(c) Hilltown Families - New Year's Day Pancake Breakfast

Hilltown families from Ashfield, Chesterfield, Cummington, Plainfield and Windsor dressed-up in costumes and got silly while gathering in West Chesterfield, MA, for a New Year’s Day Family Pancake Breakfast.

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With clear winter skies and no snow in sight, you couldn’t have asked for a better day to explore all the family activities happening on Sunday afternoon for Northampton (Noho) First Night. The day’s program of activities was filled with nearly 40 venues of entertainment, including dance, theater and music at 18 different performance halls, churches and public spaces in Northampton. Well worth the trip down from the hills with something for everyone, especially families!

At twelve noon the festivities kicked off at the Northampton Center for the Arts with a Caribbean Street Carnival, presented by the Enchanted Circle Theater (ECT). ECT has been infusing arts and education for 30 year! At Noho First Night they put on a spirited performance of music, dance and storytelling. Read More

New Year’s Eve is Sunday night and Northampton will be having their 22nd annual First Night Celebration. The city will be filled with events and activities, with many events for families with school age children, several have been suggested below. For parents lucky enough to get a babysitter for the evening, there are many more performances happening after the sun goes down in Northampton on New Year’s eve.  Have a safe New Year’s Eve and a Happy New Year. Read More

(c) Hiilltown Families

The Springfield Museum is hosting a Medieval Faire during the winter school break. On Tuesday, Rosalita’s Puppets performed a marionette puppet show. Keeping in theme with the Medieval Faire, the performance was Goldilocks and the Three Dragons and was performed to an interactive crowd in the Davis Auditorium. With an endearing improvisational method, puppeteer Charlotte Anne Dore invoked the crowd of families to participate on cue, while incorporating into the performance suggestions and comments children would shout out from the audience.

All week long families can participate in a variety of craft activities, including medieval mosaics in the G.W.V.S. Art Museum. Mosaic art was very popular during the Renaissance era. Children were given the opportunity to create their own mosaic art while visiting the museum during the Medieval Faire. Read More

Jan Brett offers on-line educational resources.

(c) Jan BrettLocal author Jan Brett has a collection of nearly 4,000 teaching aids as free downloads on her website. These teaching aids and activities include beautifully drawn posters, worksheet, coloring pages, visual aids and other projects. Her site is definitely worth your perusal. Teachers, home-schooling families and parents alike will find a wealth of resources to supplement the education of their children. Grade school students are the primary target of this abundant resources; however, older children with learning disabilities will benefit greatly with her beautiful pictures illustrating each resource.

(c) Jan BrettIn addition to free downloadable teaching aids Jan Brett’s website (www.janbrett.com) also has a nice collection of on-line video tutorials to teach drawing to children, book character games that include flash cards and sight word lists, a murals to download for a classroom to color.

She also offers a free newsletter that sends out an email letter whenever new activities and projects are added to her site.

The Gift of Games

Playing games with your kids is a perfect way to spend time together — and build learning skills at the same time.

By Alvin Rosenfeld

What your child most wants — and needs — is to be with you with no goal in mind beyond the joy of spending time together. S/he wants you to take pleasure in him, play with him, and listen to him. Nothing bolsters his self-esteem more! So why not pull out an old board game tonight? Playing games is an easy and excellent way to spend unhurried, enjoyable time together. As an added bonus, board games are also rich in learning opportunities. They satisfy your child’s competitive urges and the desire to master new skills and concepts …

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Winter Solstice Tradition Begins, 2006
By Sienna Wildfield

Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

ASHFIELD, MA (Dec 23, 2006) – Ancient and modern Winter Solstice traditions were celebrated on the town green in Ashfield, MA this past Friday evening, organized by Ashfield residents, Laura Stravino and Victoria Worth. Wanting to begin a local Solstice celebration tradition they could share with their community inspired Stravino and Worth. With the help of several community members, they successfully put together an inspiring event. Ashfield teachers Edie and Julie joined in with their families under umbrellas as a light freezing rain fell. A beautiful bonfire warmed the crowd and Stephen Worth and Lael Boesel tended to the fire. Elmer’s Store offered hot cocoa and a warm meal and Country Pie was open for oven fresh pizza. Storytelling, songs and dancing filled the darkest night of the year, and families from all over the hills came to celebrate together.

Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

The Hilltown Children’s Chorus had their debut at the Solstice celebration. Spear-headed by Stephanie Pasternack of Cummington, MA, this new chorus sang This Little Light of Mine, Jingle Bells and Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel, led by blues singer Marla BB of West Chesterfield, MA. Marla also led the crowd in a variety of songs of light as they gathered around the fire.

Morris Dancers arrived after the kids sang. Morris dancing is an English folk dance and is choreographed with rhythmic stepping while wielding wooden swords they’d knock together. Music played and the dancers performed a festive dance around the fire, knocking their swords together and singing out praises.

With children participating, storyteller Rona Leventhal wove together a Native American creation tale about forest animals attempting to retrieve the sun’s light. Only the wise Mother Spider was able to bring the sun’s light back to them.

Toward the end of the celebration, families took part in a candle dedication. Each participant lit candles, offered their own personal message and placed them together with others.

Ellen Jackson’s book, The Winter Solstice, (published by Millbrook Press) takes a look at the many different cultures throughout history who have celebrated the Winter Solstice and developed cutoms for this shortest day of the year.

With a simple storyline and attractive watercolor illustrations by Jan Davey Ellis, Jackson’s book is a nice addition to a social studies curriculum for children ages 4-8 this time of the year. The Scottish, Romans, Scandinavians, Celts, Northern Europeans, Peruvians, Pueblo Indians, and the Kwakiutl Indians are presented with their customs and beliefs; in addition to a scientific look and simple experiment to illustrate the planetary alignment that creates this seasonal change.

Jackson also explains how the winter solstice is celebrated today in modern American and European cultures, and how solstice customs have found their way into the celebrations of Hanukkah and Christmas.

She ends her book with a Cherokee folktale of creation that tells why evergreens stay green because of their faith that the sun would return. Read More

(c) Hilltown Families - Town of Ashfield, MA.It’s official … the days are now getting longer! No real snow to speak of yet, but the light of the sun is slowly returning, and children are getting ready for a winter break from school and many are taking advantage of the festive and cultural events that happen this time of year. If you’re looking for activities to do with your family, various museums are having special events during the week before the new year. Visit them on-line and give us a comment or two with your recommendations and experiences.

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(c) Hilltown Families - Sanderson AcademyElementary schools may be closed
Thursday, December 14, 2006
By David Vallette (Source: The Republican)

(Buckland) – A committee report calls for closing three of the Mohawk Trail Regional School District’s four elementary schools…

…To deal with expected budget problems, the Interim Planning Committee calls for closing elementary schools in Heath, Colrain and Ashfield, and putting all elementary students into the sole remaining school, Buckland-Shelburne Elementary.

The phased closing would have one school closed in each of the next three years… (including) Sanderson Academy in Ashfield, which serves Ashfield and Plainfield…

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(c) Hilltown Families - Sushi Social

Sushi Social in West Chesterfield

Hilltown mom’s gathered in West Chesterfield, MA, for a sushi social and Yankee Swap. Women came from miles to celebrate the season, including from Ashfield, Dalton, Cummington, East Hampton, Plainfield, Chesterfield, Worthington, Shelburne Falls, Goshen and Windsor, to have all manner of sushi in a lounge like atmosphere. Everyone gathered to reconnect with old friends while making many new connections, sharing family stories from this past year and looking ahead as a community to the year to come. Read More

Hanukkah in the Hills

(c) Sienna Wildfield - Hilltown Families

Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah, Chanukah, Hanukah, Hannukah and Channukahis) is the Jewish Holiday known as the Festival of Lights. For eight days Jewish families kindle the light of a menorah by lighting one of the eight remaining candles every evening.This past Friday evening, hilltown families of mixed spiritual/religious faiths gathered in West Chesterfield, MA, to discover this ancient (over 2,000 years old) Jewish festival. When guests were asked if they knew what other holiday was celebrated on that day, one child shouted out, “CHRISTMAS!” Actually, it’s Shabbat. Two candles were lit, apple juice was served in small cups, blessings were sang and loaves of homemade Challah were passed around for children to tear off pieces of bread.

