This is a charming story that was published in 1911. It is a bucolic tale of the redemption of two little tyrants as they learn to love, care for and cherish things and people other then themselves. The story also shows a beautiful example of unschooling. Several times the adults caring for Mary mention that they need to get her a tutor and start her on lessons, but then her uncle decides that the fresh air is doing so much good for her they will wait longer. While she doesn’t have formal lessons she learns the names of the local plants and animals and how to care for both, she starts an exercise regime to get healthier and reads many books to learn more about her gardening. This was one of my favorite books as a child and I’m excited to share it with my own daughter. I hope you join us on this adventure!
First up you need a copy of the book, as I’ve already said this book is over 100 years old and so is in the public domain, meaning you can get a free digital copy. But I strongly feel that it is important for children to OWN books, to posses them, hold them and see them (especially when bored!). If you prefer reading from a kindle, maybe also get a physical copy from the library for your child to read along while you read out loud. This is the copy of the book I bought. It says annotated, but that is the kindle version only. The printed book is larger and has lovely pictures throughout.
Next is game(s) I really love using games along with books. They extend the family time connection and are great fun. Some games can get pricey, I look at it as an investment into family time and think of how much the game costs vs. going to a movie. Even with us having only one child, we haven’t found room in the budget for a full-priced theater ticket in… I don’t think we’ve ever gone to a full-priced theater since she was born actually. However I can bring myself to spend $50 on a game (especially if its a gift), when that is countless hours of family entertainment. I also believe just about every game provides some learning opportunists (particularly for the elementary crowd). With that said the first game I have to recommend is Lotus it is a lovely game where you use the cards you gain to make flowers. Another game that would work well in this box is Herbaceous. Finally once it gets reprinted Cottage Garden would be a perfect fit for this box! I am glad I got it, even if my checkbook cried a little, lol.
I love to include some form of food in each of my boxes, food is such a tangible connection to what the characters are experiencing. If the story has unfamiliar foods, so much the better! For Secret Garden I think an afternoon tea would be grand. You can buy the ingredients of course, but another thing would be to print out recipes and invite the child(ren) into the kitchen to create your tea from scratch. How about scones with clotted cream and orange marmalade or raspberry jam? You can buy shelf stable cream from Amazon or try to make it yourself. Here is a recipe for a Mock Clotted Cream from the Pioneer Women. For more meal ideas and history of the author as well I enjoyed the book “Inside the Secret Garden A Treasury of Crafts, Recipes, and Activities“.
The Activity to go along with this book is obvious…. garden. You can go big or small, depending on your space and time available. The children only really planted flowers, however my garden that Fiona and I are planting will be mostly vegetables. The choices are endless! Just make sure you find out what will grow where you live (Link to USA growth chart. Sorry I couldn’t find an international growth chart). If your child is a picky eater and you are wondering if its worth the effort to plant a garden, it has been shown that when children plant and tend the vegetables they are more likely to eat them! You can read more about that HERE, and HERE and HERE. Even though my main focus will be veg, I’m giving my fairy loving daughter a fairy garden and some flower seeds. As you set up your garden you might want to add some other outdoor attractions like a bird house, or wind chimes…. Well at least I did! So I added a fun looking kit.
Mary discovers the joy of a simple jump rope, and so a rope is certainly going in my box. Another trinket I am getting is a set of skeleton keys. I’m not sure yet if I will just give Fiona one key, or if I will give her a bunch and we can use them to make a wind chime.
My daughter and I love to create, so I also try to have an art project in each of my boxes. Art can be as easy or hard as you want to make it. There are so many choices for quality coloring books now, this one even has hidden objects to be found. If you are coloring in a book I definitely recommend Prang pencils, they are cheaper then Crayola and color as well as very expensive pencils! Another simple craft just needs some construction paper, scissors, and glue. To find directions and examples follow this link to another homeschoolers blog “What can we do with paper and glue.”
After you grow some beautiful flowers, you might want to preserve them with as pressed, dried flowers. Then you can use them in art projects and enjoy them even longer!
After we have finished reading the book I plan on doing a movie night. It is always interesting to discuss the differences between a book and its movie adaptation.
If you have a local botanical garden, this would be a lovely time to visit it. If you can’t find one, take a leisurely walk through the woods or a local garden center! Take time and look for secret places 😀
If you are following along with the Brave Writer curriculum or just curious, there is an Arrow Guide for this book. And if you have toddlers, you can create a Bitty Box just for them. We have two options for this book, The Curious Garden and Apple Pie Tree (coming next week).
*** As much as I love this classic book, I will say there are two spots in it where they talk about the black people in India being subservient to the white ruling class. As with any book I always recommend you preread or at least skim ahead so you can be ready to edit as you read or use that passage as a teaching point. Both of these instances in this book are short and can be edited out completely without impacting the story.