Category Archives: Summer Fun !

The Rose Garden Summer Camp, a child’s slow meander through summer

Freedom Tethered by Relationship


One of The Rose Garden parents sent me this photo yesterday.  The exquisite beauty of the young child’s connection to nature is so evident:  these brothers are free and at-large in the woods….living a life larger than the confines of their small bodies.  They are as large as their own imaginations, at home in the forest.  I am reminded of something I wrote years ago, as I prepared to write Heaven on Earth:

 

“I have found in my many years of teaching young children, and in my years as a mother of young boys, that most children are happiest at play outdoors. Young children are close to the realm of nature because they are still very natural beings. Because their consciousness is not yet separated from the environment, because they still live in the consciousness of oneness, of unity, they belong still to the natural world. In time they will belong to themselves, as the process of individuation becomes complete. But for about the first seven years, they are still at one with the world they inhabit. The process of separating from the parents and from the environment buds only around age seven. Before that, the child is moved along by life, something like the way a tree’s leaves dance in the breeze. The young child responds to the environment in a very unself-conscious way, a very natural way, and the open, complex, and diverse environment of the outdoors gives him that opportunity. If, in his excitement at a butterfly, he needs to dance and pirouette dizzyingly around the garden, no one has to say, “Be careful of the table.” If he needs to shout for glee or weep for sorrow, he is free.”

 

Through play in the natural world, we give our child the gift of freedom, tethered by and rooted in a deep visceral relationship.   Is that not the fundamental balance humanity strives for?   Such joy!

 

Science on the Playground

“How does the world work, and how do I fit into it?” This is the daily, living question of the young child. We can allow plenty of time and plenty of space for our children to wonder, to explore, to experiment, to keep trying, to learn. And isn’t much of learning discovering the right questions to ask? In this way, the questions remain alive; the “answers” are part of an on-going process. When we allow this hands-on exploratory learning, and do not limit  the questions or answers with our linear adult concepts, the children learn in the same way Mother Nature herself learns: through scaffolding, or “serial functional progression.” The answers become a platform for the next set of really interesting questions. Our children experience themselves as avid students of life.

In these photos we see the Universe hard at work: How many stumps, boards, bricks and pine cones does it take to make the see-saw go down and the children go up? How do “up and down” operate, and what is the relationship between stumps, elbow grease and results? And what might be the relationship between the big black bugs and the small brown one (in the blue bowl)?  When we learn to live the questions, life is rich!

Bridge between School and Home

Hello, friends!  It is September and school has begun again.  The children are full of joy to be back into the simple warm rhythms; enfolded by this rhythmic flow, they grow more fully into themselves.  Here is what one parent wrote me about the bridge her child has built between home and school:

“The school day doesn’t just stop when the day is over. Greer plays school whenever she is at home as well. At home she gets the chance to be the teacher. She sets up our living room like the living room at The Rose Garden. Moving the coffee table and couches so that the space is just right. She brings in her own chair along with a cup of tea and some crackers. She sets her babies up in a semi circle around her so everyone can see and then she begins to “read” her story always starting with the chime of the bell which at our house is the clinging of silverware. She then sips on her tea as she tells her story with a big (all words) book in her lap.

When the time for resting comes up she prepares by laying all the colored silkies around the room and placing each baby it the appropriate place. She covers them says sweet words to them and gives each a gentle rocking motion to help the fall asleep. Once everyone is satisfied she goes to her chair and has a sip of tea.

Watching this take place in my own living room gives me a sense of satisfaction and pure joy. What my husband and I are giving our youngest of three is a treasure that is molding her into the gentle and kind human-being that we had hoped for when we decided to become parents.

Thank you to Sharifa and  Rebecca for keeping us grounded in what really matters in life. The innocence and love our children bring us everyday.”  Shannon

And thank you, Shannon, for sharing this with us! These rhythms create the foundation for a lifetime.  During the summer, I had the pleasure of talking, on separate occasions, with two of my former students who are now college students.  Each young woman told me how deeply her early years had formed and shaped her.  The years spent in this forest busily building “homes” for insects & feeding the birds as well as singing, painting, playing  and listening intently to stories had given them a deep love for the world, and also a beginning direction in their future work.  One young woman is studying environmental law and she said she paints for pleasure, while the other is a poet as well as environmental activist.

The environment of our home gives shape to the young soul; let us be joyful for this gift, as we go about  our “daily round!”

Circles Games, Cycles of Life

Our children, and indeed children everywhere, break into spontaneous circle games. Their small bodies, psyches, and souls reflect great cosmic circles. In our childrens’ joyous, dizzying games we can see intimations of the whirling bodies, vapors and colors sent back to us from Hubble’s photographs. Soon we will pass through one of these nodal points, the Winter Solstice, and Light will be born again. Not only in Springtime, but now deep in the winter, new beginnings stir.

Perhaps your family has managed to escape the crush of commercialism, and you are preparing for a simple and cherished holiday time together. It is at these festival gatherings that we have the opportunity to “step outside of time” to review the year we have just completed, as well as envision the year to come. Take a moment at the holiday meal, to recollect together high points of your year, and also look together toward the growth the coming year will bring. As we engage in this recounting of our family’s story, and creatively imagining our future, we build up an oral history. This Living Book of Life will nourish our children, as well as model for them how we create, through images, the life we want to live.

