"I can't imagine raising my children without the UEC" - The Madson Family

Written by Guest Blogger
    Wednesday, 16 August 2023
"I can't imagine raising my children without the UEC" - The Madson Family

10 years ago during Doors Open Milwaukee, my five kids and I happened upon this unusual place in the Silver City District’s Menomonee Valley and were a bit confused by what we found.  While we thought the building was beautiful and the people kind, we didn’t quite understand how it all worked. 

It became a bit clearer when compared to the library–our home away from home.  This was similar to a public resource, open to all, but wrapped up in a non-profit package.  Was this really a place meant just for people like us, always welcoming and open, glad to welcome us with tea and hot chocolate at the ready? And a slide?!  Was there really a slide inside this building?! 

Crazy-confusing but intriguing, to be sure. We had to tell everyone!

DSCF0509Once we grasped the enormity of what we had found, we jumped in with all 12 feet.  Having grown up in a wealthy, comfortable suburban childhood I didn't spend my time sweating in the sun or digging in the dirt.  My activities were structured, very organized, usually indoors, and always pleasantly air-conditioned. I didn’t learn until later how much this convinced me that I could control my environment and, if I fought it hard enough, always remain comfortable while avoiding the natural elements.

This was not how I wanted my children to be raised but I wondered at how to teach them to love things I had such little experience with. And as a one-income homeschooling family of five children ranging 15 years of age, how do I do all this teaching while meeting the vastly different needs of each age?

On that day in 2003, I found the way and the people who would make it possible.

At that time, I had absolutely no idea how pivotal the UEC was to become in the raising of my five children.

  • Working side by side with people of all ages taught them to see the humanity in each of us as opposed to the surface differences that are often the main observations when meeting others
  • Attending the Minnesota Monarch Convention gave them the opportunity to learn the Scientific Method, commit to a long-term project with dedication, travel outside the state for the first time, and present their findings to a team of college professors
  • Pulling endless garlic mustard and planting in the community gardens taught them the meditative benefits that come alongside the necessary (sometimes monotonous) work that maintenance involves.
  • Watching Jaime, the front desk worker at the time, learn ESL taught them that adults can keep growing and learning, even willing to stumble and make silly sounding mistakes in front of others
  • When I insisted that everyone learn mass transit and cycling in the city before becoming fossil fuel dependent I realized that I talked big but had never ridden the city bus and had no idea of how to safely ride a bike in the city. The UEC and its partnership with the MKE Bike Fed taught us what we needed to know to get going. DSCF1540
  • Camping at Blue Heron with the Young Scientists Club gave us the chance to be together outdoors while not having to shoulder the entire workload by myself
  • Attending toddler camp taught my child to love nature in the city before she ever had a chance to think it was unusual 
  • Volunteering for events like coffee serving during Bike Week, setting up and tearing down the Candlelight Hike, cleaning equipment and sorting wet boots and mittens, volunteering on the Advisory Council, appearing in news segments to spread the word, giving speeches and representing the center when asked, and endless other activities taught them the value of unpaid work and being part of a grander endeavor

It was everything that I could have hoped for and more. The memories are so plentiful I could never list them all here!

IMG 20141101 132208358Now we’re 10 years later and what are some of the effects?

  • I have an avid birder today–who looks forward to the Green Birding Challenge with vigor and was crushed when he couldn’t attend.  (But then elated when it still went virtual)
  • My oldest is now finishing her double Master’s in Public Policy and Public Health at Madison because of her fervor to protect both the environment and the individual from the harmful effects of large corporations
  • I now have multiple children who refuse to drive a car, instead utilizing mass transit and cycling around the city because of their concern about the environment and openly explain their reasoning to others who ask
  • And most importantly, my children insist on living in the moment, aware and appreciative of the natural world around them even while living amongst concrete and traffic nearby the State Fair Grounds.DSCF1298

I only get one chance to nurture these children into adulthood--one shot in my one lifetime to do my best -- and I am so lucky to have had the UEC to do it with me.  

The UEC community is shaping my lifelong best friends. 

The UEC staff is training my late-in-life caregivers.  

Today I understand that the UEC is helping to raise my grandchildren.  

I had no idea what I found that day in 2003 but now I can't imagine raising my children without them. 


This blog is written by Stacy Madson, a UEC Community Member.

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