OBSERVATIONS · slice of life

Background Knowlege on the Farm

When I was a classroom teacher, I always attempted to hook-on to children’s background knowledge.  Sometimes this was challenging since I taught in inner city schools where many students lacked financial means and, as a result, had a lack of secondary discourses.  (Case in point: I once took my fifth graders on a field trip and a student freaked out on the bus ride from Manhattan to Brooklyn since she had never driven over a bridge before. Remember, Manhattan is an ISLAND, which means that at 10 years old, she had never left the 11 mile long island!)  Therefore, I took my students on lots of field trips to botanical gardens, art museums, and historic sites.  I shared stories and photographs of my own experiences.  I read a wide variety of texts to them.  I did whatever I could to broaden all of my students’ horizons so they could have access to as many experiences that children from more affluent backgrounds had.  would never feel they were less than someone else.

When we moved to Central PA, I made my husband promise we would take our daughter to New York City and/or Washington, DC at least four times a year.  It was important to me that she became familiar with city life.  (I lived in both of those cities for a total of 12 years so, selfishly, I felt the need to visit often too.)  However, as our daughter has gotten older, I’ve come to believe I need to do more than just expand her horizons by taking her to visit cities.  She needs to swim in the ocean, in lakes, and pools.  She needs to see wildlife, zoo animals, and farm animals.  She needs to know that food comes from farms, not from the grocery store.  Therefore, I’ve started taking an active role in building young Isabelle’s background knowledge by looking for experiences to show her more than our suburban lifestyle.

Therefore, we ventured out of our comfort zone after school today.  We needed more pumpkins for the front of our house.  (We had two small, white ones that one could barely see from the street.)  Instead of taking her to the nursery down the street to buy more pumpkins, I took her to a real farm.  It wasn’t a farm I knew.  It was a farm whose sign I had seen from the side of the road.  All it said was “Corner Acre: Mums, Pumpkins, Straw Bales.”  That was enough for me.  Why not take a little detour on our way home and go there?

I turned on to the road and looked for mums, pumpkins, and straw bales.  At first, all I saw was a house with laundry drying on clothes lines.  Then, the colors popped.  Oranges, whites, purples, and yellows.  This must be the place.  An Amish woman was standing out front, holding her son in her arms with a girl who looked around Isabelle’s age standing beside her.  Once I parked my car on the side of their barn, I unsnapped Isabelle from her car seat and encouraged her to say hello to the girl.

“Hi gurl!” she aloud.  Literal little beings, these two year-olds are!

The little girl stood close to her mama and didn’t say anything until the mom addressed me. “Hello,” she said.  “How old is your daughter?

“Almost three,” I said.  How did that happen?  She just went from being 2 1/2 to being almost three?!!?

“She’s 2 1/2,” she said pointing towards her daughter.  “They looked about the same age to me.”

“They sure are,” I said.

Then the little girl said, “Hi,” to us both.

“Hi,” I replied. “We’re looking for some pumpkins.”

The mom and I spent a few moments talking ’til Isabelle began to scream.  “Bee! Bee! Bee!” she screamed.

“It’s not a bee! It’s a fly,” I said while rubbing her back.  “Flies may land on you and go tickle-tickle-tickle. They won’t hurt you.”

As always, that didn’t appease Isabelle who screamed “Bee!” again.

“I’m sorry,” the mom said.  “We have horses,” she motioned to the barn behind the pumpkins.  Though the wooden slats I spied a black horse and a brown one.

“No problem.  She’ll be fine,” I said.  “Isabelle, which pumpkins would you like?”

I managed to redirect Isabelle who began grabbing as many small pumpkins as she could.  We landed up buying three of the mini pumpkins she grabbed (plus two medium-sized pumpkins, one of which she grabbed by the stem and pulled off of a straw bale herself!)

Once we picked out our pumpkins, the mom added up my total.  I gave her a $20 for nine dollars’ worth of pumpkins. She took her kids into her home to get my change while I loaded up my trunk with the pumpkins.  In the meantime, Isabelle noticed the horses.  She walked over to the side of the barn, where the door was opened and said, “Hi neigh!”

