Friday, September 05, 2008

Green Education

Everyone is back in school - preschools, public schools, private schools, home schools - so there is much buzz on the internet and in real life about school. Choices, teachers, lunches, curriculum. Both of my kids are still in preschool (Have I mentioned that I have both kids in school several times a week?? Woohoo!!), but Kate will start kindergarten next year. Matt and I have been pondering and discussing, ad nauseum, the pros and cons of all schooling choices available to us. Most likely we'll end up at the nearby public school, but we still feel the need to at least consider all options.

I often feel that we as a family (and maybe as a larger society?) are putting a little too much emphasis on our school choice and not enough on the value of family education. The old truth is that a good education begins at home. School is merely a continuation of what is started at home. We have done our best to give our children a strong base for school, and I don't mean workbooks or drills or flashcards. We talk to our children, read lots of books, go on outings together, point out letters, count rocks, measure when baking, etc. Learning is a part of our daily life. A value that we are instilling in our children with every moment.

The same applies to an environmental education and instilling a sense of responsibility for the earth. We aren't waiting until our kids are older or waiting for a good green school curriculum. In our house, we don't just act responsibly, we discuss it. We are building a base that will be expanded as they grow. A way of life that is inherent to them as recognizing letters and counting objects.

Some examples of how we do this in our family:

- At the grocery store, I verbalize to my kids why we are making certain choices. "We are going to get these peaches over here because they were grown in Colorado" or "Let's buy this brand of cereal because it has less packaging." (The grocery store is really an endless opportunity to teach. Not just about the environment. I point out commercialism while at the grocery store. The Clifford on the cereal box, the cookies on the aisle end where we walk by and see them, etc.)

- At the mailbox, "This is the third catalog we've received from this company this month. That is a waste of paper and other resources. Let's go call them and let them know we don't want to receive the catalog anymore." And do it. Right away. Where your kids can hear.
- While mixing your own cleaning supplies, "I like to make cleaning spray for several reasons. An important reason for our family is that we don't know what chemicals are in the cleaning sprays we can buy from the grocery store. Some of those chemicals are not healthy for us or for the earth. When we make our own we know just what is in the spray. Plus we keep using the same spray bottle so it is better for the earth."
- On a walk, "Oh look! Someone dropped a plastic water bottle. We better pick it up, but instead of throwing it in the trash, let's take it home and recycle it. One less plastic bottle in the landfill!"
- At the farmer's market, "Look! This honey was made by a family in the next town over. Let's buy this honey instead of the honey at the grocery store that came from someone we don't know" or "Let's buy these tomatoes at this stand because they were grown without any chemicals that can hurt the earth."
The examples could go on and on. Really start paying attention to your day. Describe everything that you do with simple explanations. You'll be amazed at how many opportunities you have to instill your environmental values. My examples are all geared for my preschoolers. Older kids can understand more complex descriptions. And start asking questions. You may not get the answer you were expecting, but the answer just may brighten your day!
"Why is it important that we bring our own bags to the store?"
"Which cantaloupe do you think we should buy? These grown in Colorado or those grown in California?"

"Can you think of a way that we can reuse this pretty tin that Aunt Wilma gave us?"

The best part about educating children in this manner is that it requires no extra time nor money! Just a conscious effort to connect with your children.
(The photo is of the kids' first day of preschool this year. Check out this photo to see how much they have grown since last year!)

17 comments:

Dawn said...

I remember when you posted that first day of school photo last year...and my thought when I saw the new one was immediately about how much they've grown! I love what you said about family education. I had my nine year old find Ecuador on the map yesterday so she could see how far her banana came from...I guess an even better step would be to quit buying those bananas. ;)

Heather said...

What a wonderful post - great, concrete, do it now ideas :) That is a lovely portrait, too.

Ashlee said...

well said.

Jenn said...

Great post! I try to point these things out to my girls as well. But I never really thought before about how this is forming the basis of their environmental education. I'm going to make even more of an effort to have these conversations with them. Thanks for the tip!

eco 'burban mom said...

That's such a great point, we sometimes forget in the hectic pace of the day to stop and explain why we do things to our kids. I was so much better about this with my oldest, I need to take the time to breathe and do this with the youngest (of 4 boys!).

Mother Earth said...

I use to call this inclusive parenting, someone said to me the age of reason with a child was 7. I felt differently. I reasoned everything!! I love the back to school pics

Shannon said...

I've echoed the same sentiment about school many times and couldn't agree more with your examples for teachable moments. There were a few I could start implementing as well ( :

Mary said...

This reminds me of the house I grew up in right down to Aunt Wilma (my mother's sister). You've given new meaning to home schooling.

Diane MacEachern said...

Great ideas. Thanks for sharing!

NedaAnn said...

Okay, I'm going to say it - you make the most adorable children. And it sounds like they are going to grow to be responsible, healthy adults. Love the ideas.

The Not Quite Crunchy Parent said...

Wonderful ideas1

i like talking about overpackaging...which I'm afraid I don't do often enough.

PopMom said...

what a cute picture! i love talking with my kids in the grocery. my son is just starting to run around and act crazy there and so i've left him at home the last few times and it stinks. i like it better when we're talking about all the veggies (the ones he doesn't eat!) and fruits and stuff like that.

Kimberly said...

Excellent post! I am glad to see other parents are in the same dilemma as we are. We have been struggling with school choice for our 3 1/2 year old. I agree that family education is more important. I love the values you are instilling in your children. You set a great example to all of us mothers everywhere!

Keep up the great work! Cheers, Kimberly

Going Green Mama said...

Wonderful post! I agree that you can start teaching kids young. My 3 year old knows that we recycle things so they can "make new stuff" and loves to get dirty in the garden. It's never too early!

Gray Matters said...

I love this post! We've always said that we are our children's first teacher and it's not the sole responsibility of their classroom teacher to educate them.

Amber said...

I found this entry very interesting...Do you think that if we started to teach others, become role models so to speak, to be more "green" that slowly we could start healing our earth? Do you think it is to late for that? Are we killing mother nature one plastic bottle at a time? Do you think there is anything we can do that is truly going to help this place out in the long run?

suzannah said...

this is a wonderful post!