Monday, November 29, 2010


The Christmas Wreath.

The circle is the first known shape in human history. It is the basis of geometry, astrology and astronomy. Ancient scientists believed it had divine powers since it has no beginning or end. The circle remains the world's most popular religious shape in many faiths. Christianity uses it throughout its worship for it represents the eternal circle of life. During the Christmas season, one of the best known and sacred symbols is the wreath.
With the spread of Christianity in Europe, the wreath's purpose and use expanded in new ways. Growing Christian beliefs replaced the mystical, pagan rituals. The eternal circle symbolized the enduring love between God and his son, Jesus. Wreaths made from evergreen branches contained holly berries and red ribbons that represented the blood of Christ. The wreath became an icon of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore during his crucifixion.
Advent, Latin for the coming, is a custom of spiritual reflection started by the German people to begin the celebration of the Christmas season. A wreath contained four candles to represent a light in the darkest winter months in hope of the coming spring. Three violet candles, each lighted a week before Christmas, represented hope, peace and love. The color of the fourth candle was red, and was lit on Christmas Eve. A white candle was placed inside the wreath and lit on Christmas Day. The color stood for the birth of Jesus.
By the 15th century, the tradition of the wreath spread throughout Christianity. Pilgrims brought the wreath to America where it flourished. The advent wreath remained popular, but a secular style of wreaths arose. Ribbons of various colors including gold intertwined with beads and holly berries in large pine wreaths found their way into society. In England, wreaths also contained roses placed in the arrangement. Desert brush made up wreaths used in Mexico, and decorated Spanish missions in the Southwest.

As an ageless symbol of the light of the world and the passage of time until Christmas, the hanging of an advent wreath marks the beginning of the yuletide celebration. As time changes this custom concerning candle colors, shape, and setting on a table instead of hanging, advent candles ultimately declare the start of Christmas festivities.The three purple candles in an advent wreath represent penance. The pink candle represents joyfulness. The purple candles are lit on the first, second and fourth Sundays of Advent. The pink candle is lit on the third Sunday, also called Gaudete, which is a time to be joyful and celebrate the approach of Christmas. Some advent wreaths have a fifth candle that is white and meant to be lit on Christmas. Alternately, the four colored candles can be replaced with white candles on Christmas.

1. Light a purple or blue candle to symbolize hope or anticipation of the birth of Christ on the Sunday that falls four weeks before Christmas.
2. Relight the purple or blue candle from the previous week and light a second purple or blue candle to symbolize God's love for His followers on the Sunday that falls three weeks before Christmas.
3. Relight the purple or blue candles from the previous week and light the pink or rose candle on the Sunday that falls two weeks before Christmas to symbolize the joy associated with Jesus' birth.
4. Relight the purple or blue candles and pink or rose candle from the previous week and light the third purple or blue candle on the Sunday before Christmas to symbolize peace.
5. Relight all four candles from the previous week and light the white candle, or Christ Candle, in the center of the Advent display on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day to celebrate the birth of Christ.
To create your own wreath, wrap pine garland around a wreath ring. Add colorful details with hot glue or string, such as small figures of the nativity scene. Lay the wreath on a flat surface and arrange four candles around the inside of the wreath at an equal distance apart. Place another candle in the center. Light these candles on the 12 nights of Christmas.

Making a Wreath of Kindnesses:
Make a wreath for each child in the household from a paper plate with the center cut out. Attach one pink and three purple candles made of cardstock colored with markers by bending the bottom of each about 3/4 inch and gluing them down. Glue a paper flame to the top of each candle. Cut out dark and light green slightly elongated construction-paper hearts, and give each child a thick stack. Each time the child does something kind during Advent, he can write the deed on a heart and glue it to his wreath. As the acts of kindness mount, the wreath gets nice and full.
The Advent Calendar

