach is a peaceful place.
- Hiking can be peaceful.
- Peace does not sound like yelling, whining or hurting others.
- Playing with toys and drawing can be peaceful.
- Loving one another is peaceful
- God is peaceful.
With thoughts about how we can create more peace in our home, we read and discussed the rather didactic, but still enjoyable book A Children's Book About Whining (Help Me Be Good).
As I read the book, I could not help but to think of it as a social story written before Carol Gray fine-tuned the concept of them and, as Luke and Nina eagerly connected not only with the examples in the book about why children whine, but also expanded on ideas of what to do instead of whining, I thought, “I really need to get the rest of this series and to begin using more social stories.” For, yes, while the Charlotte-Mason inspired part of me balks that such stories are not “living” enough, the practical Mama-dealing-with-special-and-typical-youngster-needs side of me finds them a great fit for daily living in our home.
When we finished reading A Children’s Book About Whining, we decided to put one idea suggested in it into immediate practice: For the remainder of the day, whenever anyone whined, we simply stated, “You are whining.” Then, if the person did not stop, we coached them to by asking them to share their problem or concern instead of whining about it. Oh, how I love proactive strategies the kids buy into. This one did not stop peace-deterring whining completely, but it did help redirect it more quickly, focusing the kids on solving their own problems and recognizing one another’s needs.
We, then, transitioned from what not to do to keep our home peaceful to what we could do to promote peace at home and beyond with our second read-aloud of the morning Because Brian Hugged His Mother. This is a book I purchased after seeing it in a Michael Olaf catalog (which is a rich resource for Montessorians). I’ve had it tucked away, waiting for just the right moment to share its message about how one single act of kindness can reach further than you think.
Luke and Nina remained enraptured as they learned how Brian hugged his Mom one morning for no special reason and how that hug set in motion a series of unselfish acts that reached more people—and animals—than he could have imagined. Then, right afterwards, Luke gave me the most enormous hug and the kids called Daddy to share their love with him in a phone message, which they imagined would travel from Daddy to his colleagues to… Thus commenced a fun imaginative time, thinking about ways we could share simple acts of peace, love and kindness and how these might affect the world.
Later in the day, we snuggled on the couch to read Peace Begins With You, which opened up wonderful age-appropriate discussions on differing definitions of peace, personal needs vs. wants, how to avoid or settle conflict, etc. In that, the book was a rich read. However, I mixed feelings about the book.
You see, I initially received the book in a box of hand-me-downs, glanced at the beautiful and gentle illustration on its front cover, quickly read the summary and accolades on the back cover and set it aside as a future read. Then, this morning, when I spied it, I thought, “Perfect!” only to change my mind once the children and I began turning its pages. That is when I realized that although the text of the book tackles the concept of peace in a way children can understand, moving from personal needs and wants to national and international issues, the book includes a few images that I find too unsettling for my young ones. For example, Luke and Nina keyed right into the illustration in the latter part of the book of a boy throwing a Molotov cocktail and Nina was particularly disturbed by the image of a starving child and infant. (Luckily there was an illustration of a happy, healthy baby and mother on the following page, which she decided was the children’s Mommy, with the baby “all better”.)
Now, I am not saying that we need to shield our children from realities of the world. I just think that we need to be sensitive about when and how to introduce and discuss certain ones with them. There is so much rich beauty that is real in the world that I would rather fortify my children with it before subjecting them to equally real ugliness. Thus, had I previewed this book more carefully, I might have presented only selections of it or waited to share it at a later time. Oops!
An image I did not mind sharing with my children was a line-drawing portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr. from DLTK, which we colored after talking about who MLK, Jr. was and how he impacted the world as a peacemaker. We also watched his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on YouTube.
We also watched and listened to “Let There Be Peace on Earth” on YouTube and discussed further how we can be peaceful and share peace with others. Plus, we prayed for friends and family using our B.L.E.S.S. flip cards, of course, asking for peace for all.
Our Martin Luther King, Jr. Day buffet was not fancy, nor fully-balanced with complete theme-related servings of our Daily Seven and Core Four Plus, but it did include plenty of discussion and learning and we filled in movement, math and other activities elsewhere in the day.
How about you? Did you observe the holiday today? What are some of your favorite go-to sites or last-minute activities for when you realize you’ve neglected to plan for a significant day?