Homeschooling in France: The Secret Garden

Guest Blogger:  Elizabeth des Roches
Blog:  Handwork Homeschool

Last week, here at Fairy Dust Teaching, I introduced my family & gave you a glimpse of our days at home. You can see that post here & more photos on my blog, Handwork Homeschool.

Welcome to our house.
Handwork Homeschool

We do a lot of learning, making & general fun stuff during our homeschool days. As a Wild Waldorf Mama – I generally don’t make much of an effort to separate the “learning” times from the “play” times. We have formal lesson times, 4 days a week. The rest of the time we just DO. My kids are learning from the moment they get up until the moment they fall into bed at the end of a busy day.

The giant Lettuce - Handwork Homeschool

Today, let’s go out into our yard. Everybody knows how good it is for children to spend time in nature. Of course, there are the main benefits – like fresh air, sunshine, exercise – but there are also benefits that aren’t mentioned quite so often. The sense of accomplishment after some (self-imposed) hard labour or the sense of freedom while yelling at the top of your lungs or the sense of excitement when hiding in the bushes during an extended game of hide and seek (or “cache-cache” as it’s called in French).

Our Secret Garden

secret garden - Handwork Homeschool

When we lived in Toronto, we had a tiny yard. Room enough for a large sandbox & to ride a bike in a small circle. We always hoped that we would have some land one day. We never dreamed we’d end up with an old orchard, room for a veggie garden, a river that wrapped around our house, a bridge & even an ancient stone ruin (aka my future garden crafting room & BREAD OVEN) !!

Our Ruin - Handwork Homeschool

When we arrived, no one had lived here full-time in about 20 years. Needless to say, things were a bit overgrown…

Front Garden - Handwork Homeschool
Andrew got right into hacking back the jungle.
Orchard - Handwork Homeschool
The weeds & brambles were so high, the kids couldn’t even walk through the yard !
Orchard Before - Handwork Homeschool

I’ve often seen books & blog posts talking about the 4 elements & how to include them in your homeschooling. It’s amazing how naturally the kids do it when left to their own devices.

Earth

Sandbox - Handwork Homeschool

We looked & looked for a great place for the sandbox (you’d think it would be easy with a yard this size…) finally, an unusual idea hit me. Why not wrap the sandbox around the house ? It had never occurred to me to dig out one of the garden beds, line it with plastic & fill it with sand. They love it because they are close to the house & have lots of room for them both to play.

Needless to say, my kids know their way around our local quarry. Andrew can tell you exactly how much a ton of the fine, sparkling sand we bought costs – around 20 euros. Our orchard had been sadly neglected too over the years, but amazingly our few trees bear plums, apples & pears. Andrew, whose interest in anything to do with farming skyrocketed since we arrived, insisted we put in a garden. Of course, we agreed. The kids used to stroke & kiss (!) their veggies as they grew.

French vegetable garden - Handwork Homeschool

Water

With a river (this is not a stream, but a real river with speckled trout, that empties out into the ocean !) winding along one side of the house & around the back, we day-dreamed of the kids paddling idly on hot summer days.

The Arguenon River - Handwork Homeschool

In the summer, the water level is quite low & many a river walk has taken place. What we didn’t know was that we had another “water feature” on our property. After clearing part of our land which lies on the far side of the river we discovered a strange indentation….

Pond -  Handwork Homeschool

which after a good bit of digging turned out to be …

Hidden Pond - Handwork Homeschool
Pond - Handwork Homeschool

a pond which is fed by a spring that flows down the hills above our house. Our neighbour, who has lived here since 1938, says she has never seen it before !

Fire

While we’ve been here, I’ve had to get used to my kids becoming more & more adventurous. Along the way, they have developed many new skills. While watching his father re-build part of our stone wall, which had fallen, Andrew decided he wanted to build his own BBQ.

Homemade BBQ - Handwork Homeschool
He found old bricks in the basement, mixed up his own mortar from mud & sand & came up with the design all on his own. The best part of the whole project is that it works ! He even cooked crepes one Sunday morning for us. He is proud of it (although he still mutters under his breath because we won’t let him light it…maybe this summer he’ll be old enough…)

Wind

Swinging Handwork Homeschool
We do have hopes for installing some wind-generators, as the wind seems to get caught down in our walled garden. For the moment, most of the wind that gets enjoyed around here is experienced on the swing set.
Playhouse in the orchard - Handwork Homeschool
Next time, come & explore Our Petite Cité de Caractère (“little town of character”), which was founded in the 11th century & is now filled with an international array of interesting people.
Until then – have a happy week !

Elizabeth

P.S. When I collected photos for this post, I came up with so many… come over to my blog, Handwork Homeschool to see the rest if you’d like !

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Comments

  1. Spalva says:

    Isn’t the “pond” a laverie? For doing the laundry? We have several in the woods near our house.

  2. Spalva says:

    Oops, I mean lavoir. I’ve been in the UK too long!

  3. Cleo says:

    My sister has recently moved to the Poitou Charante region from Australia. She home schools her 3 children and has done so for several years following the Waldorf philosophy. Are you familiar with any blogs or websites that would help her meet like minded families near her? Her children are 13, 10 and 8. Thanks in advance! Cleo

  4. Teresa says:

    I have just recently found your website and it has been a gem. I am a pre-k teacher that takes ideas from all different types of learning theories and philosophies. Thank you for all your hard work and sharing it with everyone.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Homeschooling in France: The Secret Garden We do a lot of learning, making & general fun stuff during our homeschool days. As a Wild Waldorf Mama – I generally don’t make much of an effort to separate the “learning” times from the “play” times. We have formal lesson times, 4 days a week. The rest of the time we just DO. My kids are learning from the moment they get up until the moment they fall into bed at the end of a busy day. […]

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