Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Teaching What Matters Most

This was originally published on my personal blog in October 2006...

Today a friend asked me what I like to write about these days. I explained that I don’t feel in touch enough with the basics of homeschooling to write for others about starting out, even though I edit the Getting Started section for Education Choices magazine. When pressed for ideas and my experiences, I’m never lost for words, but I’m not aware of many of the latest resources and I sometimes forget the struggles and difficulties of those early days of home based learning… I have two children yet to reach school age, so I’m still covering the basics of learning to read and all the fun stuff, but after playing phonics games, counting buttons and talking about colours and shapes continually for several years, it’s become an ingrained part of home life rather than a specific activity to slot into my days.

So, I told my friend that my passion lies with helping other families connect with nature. Writing about getting kids into the garden, creating the seed packs with our children to sell and promote gardening, and walking the talk by enjoying our garden, nature walks, photography, camping and other nature-inspired activities.

On the Aussies Living Simply forums a member asked about good resources for children which cover topics such as permaculture, organic gardening, peak oil, solar energy, etc.

Here’s some of the info I found and posted:

The ABC Book of Gardening for Kids is a good one. About $16 or in most library systems.

You must read The Lorax by Dr Seuss!!

Backyard Science (books and TV - again ABC) is great too.

Depends on their age, but Jackie French is good - her Chook Book and self-sufficiency books are pretty easy reads. My 10 year old likes ‘my’ Jackie French books.

The Department of Environment and Heritage have free resources about environmental issues.

Spiral Garden sells two Living Earth Games games which include permaculture principles and are heaps of co-operative fun. We own and enjoy both Gaia’s Garden and the Living Landscapes cards.

There are environmental and social justice topics in mainstream school resources like those available from RIC where you can browse every page of every book. Also, find ideas here.

My kids love those permie DVDs like ‘Eat your Garden’ and the recent ‘Gardening Australia - Permaculture‘ DVD with Josh building his backyard permie setup from scratch. They’re not aimed at kids, but they’re very simple and entertaining.

For solar energy and peak oil, you may look for educational material from CSIRO, petroleum companies, the ‘green’ department of your local energy companies (gas and electricity).
Docos and TV shows like Catalyst aren’t aimed at kids but aren’t too difficult for them to understand either. I prefer not to dumb-down the facts and science behind this issue. It is amazing to hear their positive solutions and alternatives and their ideas about what would be more difficult in a time where oil is very expensive and how we would cope etc. They really are positive about relocalisation and alternative energy sources, permaculture, community gardens and co-opping and all sorts of other things which come up from Peak Oil discussions.

Carbon calculators are fun and informative. Try this site for links to a few different ones (some are inaccurate for rural folk etc due to penalties for not using public transport for example).

We enjoyed looking at Cuba and how they survived Peak Oil. A friend has just come back from Cuba and has amazing photos and stories to tell of their thriving communities… I recommend: The Power of Cummunity- How Cuba Survived Peak Oil DVD 2006.

We’re also looking at The Great Depression in Australia, for if there is an oil crisis (or other event) we could experience such a time again. It’s so far removed from our very wealthy, urban and ‘instant’ society that I thought we’d spend a fair amount of time studying what occurred during this period and why…

Where are you? Maybe there are farms nearby you can visit, even city farms! Community gardens are great too. Some of the larger Permaculture farms have open days.

More Links:

Teach Sustainability
Solar Energy Projects
Putting Children’s Needs into Permaculture Designs
Permaculture Stories for Children

… and so it goes. An alternative curriculum, just a click away! Enjoy!

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