Backyard learnings

When I was very young, I went to kindergarten (pre-school) in my own back yard; my  very own backyard on the tropical island of Fiji. The kindergarten was owned by my mother who was also the sole teacher. It was a wonderful little school and the best part of it was that I didn’t have to leave it to go home. It was home, and I could play there all day and every day for as long as I wanted. It was a very pleasant introduction to education.

Backyard Kindy

Backyard Kindy

That’s me at the top of the slide! At least I think it is!

Sand and sun and stories

Sand and sun and stories

My father made most of the equipment including the much loved cars made from packing boxes.

As the only kindergarten in town, (and possibly the entire Colony of Fiji), there was always a waiting list for my mother’s school. She hated turning away children  but there was a limit to the number of little ones she could handle on her own. The fees charged were miniscule, token, in fact, because her training and background were in the old New Zealand  tradition of free education for kindergarten children. (Plus, I think the colonial authorities may have had some rules about  private enterprise on colonial property, which our house was! ) She took that tradition with her from New Zealand to Fiji, and stood by it, throughout her working life as a teacher/school owner/manager.

We had a great selection of books at my mother’s kindy. I still have many of them but here are two favourites of mine.

One of the Nine Stories has fallen out of favour but the remaining eight are still popular with today’s children, as far as I know.

So, in this simple setting, with these little books, and others like them, my interest in literature, in reading, took its first steps.

Today, I am reading on my laptop via  Project Gutenberg Australia “The Diary of a Provincial Lady” by E.M Delafield. I feel that this passage was written for me:

‘January 14th.–I have occasion to observe, not for the first time, how extraordinarily plain a cold can make one look, affecting hair, complexion, and features generally, besides nose and upper lip. Cook assures me that colds always run through the house and that she herself has been suffering from sore throat for weeks, but is never one to make a fuss. (Query: Is this meant to imply that similar fortitude should be, but is not, displayed by me?) Mademoiselle says she hopes children will not catch my cold, but that both sneezed this morning. I run short of handkerchiefs.

January 16th.–We all run short of handkerchiefs.’

By my bedside table, for evening reading, I have “Toujours Provence” by Peter Mayle.  For any time reading, I have “Poem for the Day’ edited by Nicholas Albery and “To Bless the Space Between Us” by John O’Donohue. For idle moments, I have the newspaper where I read that the Humane Society of the United States has endorsed the launch of DogTV, a round the clock digital cable channel, specifically programmed for your dog.  I have not passed on this news to my little friend, Jack, but, then, he is  content to soothe his ears with the voices from  Radio New Zealand (http://www.radionz.co.nz/). I do hope, however,  he closed his ears when the announcer said that our Parliament has just passed  legislation to regulate the sale of legal highs, (party pills and synthetic cannabis).  Sadly, this legislation which  requires manufacturers to prove their products are safe for human use, before they can be sold in New Zealand,  will certainly  mean a continuation of unnecessary animal testing . I can’t help thinking that many of us  would do well to return to our kindergarten roots. We would do well to  remember how much pleasure and fun and wonderful highs we got from our very first books, featuring members of the animal kingdom.

Here is another of my favourite books that I first met in the kindergarten in my very own backyard.

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© silkannthreades

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50 thoughts on “Backyard learnings

  1. cindy knoke

    Oh what an marvelous experience you must have had in that school with your Mother as teacher. What memories! Have you thought of writing a memoir about your life? Childhood, and adulthood too with the fascinating places you were sent to. This would make truly interesting reading and you write so well. It would be popular. Please think on it and I hope your cold goes away!!!

    Reply
  2. melodylowes

    What a lovely spot for a kindergarten. I love seeing the books you loved as a child. As a reader, and a Kindergarten teacher myself, a love of reading is one of the most important gifts we can give anyone, isn’t it? I still can quote one of my favourite books from childhood – ‘I am a bunny. My name is Nicholas. I live in a hollow tree…’ Some of the old lessons are learned far too well to leave us now! 🙂

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Do teachers read to children from Kindles? I wonder? But yes the gift of reading is priceless. I don’t know Nicholas bunny but I love that you can still quote it. I can remember the gist of stories but that is all. But it is those childhood books that I remember the most so what we read as children is very important; we will remember it forever, it seems.

      Reply
      1. melodylowes

        🙂 I don’t have a Kindle yet, but I imagine it won’t be long before things change in classrooms to keep up with the world trends. I still like the feel of pages in my hnds, myself – but can sure see the advantages when travelling!

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Our library has a good online section for children that they can access from home. I have had a wee play with it just to see what it is like to be a child these days. It’s fun but I ,too, like real books, even when travelling.

        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Yes, and, as a child, I couldn’t understand how anyone could enjoy living anywhere else! I guess a great many children are lucky enough to feel that way about their homes.

  3. kurtnemes

    I remember the day my father brought home a copy of The Cat in the Hat from the library and read it to me! Wonderful to learn whole new worlds existed in books! Thanks for a lovely post.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thank you. And, yes, as you may imagine, the books we read ,or the ones read to us, were very far removed from the life we actually lived. But how ever different the physical places in the book were from our own place, the feelings and emotions expressed were universal.

