Monday, November 2, 2009


I made an important discovery this summer about robbing children of their learning opportunities. In June we moved into a house that sits on the edge of the woods. I mentioned in passing that it would be cool to know what plants were in our backyard. Soon plant identification was a bit of an obsession. I bought several identification books to support their interest and before long the boys knew the difference between a lady fern, a maiden fern and a sword fern. They knew which berries were edible and exactly what a stinging nettle looked like. I frequently saw them coming out of the woods munching on “apple leaves,” an edible clover. (We have a strict rule about not eating anything until mom confirms your identification).

When we went camping or hiking there were actual fights about who got to collect which plants. There wasn’t enough room to press all the specimens in the guide books so we bought a small flower press. I was blown away by the extent of their interest and budding knowledge. Then September came and with it my stress about school and documentation of the learning process. So I decided to turn their interest in plants into a school “project.” I had this great idea to make a chart of all the different plants and their properties and to make photo albums of the different species. The only problem was, as soon as I took ownership of their interest, it was mine and not theirs.

Almost instantly the guides were shelved, and they couldn’t care less about the plants surrounding them. I realized very quickly what I had done but it’s very hard to give ownership back after you’ve so rudely taken it. So I’m leaving the books on the shelf and hoping maybe with time they’ll come back to it. In the meantime I’m encouraged by their new interest in wild mushrooms!

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