Sofi and I are studying the Fifth Grade Ancient Cultures block. In the first part of the block we talked about Ancient India. Since this block included information on Hinduism and Buddhism we decided to visit a temple last week. I was amazed that this even exists in Iowa and I never would have known if I had not driven by it by chance one day while going to a different town with a friend. Nobody I know talks about it and when I told people I was going many people either said, “There is a Hindu Temple in Iowa?” or “I’ve been meaning to go there but never made it”. What is even more surprising is how authentic and beautiful it is. We have visited many spiritual centers but many people simply meat in rooms or simple buildings and it is the spirit of the group (and not the location) that brings them together. In this case, it is both. At least ten workers came to the USA for four years and lived on the temple grounds to HAND CARVE each figure in the temple. When we arrived Sofi said she felt like she was actually in India. I did too! We sat through an hour-long service of chanting and then shared a wonderful meal of Indian food after. The ceremony we attended was a monthly one where the main god of the temple was undressed and cleaned, all the clothing and pure silver armor was cleaned and the god was then re-adorned with sparkling armor, fresh flowers, perfumes, and bright cloth. It was a really nice way to end our Ancient India unit and move on to our Ancient Persia section. If you are studying other cultures or religions as part of your homeschooling I would recommend looking online and looking around for what opportunities may be available in your area. If we have such an amazing Hindu mosque in the middle of Iowa near a small town here then you might be surprised at what you will find near you!
One tip is to do a search for different cultural or religious organizations in your area. These small, private organizations often do not have a lot of money for advertising but they spend a lot of time planning wonderful authentic events for the people who belong to the organizations. They are always welcoming and usually advertise and welcome the public, but because their advertising efforts are not large you may not even hear about their events unless you are on their mailing list. I have found wonderful cultural events using this method – ones that have not been advertised in the local paper or other popular advertising venues.