Katie, mother of two, shares her family’s experience teaching a Bahá’í Preschool Class in her neighborhood.
The education of children has always been a passion for me, but having children of my own really put early childhood education, specifically spiritual education, in the forefront of my mind like never before. The days (and years) pass by so quickly and it doesn’t take long to realize that this most critical time for their character development will soon pass, as with each year their personalities and qualities become more and more solidified; never unchanging, but the opportunity for the nourishing of virtues and spiritual qualities that is present during the first several years of life is unique. It was this sense of quiet urgency that propelled me into action.
Our family bought a home in an older neighborhood in Broomfield, Colorado (USA) about 3 years ago. Another Bahá’í family moved into a nearby neighborhood around the same time. Our oldest children are very close in age, and so after getting settled we began talking about starting a children’s class. For a number of reasons it took us a little while to get started, but after a year or so we were finally got up our courage and went out to invite our neighbors to participate in community building activities.
[one_half][testimonial company=”” author= “”]We both had to overcome some fears and reservations about the process, but at some point we realized that all we were really doing was building community. And if not now, then when? If not us, then who? [/testimonial][/one_half]
We both had to overcome some fears and reservations about the process, but at some point we realized that all we were really doing was building community. And if not now, then when? If not us, then who? So with the support of our cluster and after many prayers, we went out “neighbor meeting”.
We had an amazing response; people welcomed us into their homes and were happy to stop to talk. While not everyone was interested in participating in the children’s classes directly (some simply because they didn’t have or know any kids), almost everyone said something positive about our efforts.
We had a “meet the teachers” BBQ and then started classes within a few weeks. That was over a year ago. We have class (most) every Monday and have had 15 children participate in our classes at one time or another. A few families who came regularly have moved away, but it seems that new families always appear to take their place. We have typically found new families by either going back out into the neighborhood to meet more people, or inviting new friends. We are now finding that some of the moms are inviting their close neighbors or friends to come too. The age range of the kids in the class is 1-4 years old and most parents attend the classes with their children. Almost all of the participants are from our immediate neighborhood and come from a variety of religious backgrounds.
In the beginning we were modifying some of the Ruhi materials but are now using the Radiant Hearts materials as they have been a good fit for the age group of our class (all children are under 5 years old). This has saved us a tremendous amount of time planning and we are so grateful for this wonderful resource.
We repeat each virtue for three lessons. Although we a schedule an hour for class, the first 20 minutes is spent playing together. Then we go downstairs for class, which is usually 20-30 minutes. Many families will stay for a bit after class as well. The kids play together and the parents often have an opportunity to talk.
Our typical class format is:
- Welcome Song
- Prayers – Usually sung in a group although the kids are welcome to say individual prayers they have been working on memorizing
- Songs – We sing 2 or 3 songs from previous lessons. We try to incorporate a lot of movement and make use of musical instruments like hand shakers or ribbons
- Introduction to Virtue – Talk a little bit about the virtue; often use the Radiant Hearts Booklet from the Printables
- Activity – Week 1: game, Week 2: craft, Week 3: story or puppet show
- Song – About the new virtue
- Goodbye Song and Dance
As part of our class, each child has an ongoing virtue book that they are creating. There is a page for each virtue. At some point during the lesson we will do some craft or project that gets pasted into their books.
As in any endeavor, we have faced various challenges and have made, and will surely continue to make, many modifications and changes since starting the classes. But it has been a wonderful learning experience – for the kids, parents and teachers alike.
We have seen our own children benefit greatly from these classes and other parent participants have been very happy as well.
[quote]We all look forward to and love our Monday morning Bahá’í class! It feels so good knowing that my children are learning virtues and actually grasping the concept and using them in their day-to-day lives. My two year old, Ali, will walk around saying “it’s good to be kind to your friends, that’s what we learned in class.” I am so thankful to have this opportunity to instill love and kindness into my children.[/quote]
– Parent of two children, 4 and 2 years old
[quote] My almost-3 year old loves going to children’s classes and looks forward to it all week! He enjoys pointing out how he can be practice the virtue we learn about during his daily activities. Just today he was talking about how he loves the “exercising and singing” — songs with motion. I love watching him learn these concepts, be excited about them, and see him point out how to implement them in his life. This is the kind of growth vital to his development.[/quote]
– Parent of two children, 3 years and 1 year old
The response that we’ve had from our community, neighborhood and participants in the classes has been so positive and has been a confirmation that we are on the right path. We look forward to expanding our classes in the future and continuing on in the learning process together.
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://www.enablemetogrow.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Family31.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]Katie Esquivel is a mother of two – a four year old son and two year old daughter. She has a Master’s degree in Education and has worked as an elementary teacher. Since her children were born she has been enjoying the role of full time motherhood. She also enjoys painting and works as a part time children’s wall muralist. [/author_info] [/author]
Note: For more information on Bahá’í Preschool Classes please visit this page.
What experiences have you had teaching children’s classes with children under 5 years old? Please share your stories, tips, and favorite resources.