This week I have been taking Janka Fairy to swimming lessons at Kennedy Park in West Hartford.  The draw to go there is that the lessons are only 35 dollars for two weeks worth, and there is a sprinkler park right next to where The Fairy takes her lesson.  I can watch My little swimmer in the water, while the boys play in the sprinklers.

There are also a lot of local camps, run through the public schools, that come to the park.  Today, a large gaggle of them, dressed in matching green shirts descended on us while we played in the little adjoining playground.  They were accompanied by two counselors, women in their 40’s or 50’s.  These women were alternating talking on their cell phones, texting, and yelling at the kids to “hurry”, “get over here” and “stop that”.

Several of the boys were playing with my sons, treating them sweetly like little brothers, helping them on a swing or seesaw.  I began to chat with them and ask them about their camp.

Apparently, today (Thursday) is Field Trip Day.  On this particular day, their excursion was going to be to Hometown Buffet, then to a movie.  At summer camp.  Did I miss something?  I don’t remember camp ever being like this….spending time eating at restaurants and going to movies….  They also told me that they can “do basically whatever they want” at camp, and that they don’t really have any activities.  I am hoping this means they have free play, outside…but I have a feeling it might mean that they are just “basically” supervised while they are shuffled around to one controlled environment after another.

Their counselors weren’t engaging with them in any meaningful way, so the boys and I showed them how to make Fairy Houses.  We talked about how the fairies fly around every night looking for a place to rest their heads…and that it’s every child’s job to build houses for them wherever they can.  Even though at this park there was more garbage than leaves and sticks, we managed to forage some acorns, a few twigs and dead leaves to erect a small fairy house in the root of a large elm.  We even broke the “natural materials only” rule, and used a discarded bottle cap as a “sink”.  Perhaps urban fairies must make use of discarded garbage in their homes, as that seems to be a local resource.

People often ask me if, as a homeschooler, I am going to “use” the resources available at the public school…if I am going to follow their curriculums, keep my children “up to date” with what they do there, let my kids join their sports teams….  I think this question has it all backwards.  From now on, I am going to think about what we can give, as a homeschooling family, to children who are herded off into institutional “educational” settings.  Perhaps we are uniquely positioned to show these children how to look at their environments in a different and more magical and deep way…instead of as a mere destination for an “activity”.

I am going to hope for more circumstances where my children and I can share our way of life with others who would not otherwise experience it.  I am hoping that at least some of those children we met today will continue to build fairy houses wherever they go, and teach other children how to do the same.