By Contributing Writer, Kelly Wiggains
As a homeschooling mom, I am always on the lookout for ways to incorporate life and learning. We have the time and freedom to go explore, so I want to take advantage.
We had a great opportunity fall into our laps this spring. Our friends, the Finneys, own a huge garden, but they needed some help tending to it. My family and another young family offered to help plant, pull weeds, and haul mulch. And for that work, we will reap the rewards with a share of the summer harvest. This is the perfect project for a homeschooling family.
Granted, my friend, Jami, and I do most of the hard labor. Our husbands help out occasionally on the weekends, but our kids take part in the work, too (when they aren’t too busy building forts in the mulch pile).
They spend time digging water trenches, sorting tomato cages, planting okra seeds, pulling weeds, and mixing compost. Even my two-year-old daughter joins the fun. She loves to carry coffee cans of compost to pile around the growing tomato plants.
Since this is my kids’ first experience with gardening, I’m not adding additional studies to the experience. But they are already learning valuable lessons:
1. Food Comes from the Ground.
My kids know food does not originate at a store. They know how different plants grow: tomatoes grow on plants, potatoes grow under the ground. They know blooms lead to fruit, and they can distinguish weeds from plants.
2. Gardening Takes Patience.
My son wanted to pick tomatoes on his second visit to the garden. He now looks for the green tomatoes to see if they are turning red. The kids remember the small onions we planted and how they compare to the onions we pulled out of the garden last week.
3. We Learn As We Go.
I have no experience with gardening as an adult. We are embracing our immaturity, asking lots of questions, and listening. Reading books can help with so many things, but sometimes getting our hands dirty is how we learn best.
4. Our Friends Can Be Any Age.
My kids love Mr. and Mrs. Finney, a couple in their seventies. They pray for them at the dinner table. They laugh at Mr. Finney’s jokes, and tell Mrs. Finney everything she could ever want to know about Legos. My kids are learning that building community takes friends from all ages and stages in life.
5. We Can Know God Better When We Spend Time in His Creation.
When my children hear about having faith like a mustard seed or about the Word of God getting choked by thorns and weeds, they have a first-hand connection with those images. Having our hands in God’s creation is just as important as having our hands in His Word.
Extensions and Applications for Your Family
Where can I find a gardening partnership?
Keep your ears open. Most retired people know a lot about life: gardening, cooking, baking, bird watching, etc. They are a wealth of information, and most of the time, they would love to share that knowledge with you or your children. Listen for an opportunity and ask questions.
What are Other Ways My Kids Can Learn about Gardening or Farming?
Contact local gardening clubs or see if your community has a community garden. Find farmer’s markets and talk to the farmers. Scour the internet for tips on starting a square foot garden or containers in your back yard (It’s not too late to plant!), and spend time at the nursery or garden center talking to the experts.
For older students, incorporate a study on plants and their properties, add a cooking class, discuss health properties of different vegetables. You might research diseases or insects that affect your plants.