Tag Archives: children

Dialoguing About Wealth with Children

money

I learn as much as I teach when teaching creative writing to my students. A few weeks ago, a first grader wanted my help writing a play. He wanted it to be about a teacher who took a cheap job because she was poor. I noticed at the time that he was putting a lot of emphasis on the value of expensive cars and on money. I took the opportunity to discuss the issue with my mentor. She suggested I write a play and begin a dialogue about what wealth means.

It made me question what it is we teach children about money and wealth. What is wealth? Does being wealthy mean you have a lot of money? Or does being wealthy also mean that your life is rich and full and meaningful in many arenas of living? The dictionary meaning of wealth is “an abundance of valuable possessions or money.” But is that really the true meaning of wealth? The dictionary meaning also includes: “plentiful supplies of a particular resource.” Could that resource be fun, happiness, joy, passion, or inspiration? Maybe a person is wealthy because of the depth of intimacy, love and caring in their lives. Maybe a person is wealthy because they feel joy from being, giving and receiving. Maybe a person is wealthy if they bring meaning and hope to their own life and the lives of others.

I wonder.

A week or so later, I ended up having another conversation with the same student. We talked about what else wealth could mean. The following week he told me that he decided to write a different play.

What are your concepts of wealth? What are the concepts of wealth the children in your life hold? Could they be expanded?

The California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco is holding a
“Women, Money & Spirit” Conference, April 29th, 2017, from 9:30am to 4:30pm. Leaders in psychology, social justice, religion, and finance will explore money from the perspective of spirit. It gives us an opportunity to examine our relationship with money and take a look at our beliefs around wealth. Here’s a link: http://www.ciis.edu/public-programs-and-performances/conferences/women-money-spirit-conference-2017

Image courtesy ClipartFest: clipartfest.com

Copyright © 2017, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

How to Write Social Stories

dreamstonepage10There are many  helpful tips on the internet on “how to write social stories.” Most of the guidelines focus on stories that are meant to help children learn social cues and understand social situations.

I have been writing my own form of social stories (or what are called pedagogical stories in Waldorf Schools) for nearly 20 years now. I have written stories about many topics including bullying, teasing, racism, kindness, and recently, stealing. Writing and sharing these social stories with children has shown me that it is really important that the story is engaging.

When children are engrossed in a story, the lesson is more gently received. I might start writing with the theme in mind, like stealing. I think about the context of how it is playing out in the classroom or the household. I consider the children involved in the actual life situation, and I consider their interests and the dynamics of what is going on. I create a main character who has a similar challenge to one that the children in my life are facing, and I create a resolution. The setting I use is usually a village or a world I create that will engage the children’s imagination.

I ask questions about my main character like who are they? How old are they? What are their likes and dislikes? What are their dreams and wishes? What do they hate? What are they afraid of? Who are their friends? Who are their enemies? I ask other questions to, including what really matters to my main character? What do they want? What is their problem or challenge? Why? And how do they resolve it?

As I answer these questions, the story starts to unfold. Often, a magical alchemy happens where the story flows from beginning to end as though it has a life of its own. And it does!

Once the story is written, I share it with my students. We discuss what happened in the story and why. We talk about the subject in context of their lives and in context of the character’s lives. Usually, new awareness, and understanding surfaces.

This is one way I create and work with social stories that address emotional challenges in everyday living with children. When writing your own social stories for the children you care about, I suggest that you do a google search: “How to Write Social Stories,” or, “Social Story Writing Tips.” Here is a link that might be helpful: http://challengingbehavior.fmhi.usf.edu/explore/pbs_docs/social_story_tips.pdf

Copyright © 2017, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

Writing Social Stories About Stealing

dreamstoneWise mentors I know have used life situations as teaching moments. Recently, I brought a “dream” stone, a large tumbled quartz stone with yellowish iron veins and the word “dream” carved into it, to the after school where I work. My intention was to use it as a “story stone” encouraging the children to imagine and think about their “dreams” in context of story.

I set the stone aside on the pink drawers that contain all of the writing journals. I was aware of placing it there as one class left, and the other arrived. We had a lot of activities reading and writing plays, that I forgot about the stone. At the end of the class, as I was putting things away, I noticed that the stone was gone. I searched high and low, moving furniture, looking under tables, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I wondered if it was lost or if it had been taken without permission.

