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Joyful Work

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catherine
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Joyful Work

Twenty years ago Lindsay McLaughlin, a catechist and teacher in one of the 3-6 Montessori classes at Christian Family Montessori School, wrote a lovely description in the attached article from ECHOES of children working and praying with the model altar. It's a scene that continues to be familiar to catechists everywhere. We prepare an environment and present lessons so that children can use materials that will help them internalize the good news embedded in each one. When children in a group are all focused on a material of their choice we ourselves know the joy related to good work.

Let's consider the quality of this work now for evidence of joy. What are the signs of joy when a child is working? Do we resist or discourage children if this joy has an exuberant quality? Do expressions of joy reflect the culture or community in which the child worships? Please share your anecdotes, questions, and reflections with the group.

KateVanderLaan
Light-Filled Sadness

Preschoolers can carry a lot of pent-up emotions about things that are stressing them.  They have anxiety, jealousy, anger, hurt, sadness, confusion, etc. just like we do.  What happens when you draw them onto your lap, look them in the eye and say  "I notice you were feeling sad (or bored, or ...), NAME. Do you just need to cuddle and maybe cry a bit? Everybody needs to cry sometimes. I'm right here to hold you."  I wonder if Lent might be a time we help the children acknowledge the pains and losses in their lives, so they can get to the joy on the other side of sadness.  I read the following recently:  [Psalm 137] originally expresses the lament of the Jewish people in their captivity in a “foreign land,” Babylon (and at its “rivers,” the Tigris and Euphrates), after the conquest of Jerusalem in 586 BC. The conquerers “required songs” of their captives not in order to learn about their faith, but to mock it. In our own situation today, we have similar voices, calling us to “perform” or share of ourselves for the wrong reasons and inauthentically, hiding our sadness. But that kind of “song” brings no benefit either to ourselves or those who hear it. Because the light-filled sadness of a God-centered life is the very place from which all truly-inspired art comes.  (from "Coffee with Sister Vassa")I think we sometimes call our children to perform and inauthentically hide their sadness. I wonder if we don't always acknowledge the big feelings that small people are carrying around.  In McLaughlin's article, she writes:The years before the age of six are the child's wonderful opportunity to revel in God's love. Soon enough, experiences of loss, broken places in our world, and pain all build walls within us.  I think that young children are incredibly resilient and they default to joy, but I also think that they are sometimes forced to stuff big feelings because parents and other adults don't know how to deal with them.  I wonder if giving them space to explore their own experience of pain and loss, they might tap into an even deeper joy.  I know a child after a good cry fits the description that McLaughlin gives of the children after joyful work.  "The children don't seem stimulated so much as rested."

catherine
catherine's picture
Little Ones' Sadness

Kate, this is so pastoral and compassionate. I know song is one way children have permission to express their feelings. Songs like "Bells of Norwich" which includes the line "let the winter come and go" acknowledge that there is winter. Or "the people that walked in darkness" acknowledges darkness. Being able to choose these songs when needed is helpful. Also giving children space to be sad rather than tickling them into laughter is respectful of the need for time to sit with life's pain once in a while. Thank you.

Norma
The Joy of a child

The children in my Atrium, are very in to working and socialising, I think that happens everyware, and I thik that is also part of their joy.  They know well, where is the place where they can find their frinds, and feel happy about it. I have a tinny list of main factors I consider influence a jouful child: For instance, the materials that talk about Jesus, and make them be at peace, and joy. The enviroment or atmosphere prepared by the Catechist, also I think is a mayor atribute, I have seen children with a fadeless smile, during all the class. Finally,I think music, there are musical children, they hummm while working, they walk the line to the rythem of music, and you can see that music also feeds their soul, and if they are confortable, tireless and happy.  Most likely I will be too.

catherine
catherine's picture
music

Norma, I love your list, and I'm so grateful you included music. Humming, singing under their breath., starting a song that all the children join, playing the lap harp, and sometimes a full-voiced offering --I've heard all of these over the years. It's one of the best way children pray.

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