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Monday, February 12, 2007

Death in Home School Study.

Today Boy and I attended the cremation service of one of my past students. Although there is controversy around whether children attend funerals or not, my take is that death is a part of life and that children require answers, information and knowledge about all aspects of life.

Using the funeral as a teachable moment we did some research on cremations and burials. Boy (and I) learnt about the history of cremations and that in Australia, the Catholic Church lifted the ban on cremations for Catholics in 1960. The Cemeteries and Crematoria Association of NSW (CCANSW) states that “there are approximately 125,000 deaths each year in Australia and around 65,000 cremations take place. The overall average for Australia is just over 50% but in areas where cremation facilities are more readily available the rate approaches 70%.”

Getting to know your community: I had overlooked cemeteries as parts of our community for Boy to know about. This is strange, as when we visit other places, I like to have a look through their cemeteries to gain a snapshot of that town’s demographics and potential sad past. Epidemics, tragedies and types of graves can quickly inform the trauma that any given community may be living with. Certainly, when we were visiting my oldest son in Ingham recently, we visited the cemetery. A town of Italian settlement (sugar cane farms), the state of the crypts told a story of those Italian/Australian descendants who still live in the town and tend their relatives resting places and those who have moved away from the area leaving the crypts to become dilapidated and rain damaged. Similarly the finishings and decorations of the crypts told of the polarised socio economic status of the town's Italian population.

Our city has three cemeteries – a lawn cemetery and cremation garden, a large cemetery divided into Catholic and Non Catholic sections and a historical “pioneers” cemetery. Today we visited all three. Although now off crutches, Boy’s leg is still sore so we didn’t venture far. We talked though about why the cemeteries were in the positions they are, town planning, population growth and real estate.

Spelling: Today’s circumstances led to a new list of spelling words - Cemetery, funeral, cremation, urn, coffin, casket, death, pioneer, pyre, eulogy.

Some of these words required defining. Using the dictionary and Google, Boy managed to retain at least a working understanding of the words urn, pioneer, pyre and eulogy.

Writing and Technology: Rather than going through the trauma of hand writing, Boy word processed a work sheet requiring him to define his spelling words. This proved beneficial for Boy to learn how to cut and paste and how to work across several open internet tabs.

Reading: The children’s book that I published last year has a chapter where the main character’s mother dies. The characters are Australian animals and I had used strong Indigenous symbolism in the chapter. Even though I wrote the book and have read the chapter many times at book readings and author talks, I still got a lump in my throat as Boy and I read paragraph a turn. I thought Boy may be bored with the story (he’s heard it many times) but given the circumstance of the day, the chapter appeared to hold new meaning and learning for him.

Phew….a rough day over.

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This blog is no longer kept. I am instead blogging only to Imaginif Child Protection became Serious Business