Education Matters: Finding fantastic family fun in the necessary tasks
Friday night, we were all together in our kitchen.
Son number one was home from college; his girlfriend happily joins our family often when he is here. Son number two was here, hosting his group of friends at our house that night. They were due to arrive shortly. Our daughter was busy with plans to attend a Halloween party on Saturday night; our Chinese foreign exchange student guest wanted to make sure we heard about a concert he wanted to attend the next evening.
Our Spanish foreign exchange student kicked off the conversation, wanting to know what the weekend plans for everyone included.
"Tomorrow will be family garden day," I reminded them all.
I don't know why. I always greet this day with much more enthusiasm than they do.
I point out that the fallen tree must be cut up and the wood stacked; the chicken coop cleaned; all the ceramic flower pots emptied and put away. My three had groaned in anticipation. "It's not so bad if we all do it together," I smiled at them.
They were unconvinced, and turned to the non-experienced three. "Oh, it's bad," said one. "Make plans to get out of here now." The exchange students looked a little worried, the American was more experienced but still had a bit of concern on her face.
Saturday morning, our young Chinese friend was the only one up at a reasonable hour (which was not a surprise). It was chicken coop cleaning time, and he grabbed a shovel and set to work with no complaints. He's from "a small city of three million" in northern China, and chickens are new to him.
I picked up a fresh egg from underneath one of the hens. "Here, feel this," I told him. It was still warm. He held it gently, almost reverently. "You know," he said, "I've eaten eggs all my life. But never once have I thought about where they come from. This is amazing!"
At the end of the chicken coop cleaning, we like to take the leaf blower to the coop, and clean out those last little bits. I remembered that our Brazilian exchange student had enjoyed this last year. So I offered the job once again to the newest crew member. Within seconds of starting up the machine, he had mastered the idea. He grinned widely. He was soon out of the coop, looking for leaves. Then he was going up the side of the driveway, around the back of the house.
"Another man happy with his leaf blower," I thought.
But his leaf blowing joy had to be curtailed: we had promised friends we'd meet for apple picking. It had turned into the perfect fall day. Being out in the orchard was a joy. Our group of 11 friends made short work of gathering drops for the neighbor's cider project — and picking apples for all. Our Spanish exchange student tried nearly all the varieties. "Do you think there is a limit of how many apples one should eat in a day? I'm at, like, six, I think," she said. (We answered that she should probably stop.)
Apples done, we returned to the wood and the ceramic flower pots, putting the entire family — plus three — all to the tasks. Pots were picked up and moved in tandem efforts. Dumping the dirt out and then storing all of the pots under the porch is clearly much more enjoyable when done in a group. Stacking wood is better when it is thrown at each other (in a good way!). The leaf blower even needed to come back out and make another special appearance for the back deck.
By the time the daylight waned, we could all sit back and feel ... accomplished. We asked one another to recall two good things from the day.
Being together had been a highlight for everyone, happily. (I tell them that "it will be fun" very regularly, but I am often not believed when it comes to chores!) Our young Chinese friend surprised us all though.
"Cleaning the chicken coop is number one," he declared. We were fairly incredulous. He continued, "Yes. I just never thought about where chicken eggs come from. Imagine that: I've eaten eggs all my life, and I have never thought about it," he chuckled. "Feeling that warm egg ... that was really cool."
Logging this one as a "great day," in all ways!
Jill Stahl Tyler is parent to three kids, and appreciates the many others who come through their home. She firmly believes in all education, and currently sits on the board for the Brattleboro School Endowment and the Brattleboro Town School Board. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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