Thursday, May 29, 2008

Living and the garden

I guess I have some fairly unusual ideas of what constitutes an "education". I don't necessarily agree that having someone "teach" bits and pieces of disconnected information - a curriculum - to a child makes for a proper education. I don't believe that this makes for a "smarter" person...or for a more "successful" life (and I certainly don't agree with our society's definition of success). For my children, it has always been more important to me that they learn about things in context as much as possible - to learn through living and doing. I think of my children (as well as myself) as life-long learners and so I feel no need to make sure the years from age 5 to 18 are taken up with filling them full of information that someone else has deemed necessary. In general, it seems to me that a little more priority placed on learning "real" things wouldn't be a bad idea - common-sense (not so common anymore), practical, real-life things like an awareness of, and respect for, the natural world (which most of our ancestors came by naturally). So, while some parents might thrill that their kids have memorized the periodic table, aced a test in algebra or are able to recite one of Shakespeare's sonnets I tend to find pleasure in different things (although I do love Shakespeare). The other day E was out in the garden and I mentioned to him that he might want to check if he needed to weed his garden bed. He went to have a look, pulled a few things and then told me that the remaining tiny sprouts were lamb's quarter and he would leave those to grow so he could eat them. I went over to have a look and sure enough, he had identified some tiny sprouts as the lamb's quarter that we had eaten often in the past. I said that I was impressed that he could recognize them when they were so small and he told me that it was because they had a bit of a silvery look to the leaves - this made it easy for him to identify. Can I tell you how pleased this makes me? That an 8 year old can recognize wild foods when they are tiny. I really don't see what can be a more essential part of an "education" than how to get or grow our own food. Really...I see it as essential. Vital. How far would we get in life without food?

I often wonder how different schools would be if every one of them had a huge garden in the schoolyard, if every child had the opportunity to dig in the dirt, observe the insects and other critters and taste the products of their own work. I'm so pleased to hear that some schools are starting programs like this and I hope that the children taking part are given the chance to "just be" in the garden. I think there is a lot to be learned when we have the chance to just be.


Anonymous said...

I am loving these years of "just being" right alongside my kids. watching them "just be" as well.
The greatest pleasure, and treasure, I could have ever be given.

I whole-heartedly share your philosophy on "education".

Mary-Sue said...

Bloody hell! You said it! Amen!
Couldn't agree more!!!
I'm SO impressed that he could identify lamb's quarters already! And love that he loves to eat them, too!
I just heard that there's a school here that's going to be starting a composting program and garden program! I'm thrilled to hear this, but share your wish that children can just BE in the garden. It's so important...

Katherine said...

Bravo! Well said, Heather. I'm totally with you on this.

Tell E. I'm very impressed with his plant knowledge and know I could learn a thing or two from him. (Give yourself a pat on the back, H for leading the way).

Conny Jensen said...

Just read about this blog entry in Kirsten Olson's book Wounded by School. It is beautiful! If only all kids had a chance to learn naturally like that!