Monday, December 21, 2009

First Day School: New Beginnings

Not quite two years ago, some Catholic friends happened to be talking about the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd around me and I asked a lot of questions and found out that it was a Montessori-based form of religious education that some Catholics use and that has been adapted for use for some other faiths as well.  Being a Montessori mom and our Meeting's First Day School teacher, I was pretty excited.  I read some books and a training manual and got thinking about how I could adapt it for our First Day School. 

For a long time, the Lone Star Girl was the only Quaker child in town.  I started doing a sort of home First Day School with her when she was about three and tried to get her to the Austin Meeting every now and then so that she could see that there were other Quaker children in the world.  When she was six years old, a nine-year-old girl walked into Meeting one day with her parents and a whole other chapter of our lives started.  The girls had First Day School together after that and we sort of muddled through.  We learned about the testimonies and Quaker history and read many novels that illustrated both, but I found that the girls were truly the leaders and rather resistant to my planning any sort of curriculum for a long time.  They did pretty well on their own, though.  They instigated a project that resulted (with much help) in a peace quilt that travels around South Central Yearly Meeting now and starting a couple of years ago, they began a study of world religions, which I think is an excellent course of study for teens in their religious education, all adolescents being seekers as they are. 

When the Lone Star Baby was nearing three, a new family joined our Meeting, with a daughter her age.  We decided to start thinking about First Day School for them when they were both three.  By that time, our new child had a baby brother and a family with a six-year-old and a nine-year-old came to a few Meetings.  I decided I needed to get this First Day School thing in gear!  

I brought the idea of a modified-for-Quakers Montessori-based curriculum to a Meeting for Business and the Meeting was happy with that so I started making materials.  I made the Good Shepherd and added His sheep.  I made a little Quaker meeting with clothespin people to represent the adult and children and a little dove to represent the Holy Spirit.  As Christmas approached last year, I made a clothespin Angel and Mary with another little dove for the Annunciation.  By that time, the newest family with the school-aged kids wasn't attending anymore to my dismay, but I had two sort of "classes" - the two big girls who met before Meeting and the two little girls who met during and who were still pretty wild and used to playing rather than settling down for First Day School. 

Last summer, both of the other Quaker families with children in our Meeting moved out of state.  

I was pretty devastated as were my girls.  We miss them terribly.  Now my kids are the only Quaker kids  in town again.  There was one new family with three kids who came a couple of times but they live in Kingsville and found that just too far to drive.

The only good thing to come out of the move is that, now that we couldn't meet at our clerk's house anymore since he moved, we started meeting at a church where our new clerk works. It has a Sunday School room that is fully stocked with Godly Play materials that we may use.  Godly Play, as it turns out, grew out of the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd.  In fact, as it turns out, there are already a tiny bit of Quaker adapted materials out there known as Faith "N' Play.  Not all of the Godly Play materials can be adapted to our First Day School needs (as some involve liturgy and sacraments) but many, many of them can and I have been able to adapt them for our use while maintaining the wonderful Montessori-based nature of the materials.  It has really been wonderful.  The Lone Star Baby connects deeply to wonder-based nature of the work and has become very spiritual.

Right now, my "Little Friends and Lower Elementary" class (which consists currently of just the Lone Star Baby) is focusing on the Quaker belief that the Light of God is within everyone.  We are using the materials on the life of Christ - and mainly the parables - to study this at the moment which should continue through this school year at least.  The parable materials are really amazing.  We will use the Old Testament materials in the same way eventually and will cover the testimonies next year.  

My "Young Friends and Junior Young Friends" (middle and high school) class (which currently consists of just the Lone Star Girl) is still studying world religions.  When our other teen was still here, they studied Hinduism, Jainism, Wicca and other earth-based Goddess religions, Judaism, and Islam.  Since we've been on our own, I finally got a copy of the UU Neighboring Faiths curriculum that I had been wanting to use (the original idea for this course of study had been that I would just send the teens to the UU classes since they are experts at this, but they weren't doing this curriculum at the time) and I am trying to organize much of the rest of this course of study using their format.  We are into the various sects and denominations of Christianity now and have studied the high-ritual end with Catholicism, Episcopalians and Eastern Orthodox.  Now we are working on the "Holy Book" oriented groups like Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists and some Baptist groups.

If you are in Corpus and would like to send your kids to our First Day School, the big kid(s) meet at 1pm on first and third Sundays and the little kid(s) meet during Meeting at 2pm on first and third Sundays at All Saints Episcopal Church.  We'd love to grow our First Day School again!


mtb0001 said...

I took a course on women's spirituality many years ago in Dallas that was based on a UU course. As LSG gets older, it might be adaptable for you to study together. I think I have seen the course listed at First UU in Austin. You might find someone through their women's spirituality group who knows what I'm talking about.

Lone Star Ma said...


Andromeda Jazmon said...

It sounds like you have a wonderful program going. I am impressed with the scope & depth. I hope you find more children to join in!

Lone Star Ma said...