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!)