Spring School

It’s April.

Spring has finally sprung.

It felt like a long time waiting for it with the rain and the cold, but now my garden awakens the weeds I pull out each day little by little; I go out to the garden and feel the new growth as I walk past the bounding bushes of yarrow and columbine, tenderly I finger from one side to another the growing buds of peonies. I walk with gratitude among the roses contemplating the bloom I see before me all in its potential. I hose off a gaggle of aphids from one rose and beam proudly at the next.

There are still two or three-foot clusters of foxtail, reminding me of Monty Don’s expression, “One year’s seeding is seven years weeding.” But all in all, it matters very little because spring has sprung.

My ability to focus on the school day wanes while the weather warms our windows. Sitting among the desks in the school area, the sunshine energizes our flesh like plants in a greenhouse. We watch the breeze below the leaves and new blossoms around. I’m grateful my kids caught the spring fever that so afflicts their father and me. It was absolutely worth it to finish the school year early. “If you can score in advanced on this assessment, you will in the school year.” That was incentive enough for my 7th grader.

And so, by Easter, their school days shifted, but rather than embrace the chaos of an unstructured summer,

we began the beauty of Spring School.

Spring School, inspired by Read-aloud Revival’s Christmas school, the thing that makes December a little bit more bearable is Christmas school. It takes works by one author and many lessons in history, geography, science, language, art, and many other things. It enriches the days in a way that is mandatory during that anticipatory season before Christmas.

with reading

For Spring School, we read A Little More Beautiful by Sarah McKenzie and followed her family book club guide available to Read-aloud Revival premium members and those who pre-ordered the book. The family book club guide has a bit on “Reading in Stream,” reading the books that inspired A Little More Beautiful. It begins with Miss Rumphius and includes The Gardener and more. I read a picture book biography on E.B. White and read Charlotte’s Web aloud to the children. I scheduled with a local farmer to see her pigs, and she’ll contact me when the piglets are born in May. We watch our ewe giving birth and marvel at the possibilities inherent in the right order of things.

with wildflowers

We identify wildflowers around our house and drive into the green grassy hills of the Sierra Foothills, turning off the highway into Knight’s Ferry. We climb among the rocks and call out whenever we see lupine, California poppies, or unknown flowers we cannot identify without a field guide. I still forget to check the field guide when we get home.

with art

We painted at the library, cutting out bunny-shaped pieces of garland that were watercolor landscapes only a moment ago and now adorn the walls of bunk beds and headboards. We created dot art inspired by another library craft making flowers and crazy walkways, and another landscape from these dabs of acrylic paint. I don’t know what became of their pictures. Mine is displayed publicly on the side of the fridge.

Spring School.

It feels like vacation. Yet, we stop frequently and have instructional conversations. We see miniature canyons cut into the dirt trails of Knight’s Ferry. When the kids ask, “What is it?” we respond, “What do you think caused this?” Then we know that we are sharing the talk of scientists or early discoverers learning the terrain, what is temporary and what is permanent. Nothing is permanent.

Not even the beauty of Spring School will be permanent. The flowers in the field bloom and then fade away at the end of the day. We embrace these days of adventure, of unpredictability and learning to let go of our obligations so we may discover and indulge in the delight of learning something.

Then the memories will be formed.

The lessons we learn to go beyond how to identify wildflowers and how to climb rocks safely or how cold the river water is in spring.

Spring School. It might be the best educational thing I’ve ever done with my children.

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