Advent calendars are a great way to help kids understand how long they have to wait until Christmas! Instead of purchasing a calendar that contains the usual sweets or trinkets, consider making your own advent calendar that includes a fun family activity for each day from December 1 – 24. A smart way to plan your advent calendar is to pull out your diary and include pre-scheduled events and activities (such as 'go to the school Christmas concert') in your advent calendar so that you don't wind up with too much to do on any given day. Following are a few ideas to get you thinking about what activities you might like to include in your calendar

Day 1: Make your advent calendar. Start with a large sheet and a small sheet of poster board. Use Christmas colors if you like. Cut 25 “doors” measuring about 3 inches from the small sheet. Write one of the following activities on one side of each door, using a black magic marker (or use your own ideas). On the other side write 1 number per door, using the numbers 1-25. Each day in December your family can open one door, and enjoy a holiday activity together.
Day 2: Create an Advent Wreath centerpiece for your table. You will need five candles (can be obtained at the dollar store). Use decorative candle holders if you like, to add to the holiday charm. Use real or store bought evergreen branches and any other decorations you like, to complete your wreath. A candle will be lit, and a verse from the Bible, detailing the Christmas story will be read, each Sunday in December, as well as Christmas Day and Christmas Eve. (See days 9, 16, 23, 24 and 25 for suggested verses.)
Day 3: Watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” together.
Day 4: Put up indoor Christmas decorations. Save the Christmas tree for another day.
Day 5: Take food to a local food pantry or homeless shelter.
Day 6: Decorate the yard, porch, and other outside areas of your home for the holiday.
Day 7: Make Christmas cookies. Be sure to make extra for family and friends.
Day 8: Get your Christmas tree, or, if you don’t use a live tree, put up and decorate your Christmas tree.
Day 9: The Angel Visits Mary (Mark 1:1-8) reading from the Bible. Share hot cocoa and Christmas cookies together as you read these verses.
Day 10: Take Christmas cookies to a shut-in at your church.
Day 11: String popcorn to hang on your Christmas tree.
Day 12: Make ornaments for your Christmas tree.
Day 13: Watch “The Greatest Story Ever Told" together.
Day 14: Go Christmas shopping. Plan to buy gifts for a needy child or family.
Day 15: Wrap Christmas gifts.
Day 16: Read Luke 1:26-38 together. Make homemade egg-nog.
Day 17: Deliver Christmas gifts.
Day 18: Drive around your town together and look at Christmas lights.
Day 19: Go Christmas caroling.
Day 20: Bake a Christmas cake
Day 21: Watch “The Nativity” together.
Day 22: Build a crib.
Day 23: Read Matthew 1:18-24. Prepare Christmas cookies together.
Day 24 ~ Christmas Eve: Read Luke 2:1-5. Enjoy family celebrations.
Day 25 ~ Merry Christmas: Read Isaiah 9:1-6. Enj

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Dear All,
I sent this to Herald for the OPinionatED column.Hoping it will be published but at least you can read.


The Right to Education (RTE) Act 2009 states that ‘Every child between the ages of 6 to 14 years has the right to free and compulsory education.’ This is stated as per the 86th Constitution Amendment Act added Article 21A. The right to education bill seeks to give effect to this amendment. The government schools shall provide free education to all the children and the schools will be managed by school management committees (SMC). Private schools shall admit at least 25% of the children in their schools without any fee. The National Commission for Elementary Education shall be constituted to monitor all aspects of elementary education including quality.

Now, with the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (RTE) Act, which stipulates eight years of formal education for all children, parents in favour of homeschooling are confused about whether the Act has scope for their mode of education.A writ petition to this effect was filed in the Delhi High Court in March this year by 12-year-old Delhi girl Shreya Sahai, who decided to go for homeschooling as it would allow her more flexibility to pursue her interests — music, photography and painting. In April, the PIL, which said the RTE infringes on the freedom of parents and needs to be amended to accommodate homeschooling, was heard by a High Court Division Bench. While the Bench dismissed the petition, it gave the petitioners eight weeks from April 13 to make a representation to the Ministry of Human Resouce Development, asking for their vision on homeschooling. In April after the court’s advice, a group of parents who either send their children to alternative schools — there are about 100 such schools in India — and those who homeschool their wards, met in Bangalore to draft a presentation for the MHRD. The homeschoolers also drafted a letter to be sent to Minister of MHRD Kapil Sibal asking him to accommodate homeschooling in the RTE Act or clarify its stand on homeschooling and alternative education.

