Why is this book a classic? In what ways does it appeal to adults? In what ways does it appeal to children?
This book is a classic because it stands the test of time, even with the difficult accents! It has characters that are in each phase of Leadership Education so there’s something for everyone. It appeals to adults as a parenting book and to children as a lesson book. Adults can see how children need freedom and lots of time outside and children get to see what it means to be a whole adult vs a broken one.
Compare the different mothers or mother figures in the book. (i.e. Mrs. Lennox, Mrs. Craven, Mrs. Medlock, Susan Sowerby) What wisdom about motherhood did you gain from the mothers this book? Please gather some quotes of wisdom to share.
Mrs. Lennox is extremely selfish and downright abusive to her daughter; Mrs. Craven seems like she would have been an amazing mother had she been given the chance; Mrs. Medlock wasn’t really invested, it seemed, in the livelihood of either child – they were more of a chore for her; Susan Sowerby was amazing – the kind of mom every kid wishes they could have. One of the things that occurred to me is that Colin was just as bad off having no mother as Mary was having a bad one. Actually I think if the people in his life hadn’t cowered down to him, he’d have been better off.
What are the needs of the core phase child as portrayed in The Secret Garden?
“…liberty, fresh air and romping about.” (ch 12)
In what phase was Mary? Dicken? Colin?
Mary and Colin both start out in Core but I think by the end of the book they are entering into LOL. Dicken is definitely a LOL’er.
What factors contributed to the spoiling of Mary? To the spoiling of Colin?
“Mother says th’ two worst things as can happen to a child is never to have his own way – or always to have it.” (ch 18)
“He had made himself believe that he was going to get well, which was really more than half the battle, if he had been aware of it.” (ch 23)
Mary’s mother was never around and the people paid to take care of her weren’t invested enough to discipline her so they gave her whatever she wanted to gain their own peace from her. Colin was mostly spoiled because his uncle wanted his inheritance and convinced everyone he was sick and would die; because Colin heard this spoken over him be believed it and actually caused himself to be sick. It makes me think of that quote by Peggy O’Mara, “The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.”
What lessons did Mary need to learn in order to “renegotiate” her core phase? What lessons did Colin need?
They both needed to learn to think of others over themselves, to learn to work for something they wanted and to have respect for their elders. (They had to learn they didn’t “own the whole orange.”)
“Mrs. Medlock, ” Mr. Craven said to her, “now I have seen the child I understand what Mrs. Sowerby meant. She must be less delicate before she begins lessons. Give her simple healthy food. Let her run wild in the garden. Don’t look after her too much. She needs liberty and fresh air and romping about.” How have our ideas and expectations about the needs of children changed over the last century? Is the wisdom in the past traditions or in our current traditions?
We’ve taken away free exploration of the outdoors, we hover over our children constantly teaching them they can’t take care of themselves or make good decisions. We expect them to sit still and be quiet when we can’t even do that ourselves. We plop them in front of TV’s and video games that literally NUMB their minds and spirits. We expect things that should never be expected and forbid the things they should have free access to. The wisdom definitely lies in the past.
How can nature be a teacher of our children?
Nature teaches the lessons of life/death and reaping/sowing, the circle of life – how everything has to eat something else to survive. Its beauty inspires. Its harshness teaches survival and acceptance. (Observation of cycles. Patterns. Patience/delayed gratification. That there is order in the universe. Natural laws: gravity, how things grow, creation, rebirth and silence)
“It’s part o’ th’ springtime, this nest-buildin’ is,” he said. “I warrant it’s been goin’ on in th’ same way every year since th’ world was begun. They’ve got their way o’ thinkin’ and doin’ things an’ a body had better not meddle. You can lose a friend in springtime easier than any other season if you’re too curious.”
“Wheres’ever tha’ puts it,” he said, “it’ll be all right. Tha’ knew how to build tha’ nest before tha’ came out o’ th’ egg. Get on with thee, lad. Tha’st got no time to lose.”
How can we apply Dickon’s wisdom to our little birds (our children) who are building their own nests?
If we trust God and trust in the process then we will see that children really do have an inner compass and can follow their own tune and come out better for it than those not allowed the same freedom.
(Debby: It is sort of funny that people nowadays take away from kids (privelges, toys, etc.) when they get in trouble when what they probably really need is something given to them (work, love).)
What are some other examples of Dickon’s wisdom? Where does his wisdom come from? How does a child become so wise by the age of twelve?
