My Summer Children

My garden is my summer children.  I take care of the flowers just like I take care of children.  Every year the flowers are different, and I don’t know why.  Mother Nature has her own agenda.  Every year children are different, too – just like flowers.


Some are just beginning to bloom.


Some are full of sunshine.


Some are full of color.


Some are quiet giants, towers of strength.


Some like to play in water.


Some are brave and bold.


Some take a long time to burst into bloom.

Flowers are much like young children.  They grow at different rates, have their own agenda, fight for the sun, take a backseat to other flowers… some are strong, some are working to get there.  I have watched our flowers grow and change for many years, like I have watched children grow and change over decades.

What have I learned?  Give them plenty of care, but don’t force changes.  Accept their beauty.  Be ready to help.

What children need and what flowers need to grow hasn’t changed.  I keep that in crystal clear focus.  Times might change, but children and flowers have not.  Kindergarten means “garden of children.”  They are nourished with stories, music, nature, and dramatic play.  The Arts are the roots to grow children.  Providing opportunities for unbounded creativity is the fire to want to learn.  I know this firsthand.  I pay attention to every child, nourishing them like I do my flowers.  Some need hugs, some need academic challenges.

The point is, every child is different.  Friedrich Froebel understood children and what they needed.  He established the first kindergarten in Germany in 1837.  It was radical at the time.

A Brief History of Kindergarten
Published by Redleaf Press, 2010

Friedrich Froebel, a German educator, opened the first kindergarten in Blankenburg, Germany, in 1837. During the 1830s and 1840s he developed his vision for kindergarten based on the ideas of the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the later Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. These progressive education reformers introduced the concept that children were naturally good and active learners. At the time, this thinking was quite radical. The common belief until then had been that children were little creatures who needed stern handling to become good adults. Play was seen as a waste of time and proof that children should be tamed so they could be more productive.

Undaunted, Froebel argued that teachers should use music, nature study, stories, and dramatic play to teach children. He encouraged the use of crafts and manipulatives, such as small building blocks or puzzles. He also promoted the idea of circle time for children to learn in a group. Froebel proposed that children acquire cognitive and social skills by using their natural curiosity and desire to learn. He believed women had the best sensitivity and qualities to work with young children in developing their emotional skills. Consequently, Froebel opened a training school just for women.

Froebel’s ideas were so new that the Prussian government closed all kindergartens in 1851, fearing a socialist revolutionary movement. Nevertheless, the concept spread quickly throughout the rest of the world, and by the end of the nineteenth century, many countries had started kindergartens for middle-class children. Then, between 1900 and the start of World War I, England and France began to establish free kindergartens for poor children. Kindergartens also reopened in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century, and they still serve children who are three to six years old.

The word kindergarten means “garden of children,” a beautiful metaphor for what happens there—children growing like flowers and plants, nurtured by a positive environment with good soil, rain, and sun, as well as an attentive gardener.

Today, Froebel’s words and findings are still spot on.  Yet, schools are more concerned with academics; they forget (or don’t understand) that young children need to experience – touch, build, experiment – before real learning can happen.  Frank Lloyd Wright attributes his success in architecture to the blocks he had as a child.  Yes, building with blocks.

I will forever champion children, give them opportunities to explore and ask questions, challenge them to do more when they’re excited, and give them support and love along the way.  They’re my garden of children.

Jennie

About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
This entry was posted in Expressing words and feelings, Inspiration, Mother Nature, Nature, Teaching young children and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

99 Responses to My Summer Children

  1. A lovely post Jennie, your garden (and your children) are tended well!

  2. beth says:

    I so agree with this metaphor, Jennie. each in their own way and their own time. we can never forget that. also loved your history of kindergarten. have a wonderful summer –

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Beth. I think the two are parallel in so many ways, too. The history of kindergarten is fascinating, isn’t it? He was way ahead of his time. Happy summer!!

  3. Lovely summer flowers! We’ve started to grow fruit and veg this year in our garden.

  4. A lovely post, enjoy summer in your garden Jennie.

  5. Don Ostertag says:

    Love your post, Jennie. Happy gardening. You are an expert on starting new roots, that is for sure.

  6. This was such an uplifing post to end my week, and I thank you for it! This is a Yowza! of a quote: “The Arts are the roots to grow children.” I LOVE it!

  7. K.L. Hale says:

    You’re an amazing champion for children, indeed. You have a “Green Thumb” for ANYTHING to grow! I appreciate the time you took to share the history~I love it. May your gardens bloom all year long! 💛💚

  8. sandrah says:

    I wholeheartedly agree! Our homeschooling during the earliest years was built around this kind of creative learning. The results were that they were ahead of many of their peers and to this day, they are still curious about the world around them.

  9. Dan Antion says:

    If I were a flower, I’d want to grow in your garden, Jennie. Flowers, children, they all need to grow and thrive at their own rate. They all have so much potential – we just need to nurture it.

  10. Darlene says:

    Your garden looks fabulous. I love the translation of garden of children and the analogy is spot on. Thanks for being such a great gardener, of children and flowers.

  11. Lakshmi Bhat says:

    Your garden is beautiful and a heartwarming post. Thank you.

  12. so would the weeds be the children who act up?

  13. Beautiful garden Jennie. Just like the children under your care at school.

  14. beetleypete says:

    You are the best example of a ‘gardener of children’, Jennie. And you appreciate it so much when they bloom.
    Best wishes, Pete.

