The Herb Fairies are a marvelous book series by Kimberly Gallagher. I was part of their 2013 book club, which involved the tales, plus wonderful resources for kids (and kids at heart) for making herbal remedies, yummy foods with herbs, and fun activities.
Recently, Herb Fairies had a video contest for 2013 members. I’m excited to say that my video won the grand prize in the Testimonial category!
Anyway, take a look at my video (it’s only 2 1/2 min. long), and maybe you’ll be inspired to check out The Herb Fairies!
Awhile back, after I told a story and we explored movement as if we were Calendula following the sun, the Wise Child kids and the older kids (age 6) from the Heartstone children’s program collected Calendula flowers into a pair of jars. We poured olive oil over the flowers, added a few more, and then closed up the jars. At the same time, we gathered some Calendula seed and started our own plants, something of an experiment as it is fall. Still, as we found, Calendula sprouts readily and is eager to grow, no matter what time of year if given a little warmth, water, and sun.
I then went on to put the jars of calendula in oil in the windows of my passive solar bermed home. Despite the fact that it was fall in the Pacific Northwest (thus, lots of cloudy days), we got enough sun to make some fabulous infused oil. Yes, I stirred the jars most days, and wiped out the moisture from inside the lids to prevent spoilage.
Last week we made a healing salve with our Calendula oil. The kids had a great time squeezing all the oil from the cheesecloth we used to strain the oil. Then we melted the beeswax (the kids took turns stirring it) and added the oil plus some drops of lavender essential oil. All this we poured into 2 oz containers. The kids then had fun putting on labels I’d made for the underside of the container (detailing the salve ingredients) and making labels of their own.
[I intend to create a full lesson plan on Calendula at some point, including details for making the oil and salve, as well as the story I told. Please comment if I don’t get to this quickly enough!]
The kids were engrossed in this project from start to finish! And I’ve heard from parents how their child has been using their salve for various bumps and cuts. Yay–not for the bumps and bangs, but that the kids are reaching for the salve. I think making one’s own herbal medicine is very empowering for kids!
Here are a couple of photos from other Wise Child adventures:
One day,the kids and I gathered a few “volunteers” (Evening Primrose and Calendula that had clearly self-sown) from the herb garden to take home. We improvised pots from Mullein leaves, with soil from the garden.
Finally, here is a photo of our music session in the forest, when we drummed with corn- and other stalks (found on the farm), improvising rhythms, and providing rhythm for such songs as “Land Of The Silver Birch” and “The Canoe Song” (which make for a fun medley)
Early last week our newly formed homeschool group headed out to the local cemetery to create gravestone rubbings in honor of this threshold time of year and the upcoming Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead.
It’s been pouring rain, so I wasn’t sure how long we’d want to be out there. Some of the kids are comfortable in any kind of Pacific Northwest weather (it seems to me!), and some are not. Amazingly we all found ourselves captivated by our activity–exploring the cemetery and making rubbings of the gravestones, using crayons on Rite-in-the-Rain paper (waterproof paper!).
So why did we choose this activity? Isn’t the idea of doing gravestone rubbings kinda … morbid? Perhaps disrespectful?
Years ago our family began doing gravestone rubbings when celebrating the earth festivals with other families. Here, at the time when many traditions say the veil between the worlds and between the living and the dead are thin, and when (as in Day of the Dead) the ancestors, and our loved ones who are passed are celebrated, honored, spoken to, it feels right (to me) to do something like this with children. My experience is that they love it, and that they are fascinated by this very tangible expression of time, and people who have lived and died before they were born, or died more recently. We didn’t find gravestones marking anyone we knew, yet we all felt the connection. I suppose because these were people who lived in and died on our island, in our community.
And the leaves falling from the trees, and the gray clouds thick, and the mist in the air. This deep autumn nature speaks to me of change, time’s passage. It signals to me to look at death, and to remember those who have passed on, the gifts of my ancestors. We told stories in the cemetery, and we wondered at the people who are remembered here.
Some of the children made rubbings of the designs on the stones–birds, roses, a violin. Of images that meant something to them personally, or of names the same as their own. We ended up with some lovely layerings of such things.
One way that children can meet with the truth of death, of passage in a way that is gentle yet filled with mystery is indeed to visit a cemetery, whether you know anyone there or not. Exploring the gravestones, searching for the oldest you can find, or the oldest lived person, or the youngest (always sad), or … there are as many ways to venture into something like this as there are people on the earth.
I just returned from a family reunion in which I passed time with the kids and youth, ages 4-18. I was entranced by the four-year-old’s earnest connection with numbers, telling me all he knew about 18 and a hundred on the one hand, and exploring insects with great fascination on the other. His six-year-old brother told me about planets and told me that 9 + 9 was 14. “You know what ten plus ten, is right?” I asked him (knowing that he did). “Yes–20,” he answered, and at that point he revised his answer to 18, his little brother’s favorite number.
Two girls, ages 9 and 11, joined in on the conversation, and talk turned to infinity and googles and googleplexes. Then the teens joined in. For me, it was yet another perfect moment — the youngest child’s love of numbers launched a whole discussion among all the kids about what they loved best about numbers. They shared ideas and stretched them. I just chimed in with questions and an occasional guiding thought or challenge (“Wow, you just counted backward by two! Can you count by threes also?”). I shared my own love of numbers and patterns, but also just listened, amazed as usual about how much kids know and share when they are passionate about things. They truly became each others’ teachers, without anyone even aiming to do so.
On a walk we noted a huge Douglas fir clinging to a steep hillside, roots exposed nearly as massive as the trunk itself–the tree doing all it could to keep a stronghold on the bank and support its towering weight. Questions spilled about that tree and its neighbors, and the nature of that steep bank (was it carved out for the road or was it natural?).
Again, all of us — young and old alike — learned from our shared ideas, our shared experience, and connected with each other in the process and with (in this case) the tree and the land itself.
The Wise Child Learning Program is about sharing these kinds of experiences. I aim to nourish each child’s imaginative inquiry, his or her unique perspectives and gifts, and to share from the roots of our passions. My aim is for us to experience a learning adventure — sharing ideas with one another, learning from each other, and connecting with each other in fun and compassionate ways, as well as with the earth that is our home. We will share stories and create stories, listen to each other, and listen to the plants, animals, the land. We’ll play with words, and adventure with academics but from the perspective of nature, music, imagination, projects.
Will your child or children be joining us this year?