As I mentioned at the end of my last entry, I'm starting to investigate the possibility of creating a children's gardening club. I really feel that gardening is a wonderful life lesson, an amazing unschooling "curriculum". But its potential has remained relatively untapped by us for a number of reasons. First, I lose my focus... I've not been a highly committed gardener. I let the weeds take over and then it's frustrating. Second, our garden was feral from the moment we inherited it, and it's been tough wrestling it back from the couch-grass. Third, our garden is far away in a lonely corner of the yard and provides little in the way of an aesthetic or social draw for the kids. Fourthly, pregnancy and parenting an infant have added to the challenge. And fifthly, we have a relatively short growing season and fairly poor soil (acidic and lacking in nutrients).
At any rate, I would love to inspire my kids to garden. And I hit on the idea of starting a children's gardening club that would have a site in town (where the growing season is longer) and some semi-structured leadership and regular meeting times. None of this can possibly fall into place this spring, so I'm looking to garden more successfully on the home front this year with the kids while getting a club up and running for 2005.
In this vein, I've been putting a fair bit of my own energy into garden preparations and trying to include any kids who are receptive. Sophie and I made little pots made of rolled & tamped newspaper, filled with potting mix. They're waiting for tomato seeds. I started some peppers in some other pots. There's lettuce sprouting in the cold frame. Sophie and I also started a gardening journal.
Yesterday I took the kids to the community garden (maintained by volunteers) for the big work party. The other workers were mostly retirees, though there was another unschooling mom there with her 5yo for a while. Erin had really not wanted to go. She was in her pyjamas, sitting at the computer, and in one of those moods. We told her to bring a book and read in the van, but by the time she got dressed and got on her new sneakers (which she's hardly had a chance to wear because of all the snow at our place) she was begrudgingly compliant. And then within twenty minutes, all the kids were totally hooked on doing real work of real value just like the grownups. They stayed for almost 4 hours and no one wanted to leave when it was time to go home for supper! They carried piles of pruned-off branches to the brush pile. They raked. They trimmed and did some simple pruning. They also did a lot of running around playing hide-and-seek, and throwing stones in the lake. But they kept coming back to work. They all want to go back on Wednesday.
Today, back at home, I did some yardwork in the places where the snow had receded. I had to spend 10 minutes digging the wheelbarrow out of a snowbank first. To say I'm pushing the envelope on spring would be an understatement. I raked a little on the paths and in front of the house where the sun has melted the snow away, put away the skis and sleds, rolled up a bit of the ice rink liner and also did some pruning. It was an amazingly beautiful day. The temperature crept up to about 10 C (50 F), the sun was warming us all, and it felt like spring despite the snow on the ground. The kids were wearing shorts, T-shirts and sandals, playing tetherball, raking, pruning, biking, running around. They haven't come inside yet, except to eat and drink.
They're going to be exhausted. It'll be tough getting the practising done, but at least they've had a happy and healthy day.
I'm feeling really optimistic about the gardening interest.
In the rest of our lives things are mostly clicking along. All three are really enjoying the additional challenge and length of their new, somewhat tailor-made, homeschool gymnastics class. Art class is continuing, with lots of drawing and painting (especially faces) and some paper maché. We went to a marionette puppet show last weekend that was mostly aimed at little kids, but Erin really liked the puppets and wants to make some. The kids performed violin at a Preschool Fundraising Dinner last weekend and briefly became local celebrities. I think that particular dinner included a lot of people who don't normally attend concerts, and so when we were running errands in town on Wednesday six different people made a point of coming up to the kids and telling them how impressed they were with their performance. Noah joined the community orchestra for a couple of the easier numbers last week for the first time. He really enjoyed himself. It's true about Erin's cursive handwriting: I saw a letter she'd written and it's beautiful!
Our main readaloud right now is Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy. We've just started book 2, "The Subtle Knife". This is very good. I thought Sophie and Noah might lose interest because it's so deep and complex, but they're following it at their own levels and enjoying it a lot.