In India, homeschooling is slowly coming into its own. People discontented with the way schools are being run are seeking alternatives and one of them is homeschooling. Recently, The Times of India published an article on a homeschooler Master Sahal Kaushik who stood 33rd in the country in the IIT-JEE exams. His father had this to say “"I have always been a firm believer in the doctrine that anything can be learnt at any time. All you need is the right environment and an interest in the subject." And his mother added, “"It's a lot of hard work, but very rewarding too. We feel that this is an appropriate way for a child to learn, without having to face pressure of any kind.”
What is home schooling? And why are many parents opting for it nowadays? Can a homeschooler join the mainstream or is his future bleak? What sacrifices need to be made by the parent and child in order to make homeschooling a viable option?
Homeschooling is the education of children at home, typically by parents but sometimes by tutors, rather than in other formal settings of public or private schools. It was started in the United States first and spread around the whole world later. abroad. Lets look into the pros and cons of this method of education.
The advantages of homeschooling include:
1. Safety and Health: As the children don’t have to travel to school, the stress involved early morning in getting them up, rushing them off to school and ensuring that they return home safely is eliminated. When they are ill, a temporary holiday can be declared and there is absolutely no stress on the parent to get them well soon or to complete unfinished work, as we see happen so often in the formal school setup.
2. Flexibility: The academic year can be planned as per the family schedule and revised from time to time as the need arises. As it is a year-long and a lifelong process, there are no prolonged holidays for children to waste their time, getting bored and worrying their parents.
3. Undivided attention: No formal school can give undivided attention to each student in the way a homeschool can. Here the student-teacher ratio is 1:1. The parent can teach at the level of the child, allowing him to learn at his own pace, take time to comprehend the matter in-depth, and use methods suited to the child’s learning style. The curriculum can also be tailored to suit the child’s abilities and hence stress on the child is zero.
4. Moral Character: Parents are the best teachers of moral values and religious faith. They can keep a close watch and correct wrong behaviour effectively when they are constantly with the children. These are some of the advantages.
Now let’s take a look into the disadvantages. These are:
1. Lack of Socialization: Homeschooling children miss out on school events like competitions, picnics, class tours, field trips, etc.
2. Lack of Order & Discipline: In homeschooling, due to flexibility, the child may take his own time getting ready, causing discipline problems for the parents.
3. Parental Inefficiency: The parent-teacher needs to be trained in teaching methods, and how to create an environment conducive for learning at home, how to instill discipline, how to be effective in home management, etc.
My question to the Honourable Minister is this: If, as a parent, I am not satisfied with the way my child is educated at present in the formal school system and wish to teach him myself, what are the provisions in the RTE Act for the same? Do I need to be trained as a teacher or will my love for my child be enough to qualify me as the best teacher he will ever have? Will a democratic government give me the freedom to choose how to educate my child or will it enforce an unjust act upon him? Mr. Kapil Sibal, I represent a minority but I hope for justice. What will your answer be?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hi All,
The Homeschoolers met on 20th at the office of Valyana, Porvorim. We were 6 families with a barrelful of kids! It was really great and the time flew so fast! I hope teh next mtg will be a longer one. We'll be mtg in Jan, tentative date chosen is 9th and this may be a full day field trip to a heritage home in Quepem.
LOL, Auriel.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dear Homeschoolers,
On Children's Day,I saw a huge ad that proudly said that the RTE Act was to be implemented in Goa. While it will take some time to come into effect, what does it signify for us? Will our kids be dragged back to school to savor the 'poor fare' dished out or will we be bold enough to fight for what we want for our kids - the Right to True Education. We know how much good the homeschooling movement has been for us. It is time we made it known to others especially those who sit in the power seats. I am sure that they will undrstand and accept our style of education once they are 'educated' about it! I read a great article on Appreciation that fits in with our concept of chores for kids at home. I never quite understood the value to giving kids work to do before they begin studies, but this article helped me understand. Please read the story. It will touch your heart.
Till i type again:)

One young academically excellent person went to apply for a managerial position in a big company. He passed the first interview. The director did the last interview, made the last decision.

