Growing Community through Work Days by Erica Orosco Cruz

When our school, Homeschool Garden, started 15 years ago we tried to do all the work ourselves. Staff gathered materials and worked to make the space beautiful. We now know “many hands make light work” and that there is community to support our beautiful environment.

Our school parent community members are required to fulfill 24 hours of service for a two-parent family and 12 hours of service for a single-parent family. One of the ways that families can complete their hours is through our workdays. We have our workdays seasonally throughout the year. The families, including children, meet at school (usually on a Friday afternoon) at 3 pm. We have a large paper sheet up with a list of items to be accomplished. The parents each then choose which item they want to work on first and write their name by the work item. Some work items may include digging a sand pit, fixing the chicken coop, washing silks, oiling the squeaky doors, cleaning out the rain gutters….I’m sure you can imagine what the lists might include. It’s often the parents’ first time mixing and mingling side by side as they shovel, sweat, laugh, and build.

The children usually start out helping and then run off to play after awhile of work. Children often see the different parents at pick-up and drop-off and share hellos, goodbyes and sometimes conversations, and yet now they are working side-by-side not only with their peers, but also side-by-side with their peers’ parents. They are in awe seeing all the parents working. We also observe the children in awe of their own work too.

After a couple of hours of grit we wrap up the work, dust ourselves off, and wash up for a potluck dinner. Families from our nursery school as well as our parent-and-child groups are welcome. Just as the children had so much pride in working side-by-side, the adults also enjoy the idea of their families contributing to the feast. Before dinner gets started we share a grace together of gratitude and then parents start serving their meals, talking, and sharing about themselves, their families, and even their recipes for the dish they brought.

Our school has brought many families together and throughout the years that have gone by, the community continues to share other memories together long after their school years here at Homeschool Garden have ended.   

Erica Orosco Cruz
As Director and Founder of Homeschool Garden since 2001, Erica’s mission is to keep families grounded and cultivate optimistic parenting.

Her life experience draws from diverse settings, with groups of children from infancy through adolescence: in a preschool setting, a family daycare setting, at a residential camp, as a nanny, and as a mother who homeschooled her own children. During that time she became a certified RIE ™ Instructor, trained in LifeWays and Waldorf, and recently spoke at “Herstory 2014” to more than 125 women and parents.

Erica is dedicated to providing an environment where both children and families can thrive and grow together with a foundation of mutual respect.