The Learning Circle: Fall
The Autumn is a lovely time of year. The days get crisper, the light lowers, the colors change into hues of yellow, orange and reds. It is the celebration of the harvest and the preparation for winter, moving into the darkest part of the year. It is an excellent and appropriate time to focus on building and preserving with children. The activities, focus, and book recommendations below are meant to be a starting point- inspiration, if you will- for you to celebrate this gorgeous season and it’s rhythms in your own home.
In September, the focus should be the Harvest. There are several related festivals this time of year (Lammas/Lughnasadh, Sukkot) that have their own unique traditions to draw upon. Take field trips to an orchard or farm, go to the forest and build shelters. Bake bread and make dehydrated apple rings. You can also start shrunken apple heads that you can use in October for decoration.
Book recommendations: The Little Red Hen, The Little Pot That Was Always Full (Norse), The Mysterious Guests: A Sukkot Story (Eric Kimmel), By the Light of the Harvest Moon (Harriet Ziefert), Apples Apples Apples (Nancy E Wallace), Ruby’s Falling Leaves (Max & Ruby)
In October, the theme shifts from the larger world, to the inner world. During this time, as the light starts to fade, explore the connection between the physical and spirit world. This does not have to be religious in any sense. We all contemplate what it means to be human, and our connection with those who have gone before us. Our stories are woven together, therefore, physically creating this symbolism through basket making, loom weaving, and even making spider web frames for the garden add to the richness of this theme. Trickster Tales and Spider Lore not only embody the human condition, but are often amusing and captivating, and easily tie in with weaving or building projects. During October, many people celebrate Halloween, Samhain, and Dia De Los Muertos (The Day of the Dead/All Souls Day) which can include carving pumpkins, making treat bags, building altars for loved ones who have passed and decorating sugar skulls. Field Trips can include museums that have a collection of weaving and baskets (African, Asian, Latin American, and Textile Museums are good bets) as well as cultural centers (especially Mexican heritage organizations for Dia De Los Muertos). Also fun are pumpkin patches and corn mazes!
Book Recommendations: Ananse Stories (West Africa), There was An Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything (Linda Williams), It’s Pumpkin Time (Zoe Hall), Day of the Dead (Tony Johnston), Songs from the Loom: A Native American Girl Learns to Weave (Monty Roessel), Weaving the Rainbow (George Lyon), an infinite variety of books on Halloween!
In November, our intentions must shift to preparing for winter and the darkest time of the year. It is a time of gratitude and caring. Early in November is the Indian celebration of Diwali/Divali (Hindu Festival of Lights). It is a gorgeous, colorful way to honor the shortening of our days. Two wonderful Diwali traditions include making small clay Diva lamps and Rangoli Patterns (either on the path in front of your house, or glued to cardstock so they may be moved). This is also a good time to work with beeswax, making candles and sculptures, and caring for the birds by making feeders that will help sustain them throughout the winter. Finally, November circles should not be without a community potluck. We hold one ever year called “The Stone Soup Feast” (based on the book by the same same)to show our gratitude for one another. The kids decorate the table and bring a favorite side dish. In addition, every family brings a vegetable to put into our soup pot. We never know from year to year how exactly it will end up, but every year it is delicious. Traditionally, one sizable (so kids don’t choke) stone is put into the pot, delivering good luck to the one who ends up with it in their bowl. Our circle has modified this idea and (when the kids are not looking) put a stone in each bowl before adding the soup. In this way, they all receive the blessing. Finally, we always make a Thankful Tree: cut a large tree trunk out of paper for the base and use silhouttes of each child’s hand as leaves. On the leaves, the kids can write the things they are grateful for and attach them to the tree.
Book recommendations: Stone Soup (Jon Muth), In November (Cynthia Rylant), Giving Thanks (Jonathan London), Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message (Chief Jake Swamp), The Story of Divaali (Verma Jatinder). Please not that there are many books on Thanksgiving itself, some secular and some religious. There will be plenty to choose from that fit your family’s values.