(c) Hilltown Families

homemade latkes (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Nancy Rothensberg cooked up an endless supply of delicious, homemade latkes (potato and onion pancakes), quickly devoured by everyone with sour cream or apple sauce. For perfect potato latkes, Master Chef Levana Kirschenbaum recommends keeping your recipe dry, thick, hot, steady, lean, white and fresh. Not sure if Nancy followed these guidelines, but they were the best latkes around town!

Upstairs families learn how to play dreidel. Chocolate coins (called gelt) were passed out to all players and Marla BB explained the rules and Hebrew markings on the dreidel. The dreidel is a spinning top with four sides, with each side corresponding to the following Hebrew words:

  • Nun (not) Nothing happens and the next player spins the dreidel.
  • Gimel (gimme) The player takes the entire pot of gelt and the next player spins the dreidel.
  • Hey (half) The player takes half of the pot of gelt and the next player spins the dreidel.
  • Shin (put in) The player puts one piece of gelt the pot and the next player spins the dreidel.

Of course a few younger children had a hard time giving up some or all of their gelt, but the older kids were intent on learning the game and continued playing even after all the adults finished.

Dancing followed with a warm up to Hanukah Bamba from a new Hanukah CD made available from the PJ Library. Later, with Klezmer music playing, the Hora was taught to all. Participants gathered hands in a circle and learned steps to this Israeli folk dance.

Stories were shared at the end of the evening. Marla BB read The Eight Nights of Hanukah and Runaway Dreidel to an interactive crowd of families. Both books were also made available from the PJ Library.

Tis’ the season for multi-cultural celebrations. On Friday you can either head over to Pittsfield for a Christmas adventure, or stay here in the hills for a Hanukkah social. There are also a couple Winter Solstice activities to participate in this week as well, and Santa will be all over the place! Much of this merrymaking is free and open to all families. Check them out! Post your comments and submit your ideas. Read More

Making the Holidays Less Materialistic
Reviewed by Barbara P. Homeier, MD

“The gimmes” are all around us during the holiday season. You know – “Gimme this,” “Gimme that,” “I want this,” “I want that.” It can be hard for children – and parents alike – to look beyond all of the product-driven hoopla to see what the holidays are really about. It’s not the actual gifts but what’s behind the presents that’s important – the spirit of giving. Help your kids learn the fun of giving, and how rewarding it can be to look for, make, and wrap something special – or do something special – for people they care about and others who are in need.

Here are five ways you can help decrease materialism in your kids and reinforce the real reason for the season: Read More

Video Games Fun But Pose Social, Health Risks
11 Dec 2006

Move over Tickle Me Elmo. The recently released Nintendo Wii and Playstation 3 video game systems are rivaling the giggling red monster as the gifts children beg their parents for most this holiday season.

As coveted as these new video game systems and other models are, some parents may want to think twice before buying them for their children and teens, a University of Florida child psychologist says. Read More

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Reindog Parade in Williamstown, MA.

Hilltown families feeling adventurous this weekend (Dec 2006) headed out to Williamstown, MA, home of the Clarke MuseumImages Cinema hosted a special movie screening of A Charlie Brown Christmas and Olive, the Other Reindeer.

Following the screenings, Spring Street was closed off for the town’s annual Reindog Parade, a local tradition of the residents in Williamstown. The street was lined with luminaries, balloons were passed out to children, and the local public access television station was poised with their cameras to film the parade.

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Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Santa Claus in Peru, Massachusetts.
Santa in Peru, MA (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

On Saturday morning (2006) in Peru, MA, the ground was lightly covered with snow, promising that a New England holiday season might make an entrance soon. At the community center in Peru, families gathered with their children for a social to celebrate the season. Hot chocolate and pastries were served, and volunteers decorated the center in seasonal lights and holiday icons. The children made crafts supplied by the Peru Recreation Department while parents socialized and discussed the topic of their children’s school, holiday plans, and other parent-related issues.

