The Quiltmaker’s Gift
“A generous quiltmaker, with magic in her fingers, sews the most beautiful quilts in the world; then gives them away.”
I rarely break my own rule about reading books that are “beautifully simple” to young children. My exception to this rule is Jeff Brumbeau’s The Quiltmaker’s Gift . It is a colorful feast for the eyes and layers of honey for the heart that I cannot resist reading and rereading to kindergarten aged children. Especially in the month of November before the holidays. The tale of finding true happiness through service is brought to life with a greedy but compassionate king who is given a purpose by the mystical quiltmaker who keeps her promise.
Lessons Abound! Begin With a Book.
Lesson 1: Empathy
By November, the five and six year old children have embraced their roles as leaders in our 3-6 mixed age Montessori classroom. They are well on their way to becoming nurturing and responsible role models for the younger children. November is the perfect time to give the class an experience of service learning.
Together we talk about baking cookies to sell. Will we keep the money? “NO!” We will buy some gifts for children who don’t get too many presents for the holidays. You can imagine the compassionate conversation surrounding the thought of no presents under the tree.
Lesson 2: Cooking
The parents have to be very good sports for this bake sale. After all, even though we make cookies together at school, the families are also asked to make some at home, AND then buy them back!! I never had even one raised eyebrow from a parent who didn’t think the opportunity for their child to care for others was not worth the price.
We learned the names of many kitchen utensils and the meaning of words like sift, level, cream, batter AND knead. We learned how to perfect the art of hand washing and keep our fingers away from our mouths (AND other places). We learned to crack eggs, pour vanilla, grate nutmeg, AND wait patiently for a turn. We counted to 100 as we mixed up the dough, we measured fractions, teaspoons, degrees AND timers. We counted one dozen cookies onto every plate, then counted the plates AND made some signs. “Baik Sail” was my favorite.
Lesson 3: Selling
Smile, look your customers in the eye, recommend your favorites, AND remember to say….”Thank you very much for coming to our bake sale. Enjoy your cookies!” Good practice counting lots of quarters and dollars. The next day we had a division lesson. “Division is sharing a big number equally.” Each kindergartener will have $26.10 to spend at Target. Are we going to buy toys for ourselves? “NO!”
Lesson 4: Buying New Toys
We write down our ideas about the special manners that we use in the car and at the store to keep us safe, and be respectful of others. We read them together one last time before we get into the cars to spend our $365 at Target. One last time: Are we going to buy toys for ourselves? “NO!” The care and thoughtful decision making (made with another in mind) was a beautiful thing for the adults watch.
Lesson 5: “Giving Makes You Feel So Happy!”
As the kindergarten children joyfully helped to load the van from Share-A-Gift with the toys they had selected for others, the line from The Quiltmaker’s Gift came to life…
“…the king traded his treasures for smiles.”