“Tell them, ‘Hi horse!'” I said attempting to make the windy sound for the h.

“Hi neigh!” she said again — over and over.

The next thing I know, she’s trying to break free from my hand to go into the barn to pet the horse.  All I see is a lot of hay, two big horses, and some piles of horse poop.  There was no way she was going in there.  “No, Isabelle.  You may stand out here and say ‘hi.'”

She tried to pull away from me, but my grasp was stronger.  “You may say ‘hi’ from here,” I reminded her.

Again, she tried to get away from me.  This time I knelt down to her level, stood in front of her and said, “You may not go into the barn.  You may say ‘hi’ from here.”  I really wanted to add because I said so to the end, but I didn’t need to.  She knew I meant business.  She stopped tugging.

Just then, the family came out of their house and waved to an Amish man who was propelling himself along the road on a man-powered scooter.  The little girl was holding my change.  She held it out for me and waited patiently.

“Thank you,” I said.  “Say bye-bye, Izzy.”

“Bye, guhrl,” she said.

As the girl said good-bye to us, I picked up Isabelle and carried her to the car.  The mom picked up my medium pumpkins and asked, “Do you want these in the back.”

“Sure!” I said, noticing she was still holding her baby boy.  She sure is better at multi-tasking then I am!

We said our good-byes and headed off.

I didn’t know we would be visiting a farm-farm today.  I just set out to buy pumpkins.  A fun, after school “field trip,” of sorts.  Yet again, I discovered the importance of stepping out of my suburban comfort zone to do something that will broaden Isabelle’s horizons.

Finally — Before I moved to Central Pennsylvania, “Amish Country” was  place I heard of people visiting.  A place where people would stay at B&B’s and buy quilts.  Now that I live less than a half hour away from Lancaster, “Amish Country” is no longer a tourist destination.  It’s a place where I buy vegetables.  It’s a place where I see people working hard on their farms as I drive by in my car.  It’s a place with people who have deep religious convictions and a lifestyle different than my own.  Believe it or not, Lancaster County is a diverse place!


17 thoughts on “Background Knowlege on the Farm

  1. Stacey,
    I love the adventures of Isabelle. It appears that you are also having new experiences and adventures. Your dialog with Isabelle makes me feel like I am right there shooing away the flies.

  2. I love the repetition of literal thinking that weaves through this piece, “Hi gurl,” “Hi, neigh,” and “Bye girl!” While there is so much background building for you both here, the greetings pull this piece into a reminder to stop, listen, and appreciate the little things (both pumpkins and people) in our lives!

  3. As I read this post, I kept thinking good for you. Yes, show her the farm. I grew up in a small town in Upstate NY and there are a lot of great things about the country. I now live in Central, OH very suburban and try to give my girls experiences back home or nearby that do build background knowledge. I never thought of it that way. We go into Columbus for plays and shows and experiences for navigating the city streets. I had to chuckle thinking about where things come from – my oldest made the connection that potato chips come from potatoes about middle of elementary school and we still laugh at how she missed that bit of knowledge.

  4. I love re-living the days of little girls and farm visits to pick pumpkins. My girls loved to go to the farms when they were little. During the summer, we spend time at a local farm where they sell raw milk and fresh eggs–I bet you can find those treats in the Amish country. I think that you are great to expose Isabelle to both farming life and metropolitan life–they both have a lot of appeal, just for different reasons.

    1. Right on that same road there’s another farm where you can buy raw milk and eggs! There are also cows and horses we wave to on our way to and from school. I feel so fortunate to be able to travel that road with her 2x/wk.

  5. It is so important to give our kids as many experiences as possible. Our favorite destination was always the zoo, but I loved taking my boys to local farms to buy pumpkins, too. Sounds like you and Isabelle had a fun afternoon!

  6. What a great field trip for your daughter. Regarding the comment about her going from 2 1/2 to almost three…savor every moment. I can hardly believe my oldest grandgirl is almost 9! I can remember her being three.

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