pure, kindly, and radiant hearts (take 3)

Today’s lesson: pure, kindly and radiant hearts.

December 16, 2018: 4 children, aged 5–10. It’s been a while since our last update! I’ll post a little something to tell the story of what we’ve been up to lately, but first, a class report about the first gathering of our new children’s class, using Grade 1 of the Ruhi Book 3 curriculum.

We started the class with a mix of four children: Two five-year-olds, one nine-year-old and one ten-year-old. One of the five-year-olds is from a Bahá’í family, and the rest are his friends, who we invited after speaking to their parents to explain the nature of the class. At the beginning of class, we took a few moments to explain about the expected atmosphere, and asked the children to think of some rules for us to observe during the class. We settled on the following five rules, which we felt made for a good start:

  • Listen to the teacher
  • Keep ourselves and the classroom clean
  • Sit quietly and reverently during prayers
  • No chatting/side conversations during class
  • One person speaks at a time

Next, we said a few words about prayer. We explained that when praying, we were conversing with God. We might pray for someone to get better when they’re sick, we explained, or we might pray for good results on our schoolwork, or for any number of things. The children were familiar with certain forms of prayer—all of them had visited a pagoda before, or worshipped at the family altars that are so ubiquitous in Vietnam—so it wasn’t a big stretch for them to understand. Following that, we invited the children to say prayers. The child from the Bahá’í family said a Bahá’í prayer he had learned, and one of the others said a Buddhist prayer she had learned. Afterwards, we started memorizing the prayer, “O God! Guide me…”. After writing it on the board, we recited it word by word. Then, we began erasing some of the words and replacing them with pictures, making a sort of rebus.

Once we were done going through the prayer, we wrote the quotation down on the board, looking at the words “pure”, “kindly”, “radiant”, and “heart”, and explaining what they mean together. To illustrate, we launched into an experiment: Taking some thick, black Vietnamese coffee, a cup, a pitcher of water, and a wash basin, we showed what happens when we act unkindly by pouring the coffee into the cup: We get a dark, gloomy, and radiant heart. To improve the situation, we added water, representing acts of kindness. The more water (kindness) we poured in, the clearer the contents of the cup became, until finally, we had a clear and radiant cup (heart) once more. Each of the children had a turn pouring water into the cup until all of the coffee was gone (overflowing into the wash basin).

We finished the class with some time to draw, asking each of the children to draw something that they read about in the prayer or the quotation. For example, one drew a brilliant star; another drew an umbrella (for “protect me”, as in, protect me from the rain)… We also wanted to play the game “The Burning Thirst”, but we ran out of time, and so we played it after some of the kids had started to leave.

All in all, it was a great class. The children loved it, and some of the parents told us that the message had an impact—they caught their kids saying “don’t do that, you don’t want to have a dark and gloomy heart!” After this positive start, we’re thinking that we should be able to invite more kids for the next round, perhaps even doubling the size of the class. Stay tuned!

generosity (take 2)

Today’s lesson: generosity.

December 13, 2015: 1.5 hours, 3 children, ages 6–9. Good follow-up to last week’s class. With the work on the prayer books out of the way this week, we were able to focus more closely on the lesson. After welcoming the children, we started in the usual way with prayers. They weren’t so eager to recite prayers by heart today, so we invited them read the prayer they were working on from the whiteboard. Once they were done, we worked on memorizing it. The children seemed to be having some trouble memorizing the words alone, so we had them come up with actions to go along with the words. They seemed a lot more enthusiastic once we started doing that. I often forget how powerful gestures can be as a memorization tool, since I tend to memorize things just by repeating them! In this case, it really seemed to help the children to get into the prayer and enjoy learning it by heart.

After singing the song, we moved on to learning the quote from the lesson: “To give and be generous are attributes of mine…” We had them memorize the quote using a quote jumble, as before, by hiding the words from the quote around the room and having the children collect them all and put them together in order. It’s a pretty popular activity, and they always seem to enjoy it. This week, though, the youngest child in the group wasn’t too happy that the older kids seemed to keep picking up all the hidden words before he had the chance to find any. We ended up letting him look for the remaining two or three words on his own as the older children worked on putting the rest of the words in the right order, and that seemed to satisfy everyone. It reminded me of the age gap that exists in our class, though, and of the need for us to eventually split the class into multiple grades. We’ve already talked about doing some outreach in the neighbourhood around the class in the new year; hopefully we can make some good connections with local families, bringing in new children and junior youth—and maybe another willing teacher to help out, as well?

After we were done with the quote, we sat down again to listen to the story of ‘Abdu’l-Baha visiting the shepherds, and his generosity in giving them the sheep they were guarding. Thankfully, this story is one we study carefully when we get trained up with Ruhi Book 3, so I was familiar enough with it to tell it from memory, a little differently than usual in case the older children remembered it. (I’ve had some practice making up bedtime stories for my two-year-old son lately, so it went pretty smoothly.)

cards-afterAt the end of the story, we segued neatly into the game, a card game we call Giving, which is all about sharing what we have with others who are in need. First, we got the children to think about some of the things they need the most in life. From there, we introduced the seven different “needs” highlighted in the game: clean food and water, clean clothes, safety and shelter, friends and family, education, work or occupation, and spirituality. We explained the game in relation to “Go Fish”, where players ask for cards that they need; here, players can give a card they have several of in order to receive a card they need. In the end, everyone ends up with one of each card. And we all win!