Later in the evening, I found myself still thinking about the missing “dream” stone, and wondered how I could use this as a teaching moment. I have written social stories professionally for classrooms in Canada and here in the United States, but I haven’t really written my own social theater play yet, so I decided to do so last night. The story flowed, and 11 play pages later it was written. My intention is to read it to the classes that were present when the “dream” stone went missing. While we discuss the story, we can also discuss the concepts of taking things without permission, and the consequences of how people feel when something is taken.

There are a lot of good articles on the internet on “How to Write Social Stories”. My method is different. The focus is more on the story, and the lesson is woven subtly through it.

My experience has shown me that when writing social stories it is important not to be too preachy or even obvious. The lesson can be woven into the story, but a strong main character still needs to move the plot forward. If you know your audience well, you will know what sort of story will draw them in, so that they are so involved in the story they don’t realize it is teaching something until it is over. That’s when you can discuss both reading comprehension questions, and questions about the particular social topic.

(More on how to write social stories in the next blog post.)

Copyright © 2017, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

Grateful for Becky’s audiobook of Grandmother Moon!

I just finished listening to Grandmother Moon and Other Mother Stories: GrandmotherMoon1Book One on my phone. It is the audiobook by Becky Parker Geist of Pro Audio Voices. Becky is not only a business partner but a friend. Listening to the Grandmother Moon audio book on my iPhone I was flooded with gratitude. Becky has done such a beautiful job with all the character voices, and music and sound effects. It really makes the stories fun to listen to, and I really like having them on my phone. There is an audio sample at Becky’s website. The stories are for children 4 and up.

http://proaudiovoices.com/product/grandmother-moon-mother-stories-book/

This whole project has been a labor of love with the focus on having fun creating stories that celebrate mothers and children. Becky and I hold a vision that these stories will contribute to that special bonding time that mothers and children share, full of warm hugs and giggles.

Here’s a little about the stories on Book One:

Grandmother Moon and Other Mother Stories: Book One offers traditional and new original folktales that explore the love, joy and challenges between mothers and children. Perfect for mothers and children to read aloud, or you can listen to the audiobook by Becky Parker.

“Epaminondas,” a traditional folktale told to Becky Parker Geist by her mother, is about a boy who tries so hard to please his mother, but can’t seem to get it right. “Grandmother Moon and the Homeless Child” is a touching story about searching for home. A little blue bird and a rock child play major roles in “Abuela and the Rock People.” And Louisa-May’s mischievous little sister Angel causes trouble in “Mama, Angel and the Tree Dragon.” In “Strawberry Moon,” Mother Moon helps her daughter express herself colorfully.

“The stories are clear, dramatic, inviting and delicious. I love them. This is marvelous work! Bravo!” — Jay O’Callahan, Storyteller. National Endowment of the Arts recipient. Lifetime Achievement Award National Storytelling Network, Commissioned by NASA to create and perform a story in honor of NASA’s fiftieth anniversary

“A delightful collection of lovingly told and affirming stories filled with timeless magical transformations and a traditional humorous folktale — all addressing the mother-child relationship.” — Ruth Stotter, Past Chairman, American Folklore Society Aesop Committee; Former Director, Dominican University (California) Certificate-in-Storytelling Program

Copyright © 2014, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

Becky Parker Geist: http://proaudiovoices.com/

Illustration by Natasha Tasiyana Kolida: http://www.tasiyana.com/

Design by Andy Parker: http://andyparkerdesign.com/

Grandmother Moon’s Blanket by Vlatka Herzberg

LunarEclipse2Chester was almost in kindergarten and a big boy. He loved everything loud: loud music, loud talking, and loud playing. If it was loud, Chester loved it. Chester also loved to stay busy, from the moment he woke up to the moment he reluctantly went to bed, he was busy. Chester was busy stacking blocks and knocking them down with his trucks. He was busy building railroad tracks and tiny, faerie houses. Chester was busy reading books and playing monster tag with the older kids in the neighborhood. Chester loved being loud and busy so much that when his Mother told him it was quiet time and time for a nap, Chester hid. He hid behind the pile of storage boxes in the garage. Mother had to go to work, so Grandmother, the babysitter had to find Chester.

“Ready or not here I come!” Chester heard Grandma’s voice and came running out to greet her. He gave her a great, big hug:

“Hi Nana! Want to play?”

“How about we read a story in your room with the lights out?” suggested Grandma.

