Monday, April 12, 2010

Container Gardening

On Saturday, we started adding a mix of potting soil to self watering garden containers that Jacob made from old storage containers. The potting mix is comprised of peat moss, compost, and vermiculite. You can find out more about the making of the containers on Jacob's blog to see how to put those together. We live in a condo, so although the sunlight is limited in our small yard, the containers should work well. On a recent trip to Lowe's, W picked out a kid shovel which we actually found really handy. Both the boys had a lot of fun spending so much of the day outside and helping with the gardening project.

We read Compost Stew: an A-Z Recipe for the Earth by Mary McKenna Siddals earlier in the week which was a fun complimentary book to read when planning a garden with young kids. It can be read in a sing song manner which even little ones can appreciate. Jacob recently started a compost bin although it will take a few more months for our compost to be ready.

Mixing the vermiculite into the compost. You may want to keep in mind that using face masks might be handy if it is very windy and you are working with a lot of peat moss and vermiculite.

C getting in on the action filling the containers.

We are hoping to grow lettuces, tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers. This year is an experiment, since we do not have very much first hand gardening experience so as a family we are learning as we go. It will also be a wonderful homeschool project, as we are starting from seed so W can learn about the process each step of the way.  We will post about our successes and failures here in the near future. I am also planting several herbs which grow pretty easily on our deck.

W found a little caterpillar while playing, and decided to put him on a nice green leaf. This is big progress for the young man who sometimes gets freaked out by bugs like his Mom. :) 

Friday, April 9, 2010

Little April Showers

We are beginning to plant some seeds and plan on using this weekend to work on our yard and square foot gardening system that Jacob put together. On our Aerogarden there are currently around 17 tomatoes of various sizes so I am looking forward to our early crop. This picture was taken last week and my how they have grown since then, although all the tomatoes are still green and our niece calls them pumpkins.

Reading List!
Here are some spring time favorite books appropriate for April. These should all be available at your local public library.

It was a sad day when I noticed Bunny's Noisy Book had gone out of print, although you can still find reasonably priced used copies on Amazon. I had wanted to gift it at a baby shower, it is filled with beautiful prose (what else would you expect from Margaret Wise Brown?) and the illustrations by McCue are really lovely. It was a book I picked up for my eldest son on a whim and I am so glad I did, even when he grows up  I plan on keeping it in our "library". Another favorite of our family is the Little Quack series, and Derek Anderson also illustrated the classic The Potty Train, which was helpful to our oldest a couple years ago. Mr. Anderson has an excellent web site, check it out.

We are also planning on reading books about NYC because we will be taking a little trip there in a couple of weeks. If anyone has any recommendations for New York City themed books let us know by next week so I have time to get to the library for them! We plan on visiting Central Park and the American Museum of Natural History. Photos to come on Little Men after our adventure.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Who Killed Phoebe Prince?

A couple of days ago I became aware of the tragic case of Phoebe Prince, an Irish immigrant who was a freshman in South Hadley, MA.  She committed suicide after being relentlessly bullied.

One knee-jerk public response is to bully the bulliers, as various spurious charges are being filed against nine students involved in the bullying.  Politicians, smelling blood, are speechifying and passing laws saying not to bully.  Theatre.

People are also angry at the school administration and teachers for not stepping in, even though it was open knowledge that Phoebe was being harassed.

Everyone at that school must bear some responsibility for Phoebe's death.  How many students participated in the harassment in order to gain social status with their peers?  How many watched in silence, for fear of becoming the next victim?  How many teachers looked the other way, not wanting to get involved?  Many of these individuals will be wrestling with their consciences for a long time.

But the responsibility for Phoebe's death goes well beyond the particular individuals involved at South Hadley High School.  While it may be rare for such harassment to drive one to commit suicide, bullying and harassment in government schools is commonplace.  

This is what I fear that few people understand, that it was not just those particular bullies and onlookers who drove Phoebe Prince to an early death; it was the backward socialization scheme of government schools.  Those looking for a root cause ought to look there. 

One irony for parents of home-schoolers is that the primary question raised about the desirability of home-schooling is the "socialization".  As if natural socialization is for a child to interact only with other children of the exact same age, and then grouping thirty of these children together for one adult supervisor.  As if natural socialization is a highly regimented, command and control environment where children cannot use a restroom without an authority's permission, and yet that authority figure is often absent or ineffective.

South Hadley High School is not unique.  Turning over a few teachers, administrators, and bureaucrats will solve nothing.  The root problem is the system where the center of a child's existence lay not with the family or larger community but with the social pressure of other children.  Here, a child learns warped priorities and pecking order survival techniques.  This environment will always produce the Mean Girls and other social elements that made Phoebe's life unbearable.  All of us who contribute to and create that environment killed Phoebe Prince. 

Parents, it is within our power to pull support from the toxic government school environment.  It does not require politicking or letter-writing, or any other mass campaign.  It requires only direct action: pull your kids out of the government school system now!