kindergarten in the garden

Honestly I sometimes resent the amount of time and energy it takes to homeschool the older boys.  We now have one at middle school level and one high school.  That is a lot of work, not just for them, but for me as their teacher.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy teaching them, very much (well, most of the time!  There are days…).  Add in a third grader and baby and my days are full, full, full.  I’m sometimes nostalgic for the quiet, slower paced days when we could just “do kindergarten” all day long.

Mairi Rose had a challenging summer.  I spent a lot of time meditating on how to approach the coming school year with her, trying to figure out what would nourish her soul, ease her troubles and hopefully nurture her into a calmer phase of development.  It didn’t come all at once, but eventually, what became clear to me was that this girl needed a deeper connection to the natural world around her.  I set about planning ways to immerse her in the magic of the ever changing seasons, to give her the chance to be grounded by the earth.

After much frustration last year, I decided it was better to do one thing in a day well and with great care and attention then to be frazzled and frantically trying to create a “full day” for her.  We now have one yoga day (I’ll try to post more on that at a later point), one project day, a nature walk day, baking day and story day where I try to do something a little special with, say, props or puppets.  I do wish we were getting out for walks every day, but right now that is just not happening.  I try to make our one day as unhurried as possible.  Even if we do make it out other days, this is the day where we don’t have to rush back home, in theory anyway.  Even with this simplified arrangement there are days and even the better part of weeks that we miss.

In the notes section of my calendar I jot down the planned projects and baking items assigned to each week.  I’m working from a general theme that everything is related to.  We started off with “herbs” and have moved on to include both herbs and the harvest.  We made dream pillows full of sweet herbs from the garden.  Rosebud has been enjoying mixing her own herbal tea blends and takes great pride in serving them.  Together we made lavender-chamomile lotion for the girls bedtime massages.  Actually Elijah swears by it for sore muscles after riding!  We’ve planted garlic and daffodils.  I’ve been sharing stories about herbs with her.  After learning that chamomile is good for teething, she began bringing in bunches from the garden for her sister, whenever she thought her uncomfortable.

Together we made a garden loom.  I was going to make it myself and just show her how to weave with it, but we had the gift of time together, apart from the others and I thought I’d give her the chance to do some building herself.  She really got into it and again showed a lot of pride in her work.  These are her special things.  They are dear to her heart.

A Kid’s Herb Book: For Children of All Ages by Leslie Tierra has been a wonderful resource.  I have two minor criticisms regarding this book.  I wish they used more natural sweeteners in the recipes and maybe less sweets in general.  I also feel like occasionally they ruin the magic of the stories by over-explaining at the end, stating exactly what you were supposed to have learned, instead of just letting the lesson sink in through the power of the tale.  But both of those things can be altered for personal preference and otherwise I find it invaluable.

I try to keep a list of ideas on hand to give our life and lessons some continuity while kind of rounding things out for her, so if I have a spare moment I can implement them.  Little things like harvesting some herbs to go with dinner, playing a game of Wildcraft, turning her normal bath into an herbal bath or simply brewing a pot of tea together.  At the moment we have one day a week where all three boys are at their own nature program for a full morning and afternoon and I take advantage of that time together trying to channel that laid back all day kindergarten mindset of yesteryear.  It’s rapidly becoming my favorite day of the week.


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