Chester frowned. Grandma’s voice lifted with excitement. “You’ll want to be rested so you can get up early for a special surprise.”

“Surprise?” asked Chester. He was eager to find out what it was. Grandma smiled her big, warm smile.

“Yes. We are going to get up very early to watch a lunar eclipse. Your Mother will be with us too.”

“What’s a lunar lip?”

“Lunar eclipse. When the moon passes through the earth’s shadow. Do you want me to read you a story about it?” Chester nodded. Grandma started to read. Usually the rhythm of her voice lulled Chester to sleep, but not today. Chester was too excited to sleep.

“Let’s make some moon cookies, quietly,” suggested Grandma. Chester was happy with that, as long as he didn’t have to nap. By the time Mother came home after dinner, Chester was yawning and ready for bed. He made Grandma promise that she would wake him early so he could see the lunar eclipse. She promised.

Grandma didn’t have to wake up Chester. He woke up right at 4:30am, like he had a built-in alarm clock. He bumped into Grandma in the hallway. She was on her way to wake him.

“Surprise!” he shouted. “Shh!” whispered Grandma. Mother yawned as she met them in the hallway. Dad was still sleeping, so the three of them had to tiptoe outside. Behind their house was a small hill. Chester, Mother and Grandma walked halfway to the top. Grandma spread out a blanket and the three of them sat down. It was very exciting for Chester because it was still dark out. He could see the stars,

“Look! The Big Dipper!” He knew the Big Dipper because it was in his star book. “Look!” “There’s the Moon! It’s wearing a blanket!” shouted Chester.

Mother and Grandmother both said: “Shh!” and smiled. Grandma poured hot chocolate out of a thermos and the three of them huddled together under a big, comfy blanket.

“Tell a story Grandma,” insisted Chester.

“Once upon a time Moon was young.” began Grandma.

“Is she young now Grandma?” asked Chester.

“Oh no, she is a Grandmother like me. Once she was but a young moon, and she loved more than anything to shine brightly.”

“Like the top of her is right now?” asked Chester.

“Yes. The trouble is she wanted to shine, shine, shine all the time.”

“What’s wrong with that?” Chester wanted to know.

“Well, you see, the moon needs to rest just like children otherwise she gets very tired.” Chester frowned. Grandmother continued:

LunarEclipse“Now Moon had a Mother, and that Mother knew that Moon needed to shine some of the time, and rest some of the time, so she came up with a plan. Moon’s Mother asked the earth to throw a blanket over Moon when she wasn’t looking. The earth agreed. So one night when Moon was shining especially bright, the earth moved in front of her and threw a blanket on top of her.

“Like the one she has right now?” asked Chester as he stared at Moon half covered by a shadowy blanket.

“Yes, like the one she has now. No sooner had the blanket covered her, then Moon began to get verrry sleepy. She yawned a big yawn. Her Mother sang her a song, and Moon’s great big eyes began to droop, she pulled the blanket right over her head and fell fast asleep. And that is how Moon learned that sometimes you need to rest so you have energy to shine brightly.”

Chester didn’t hear Grandma’s last words, “Goodnight Grandmother Moon,” because he was busy dreaming of moons and blankets while curled up in his Mother’s arms.

The very next day Chester was playing with his toy dog, and frog. Frog wanted to play jump frog but Dog wanted to nap, so Chester told them the story of Grandmother Moon’s Blanket. He snuggled next to them, and pulled the blanket right over their heads, just like Grandmother Moon they were soon fast asleep.

And that’s the end of the Story.

Copyright © 2014, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

Photo: Copyright © 2014, Theodore Herzberg

Grandmother Moon and the Homeless Child #3 by Vlatka Herzberg

In the days and weeks to come, mother and baby wrestled and nuzzled. Mother Bear taught Sharah Bear how to catch fish and find the juiciest berries. This is how they lived all the way until the moon was full, and new once again. Sharah was happy being a bear cub and having a bear mother but there was still something in her heart that she longed for. While Mother Bear slept, Sharah Bear walked to the edge of the pool and called upon the moon, which this time was but a sliver of a moon. “Grandmother Moon with a smile,” called Sharah. “Thank you for giving me a Mother Bear. I really appreciate it. But I am a human child and would like a human mother. Could you help me?” Grandmother Moon said nothing, but smiled down upon Sharah until she fell asleep. (To be continued.)

