This past week the boys and I visited Wisteria Suri Alpaca Farm that is a mere 12 miles from our home, for a tour and activities like spinning fiber into yarn. As we entered the gates of the farm we were greeted by two beautiful white Great Pyrenees and a very spunky Australian Shepherd. We entered and paused to give the dogs time to get to know us and to welcome us, before we touched them and spent our time saying hello.
The farm owner and host commented how glad she was that we had such a nice calm energy. The animals had a busy day, and looked happy to see us despite their day filled with earlier visitors. We were able to meet some younger, timid, Suri Alpaca males and then a host of adult female Suri Alpacas.
As we moved throughout our visit, I noticed the beautiful wildflowers covering the ground between the limestone rocks. Nature has a way of growing where it falls, there is such a great lesson in that for our lives.
We stopped to handcraft bird balls filled with Alpaca fiber as a gift their Grandmother’s neighborhood birds in building their nests. Since we downsized, we do not own the trees in our neighborhood, which is hard to explain to a five-year old. Why is a question heard often in our home. I explain this is a temporary stop on our life adventure and they seem to accept that and move on.
Our host Keiko asked about my work, and I told her a little about my writing and my working exploration into nature connected psychology and EcoArt Therapy. I was explaining how easy it is for me to explore my work, as they boys experience nature together.
I realized as we spoke how hard it can be to welcome families to her farm with the distractions children experience today. Many do not know how to immerse themselves in nature, and ask for permission to enter by simply pausing and saying hello. It is something they learn by doing, and with our over scheduled society that can be difficult.
We talked about how my children knew from the modeling they have seen their whole life to enter an animals space and let them come to you. I am a nature lover and that is a natural part of my parenting toolbox. Nature has always been my prescription for peace in our house, lots and lots of outside time for everyone is paramount around here.
This is not the first time someone has commented on their calm energy. They are not always calm as they are energy filled boys, but it is more of a reverence for the space they were entering, not unlike entering a spiritual place or a cathedral.
Quiet, slow, and with an open heart. One is more cautious than they other, and needs time to be open to the animals. I have been working with him over the years to let him know that what he feels is okay, and when and if he is ready to make contact he will. He can now verbalize his feelings and told me he was “a little” nervous.
We do a backpack carry when he feels this way, so that he can participate and feel secure. He has been able to embrace many animals now, but he has never been forced to be ready on some arbitrary schedule.
I am reading Ben Hewitt’s book, HomeGrown. Although our boys are not able to roam on open acreage, I am inspired by the idea that I can do my part in providing nature connected experiences even in our more suburban setting. This is a beautifully written book giving you a glimpse into what is possible. It also helped me with something I was struggling with and that is the idea of living in the present. We do not have to decide right now, what our children’s education must look like for the next 12 years. My husband has asked, “why do we have to decide today?” Their futures are their’s alone, and as I have always believed that, his descriptions of his boy’s days reminded me to breathe. We can take it day by day. That is the beauty and the eye opening process of a Kindergarten Gap Year.
This is how our “gap year” is emerging. They are learning to read, grow and be, but not based on a curriculum based on an age. They are twins, but just like other children and siblings are as different as two people can be. I do not want them to be labeled, ready for this or ready for that. I want them to celebrate their successes as they come organically.
Our experiment now has a name, the “Kindergarten Gap Year”. It really hit me when I turned down a consulting assignment to teach a reading curriculum to public school teachers. I have seen the organic process of my sons learning to read and none of it was as rigid as the tool I would have to present. I just did not believe it anymore.
Now, I understand that teaching twenty plus children requires a more assembly line approach, but that in itself makes me sad. Every child deserves the ability to learn organically in a place that feels safe, open, and trustable. A child should be able to say, “I want to play outside”, and for that to be celebrated and allowed. They should also be able to learn about something until they are ready to move onto something else.
Our first year into home education has evolved into a Kindergarten Gap Year. This time with them has been the most eye opening experience. The things you are able to observe as they grow and learn, would not be possible if they had been sent to school for eight hours each day. They are learning to read and write, but they are learning so much more and so am I