Tuesday, January 19, 2010

O is for Om

This rainy, winter Monday was about restoring balance and getting back into the rhythm of our home.  It was about feeling the world around us and, under a cloud covered sky, connecting with our inner light.  

We began our day with a talk about Martin Luther King Jr. followed by a quiet art period.  Amelie loves doing art in the morning and it gives me time to review the day's lesson.  I've read that art promotes activity in the brain and I believe this.  She seems to do better paying attention to her morning lesson when she's had some time to paint or even color with crayons before breakfast.

After a hearty meal we moved from the kitchen to the classroom -- our Om Room.  We start each school day singing a few verses of a Native American song, "Earth My Body" as we set up the classroom:

Earth my body
Water my blood
Air my breath and
Fire my spirit

Then we sit cross-legged on our zafus and I light a candle while Amelie says a seasonal verse with a little yoga stretch at the end.  We've been welcoming back the sun since before the Winter Solstice with:

The sun is born again today
We greet the sun's first morning ray
We sing and celebrate the light
The sun is born in the longest night
Welcome light!

Then we ring our school bell -- a calming meditation chime -- three times.  When we hear the bell, we pause with our breath, find our center and bring our full awareness to the present moment.  At this point I usually say a little blessing -- something short asking Mother Nature to help our hearts know wisdom -- and then we sit in stillness for five breaths. 

Next is my favorite part, going to our Creative Infinity.  Before we open our eyes and "come back" to the classroom, we look around in our inner world and find something to bring back with us.  Today Amelie brought back the Cheetah of Loving-kindness and I brought back patience.

Then comes Amelie's favorite part, the Sharing Stones.  We keep a little hand-painted basket of stones we've collected outside and use these each morning for a short show-and-tell.  There are no rules about what we can share -- something from your heart, a concern, a story, or even a new toy.  This ritual gives us a regular time for honesty, open questions, and often times, just plain fun.  It was Amelie's turn to go fist and she picked a pretty painted blue stone from the basket, then shared her set of marbles. 

I try to use everything as a platform for integrating subjects and digging deeper and I think this is rubbing off on her. Without prompting, she sorted them all by color, transparency, and size.  Then she told me about all of their magical properties.  I love letting her use her creativity like this and agree I with Einstein -- imagination is more important than knowledge.

She passed the stone to me and it was my turn to share.  I popped open the laptop and we watched the "I Have a Dream" speech -- stopping from time to time for Social Studies discussion.  I paused at, "their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom," and pointed out this example of our interconnectedness.  If you are not free, neither am I because there really isn't any "you" or "I"... only "Us."

After the speech it was time to get out the wiggles.  We learned a great song at a Spirit Rock Family Practice Day last spring, Now I Walk in Beauty, and we modify it each day to fit the day's lesson.  We've danced in beauty (letter D week), jumped in beauty (letter J)... we've even marched in beauty (letter M).  Today, in honor of Dr. King's dream, we "marched in freedom."

Now it was time for our Main Lesson.  We've been covering roughly one letter per week since August and today began the letter "O."  O is the fifteenth letter of the alphabet and a vowel but before moving into all of the sounds that O makes or diving into sight words, I like to get into the letter or number and really play with its essence.  Understanding the ultimate nature of a letter or number puts it into a memorable context and makes it fun.  

We use butcher paper and begin by writing the upper and lower case a few times.  The letter O is a big sweeping circle and just drawing it creates a visual of completeness.  O is round and whole, it has no beginning and no end.  I think the essence of O is the vibration that resonates when we say the sound and hold it.  "Oooohhh."  It's complete and unbroken and comforting.  Our mouth makes an O shape when we say it.  Maybe it's just me, maybe I'm partial to this sound, but I love its feel.  Saying "Om" feels like being home... when I say this syllable, my heart is transported to that place of comfort.  O is cozy, O is home.  Today had that nostalgic home-y vibration... rain outside, fuzzy socks, a blanket of soft, gray flannel over the earth.  Mmm. Home.

We made a big O on the floor with our bodies, we chanted Om a few times and felt the vibration of our voices coming together, and we imagined how it might feel to hold a big round imaginary O in our arms.  Later this week we'll look for oes in nature and explore more circle symbolism (unity, eternity, and the goddess).  

Next, I asked Am to think of a few words that begin with the letter O.  Her first word was "omnivore." Before I wrote it on the board, I had her get the dictionary and look it up.  We've been practicing using the dictionary and she's getting pretty good at it.

Omnivore is from Latin "omne" meaning "all" or "everything."  This is interesting because "Om" is a sacred syllable representing Brahman, the impersonal Absolute of Hinduism — omnipotent, omnipresent, and the source of all manifest existence. In other words, "Om" means The Universe in all it's magical wonder.  The essence of O is it's all-seeingness, it's wholeness.  The Chinese circle character yuan, literally "round", means "complete, perfect" and I'm sure it's no coincidence that the letter evolved from the Egyptian hieroglyph for "eye."

The next word Amelie came up with was "octagon."  Then we moved on to Fry's 300 Instant Sight Words.  She's mastered about 200 this school year.  The O words are: of, old, on, one, or, other, our, out, only, open, over, one, own, o'clock, off, once, and order.  We wrote these on the board and read them a few times.  We'll practice writing them all week and have a spelling test on Friday.

We usually read a story and then break for lunch at this point in our routine, but today we had something more fun planned for the afternoon... puddle jumping with friends!  So, we ate lunch and then sat back down for five minutes of mindful breathing.  If you haven't joined mindfulness together, now is the time!  They're supporting Winter Feast for the Soul and have made available online short, guided meditations for kids. 

We finished our meditation just before our friends arrived and decided to honor the day with a little service and pick up trash during our excursion in the rain.  I've never seen two girls get more wet than these two did today.  After a whole lot of splashing, it was time for dry clothes, hot cocoa, and the warm smell of cookies baking in the oven.  Later we'd soak in a hot tub.

Today had that nostalgic, rainy day, vibration... whole and cozy, comfy and home.  It was about seeing the hidden connections, feeling the world around us and, under a cloud covered sky, connecting with our inner light.  I'm so grateful for our little Om School and looking forward to the rest of the week.
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