For the very last in my back to school series of giveaways, I’d like to share a unique and incredibly useful book for anyone interested in education for peace: AMS Living Legend Sonnie McFarland’s Honoring the Light of the Child: Activities to Nurture Peaceful Living Skills in Young Children. A little over a year ago, I wrote about McFarland’s most recent book, Montessori Parenting, but this title is even more special to me, as I have had the honor of sitting in on a workshop where she presented some of the activities included in the book, and it was so beautiful that it has stuck with me for many years since. I have seen many of the activities from McFarland’s book brought to life in the classroom as well, and given a special place on the shelf where they were loved by the children. This is truly a special book, and would benefit teachers outside the Montessori system as well as in — and parents, too.
About the Book
Honoring the Light of the Child consists of an introduction to Sonnie’s holistic method of Peace Education, and twenty-two detailed lesson plans that weave together beautifully to create a complete Montessori Peace curriculum. Where appropriate, templates and detailed instructions are included for materials, but not every lesson involves the making of materials, either. Each lesson plan includes several ideas for follow-through, and many involve materials that can be left on the classroom shelves for children to work with individually following the lesson. With the careful connection between ideas and the follow-through, these lessons can become far more than nebulous discussions about peace and kindness. Many of the lessons, once implemented, become part of the classroom culture, serving as wonderful classroom management tools that teachers can call on when conflicts arise or when individual children are experiencing difficulty. In other words, these lessons don’t simply teach concepts, they give children skills for peaceful interaction, with themselves and with others.
One activity in this book will be familiar to many lovers of Montessori: the Peace Flower. The school where I began my career, and many others I have seen, use a Peace Rose and I personally prefer to use a peace pole (like this), but the process is nearly the same in all cases, and this detailed lesson plan will be very useful to anyone who has not implemented this wonderful conflict resolution tool in their classroom or home already.
McFarland’s approach to peace education truly is holistic. Several of the lessons in the book focus on self-awareness: awareness of one’s body, breath, muscles, spine, mind, self-talk, feelings, etc. The one and only real critique I have is on the topic of feelings. In these lessons as with most materials for children (and adults), I often notice that feelings are given a connotation that is either positive or negative. There’s a sense that anger is bad, but being happy is good, for example. My personal preference is to teach children to honor all of their feelings, and not rush to rid themselves of negative ones as soon as they arrive, and sometimes I worry that we’re inadvertently teaching children that there’s something wrong with their anger or their frustration. The wonderful thing about these lesson plans, however, is the way they are carefully broken down into individual parts. If one small detail doesn’t jive with how you approach things, it’s easy to look at the lesson and determine how to implement it, while changing the part that doesn’t quite work for you. Completely as an aside, a parent loaned Annabelle and me the book Ahn’s Anger last week, and it is outstanding, treating anger as something to “sit with” and “take good care of.” Using materials like this along with McFarland’s holistic approach to Peace education should do a wonderful job of preventing the stigma of “negative” emotions while teaching tools for creating calm and peace.
I was hoping we would have some time to present a number of these lessons before the giveaway, but as you know if you read yesterday’s post, we had to start school a bit later than planned this year. I have seen many of them presented in the classroom before, however, so I can still vouch for these activities from experience, and I’m sure I’ll be sharing throughout the year as I present them myself.
Oh, yes, and one more wonderful bonus that is now a part of this book: a Peace Through Music cd, the lyrics for which are printed in the book itself. I was giddy when I noticed this addition to the book, as some of the songs on it are ones I have heard at various workshops or remember fondly from my previous school, but because they are lesser known, my attempts to find the lyrics online (and I’ve made many!) have been in vain. I’m not particularly musically inclined, so I’m always having to listen to songs, even those I know well, to make sure I’m singing them mostly correctly with the children. I am so happy that I now have the ability to do that with these songs. Some are old classics like “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes,” but there are some rare gems that I was especially thrilled to see.
I can enthusiastically recommend Honoring the Light of the Child to anyone working with young children, whether at home or in a group setting of some kind. Even if you never intend to present the lessons as outlined, taking in the concepts covered and ideas for approaching them with children is sure to be beneficial. The book, +cd is available directly from Shining Mountains Press for $30, and it’s currently on sale on amazon for $23.05.
If you have a mailing address in the US or Canada, you can enter to win your own copy of Honoring the Light of the Child: Activities to Nurture Peaceful Living Skills in Young Children using the rafflecopter widget below. Be sure to use a valid email address so I can contact you if you win.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of Honoring the Light of the Child for the purpose of this review. No other compensation was given, and all opinions are truly my own. I only share products I think are relevant to you and will enrich your life as they have mine. Read more about my policies on reviews and giveaways on the about page. This page also includes affiliate links. I receive a small commission when you shop at amazon using my links, and this helps to offset the cost of hosting for Vibrant Wanderings.