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