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Thinking Permaculturally

Permaculture for Home Educators - part one
By Beverley Paine

All too often people complete a permaculture course, or read a book on permaculture, and then happily apply ideas they have seen working elsewhere to their own gardens. Sometimes this works well, but after a while the romance fades as 'weeds' invade, work loads pile up, interest dwindles. I know; I've done it.

Permaculture is a way of living and thinking. Changing the way you live and think requires recognising the patterns and beliefs underlying your thoughts, and then consciously changing them. I'm gradually developing a permaculture course that will help deeply embed the permaculture way thinking, such that it isn't a mere application or superficial remedy but that it underlies everything we do and think. The first set of activities I devised and want to share encourage the skills of observation and imagination. Then I want to share some activities designed to help with pattern recognition. Together with creative visualisation, an understanding of patterns and their importance, underpins the permaculture design process.

The materials needed to do these activities include a sketchpad, pencils, coloured pencils, art materials (paint, crayons, etc) and access to a garden. No one is going to look at your work, so don't worry about what it looks like. The aim is to enjoy yourself and create a record of your thoughts and feelings that can help you learn more about yourself and permaculture.

As you work through the activities think about what you want to achieve from the activity. How do you think it help you become a permaculturist? In what ways can the activities help you in your life generally? If you are working with children you might like to take time out to talk about these things.

The first activity takes place outside, in a garden. Find a nice place to sit comfortably in the garden with some coloured pencils, textas, biros or lead pencils and sketchpad.

Taking your time, preferably about thirty minutes, but tailored to the age and attention span of any children doing the activity too, record in your sketchpad, as much as you can about what you see, hear, smell, and feel. Write words, sentences, phrases, lists, and poetry if you like. Draw, doodle, frame, box, highlight. make it colourful, fill the page and start another if you need. Stand up occasionally, sketch your legs and take a walk. Sniff the different smells and touch the different textures. Are there any plants that are edible? How do you know?

Draw and write whatever comes to mind without evaluating your thoughts. This is a kind of sensory brainstorming session. You can be as creative as you like. Think about the different elements found in your garden: colours and shades, shapes, patterns, textures, sizes, creatures, etc. Add some comments about how this place makes you feel. Consider what looks 'just right', and what doesn't look or feel 'right'. Talk about it.

When you feel you have recorded as much as you can, turn to a fresh page. Divide it into three sections to represent the other seasons (you can use columns, circles, etc - be creative!). If you live in an area that doesn't have four definite seasons, but only two, or maybe six, create that number of spaces instead. Now, in whatever way you like - picture or words - record, in as much detail as you can, how this garden would be different at these other times of the year.

The important thing is to take your time and enjoy yourself. When you have finished reward yourself with a yummy drink or a piece of fresh fruit. As you relax, reflect on what you have done and learned from this activity.

The next activity encourages the use of imagination.

Place yourself in the garden again; with your chosen art materials and sketchpad. As you review the recordings from the last activity, look up around the garden. Have there been any changes? What may have caused them?

Then, sitting comfortably, close your eyes. Imagine you are travelling back in time, to your childhood. In your memory find a treasured garden you once enjoyed. It may not be where you used to live. It might be a relative or friend's house, a vacant lot, or a public park. You may remember fragments of many gardens. Try to remember all the best things you loved about this garden, or gardens; heady scents, secret hiding places, open spaces, a sand pit, swings, juicy fruit ... As you recall each happy memory, open your eyes and record your thoughts and feelings . Don't rationalise at this stage, just remember.

Closing your eyes again, visualise creating the perfect garden for the child you once were. Place the elements from your favourite childhood garden or gardens in this garden. Place any other things you think would have made you happy as a child. Whatever you wanted, or still want, can go into this garden. If you have children of your own, think of the elements in a garden which will make them happy.

Think about colours, smells, shapes, secret places, surfaces, different uses, and different equipment. Place all these things in your imagined garden.

When you open your eyes spend some time capturing your thoughts in your book in any way you like. Take your time and enjoy yourself. Remember to reward yourself well for your effort!

Next time I will share some activities designed to encourage pattern recognition, again foraying out into the garden where learning is easy!

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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

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