Copyright © 2014, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

 

How the People Learned to Thank Water #3, Conclusion

She dreamed of droplets of water dripping onto her face. Drip, drip, drip. And she heard tiny giggles. “Stop it. I’m getting all wet!” she yelled and awoke from her dream. She was startled to see a sprite, skin as green as olives, hair like grass, hovering over her. Her dress was wet with dew and when she giggled the dew drops sprinkled all over Shenna’s face. All the commotion woke up Brock. He saw the small green sprite. “A pixie!” he yelled. “I’m not a Pixie! I’m a Sprite! Don’t you know your elementals?!” she frowned at Brock. Brock shook his head with disbelief. He had never seen a real sprite before. “Can you show us where a spring might be? Our village is experiencing a drought and we need water.” The Sprite inspected the two children. “There is no village close to here. You must be very far from home,” she said. Shenna nodded. “I will take you to a spring,” said the Sprite, “but it isn’t what you expect.”

And so it is that the Sprite sprang, tumbled and flew to the Spring. Shenna and Brock both rode the old nag after her. It was the only way that they could keep up. When they got to the spring, Shenna thought it was mistake. She was expecting to see water gushing and flowing out of the spring, but instead there was only a trickle. “But that isn’t enough water to help our village,” said Shenna. “No. It is not,” said the Sprite. “What are we going to do?” asked Brock. They both slumped down on the wet rocks near the spring.

“I’m going to dance,” said the Sprite and she began to twirl under the droplets of water streaming down the rocks. There were  times when her body merged with the water and looked translucent. Brock poked his finger right through her. She giggled, “That tickles.” “I don’t understand,” Said Shenna. “Does this mean that the drought is everywhere?” The Sprite stopped twirling and nodded her head, “Yes.” Shenna started to cry. She was sad for her people. She was sad for her parents at home worrying about their crops. She was sad for all the people in the world that didn’t have water. Shenna’s cheeks began to tickle. The Sprite was wiping her tears with her wings. “There’s another way to see things.” “All you see is that your world is without water. Your people do not see that the Undines are stressed.” “I don’t understand,” said Shenna.

“Here take my hand,” offered the Sprite. Shenna and Brock held the Sprite’s hand and they began to spin and shrink until they were dripping into a pool of water. They plopped into the pool, transforming into water spirits. Shenna’s body was blue. Brock poked her. “You’re see through,” he laughed. “So are you,” she poked him back. “What are we?” asked Shenna. “Why you’re Undines of course,” said the Sprite.“But what will mother and father think?” frowned Brock. “You won’t stay this way, just long enough.” And before she could say another word, the Sprite jumped and bounced away. Shenna yelled, “come back,” but the Sprite ignored her. Instead the water formed a large mouth and said,“Stop making so much noise. It makes me ripple.” “Who said that?” demanded Shenna. “I did,” said the Undine who shape shifted itself into a face that Shenna and Brock could see. It was a watery face with a twig for a nose and a very squiggly mouth. “Now why are you here?” The Undine wanted to know. Shenna told the Undine the whole story. Brock ended it with, “yep that’s the way it happened. Can we stay water spirits? This is fun!” The Undine listened, then said, “Hold on they were going for a ride!”

They followed a tricking stream to the river. It was very low. They passed skinny cows, and parched fields, until they fell into deep, dry cracks. “Woa!” yelled Shenna and Brock. “Hold on!” said the Undine. They followed veins of moisture to an underground stream, flowing all the way back to the spring they had come from. “Wow, that was cool! Do that again!” said Brock. The Undine frowned, “Do you know why there is a drought?” “Because the water spirits are stressed,” said Shenna. “Yes, the water is stressed. All the pollution is choking us up. We need your help,” said the Undine. “But how can we help? We are only children.” “You can start appreciating water and sending healing to it.” Then the Undine taught the children a ritual of placing their hands over the water and filling it with their gratitude for all the ways that water gives to them, for food, drink, bathing, cleansing, and all nourishment. The children learned a healing song that they could sing to the water, and promised that they would share it with others.

When they were done the Sprite came back. “Are you ready to go home?” “Yes!” said the children. They thanked the Undines and sang them a song. The Sprite danced on their hands and they turned back into children! Brock poked his sister. She giggled, “Hey stop it!” “Just checking if you are back to normal,” laughed Brock. The children took only enough water in their canteens for the remainder of the trip home.

