As many of you know, we have been homeschooling this year which has been a learning experience for everyone. I feel like I’m just finding my groove as a homeschool teacher now as we’re approaching the end. Isn’t that the way?
I recently posted on my Instagram about a couple of lessons that I have taken on with the kids in light of the recent discovery at the Kamloops residential school. I was concerned about how to present the uncovering of a mass grave to Ashlyn who is hyper-sensitive to loss of life and strong emotions and is a super empath. We have discussed the residential schools in the past and delved in to learn more about the true Canadian history after Orange shirt Day at the start of this school year. I knew having action to take would be of utmost importance now. I love how our children hear about a wrong or negative situation and immediately ask what we can do about it.
I’m going to share with you some of the tools I used in my lessons with the kids and actions that you can take with your kids too.
The first thing we did was to act out a made up situation with real life props. I used the kids; Kesler to represent the First Nations and Ashlyn to represent the Europeans- but I didn’t tell them that. I asked Kesler to sit on the couch with his comfort item which is the baby blanket he’s had since he was born. We talked about the pluses and minuses of his blanket and how well it has taken care of him and how well he has taken care of it. The pluses far outnumbered the minuses.
Next, I instructed Ashlyn, the visitor, to sit right up next to him and see if Kesler wanted to share his blanket with her. The lesson proceeded from there with much success and we were able to access very strong feelings by using Kesler’s most prized possession to represent the land we live in.
I have written a new version of the blanket story to make it accessible for everyone and you can read it here.
Was Canada always called Canada?
We learned about Turtle Island as the first name for North America and read indigenous earth origin stories online here:
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Monique Gray Smith has written an excellent book that I highly recommend as a tool for teaching your own kids. It’s called “Speaking Our Truth” and shares interviews with kids and adults about what reconciliation means to them as well as the actual facts about steps being taken towards reconciliation.
We have committed to watching the 94 videos on each of the calls to action written in the commission. Monique recommends starting by choosing one act to take on. You can find the videos through SpeakingOurTruth.ca
Or buy her book here :
While searching for more information through social media I came across this image for orange shirt day made by Michelle Stoney from the Gitxsan nation
When I clicked onto her Instagram account @mstoneyart I found post after post of colouring pages that she encourages us to use. I knew I wanted to take the feather she had made and turn it into a lesson for the kids, turns out a lot of schools have had the same idea to colour 215 feathers:
Before presenting the kids with our project idea, I sat them down for a brief lesson on the indigenous seven. I had learned about the group of seven before and never noticed that the indigenous seven was something different I was disappointed to find many Group of Seven videos on YouTube but none about the band of seven First Nations artists (individually yes, but not as a whole).
This website was very helpful and we scrolled through each of the artists works that were profiled and discussed similarities, differences, likes and dislikes:
When asked to pick their favourite there was a tie between Eddy Cobbiness’ Watering and Alex Janvier’s Exodus, but the overall unanimous winner was the Turtle Island art by Michelle Stoney.
Of course Michelle is not one of the original seven but this gave us a powerful segue into profiling a current contemporary indigenous artist who’s work speaks to our family.
Here is the video we watched to learn about Michelle
One of the last things Michelle says in this video is that she wants to inspire the next generation. You can bet my kids were inspired to move on to their own artwork!
I showed them this sketch that Michelle’s brother asked her to make a painting of and gave them the assignment to create their Michelle Stoney-inspired artwork from this sketch:
When the kids are done their drawings they will get to see Michelle’s finished work! I assured them that I would send their work to Michelle after to show her how she inspired them.
From there, I continued to share some other of Michelle’s pieces to the kids: jewelry, Canucks fan art, drums and colouring pages. Finally we ended on this feather
Michelle created a feather in reaction to the discovery of the 215 children found last week and that feather is now on an orange t-shirt that Michelle has consented to.
You can purchase one of the shirts here
Finally, I revealed to the kids the colouring pages I had made from duplicating Michelle’s feather. I informed them that we are going to work together and take as many days as it takes until we have coloured 215 feathers. We already have plans to enroll some neighbour helpers!
While they got started colouring. I told the kids a story about a show that I did when I was 17 years old called Spirit of A Nation. The reason I told them the story was to introduce them to one of the best friends I had that summer, Pamela Levi. I invite you to visit her page on Facebook and set her videos to play while you colour. Pam has a gorgeous voice and many of the covers she sings suit the project.
Thank you to the many members of the First Nations who have shared with us and inspired us. We will continue this work and I hope readers will find something useful here to do so as well.