Nourishing life, community, family, home.

Botany in the Key of Fifth

Plants are amazing–almost as amazing as fifth graders. Maya and I are delving into botany through our Waldorf curriculum–exploring our garden, our neighborhood, and our community forests in new eyes. We will revisit botany throughout the year.

Our Waldorf curriculum prompts us to understand the kinds of plants as a metaphor for my daughter’s own development. It is deeply moving. She understands her own growth and capabilities reflected in the plant world around her. And, as we work with the fungi and lichens, the algae and ferns, we appreciate the pattern-knowledge we have from permaculture. We talk about the fungal connections through the forest mirroring our social connections.

Sunflowers in the garden in August

Our work is to come to understand the plants–their unique properties, their relationships with their environment and each other, and the ways in which humans relate to them especially. Drawing the plants, harvesting them for use, making medicines and art with them, planting and observing them. Tending the garden. Feeding our bodies, minds, and souls.  This is what education is all about.

When I hear what is happening with public schools from the preschools to the university–it is the loss of our humanity. I am very concerned that not only is the press of our society leaving people uneducated and pressured to conform to a mold of unconsidered stereotypes, but that it deprives them of the ability to understand their own capacity for growth and understanding.

For a very long time, public education has been about giving the masses enough skills to be good workers–good parts in the machine. More and more, the changes I see seem designed to undermine the ability of the adults “produced” by the system to consider, challenge, and resist the very system that “creates” them. Fear, anxiety, and anger are manipulated to enslave our children. Peer groups become more important than parents. Teachers are pitted against parents and parents against teachers. Administrators, politicians, and teachers are all vying for solid ground. And the system I see doesn’t have solid ground to give.  This is not always the case, but that dynamic is one that crops up in almost every article I read, every story related to me.

Wake up!

There are different ways. I salute the teachers, administrators, parents, and elected officials that seek to make connections and work for the best interests of children and families. But don’t let those words be twisted. We’ve set the bar too low. Families need time and support. Teachers need support to help the beauty and genius of each child unfold–just as the flowers in our garden unfold. Children need to know their own capacities and feel confident about their own growth–just as my daughter is beginning to know this.


I pray that we all wake up. That we all make those connections–and that our confidence in our humanity is restored.

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