It is true like Earthaven's website says; many parents in Earthaven are very busy with jobs, community service, community socializing, gardening and often building their own houses. While that sounds like it may be a bit of a hardship, in my experience it is all but. Children are included in much of the adult's work around the village, there are many kids for them to hang out with, there are many adults around to keep an eye on them, they live in a forest where the greatest dangers seem to be the ones they are biologically adapted to (they tend to notice the snakes before any adult does and know keenly which ones are dangerous)and many of the kids here attend one of the schools in the village as well.
Within the work of the adults there is often time for meaningful interaction with the children (both ones own and neighbor kids). This works both ways. While I am working in the garden or dying some yarns with locally harvested pokeberries, I may have a small informal class of kiddos helping me. But later that day Liefke and Luna may spend a few hours helping our farmers plant cucumbers and harvesting tomatoes (they are very good at finding the ripest cherry tomatoes!) so I can get some work done that goes smoother without a bunch of kids around. Just about very one is happy -eager- to include the children in the work. Whether it is farming, making yogurt, laying the floor of the Seedlings (our kindergarten) building, helping to set up for events or even helping to slaughter chickens for tonight's soup, children are invited to come along.
Liefke Otis and Luna helping prepare a dye from pokeberries
This morning, for example, Liefke, Luna and I spend a few hours right after dawn, witnessing the slaughtering of about 45 chickens in one of our neighborhoods. It was an amazing, calm, spiritual, fun(yes, really), communal and interesting experience and I am glad my daughters will grow up with the full awareness of where their food comes from. On the way back Liefke sang a thanksgiving song very softly, so the souls of the chickens could hear her.
Liefke, Anne and Christine scrubbing rocks for the school floor
Another example is the construction of the floor of the "Annex" which is the building that houses the Seedlings program. The building is completely hand build and right before school started (last week) we were still working on laying the floor. For several reasons it was decided that we would use local rocks (just found in the creeks or randomly laying around) set in mortar for this year. It will be covered with and earthen floor next summer. The laying of the floor involved lots of works by lots of people and help from the children was eagerly accepted. They were helping in carrying rocks from the pile to the wheel barrow in which they scrubbed the stones and then carrying into the building where other people were laying them into the floor. Not only did the kids have a real sense of satisfaction and contributing to their own school (these were the little ones, 3, 4 and 5 year olds) but their help actually made things go a bit faster and smoother. And the floor came a out great and the Seedlings spend the first day of school pointing out which stones they helped scrub and carry.
Mana, Liefke and Aidan working on the floor
As I mentioned, most of the kids that live in Earthaven attend the Forest Children Program. The Seedlings program (which is the kindergarten part of the Forest Children and I am their teacher) meets in a lovely little earthen building in the Hut Hamlet neighborhood. There are 4 kids right now with most likely 2 more starting before the year is over. Seedlings are kiddos from 3 1/2 to 6 years old and school is 3 mornings a week. The older kids meet three full days (till 3 pm in the council hall. Their ages range from 6 to 11 and they are officially a home school enrichment program. Both programs include Earthaven kids but also children from the surrounding areas.
Luna's ready for her first day at school
Mostly the kids run in a pack. The older ones (9 and 10) take care of the youngest ones. (Luna being the youngest at 3 1/2). All the kids that live in the Hut Hamlet, where we live, have the rule that they may not leave our neighborhood without and adult and an okay from their parents. Mostly they obey that rule just fine. The neighborhood is bordered a small bio-dynamic farm, two creeks and the hill on which all the houses are built and so they tend to stay within that area. Of course in our second week here, Luna took one unauthorized trip over to my mom's cabin, a good 10 minute walk along Earthaven's main road, in her underwear and holding her shoes in her hand...
It is often hard to keep the kids away from each other and mostly us parents don't try, although it is sometimes a struggle to get your kids to come in and eat or for the kids who live with another parent in town for part of the week to leave. The children also often hole up together in one of the children's houses or hang out in the Hut Hamlet Kitchen, which is a common building where there is usually something going on. Childcare is also easily arranged between the parents here and kids generally don't even notice, or are excited about it.
All in all, like the title of this post suggests, Earthaven is a children's Paradise. While our girls miss there friends in Colorado and Luna occasional complains about the lack of "restaurant food", they would not trade their life here for anything. Good thing too, cause I think we are staying.
Love from the boonies