They children really seemed to love the game, so I think we can say it was a success. We would’ve played a few more times, too, but we moved on to our country presentation afterwards, all about Australia. We heard all about kangaroos and koalas, and we sampled Milo and Vegemite. Yes, Vegemite. The verdict on that one? Only three of us—me, my wife, and one of the children—were able to stomach it. I went home with the jar.

pure, kindly, and radiant hearts (take 2)

Today’s lesson: pure, kindly and radiant hearts.

October 18, 2015: 4 children, aged 6–10(?). Today was our first class as a team! After our planning meeting two weeks ago, our stalwart teaching team set out to get this class ready, with each of us taking responsibility for one or more parts of the class. I volunteered to present the prayers and songs, and to put together an agenda and some ground rules for the class. All in all, it was a good first class. We had expected four more children to attend, but apparently they all had hockey practice (or perhaps a surprise hockey game—I don’t know how these things work).

Two of the children arrived (roughly) on time, but we decided to wait until the other two arrived before starting the class. The pre-class wait wasn’t too bad, as it gave us a chance to check out our new surroundings: A children’s room in a local community centre. They even left the cabinets open for us, which meant we got to use a whiteboard and borrow other essential supplies like extra scissors for the craft. The room was big enough that we could set up different stations: one table for pre-class drawings, one table for crafts, and one area with a big mat for prayers, right next to a whiteboard for writing down prayers and quotes for people to follow along. I feel like we were spoiled by the sheer amount of stuff that we had on hand—I’ve become used to holding classes in fairly spartan rooms, and having to supply everything myself.

Anyway, about a half-hour and several paper airplanes later, we started the class. The children all knew the prayer we studied—”O God, guide me”—but they remembered the previous translation which went “…Illumine the lamp of my heart, and make me a brilliant star”. This time we taught them the new translation, set to music by a group of Bahá’í youth from Thailand. Since we were running late already, we went straight on to the lesson, which explained how our hearts are like mirrors that reflect God’s qualities. The children took turns smudging mud (standing in for anger, hatred, selfishness, etc) onto a mirror, and we observed how the mirror no longer reflected the room’s light properly. It’s neat how apt this metaphor is, and how well the children seem to grasp it. Then we played with a quote jumble, hiding the words from the quote around the room and letting the children find them. They zoomed around at light speed and finished in record time—although one child complained that he didn’t get to find any words because they were all gone too fast. (We found a way to console him afterwards.)

Afterwards, we moved to the craft table, where we listened to the story, told by one of our team members, a youth. She did a great job of asking questions afterwards, to help the children reflect on what they had heard. Then, we started the craft: cutting out and decorating paper hands and gluing them together into a long chain. As we continue with the class, we’ll get new students to do the same, making an ever-lengthening chain of multicoloured hands that we can hang on the wall each week. Finally, we ended with a game. Since the weather was cold outside, we decided to forgo “The Burning Thirst”—which tends to be a wet affair, not so well suited to cold temperatures and indoor floors—and played “Touch Telephone” instead. And of course, we ended with some wonderful snacks!

The whole class was quite enjoyable, overall. Usually there’s some shyness or reticence among the kids in a new class, but this time we didn’t see that—after the first few minutes, everyone just jumped in and had fun. Class time was compressed because we started late, which meant that the order of activities was all out of whack, but I think we did our best with the situation. We were also meant to have a presentation about a country—which I was supposed to prepare but didn’t, due to being catastrophically busy with a number of other things—but I feel like it worked out fine anyway. We started late, and we ended roughly on time. The one thing I feel we need to improve? More time for prayers, including closing prayers, which we missed this time. It’s so nice to have those prayers as bookends to the class—I think they help to mark that time as sacred for the kids.

prayers from ruhi book 3

Children are asked to study and commit to memory the following prayers as they study the lessons of the Ruhi Book 3 curriculum. Page numbers for Bahá’í Prayers are from the 2002 edition, but links (where available) are to the same prayers in the 1991 edition.

