Every spring and fall we participate in a big clean-up bee at the community Reflection Garden. This year’s spring clean-up seems much earlier than in past years though that’s really only an illusion resulting from our unusually long winter. It’s snowing outside at our house as I type. But the garden is on the lakefront, where the huge volume of water in the deep mountain lake acts like a heat sink, moderating both winter and summer temperatures. The 18 inches of snow we have up at our house has been reduced to a few dirty heaps at the Garden.
The company was good. An eclectic cross-section of the population, many retirees, lots of passionate gardeners and wanna-be gardeners there to glean some wisdom. There were plenty of homeschoolers. Oddly enough, in a town where less than 10% of children are homeschooled, 100% of the nine children there today were homeschoolers. That’s just what resulted from a little blurb in the community newsletter — no planning or anything. Two teens rode down on their bikes in time for coffee and snacks, and stayed to do a bit of work and to chat and play with the younger kids. And the younger kids loved their company; there were a few spontaneous games and some good-natured teasing. The big boys don’t feel it’s beneath their dignity to be silly with 5-year-old girls … and they don’t talk down to them either.
We spent about 4 hours working hard — raking, pruning, sweeping, loading wheelbarrows, filling compost bins, picking fallen leaves off shrubs, neatening up mulch, cutting back grasses, burning twigs, tying bundles of willow prunings up for the local artisan who makes baskets. We’ve taken part in this event for years and except for Fiona, my kids need little direction. They know what to cut back, where to rake, and they understand the co-operative routine of trucking wheelbarrows around the acre and a half of gardens.
Kids from five homeschooling families came, but there were no schoolchildren. What’s up with that? One might postulate the schoolchildren’s social needs are met, while homeschoolers have to work hard to fill their kids’ social needs and therefore we have to take advantage of opportunities like this. But I don’t think that’s why any of us were there, really. We didn’t go because our kids were craving social exposure. We were there because it is enjoyable and rewarding to work outdoors with a bunch of volunteers on a community project. The garden is a beautiful place to be and spring, however tentative, is worth welcoming with some good hard work in the dirt.
Tomorrow we will attend a community concert, a fundraiser for our local fine arts summer programs. I’d be willing to bet that more than half the local kids who will be there in the audience will be homeschoolers. This is another benefit of homeschooling — having the time, interest and energy to take advantage of all our community has to offer.