Going for Wild: Schooling in the Jungle
By Méla Caza Pugh
Our life project here in the Amazonian highlands, as well as our individual and familial pursuits have been greatly influenced by my daughter and her arrival in this world. Whilst awaiting her arrival, her future education was one of my biggest concerns. Much of which was related to bringing her to her isolated rural environment. A means to soothe my worries was to be as prepared ahead of time as possible. My further decision to homeschool my Wild Warrior came about organically; slowly but surely I became convinced that this was to be our path.
Coming from Canadian and Swiss backgrounds yet living in Peru, I immediately saw the potential and benefit for her to attain fluency in three languages. I laid out a plan (during nap times) filled with my own expectations for my future scholar. A scenario evolved that would place my daughter attending one of the local rural schools to learn Spanish. All the while completing intense enrichment at home in English and French. I then found testing centers, ensuring she could be accredited and hold diplomas necessary for the international schooling system of her choice.
I spent many hours researching a variety of sources and styles of early childhood education. At the time I was thoroughly impressed with a Montessori based style. I liked the self-reliance at an early age and how concepts are introduced in a hands-on approach. I wanted to find that one system, a kind of formula to apply that would teach my child the basics and could set her on a road to academic success and achievement. However, as she grew it became evident that it wasn't a perfect fit. We lacked a lot of the materials and infrastructure so popular in a Montessori setting. My views towards our goals for education started to shift. This sparked me to be inspired and apply what works, in other words: go with the flow. It took some time to figure out exactly which knowledge river we were wading into!
I placed a great deal of pressure upon myself due to the fact that her father and I had decided to bring her to our remote property to build our dreams. Yet, at the same time not willing to be cut-off entirely from the global societies from which we came. I especially wanted for her to have all the doors opened, for her to choose to be a barefoot forest dweller or to seek to pursue higher university level education. I began to piece together a program all our own. At the time our tiny remote jungle home was abuzz. What with starting our medicinal plant farm and completing construction I needed to be disciplined to fit in and create "teachable moments". I determined that the early years would come first, but we still needed to build our lives in order to put food on the table. I chose a packaged curriculum that included workbooks, educational toys (mostly made of wood) and a structure to follow. To my great surprise the items that were the greatest success were the critical thinking based workbooks along with our small storybook library! I imagined that the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mechanics) toys would be the biggest hit, but I was wrong. This was my first big lesson: how to shelve items for later use or even give them up entirely (even though the schedule said to do a lesson 2-3 times a week!) Naturally what replaced those toys were similar lessons but in the garden with real tools. My little healer in training would rather practice her fine motor and gross motor skills planting seeds of all kinds and romping through the rainforest!
The eclectic river of homeschooling was calling.
Please join us for part 2 next full moon.
Méla Caza Pugh holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Emily Carr University. Over the years she has taught in elementary schools and language centres. She has lived on three continents and swam in several oceans, seas, rivers, lakes and streams. Some of her current passions include plant alchemy, photography and education. She can be found mixing remedies and homeschooling her daughter in the Amazonian jungle highlands of Peru. She has founded the Adaptivore Private Reserve and her natural products business Esencia. You can read more about her adventures on her website.