The director discovered from the biodata that the youth's academic achievements were excellent all the way, from the secondary school until the postgraduate research, never had a year when he did not score.

The director asked, "Did you obtain any scholarships in school?" The youth answered "None". The director asked, "Was it your father who paid for your school fees?" The youth answered, "My father passed away when I was one year old, it was my mother who paid for my school fees.

The director asked, "Where did your mother work?" The youth answered, "My mother worked as clothes cleaner. The director requested the youth to show his hands. The youth showed a pair of hands that were smooth and perfect.

The director asked, "Have you ever helped your mother wash the clothes before?" The youth answered, "Never, my mother always wanted me to study and read more books. Furthermore, my mother can wash clothes faster than me.

The director said, "I have a request. When you go back today, go and clean your mother's hands, and then see me tomorrow morning.*

The youth felt that his chance of landing the job was high. When he went back, he happily requested his mother to let him clean her hands. His mother felt strange, happy but with mixed feelings, she showed her hands to the kid.

The youth cleaned his mother's hands slowly. His tear fell as he did that. It was the first time he noticed that his mother's hands were so wrinkled, and there were so many bruises in her hands. Some bruises were so painful that his mother shivered when they were cleaned with water.

This was the first time the youth realized that it was this pair of hands that washed the clothes everyday to enable him to pay the school fee. The bruises in the mother's hands were the price that the mother had to pay for his graduation, academic excellence and his future.

After finishing the cleaning of his mother hands, the youth quietly washed all the remaining clothes for his mother. That night, mother and son talked for a very long time.

Next morning, the youth went to the director's office. The Director noticed the tears in the youth's eyes, asked: "Can you tell me what have you done and learned yesterday in your house?"

The youth answered, "I cleaned my mother's hand, and also finished cleaning all the remaining clothes'

The Director asked, "Please tell me your feelings."

The youth said, Number 1, I know now what is Appreciation. Without my mother, there would not be the successful me today. Number 2, by working together and helping my mother, only I now realize how difficult and tough it is to get something done. Number 3, I have come to appreciate the importance and value of family relationship.

The director said, "This is what I am looking for to be my manager. I want to recruit a person who can appreciate the help of others, a person who knows the sufferings of others to get things done, and a person who would not put money as his only goal in life. You are hired.”

Later on, this young person worked very hard, and received the respect of his subordinates. Every employee worked diligently and as a team. The company's performance improved tremendously.

A child, who has been protected and habitually given whatever he wanted, would develop "entitlement mentality" and would always put himself first. He would be ignorant of his parent's efforts. When he starts work, he assumes that every person must listen to him, and when he becomes a manager, he would never know the sufferings of his employees and would always blame others. For this kind of people, who may be good academically, may be successful for a while, but eventually would not feel sense of achievement. He will grumble and be full of hatred and fight for more. If we are this kind of protective parents, are we really showing love or are we destroying the kid instead?

You can let your kids live in a big house, eat a good meal, learn piano, watch a big screen TV. But when you are cutting grass, please let them experience it. After a meal, let them wash their plates and bowls together with their brothers and sisters. It is not because you do not have money to hire a maid, but it is because you want to love them in a right way. You want them to understand, no matter how rich their parents are, one day their hair will grow gray, same as the mother of that young person. The most important thing is to see that our kids learn how to appreciate the effort and experience the difficulty and learns the ability to work with others to get things done.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010