What is home? A roof to keep out the rain? Four walls to keep out the wind? Floors to keep out the cold? Yes, but home is more than that. It is the laugh of a baby, the song of a mother, the strength of a father, warmth of loving hearts, lights from happy eyes, kindness, loyalty, comradeship. Home is first school and first church for young ones, where they learn what is right, what is good, and what is kind, where they go for comfort when they are hurt or sick; where joy is shared and sorrow eased; where fathers and mothers are respected and loved, where children are wanted; where the simplest food is good enough for kings because it is earned; where money is not as important as loving-kindness; where even the tea kettle sings from happiness. That is home. God bless it! — Ernestine Schumann-Heink
Today's session is about choosing and establishing homes. Establishing a home with a mother-in-law or a friend might seem unusual. However, love and loyalty can be unpredictable. Millions of children in our country are living in homes that reflect a picture different from the mother/father/biological children nuclear family. Whatever their own family makeup, all the children in the group live in a world with increasingly diverse family structures. They will have friends who live with grandparents or with a cousin. Affirming that families can be nurturing and strong with any structure is crucial to raising respectful and empathetic children and adults.
Aside from choosing whom we embrace as family, the stories in this session also touch on choice and necessity as reasons people move from one home or family to another. When children move, they seldom have a choice in the matter. Their families move because of new jobs, a need to save money, or to be near other family members. Children in the group may have moved because of divorce.
Moving is stressful even when we desire it. Leaving behind familiar people, things, or a neighborhood can make us sad. Discovering positive attributes of a new home can help. Re-establishing family rituals in the new setting can help, too. So can filling the new home with items that make you feel loved, items that carry sweet memories and make you feel "at home" no matter where you go. These comfort-giving items are called "transitional objects."
In this session, children are invited to share their stories about moving to a new home (Activity 2: Moving) and to present and tell about their own transitional objects (Alternate Activity 1: Show and Tell). If you plan to do either of these activities, customize and distribute Leader Resource 1, Advance Letter to Parents, one or two weeks ahead of this session so children will come to this session prepared.
Activities 3 and 4 are designed to be used consecutively. In Activity 3: Memory Game, children match picture cards in identical pairs. In Activity 4: Story — Owen and Mzee, children hear the true story of a rescued baby hippo and an old tortoise that formed a "family" relationship. After they hear the story, you will invite the children to match the picture cards from Activity 3: Memory Game again — not in identical pairs, this time, but in pairs connected by a relationship, such as Owen and Mzee, or Owen and the ocean from which the hippo was rescued.
This session will:
- Illuminate aspects of moving and re-establishing family homes
- Help children recognize that people decide where to make their home based on many factors, including loyalties to people or places; family history; the need to live near work, food, and water; and a desire to be close to people or places with whom we feel connected
- Provide a space for children to share their stories and feelings about moving
- Have an opportunity to share personal stories about moving and re-establishing home
- Hear and reflect upon stories of others who have moved and re-established home
- Play a game centered on making pairs, connecting identical and then related images of objects and people
- Make a bracelet to give to a friend
- Optional: Have an opportunity to show and tell about a "transitional object" that they love
- Optional: Help provide for some of the needs of homeless people