Dickon knows to let the creatures come to him, that he can’t rush over to them expecting trust and friendship; he has to earn it. His wisdom comes from having lots of free time outside to make mistakes and learn from them. He’s been allowed to follow his own compass and pick himself up after a fall, all while having an understanding, intelligent, available mother to talk to about things he needs guidance on.
“‘Eh lad, tha’ can have all th’ secrets tha’ likes. I’ve knowed thee twelve year.'” Dickon’s mother raises “trusty” children. What does it mean to be trusty? How is Dickon trusty? How can we encourage “trustiness” in our own children?
To be trusty means that people can count on you to keep your word and do the right thing. I think to encourage trustiness in our own children we need to give them opportunities to BE trusty. We have to let them know that we believe in them and show them what it looks like to be trusty.
(Cindy V: We’ve done a lot of hypothetical discussions around here. I find that if my kids are in a situation at the moment, it’s harder for them to analyze it. If we talk about a situation, we can discuss what is right or wrong, talk about how we’d feel if we were on the other end. Doing that lays a good groundwork in our family. I encourage empathy, seeing things from others people’s angles. And we have a codeword around here — INTEGRITY. If my kids are behaving in ways that are not trustworthy, I say that word, and it triggers them to think about it. Before they understood that word, I’d tell them how proud I was of them when they were in a tough situation and made a good choice, or that I was disappointed and couldn’t trust them so much if they made a poor choice.)
Symbolism in The Secret Garden
What is The Secret Garden a symbol of?
The robin? The Holy Spirit
The passage of seasons and the transformation of Mary?
Where do we find Biblical symbolism of a fallen world and redemption in this story? In the Secret Garden, in their own lives.
I stink, stink, stink at finding symbolism so I’m looking forward to seeing what my classmates have to say about these.
(Christine: Secret garden = Freedom, Manor = Captivity, susan = wisdom and love)
(Debby: Secret Garden=the freedom that one finds from God’s wholeness and submission. Misselthwaite Manor–the binding that evil has on our hearts…the darkness and restrictions. Only those who took the time to see the robin, benefited from its freedom and beauty. Dickon reminds me of Jesus. Knowledgable, unassuming, and seemingly flawless.)
(Shari: I think the Secret Garden could symbolize our hearts. The catalyst to life when we grow and attend to it. It was their center of change and growth.)
(Laura: Could the robin have also symbolized a savior type figure in that it wasn’t a mentor like Ben could have been but it just slowly led them to the garden, inspired them while they were there and left them to their own choice of what to do in the garden. He was the messenger but also the message. I felt Susan Sowerby was Mr. Craven’s little robin.)
(Cindy V: Secret Garden = private space for growth and renewal; manor = restrictiveness)
(Jeannine: The robin could symbolize the Holy Spirit who leads us. He led her to the key and then to the door. The heart of Mary needed work in order to thrive and the garden needed help to survive.)
One of the famous lines from this story comes from Ben Weatherstaff, “Where you tend a rose, a thistle cannot grow.” What do you think this means in relation to attitudes? What do you see in Mary and Colin’s lives that illustrate Ben’s point?
When you tend to the positive emotions/thoughts the negative ones don’t have room to thrive. Once they start focusing on the good things, the bad things aren’t thought of near as often.
(Jeannine: We are being conformed to image of Christ but complete transformation doesn’t happen until the Lord comes to bring us home. We just have to trust what He says is true and take one step at a time. Transformation is a process and we just have to trust the process.)
A noble and Godlike character is not a thing of favour or chance, but is the natural result of continued effort in right thinking, the effect of long-cherished association with Godlike thoughts – James Allen
What was your favorite part of the book?
When Colin runs smack into his father at the end.
Who was your favorite character? Why?
Mrs. Sowerby; I wish she were in the book more! She’s just such a great example of what a good mother looks like and her children are examples of what can come of such solid parenting.
•What is the “Magic” referred to in The Secret Garden?
I think the magic is life itself. The magic of watching something that you have planted, tended to, invested in grow and thrive. (God is the magic).
•Is it really something that can be proved “scientifically?”
Depending on what you were trying to prove you probably could.
•How can this “Magic” benefit you?
Pouring yourself into something else helps you not to focus so much on yourself, thereby growing you.
“Much more surprising things can happen to any one who, when a disagreeable or discouraged thought comes into his mind, just has the sense to remember in time and push it out by putting in an agreeable determinedly courageous one. Two things cannot be in one place.” (ch 27)
() are other students’ comments from the colloquium.