Shenna and Brock were happy to be home. Their parents rushed to embrace them, “Where have you been? We’ve been so worried!” Shenna and Brock told their parents and all the villagers their story. When they were done they showed everyone how to cup their hands over water and fill it with their gratitude. They taught all the villagers, young and old how to sing songs of gratitude. If people forgot, they could make it up. What mattered is what they felt in their hearts. The people learned how to feel gratitude for every droplet of water. They became more conscious not to waste it. Eventually the drought ended. People lessened their pollution. The Undines relaxed, receiving healing, and eventually the water started to flow again. The rains came, and the cycle of life flowed.

From that day on whenever people walked by a river, spring or the ocean, or when it rained, people would sing: “Bless the water in the sky, bless the water in the earth, it’s alive and flowing. Thanks be to water. Thanks be to air. It gives all life. Treat it with great care!”

Copyright © 2014, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

 

How the People Learned to Thank Water #2 by Vlatka Herzberg

Mother and father gathered their children and hurried to the Gathering Hut where all the villagers met. The leader of the village was Terra, a matriarch, and a woman of wisdom. Her face was clouded with concern. “The elders of Atwon have spoken of this day for some time, the day of the rain was stolen. A day when our land would be shrouded in dust and a fierce heat. A time of great imbalance.” The people of Atwon looked very concerned. Babies cried, older children were fidgety. Something was very wrong. The harmony they knew for so long was gone. “Who had taken the rain?” Shenna was determined to find out.

Early one morning while mother and father were busy trying to figure out how they would survive without water Shenna and Brock snuck away. How would they bathe? What would they drink and use for cooking? What about their animals and crops? Mother and Father were trying to figure that all out, while Shenna and Brock made a clean escape. Shenna put Brock on top of their father’s old nag. Brock slid into the sag on the horse’s back. “We’re off on an adventure,” he smiled.

“How do we bring the rain back?” Brock asked his bigger sister. She was older, she knew everything. Feeling the pressure to know, Shenna concentrated until the squiggle in her brow released with the excitement of an explanation,“Well, we must journey to where the water comes from?” “Where is that?” asked Brock. Shenna’s squiggle furled and unfurled, “we must go to a natural spring, a place where the water comes from deep underground not from the sky.” “Oh,” said Brock, never doubting his sister’s wisdom for one second.

They traveled for hours under the sweltering heat. “I’m thirsty,” complained Brock. Carefully rationing out the precious drinking water, Shenna gave Brock his portion for the day. Brock drank it down fast. He didn’t see the concern on his sister’s face. She hoped they would find the natural spring before they ran out of drinking water.

The sun set they found a place to camp, and still no spring. Shenna sang Brock to sleep, and only when he was fast asleep did she cry. She spoke to the moon. “Moon, I’m lost. I don’t know where the spring is and we are out of drinking water. Please help us.” The Moon did not answer Shenna, but she knew it would, so she settled into a deep and wondrous sleep. (To be continued.)

Copyright © 2014, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.

 

How the People Learned to Thank Water #1 by Vlatka Herzberg

The people of Atwon village were happy people. They worked and played in cycles. There was a time to work, and a time to play. They planted and harvested in cycles. There was a time to seed and a time to pick the crops. There was a time for birth and a time for death. The people of Atwon knew these cycles intimately and life moved along rhythmically and harmoniously. It wasn’t until one day that the rhythm and the harmony were disrupted.

The people of Atwon were not the only people who inhabited the earth. There were many other villagers spread out through many different lands. And not all of the villagers of these many lands respected the cycles of work and play, of life and death. Not all of the villagers knew the steady rhythm of harmony. The elders of Atwon village warned that there would come a day when their own village would fall into disharmony, when the balance would be disturbed.

And so it is that day had come. Shenna, a young child of 10 was playing with her younger brother, Brock, making mud pies, running with a hoop and stick the way children do. She spotted cracks in the earth . She ran to her mother and father. “The earth is breaking!” she cried. Shenna thought that mother and father would know why. Shenna took them to see the cracks in the earth. Mother and father were very concerned. Mother touched the cracks; a tear ran down her cheek. Father’s heart was heavy, “The earth is very thirsty,” he said. “This is very serious.” (To be continued)

Copyright © 2014, Vlatka Herzberg, all rights reserved. You may not reproduce materials without permission from Vlatka Herzberg.