St. Patrick’s Day and Fairy Gardens

Warning: This post starts out a little snarky.

Around here in the public schools when St. Patrick’s Day rolls around some of the kids are required (it’s an assignment as I understand) to make a leprechaun trap. I always thought this was the biggest waste of time (stay with me, I repent later). It’s like making mailboxes for your valentines. The idea and the activity are potentially really fun and cute. But it kind of turns into a contest for parents to make the coolest/classiest/never-been-done-before mailbox ever. I have a suspicion that kids don’t spend as much time on the mailboxes (or come up with the ideas) as much as their parents do. OK, that’s for the mailboxes. For the leprechaun traps it just kind of seems like people forget and throw it together last minute. How do you even grade that?

I also don’t like feeling like I HAVE to wear green or make my kids wear green in order for someone NOT to physically harm them or make fun of them. That is dumb. That takes the fun out of St. Patrick’s Day.

HOWEVER, I really love St. Patrick’s Day. I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. Not just the northwest, but the wet, lush, green, mountainous, watery, mossy, forested, damp northwest. (My husband would add “moldy and mildewy” – and he would also be correct.) I thought the ideas of little wood fairies and dryads (didn’t know the name back then – thank goodness for Fablehaven! just finished book 3) and little dwarfs and brownies and things like that were so fun. I wished there was an entire little magical world in my backyard/forest full of little creatures that might someday appear to me and include me in their little magical universe. That is a manifestation of childhood imagination. And St. Patrick’s Day resonates with that little magical imaginary world. So I like it.

I like the magical stuff, not the obligatory American cultural stuff. I don’t drink at all, but knowing me, I would probably refuse to go out and drink on St. Patty’s day just because everyone else was doing it. That’s just me.

I always have grand plans for St. Patrick’s Day – mostly rainbow and glittery crafts, half of which we never get too. (didn’t get to it this year either.) And a grand feast of corned beef, potatoes, carrots, and cabbage (eating it tomorrow – not so big on the technicalities of the calendar this year) and mince pie! We actually only had that once but it was delicious. Good enough to look forward to once a year. Like corned beef and cabbage. (The grocery store didn’t make any mince pies this year!! There were about a gazillion different pies for those celebrating Pi Day, but not a single mince. I can kind of understand that. I also refuse to celebrate Pi Day solely for the reason that everyone else is doing it.)

And those little chocolate gold coins. We got some of those. (I know, every does THAT. I never said I was totally consistent.)

One year we actually learned about St. Patrick, the missionary. That was especially interesting. I like to know the reason behind holidays to make them more meaningful. But this year we have been a little busy (read here) so all we did as far as “research/book learning” was to read some leprechaun books and other wee folk/fairy folk stories. But the coolest thing we did was make our cute little fairy gardens. (I would put this at the same level as leprechaun traps, so now I get to eat my negative comments from before. I will gladly do that. That there was my formal acknowledgment.)

Ideally, and I aimed for this, but like I said, busy, I would have had the kids plan out their little garden with a diagram or blueprint or something. I wanted them to think about it and come up with the perfect little home for some little fairy or gnome or whatnot. What we ended up doing was collected a bunch of stuff we already had, buying about $15 worth of stuff from the dollar store (for 4 kids! That’s still pretty good), and we all picked up a succulent at the nursery just down the highway. If they hadn’t been $4.25 a piece I would have let them pick two. Maybe when we’re rich, right? (We looked at actual fairy garden accessories at the nursery and whoa! there was a little frog about the size of half my thumb for $2! The prices just went up exponentially from there. But the stuff was so cute and looked really fun.)

We “researched” by looking at gardens online and all the different possibilities and then got to work. Here is what we came up with. (I should mention, too, my 7 year old spilled a ton of chia seeds the other day so we swept them all up and decided to grow some chia grass in our fairy gardens – I wasn’t going to eat it after it’d been on OUR kitchen floor. Sadly, probably due to forgetting to water, our grass hasn’t grown much. These are the before photos, anyway.)

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My creative writing daughter wrote a little story to go with her fairy garden -number 2 in the line up. I had her dictate it to me as I wrote it down. She then illustrated and made a cover and back. Her story is titled “The Leprechaun and the Bird.” If the baby weren’t asleep in her room right now I would snag it and post a few pictures for you, but you kind of get the idea.

Academically, you could go lots of different places with this project. Mathematically you could actually design it out and make a blueprint – calculating area and such. Study up on the history of Ireland and the origins of fairies and leprechauns and whatnot. There is so much literature – not just the literature poor picture book stuff, but actual literature and legends and lore of fantastical things. And then of course creative writing, for which grammar and spelling are always a part. Another fun thing to do would be add in a little botany. Learn about which plants will realistically go well in your little fairy garden. My friend pointed out ferns and succulents are a bad pair, even though they would look really cool. You can figure out why on your own.

But because of how I do homeschool and after school and family life, we oftentimes don’t have so much time to make a HUGE project out of something like a little fairy garden. Still, it was worth doing. My kids have been under some stress recently and this was a fun project we were all excited about and could do all together and individually at the same time. Everyone was happy with their results – and we all agreed the 5 year old’s garden looked the best.

Additionally we had a big Stack o’ St. Patty Cakes for lunch.

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