Towards the end of the gathering, Santa arrived. The kids were delighted! Every child received a toy from Santa. Not a chintzy toy either, but really nice toys! Organizer Dawn Warner explained that the Peru Rec. Dept. (being a non-profit organization) gets funding from the United Way, so they have a healthy budget every year to bring families in the Hilltowns together during the holidays, providing quality gifts, pastries, craft items, a visit from Santa, and in the past, music! Something to look forward to for next year.

Inspiring Gratitude
By Peggy Healy Stearns Ph.D.

Teach your children gratitude, and you share both an important social skill and a positive worldview. When children give thanks, they acknowledge the kindness and generosity of others and recognize their own good fortune. They become part of the cycle of giving and receiving. Saying thank you is more than good manners; it’s a way for children to give back.

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Lots of holiday happenings to choose from this weekend and over the next week. Choices range from performance arts in Pittsfield/Northampton, to community gatherings at various hilltown community centers, including Cummington/Peru/ Plainfield. This next week you’ll also discover several parenting and a relationship workshops happening. Check it out. Post your comments. Read More

(c) Hilltown Families

At the Berkshire Museum this weekend, a talented ensemble of performers ranging from ages 5 to 19 from the Berkshire Children’s Theater brought to life characters from Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid. The show was sold out on Sunday, and children of all ages enjoyed a dazzling performance with brightly colored performers dressed as mermaids, sharks, lobsters and fish. Read More

Farming in the Hills

Farming in the Hills
A photo exhibit by Cynthia Poirier

(c) Hilltown FamiliesA reception for a photographic exhibition by Cynthia Poirier was held at the Cummington Community House on Saturday evening. Children ran around and played while parents and community members gathered to discuss the larger issues and challenges of farming in the hilltowns.

Poirier did a terrific job of presenting images of local farming families with short bio’s of their experiences and history of being a farmer. Her works depict hilltown agriculture as a dynamic and vital way of life. The Thayer Sheep Farm, Crabapple CSA Farm, Waryjasz Potato Farm and the Joyner Dairy Farm were a few of the farms to chronicled in this exhibit.

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(c) Hilltown FamiliesThe moon was nearly full and the holiday lights were strung about. A beautiful night for a hayride at Look Park in Florence, MA. The kids got to pet the horses and even offer a carrot or two.There are over 50 different holiday light displays, including Christmas and Hanukkah icons, an assortment of animals, and all the way from Scottland, Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster.

The hayrides are being offered by Stillwater Stables of Chesterfield, MA, and take about 25 mins to travel around the park. The cost is $3 for kids and $5 for adults. They will be giving hayrides at the park every Friday and Saturday evening from 5-8pm, through 12/23/07.

With the holiday season upon us, there are a lot of fun and educational weekend experiences just waiting for us to explore them in the Pioneer Valley and Hilltowns. Friday looks like a good day to head on over to Amherst for the afternoon and into the evening; Saturday has several events happening in Northampton/Florence area; and in Pittsfield on Sunday is a performance of the Little Mermaid. To add an event, please select comments to add your suggestions. Read More

Puppet Show

The Springfield Museums’ Holiday Happenings this past Saturday was a great adventure. They had a list of activities to do with the kids in addition to visiting all four of their museums. They had several craft activities, including coloring a nut cracker crown, making a magnet mitten, paper holiday wreaths, and snowflakes.

The Midwinter Magic puppet show, put on by the Gerwick Puppets, was well attended. The story was about the Winter Solstice and magic that two children encounter during a dream on that special night.Puppet Show

Following the puppet show, puppeteer Deborah Costine sat down with children in the audience and shared the nuts and bolts behind the show, from how they made their puppets to the mechanisims of their performance.

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For details of upcoming events move your mouse over event. Click on the event if you would like to go to their web site for more details and contact information.
To add an event, please select comments and add your suggested event. Read More

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