When the atrium is running smoothly, everybody does seem to know what do! This is no small feat, considering we spend two hours with the children each session, with most of the time set aside for the children to choose their own work, and work independently or in small groups. This is possible because of many factors but it really boils down to two: a carefully prepared room and our preparation with the children. I'll write more about the room later, but wanted to say a few things about our work with the children, which begins this Sunday at 9:15 am!
At the start of the year, we spend time teaching the children the things they need to know to be independent in the atrium. Here are a few first day presentations we show the children:
- what do do when you arrive
- how to carry a chair
- how to unroll and re-roll a rug to work with materials on the floor
- how to get the catechist's attention without interrupting
- how to move quietly and speak quietly in the room
- how to take a material off the shelf and return it ready for the next person to use
This probably seems excessive, but it is with these lessons that we begin to create the culture of the atrium. Understanding how to function in the room allows the children to move about freely and choose their own work to explore, as the Spirit moves them. Knowing how to work independently with materials gives them time to meditate on what they are hearing, seeing, and doing. With this kind of freedom, children don't have to be directed and entertained at every turn - instead real growth and discovery can happen in the quiet moments of reflection after the catechist and child have finished speaking. This also makes the catechist available to spend time with individual children or small groups - showing them new presentations or meditating with them on the work they have chosen. Creating an atmosphere of quiet and reflection, where children can direct themselves and be directed by God is a big job for the catechists. We begin this Sunday! See you then!