      Reply
  4. Mrs. P

    What a nice looking Kindergarten and how fun it must have been to always have that play equipment right there. I love that your mother taught the New Zealand way, wish others would follow suit.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      It was so nice. I sometimes find it hard to believe that we had such easy access to so much wonderful play equipment and toys. Even so, one of my favourite games was swinging on the clothesline; the plain old cothesline!

      Reply
  5. Clanmother

    Have you ever noticed that we remember details about our childhood so clearly – our senses seemed more alive.. Even when I read biographies, there is a greater ability to recall childhood. And then once you attain the lofty title of adulthood, everything seems to become more of a blur, UNLESS, you have taken the time to record the events. Of course, holidays seems to be clearer, too!!! That is food for thought, isn’t it?

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Even if we record the events in adulthood they still blur! Our senses are wonderfully alive when we are children, you are right. Is that why we say children have to learn how to make ‘sense’ of their world? In my case, too, I recall quite a bit of my childhood because much of the time I was given the opportunity to just ‘be’ in my world. There were activities and lessons and friends but most of the time I had a lot of freedom to amuse myself and day dream.

      Reply
  6. utesmile

    That was great have kindergarten at home…. easy to settle in on hometurf. I bet you felt happy and a bit proud that it is your mum running it!

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Thanks! Can you imagine what fun it would be if 50 years from now, a child of today brings out a battered and mended copy of Fearless Fred to show the world. It’s the sort of life we want for our books, I think; a long life and much love.

      Reply
  7. Forest So Green

    I cannot remember my first books but I know my mother took us to the public library very often and we always had many books around the house 🙂 Annie

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      How lovely. We didn’t have a proper library in our town till I was about 10 years old. We had to rely on our own resources for many years and the same books were read again and again. We didn’t seem to mind! Children love repetition 🙂

      Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes, I do! Not in very good condition, though. Actually, two of those books are even older than me because they belonged to my mother. They were bought in 1939!

      Reply
  8. Travelling Kiwi

    Goodness me, that takes me back! What great photos! In the second photo I think that is my little sister in the sandpit with the flared sleeves. I wonder where all those other little girls and boys are now. I loved your mother’s kindergarten, and in my mind I can still hear her reading those stories in her gentle voice.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Do you think it is your little sister? I think that photo is older than the first one and dates to when my brother was at kindy. So maybe your older sister? Do you remember how Mum held the book to read it? She held the book so we could see the pictures and she read the script sort of looking down at it from the top of the page. I thought it was very clever and I taught myself to do it too. Story time was great wasn’t it?

      Reply
      1. Elizabeth

        I do remember her holding the book like that – but I could never manage it myself. I am sure that your mother was one of the influences in my life for my abiding love of books and reading.
        About the little girl in the photo – one of my sisters thinks it could be me, but that doesn’t fit in with your dates either. It will have to remain a mystery.
        Thanks for the memories.

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Mum may remember if that is you or your sister. She still has her attendance records! Yes, you have certainly taken books to heart. Mind you, I always loved that big bure/living room of yours that seemed to be overflowing with books. Glad you remember how Mum read the books. I tried doing it like that last night. It was a struggle. I am out of practice!

    2. Gallivanta Post author

      My brother tells me that he is one of the children in the sand box and we are thinking that it is you with the flared sleeves. Have yet to consult our mother 🙂

      Reply
      1. Travelling Kiwi

        We had a long family discussion about that photo! Half of us thought the little girl was me, so it’s nice to get corroboration from your brother. My brother wondered if he might have been one of the boys in the sandpit as well. Shared childhood memories are such an enjoyable topic of conversation.

        Reply
        1. Gallivanta Post author

          Well ,I wondered if your brother might be there too. Unfortunately Mum hasn’t had time to look at the photo yet. I am awaiting her opinion 🙂 Yes we , the two families, could probably write a book about our shared childhoods. Do you remember the clubs? I was allowed to tag along to some of the club meetings but wasn’t actually a member. I was very pleased when the day came when I was old enough to organise my own club!

    1. Gallivanta Post author

      Yes, I am utterly blah with a cold. I can’t seem to shake it off. Very weary with it. I was very lucky that my mother kept a lot of our books otherwise I wouldn’t remember even 10% of what I read as a child, or what was read to me.

      Reply
  9. Heather in Arles

    Isn’t it interesting how something that was so normal for you at the time seems so unbelievably exotic to me now? What an adventure. And I love old children’s books too. Actually new ones as well–the ones in France are so beautifully drawn and creative, it is enough to make even the adults dream a little dream…

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I can scarcely believe it myself now that I had such a wonderful playground. as a youngster. Not everything is shown in the photo but we had swings, a treehouse, a play house, merry go round, see-saw; just everything a child could wish for, as well as beautiful trees and flowers. I love children’s books too; old and new.

      Reply
  10. YellowCable

    That was so cool that your school and the school yard are your home. I believe I missed the school yard when it was time to go home than missed the school. The story is very nice and I like the old book pictures.

    Reply
    1. Gallivanta Post author

      I was so lucky to have school on my doorstep! Play time is very important for young ones and their learning, so I think we often like the school yard more than the school room!

      Reply

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