Culture Swap

One of my tentative goals for parenting Rebecca is homeschooling, although I think she already has other ideas. It’s something I’m interested in though, and I read lots of homeschooling mom blogs. One is A Bit Of This and A Bit Of That by a Montessori home-pre-schooling mom in Japan, Jo Ebi, and she runs the occational swap. This is my second, her Culture Swap. The default swap plan gets you two swap partners, so you send out two culture packets, and get back two from different cultures. I thought if I was going to go to the trouble to put together a packet on a culture, I might as well do more than two, so I got three extra swap partners. Double the motivation.

Unfortunately, September was our get-your-swap-together month, and I spent more than half of it in Vermont, most of that busy getting ready, and recovering from, my sister-in-law’s wedding. In modem land, so I even had a hard time doing much needed internet research on my chosen culture, Finland. Oh well. I got started before we left, managed some library internet research while I was there, and managed to pull it all together in the final three days of September when we got back. I mailed it off October 1st, and practically broke my arm patting myself on the back. Normally I’m horrible about getting things into the mail, but I got this one. The whole thing was a lot more work than I was expecting! But now it’s done.

My Finland SwapWhat was in my swap? Half the work went into gathering the information and putting together a booklet. Here are some links that get you most of it:

Facts: Wikipedia and Virtual Finland

Craft: I put together a simplified birch bark box tutorial based on this HANDISCOLA pdf. I cut the wooden circles for the boxes the morning that I was mailing the packages out. Nothing like an inspiring last minute crunch.

Recipes: gingerbread men and kesaekeitto (summer soup). The summer soup is going to get added to my dinner repertoire, easy freeform recipe.

Games: Neppis and Mölkky

Music: Traditional Finnish songs from Joy: Hits From World Famous Children’s Choir

Biography: Tove Jansson, writer and illustrator of the Moomin books, I love them, her characters are so… intensely themselves, and great embodiments of personality traits and foibles.

Sorting StampsThat was my ‘required’. I also threw in some Panda licorice (from Finland, I couldn’t find small packages of salt licorice which would have been better), Finnish stamps (and some from Norway which had Scandinavian architecture and animals), a map of Finland, and a hand felted Finnish flag (my first, and wonky, attempt at needle felting). Also an extra CD with some public domain books with Finnish folk tales, my favorite of which is Mighty Mikko: A Book of Finnish Fairy Tales and Folk Talesby Parker Fillmore(1922). The PDF has some really beautiful woodblock style illustrations by Jay Van Everen, and I especially liked ‘The Forest Bride: The story of a little mouse who was a princess’.

But enough about me, this is getting too long. My official swap group swaps came in first:

China Swap Kim’s swap was on China, and her package was full of snacks and candy, most of which was from Japan, Taiwan and/or Korea (I’ve forgotten and we ate it so I can’t check!) which was fine with me because of all the China food scares! There was also a cute Panda booklet she made from a card, some chopsticks, some Chinese character sticker/tattoos, some kind of food container I haven’t figured out, and a nice package of origami paper, which included a cute pattern for folding a little tiny book that Rebecca likes.

Canadian First Nations SwapNext came Jen’s Canadian First Nations swap, which was full of great stuff too. Lots of pictures and quotes that she’d pasted onto card stock to make them nice, and a beautiful crocheted First Nations doll with a cloak/dress that comes off with a tiny snap that my daughter adores, and a lovely little dream catcher. I think the person who made the dream catcher is funny, because there is a tag on it that talks about how bad dreams get caught in the web, and the good dreams go through the hole in the center, but they didn’t leave a hole in the center! If you aren’t going to leave holes in the center of your dream catchers, then you shouldn’t write a tag about how important the center hole is. But perhaps they have small children, and are as absent minded as me. I really liked all the pictures.

Native American SwapNext came in our first extra swap, Laura’s Native American swap. She sent materials to make a dream catcher, and we will make sure to leave a hole in the center for the good dreams when we make ours. It won’t come out nearly as pretty as the one Jen sent, but it’ll be fun. There was also a rain catcher project that Rebecca wanted to pour the beads into right now mama so we did. Some little plastic figures that Rebecca also loves, and a teepee that was to small for them to fit in, so we had to go and make a larger one out of bamboo skewers and cloth, although we made that one too big! Not that she minds, as long as they can fit in. These two swaps made me realize that if I want to teach Rebecca about different cultures the most important thing for her is to have a doll, probably with a story, from that culture. Laura also sent three nice books, including a great craft book covering many different tribes all across North America, which is nice because it talks about how all the different tribes had different cultures and you can’t really lump them together any more than you can call someone European and hope to be accurate, and a beautiful Caldecott Medal book, The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses. And there was a CD and a spinny drum. Lots of stuff in that box.

England SwapThen just the other day we got our fourth swap, Mary’s England swap. It came packaged in a cute pretend letter with an english stamp stuck to the front. Mary made a booklet similar to mine with lots of great information in it. One of the recipes was for making butter, which I’d read before but never thought of doing with kids, good idea. The craft she included was for making a Thaumatrope, which I’d never heard of, but seems like a great trick for little kids.

We’re still waiting on our fifth swap, but Souzzann said it got mailed off last week, so hopefully it will get here next week. It will be on the Navajo culture, that will make the third indigenous North American culture out of five. :-)

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