Our year here at The Rose Garden has been full. Family Camp was magical last summer, and our circle of friends has widened. The garden has grown and the children have too. Some of them have stepped into new adventures in Grade School, and have returned to visit us, shining with new capacities and knowledge. New families have joined us, and new friendships bloom. New Land has graced us!

Looking toward the future, here is an idea I want to share with you. Let’s use this blog as one forum for your parenting questions. (Check the Family Consultation page for other ways to address your questions, too.) It seems the downturn in the economy has brought into vogue the parenting values we have always held dear. Now you read about “free-range parenting”, or “slow parenting”. The Rose Garden’s description has always been “A Slow Meander Through Early Childhood.” Email me your questions, observations, thoughts, concerns, and I will be happy to share ideas with you. Your questions, most certainly, are mirrored in many other parents, and we can look at these together. Together we can explore the particulars of your own child’s slow meander.

My holiday wish for you and your family is that you go along slowly, enjoy one another, and spend plenty of time playing together outdoors! Let me know your thoughts and questions! Sharifa

New Land

As some of you know, we have been in the process of acquiring two acres which adjoin The Rose Garden land. This is very exciting new land! It is amazing that such a small amount of earth can contain so many diverse micro-ecoystems! Just beyond our flower garden, we now have opened up a “circle walk”. Through the berry patch, past the giant poplar whose roots trail down to the creek, and up to the huge rock outcropping! This rock formation will lend itself well to games of valiant explorers. We then walk further into the deep forest to the moist and magical glade where the wood thrush nests. Now across the new footbridge, and into the poplar grove on the other side of the creeks’ “upper fork” .

This serene grove is a place to meander, rest, picnic, and play. It is here that we can see the small waterfall, and rock water slide. We also see the place where the two streams meet, for this new land contains all the vigorous energy of confluence! Beyond the quiet grove, we cross the creek’s “lower fork” and rush up the hillside to the open field! Having lived for so long under the umbrella of the trees, it is true pleasure to have what will soon be an open, sunny meadow. This is a work in progress. Slowly we will make benches, rustic chairs, tables and play structures from the wood and logs offered by the land.

It is a time for celebration and joy, as The Rose Garden becomes steward to the New Land!

Family Camp is Coming

It is summer in Virginia. The earth is made soft by a million autumns laying down carpets of gold, crumbled into black humus. Morning mist rises from the creek-bed. The wood thrush announces joy. The ruby-throated hummingbird peers in my kitchen window before she sips and veers away. Afternoon cicadas tune up for the evening performance. Human children join this forest community. They are just as tender and vulnerable, just as bursting with life force as their brothers and sisters, the furred, feathered and finned ones with whom they play, side-by-side. Each one of them needs our love and protection; we need their fresh hope.

Love, protection, freshness, hope. All of this is alive for the children, as they play barefoot in the garden, splash free in the creek. Days slip by in a primordial “here-ness, now-ness” Growth, exploration, new neural pathways, friendship, home-made meals, all are contained in the over-arching Presence of the living forest.

Soon, we will be joined by families coming from as far away as San Francisco and Florida, as well as those coming from a few miles down the road. For five days we will put our lives together, alongside the lives of the woodland creatures, and together we will all know something new!

Create Your Family Culture

Join Sharifa Oppenheimer this summer!

Create Your Family Culture

    Or How to Live your Values amidst the Rising Tide of Commercialism

A Summer Camp for Families with Young Children
July 27th – 31, 2009 Monday – Friday

DESCRIPTION

Parents of young children will  begin to explore the regeneration of 21st century family life.  You will envision the “Star” of your family’s culture, studying deeply your own family’s rhythm, your family’s work together and play together. You will inquire into your child’s life, looking carefully at art, stories and the nature of play itself. The complex and often confusing questions of discipline will be discussed, beginning with your own sense of discipline. You will learn the fine balance of both protecting your children from the effects of this 21st century highly media-saturated culture, while also preparing them as young adults, to step into their world with courage, hope and commitment. read more »

Sticky: Create Heaven on Earth for Your Family !

Let Sharifa Oppenheimer help you create Heaven on Earth for your family!

create  Heaven on Earth for your family!

create Heaven on Earth for your family!


Join her in a variety of ways.

–The Book: Heaven on Earth: A Handbook for Parents of Young Children

–The School: The Rose Garden, a play oriented outdoorsy early childhood program

–Summer Fun: The Rose Garden Summer Camp, a child’s slow meander through summer
read more »

Summer Fun !

Summer will soon be here, and excitement is rising for summer camp! The Rose Garden will again offer an exquisite summer experience for your child. Days spent under the green umbrella of this old, well-loved forest are treasures our children carry for a lifetime. Our daily rhythm is a joyful open schedule, which breathes slowly and deeply with the children: read more »

Sticky: Our Heaven on Earth

Welcome to Our Heaven on Earth.

Parents, do you feel the increasing pressures of 21st century life?
As career expectations rise, and our commercialized culture rushes forward, do you feel the time necessary to nurture your children becomes both more crucial and more difficult to attain? Although our machines and technology offer benefits unimagined even fifty years ago, the shadow side is deepening, as we become isolated from our earth, each other, and ourselves.
What can you do to shift this paradigm?

Let Sharifa Oppenheimer help you create Heaven on Earth for your family! Join her in a variety of ways.