  15. Jennie your garden looks marvelous. Nature is always at its best.

  16. sue clancy says:

    Thank you for this wonderful post! I share your thoughts and have worked to create fine art and artist books for children. Whimsical playful detailed paintings to hopefully invoke children’s curiosity and challenge perception. I even want, via playful images, to aid their emotional intellegence development. My experimental/experiential art book works have been deemed “too sophisticated” by publishers in the USA but readily accepted in Australia and other parts of this world. I find it extremely sad that the US seems to be going in a pedantic, strict, preachy, restrictive direction generally and in education specifically. Play is essential to all ages and stages of life. To have never learned as a child how to play and to learn via play is a tragedy. I’m strongly in favor of preventing that tragedy. I’m strongly in favor of adults relearning how to play. Thank you again for your post.

    • Jennie says:

      Beautifully said and so true, Sue. Don’t give up! I have a number on a post-it note on my computer- 483. That’s how many rejection letters Kate DiCamillo received before an agent said ‘yes’. Much of the art I see in children’s books is sophisticated. So, you’re in good company with many illustrators. When it comes to education, America is too focused on testing and meeting standards. Nurturing the child through play typically means children do better in school because they are encouraged to explore and feel good about themselves. Yes, adults should relearn how to play.

  17. sue clancy says:

    Reblogged this on sue clancy and commented:
    Thank you to Jennie for this wonderful post! I share her thoughts and
    it explains well my thinking behind why I create fine art and artist books for children. Via whimsical playful detailed paintings I want to hopefully invoke children’s curiosity and challenge perception. I even want, via playful images, to aid their emotional intellegence development. My experimental/experiential art book works have often been deemed “too sophisticated” by publishers in the USA but readily accepted in Australia and other parts of this world. I find it extremely sad that the US seems to be going in a pedantic, strict, preachy, restrictive direction generally and in education specifically. Play is essential to all ages and stages of life. To have never learned as a child how to play visually or otherwise how to learn via play is a tragedy. I’m strongly in favor of preventing that tragedy. I’m strongly in favor of adults relearning how to play. Thank you again Jennie for your post. I hope my regular readers will enjoy too.

  18. Carla says:

    Beautiful post Jennie. I agree, flowers are very much like children, fantastic comparisons.

  19. Loved the walk through your garden Jennie… I imagine letting go of those ‘Blooms’ you have nurtured throughout their time in your tender loving care also must be hard…
    But each year more young minds also come into your care to be taught how to shine and bloom…
    Many thanks dearest Jennie for ALL the Blooms you help nurture in this world from children to garden flowers.. ❤ ❤ ❤ 🌹🦋🌹

  20. petespringerauthor says:

    Every child is different, yet they all need to be loved and nurtured like flowers. At the same time, each flower has particular challenges and needs. It would be boring if they were all the same. Love this metaphor!

  21. I was always enthralled with the word ‘Kindergarten’. It made sense to me and I didn’t understand why so many didn’t get that children needed to be nurtured and cared for like plants in a garden just as you said. Each one to bloom as they were designed too. I wouldn’t want a tulip to be a gladiola. It’s strange to me that it came out of the Germanic area which has always oppressed children with rigid regulations and rules. Thanks for sharing this. We could sure use more forward thinkers like you and Friedrich Froebel.

    • Jennie says:

      When I learned the meaning of kindergarten, it made perfect sense to me, too. Common sense, really. I think of Germany as being rigid in education, so I was surprised kindergarten came from a German. I was not surprised that the government there closed all kindergartens. Thank goodness the concept was accepted throughout the world. While children have not changed, unfortunately education today has changed. They want academics to come first, while children need to become ‘whole’ emotionally and socially before academic learning can happen. Sigh! Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Marlene. Best to you.

  22. Thotaramani says:

    Just Beautiful as your heart Jennie 👍🏻💐

  23. magarisa says:

    What an apt comparison!

  24. srbottch says:

    Excellent. I enjoyed the history of kindergarten and how a new philosophy changed the way children are educated. I agree with you that too much emphasis is put on structure and teaching for the ‘exam’.

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  26. Kally says:

    Love both your post and your garden! You’ve got green fingers.

  27. “Give them plenty of care, but don’t force changes. Accept their beauty. Be ready to help.” That says it in a nutshell, Jennie. I’ve always loved the word “kindergarten.” What a beautiful metaphor and place to grow children.

    • Jennie says:

      Thank you, Diana. The word and the philosophy behind kindergarten makes perfect sense. I wish all children could grow up with that nurturing and acceptance. They really are much like flowers.

  28. arlene says:

    I love your garden, such beautiful flowers.

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  30. dgkaye says:

    Loved the comparison – and similarities to both your children Jennie ❤

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  32. I love how you relate your flowers to children. Your descriptions rang true for both. Such beauty!

  33. bosssybabe says:

    Beautiful garden, Jennie! I have recently become an obsessive plant mom! If I notice one of my babies drooping a bit, I move it to another area of the house and it seems to spring to life- it’s so crazy how just a little change of scenery can bring a soul back to life – maybe this is a sign I need to go away somewhere (preferably somewhere where I don’t have to do laundry and dishes) 😀

  34. Joe G. says:

    Fantastic thoughts in this post! I agree with you. Every child learns at a different rate and has different needs.

  35. Biggirljackie says:

    Flowers are so beautiful

  36. HI Jennie, I also love flowers and fruit trees and I also help to tend them during the spring and summer. I am just getting started with watering and feeding my fruit trees.

    • Jennie says:

      New England is well known for apple trees, although I have never tended one. Flowers are all I can manage (haha). Best to you, Robbie.

  37. SJS says:

    Such a wonderful post! The photos are amazing. Keep going!!

  38. Chaya Sheela says:

    Lovely post.
    As an elementary school teacher, I can relate to, “What have I learned? Give them plenty of care, but don’t force changes. Accept their beauty. Be ready to help.”

  39. joylennick says:

    Thank you, Jennie. What a delightful concept ‘Garden of children’ or ‘Childrens’ garden’ is! (You are always going to find the odd thistle…) xxx

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