A day in the garden

Learn something new every day.  We say that a lot around our house.  Living are learning are interchangeable in my world; you can’t have one without the other.

My son and I are going to be starting our official homeschooling experience in the fall when he would be starting kindergarten in a traditional environment, but we really started the day he was born.   At this age, so much of learning is play and so much play turns into learning that school just happens as we live our lives.

This week, we made a plan to meet some friends at Phipps Conservatory. For those of you who are not from Pittsburgh, Phipps is an amazing indoor greenhouse and garden in operation since 1893. There are some beautiful images available at www.phippsconservatory.org.

Our friends were late so we headed to my son’s favorite place, the outdoor children’s discovery garden. The garden is a treasure trove of 6-8 foot long branches cut from the gardens, weather worn logs cut into stumps to sit on, and stones of all sizes from pebbles to dig in to bricks big enough that it takes two kids to lift them.

My ambitious little guy decided that he wanted to build a ladder to climb an evergreen shrub.  Okay, let’s try!  Well, the shrub was about 6 feet tall and not very strong. The branches he piled against it fell off of the weak limbs of the shrub. The shrub bent and he was left with a pile of sticks.

Was he discouraged? Not this kid.  He took it upon himself to roll three tree stumps, which each weighed about as much as he did, over to the shrub to form a base for his ladder of branches so they would be more stable.  He pushed and pulled and arranged them precisely the way he wanted them. He restacked all of his branches with their ends in the base of stumps and their tops lodged in the shrub.  A minute later there he was clinging to the top of that poor little evergreen shrub, as proud as a peacock.  A little preschool engineering, anyone?

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That experience alone exceeded this homeschooling mom’s expectations of the educational content for the day, but our fun wasn’t over yet.  It is butterfly season at Phipps and we were fortunate enough to catch a butterfly in the act of opening its wings for the first time as it climbed out of its cocoon.  The butterfly garden was full of newly emerged butterflies landing on flowers and on people as they explored the garden.

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We spent some time that afternoon looking at images of butterflies in various stages of the butterfly life cycle and talking about the relationship between caterpillars and butterflies.

We weren’t sitting at our desk practicing our letters and doing worksheets; we were out living life and learning through play.  It was a great morning in our homeschool. – PLH

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