Grade 1

  • Lesson 1: “O God, guide me, protect me, make of me a shining lamp and a brilliant star. Thou art the Mighty and the Powerful.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers, p.29)
  • Lesson 4: “O Thou Kind Lord! I am a little child, exalt me by admitting me to the kingdom. I am earthly, make me heavenly; I am of the world below, let me belong to the realm above; gloomy, suffer me to become radiant; material, make me spiritual, and grant that I may manifest Thine infinite bounties. Thou art the Powerful, the All-Loving.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers, p.29)
  • Lesson 10: “Blessed is the spot, and the house, and the place, and the city, and the heart, and the mountain, and the refuge, and the cave, and the valley, and the land, and the sea, and the island, and the meadow where mention of God hath been made, and His praise glorified.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Prayers, p.i)
  • Lesson 13: “Thy name is my healing, O my God, and remembrance of Thee is my remedy. Nearness to Thee is my hope, and love for Thee is my companion. Thy mercy to me is my healing and my succor in both this world and the world to come. Thou, verily, art the All-Bountiful, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Prayers, p.96)
  • Lesson 18: “O my Lord! O my Lord! I am a child of tender years. Nourish me from the breast of Thy mercy, train me in the bosom of Thy love, educate me in the school of Thy guidance and develop me under the shadow of Thy bounty. Deliver me from darkness, make me a brilliant light; free me from unhappiness, make me a flower of the rose garden; suffer me to become a servant of Thy threshold and confer upon me the disposition and nature of the righteous; make me a cause of bounty to the human world and crown my head with the diadem of eternal life. Verily, Thou art the Powerful, the Mighty, the Seer, the Hearer.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers, p.29–30)

Grade 2

  • Lesson 1 (Set 1): “O Lord! I am a child; enable me to grow beneath the shadow of Thy loving kindness. I am a tender plant; cause me to be nurtured through the outpourings of the clouds of Thy bounty. I am a sapling of the garden of love; make me into a fruitful tree. Thou art the Mighty and the Powerful, and Thou art the All-Loving, the All-Knowing, the All-Seeing.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers, p.31–32)
  • Lesson 4 (Set 2): “O my God! O my God! Unite the hearts of Thy servants, and reveal to them Thy great purpose. May they follow Thy commandments and abide in Thy law. Help them, O God, in their endeavor, and grant them strength to serve Thee. O God! Leave them not to themselves, but guide their steps by the light of Thy knowledge, and cheer their hearts by Thy love. Verily, Thou art their Helper and their Lord.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Prayers, p.238)
  • Lesson 7 (Set 3): “O my Lord! Make Thy beauty to be my food, and Thy presence my drink, and Thy pleasure my hope, and praise of Thee my action, and remembrance of Thee my companion, and the power of Thy sovereignty my succorer, and Thy habitation my home, and my dwelling-place the seat Thou hast sanctified from the limitations imposed upon them who are shut out as by a veil from Thee. Thou art, verily, the Almighty, the All-Glorious, the Most Powerful.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Prayers, p.167)
  • Lesson 10 (Set 4): “O Lord God! Make us as waves of the sea, as flowers of the garden, united, agreed through the bounties of Thy love. O Lord! Dilate the breasts through the signs of Thy oneness, and make all mankind as stars shining from the same height of glory, as perfect fruits growing upon Thy tree of life.
    “Verily, Thou art the Almighty, the Self-Subsistent, the Giver, the Forgiving,
    the Pardoner, the Omniscient, the One Creator.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers, p.239)
  • Lesson 13 (Set 5): “O Lord! Unto Thee I repair for refuge, and toward all Thy signs I set my heart. O Lord! Whether traveling or at home, and in my occupation or in my work, I place my whole trust in Thee. Grant me then Thy sufficing help so as to make me independent of all things, O Thou Who art unsurpassed in Thy mercy! Bestow upon me my portion, O Lord, as Thou pleasest, and cause me to be satisfied with whatsoever thou hast ordained for me. Thine is the absolute authority to command.” (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Prayers, p.55–56)
  • Lesson 16 (Set 6): “O Thou kind Lord! These lovely children are the handiwork of the fingers of Thy might and the wondrous signs of Thy greatness. O God! Protect these children, graciously assist them to be educated and enable them to render service to the world of humanity. O God! These children are pearls, cause them to be nurtured within the shell of Thy loving-kindness. Thou art the Bountiful, the All-Loving.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers, p.28)
  • Lesson 19 (Set 7): “O my God! O my God! Thou seest these children who are the twigs of the tree of life, the birds of the meads of salvation, the pearls of the ocean of Thy grace, the roses of the garden of Thy guidance.
    “O God, our Lord! We sing Thy praise, bear witness to Thy sanctity and implore fervently the heaven of Thy mercy to make us lights of guidance, stars shining above the horizons of eternal glory amongst mankind, and to teach us a knowledge which proceedeth from Thee. Yá Bahá’u’l-Abhá!” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers, p.31)

Grade 3

In Grade 3, teachers are asked to choose prayers for the children to study.

tiếng việt

Chúng tôi ?ã phát tri?n các v?t li?u sau ?ây cho các l?p h?c c?a con cái c?a chúng tôi trong nh?ng n?m qua; b?n có th? tìm th?y m?t s? trong s? h? ch? h?u ích khi h? ?ang có, ho?c h? có th? giúp truy?n c?m h?ng cho b?n ?? t?o ra v?t li?u c?a riêng b?n v? các ch? ?? khác nhau.

B?n có tài li?u mà b?n mu?n chia s? v?i chúng ta và th? gi?i? Hãy liên l?c v?i chúng tôi!

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