I’m going to come out and say something a little bit controversial: instead of sending our kids to school, we should just put them to work in the garden. Never mind the practical aspects, like access to gardens and supervision and safety and so on. Just focus on the idea in theory for a moment.
A garden can provide lessons in science, engineering and design, along with incisive teachings on language (have you ever traced the etymology of a plant’s Latin name?), poetics and art. What’s more, it can do all this in a way that’s much more unfiltered, hands-on and applicable to the real world than anything you can learn from a book or a screen, or from a human who’s learnt stuff from books and screens.
My grand-kids love the garden. Their current obsession is Eutaxia obovata, also known as the bacon and egg plant. Potted and kept on the balcony as a sort of hedge, ours things have provided hours of entertainment, and all because of their cute moniker that supplies fodder for endless jokes about bacon and eggs growing on trees. I’m amazed that something so simple can stimulate so much imaginative play. I love how it’s developing their sense of the absurd.
Needless to say, the teachings of the garden can also be very grounded in practical reality. The other day I took them on a mission to buy grevillea plants, and it ended up being a comprehensive lesson on reproductive biology. All it took was an observation that the bees seemed to love that part of the nursery, and the discussion spiralled from there, aptly illustrated by what was happening directly in front of our eyes. I can’t imagine trying to explain these concepts without that resource!
Of course, there’s also the whole world of growing plants as food, which I see as one of the most important life skills anyone can have. That undertaking in itself would provide a broad-ranging education that puts the school system to shame.