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Summer Gardening

By Marianne Braden

Gardening is an educational tool that gets outstanding reviews from educators worldwide. How much more perfect to have one for the homeschool environment! What an impact and advantage a garden can have on a family's budget, and as a resource for hands-on activities, academic studies, and recess fun. Let's take a closer look at this dynamic asset.

The Traditional Garden

The picture often visualized of a garden has a quaint narrow path, bordered by an array of pastel-colored flowers, leading to manicured rows of heirloom vegetables. Tomato plants are bursting with red, and golden corn stalks tower over it all. It's full of beauty, fascination, and edible delights. How does it work for education and the home? Let's imagine ...

The Garden Is a University

Within, it holds volumes of knowledge about the scientific certainties of creation. It boasts a curriculum that teaches the phenomena of life, and all within a season's time frame.

Its unique classroom environment outdoors initiates curiosity, exploration, and discovery. It is a safe and pure place for children to go, which taps their effortless ability to absorb knowledge from their surroundings.

It stimulates them to become creative and enjoy the satisfaction and confidence that comes from interacting with and producing a finished product on their own!

Tuition and Entrance Requirements

This is the best part: it doesn't require more than the price of seeds and some soil, sun, and water. Whether you have room for a large garden, a small four-foot by six-foot patch of ground to work, or a deck and stairwell for planters, you're set to go!

Your children are allowed to enroll here regardless of age or IQ. They are fully accepted and allowed to learn and achieve according to their own abilities.

A Peek at the Subjects Taught

Home Economics: Children learn to save money by growing their own foods, spices, and craft supplies. They are given an opportunity to actively contribute to the family, generating a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Zoology: Insects are easy to observe and identify in a garden, and they provoke special interest, since their behavior and life cycles have an effect on the outcome of a student's personally tended plants.

Botany: Observing plants as they grow in living motion, from a small seed right through to bearing a beautiful flower or edible fruit, makes an indelible impression on the mind.

Math: It's fun for kids to search the weekly food flyers for the market price of the food they just grew. Math calculations let them see the savings they made to the family food bill or, if you really want to generate excitement about math lessons, tell the kids that if they calculate the value of what they grow, and are willing to give you a price you can't refuse, you'll buy from them instead of the store!

Outdoor Recreation and Art Appreciation: While planting, tending, and gathering flowers and foods, children get healthy exercise. Their senses are stimulated as they experience the surprise and excitement of seeing the brilliant display of colors when flowers bloom and vegetables change daily in size and shape. They hear the industrious honeybee as it performs to trigger the garden's success. They feel the many varied textures of soil, plants, and produce. They enjoy smelling the flowers and love to show-and-tell the secret of arousing herb plants for their aromas. And best of all, they get to taste test from the abundant garden-food storehouse when it's at the peak of freshness -- sweet, crisp, and juicy.

Character Development: Interaction with growth teaches diligence and industry, while nurturing patience, and leads to confident expectation. (You can't rush the sweet peas, but they will be ready in time.)

Enhancement of Scripture: Experiences in a garden greatly enrich Scriptural references and teach truths. For instance, the discovery that seeds produce the same fruits that they came from reaffirms Genesis 1:12, describing creation: seed producing after like kind. Evolution is unsupported.

Studies Support the Use of the Garden for Educating Children

Maria Montessori, five-time Nobel Prize nominee for her well-documented observations on the ways children learn, also used horticulture as a springboard for educating.

She found that individual activity is the one factor that stimulates and produces development, the virtue of children acting on their environment. Dr. Montessori believed that with the tireless interest children have in manipulating materials, they would be stimulated to learn if a great emphasis was put first on use of their God-given senses and curiosities. Reading skills developed more naturally afterwards.

She concluded that only through movement and manipulation, through thinking with the senses, does the child proceed toward abstract thinking and logical thought.

The Effects of a Garden on Your Health and Medical Bills

The garden has a strong competitor these days: the local supermarket. What a convenience! Hop in the car, run to the store, buy processed, easy-to-cook, eat-and-run meals; less work; more time; and easier days.

But are the days easier? Statistics now report that one out of every three Americans suffers from cancer, children included. Depression, weight gain, anger, and lascivious behavior are earmarks of this generation. Have we lost vision? We've traded productivity for ease, idle time, and couch potato activities that satisfy only for the moment.

Gardening has the potential to reintroduce and establish the satisfaction that comes from healthy, functional, character-building activity. Not only is it a well-established fact that gardening has a calming effect on the mind and heart, which strengthens resistance to disease, but it provides building blocks necessary for good health. Foods are at their peak of nutritional value when freshly picked. In the time it takes to deliver harvested foods to the marketplace, air and light are destroying their vitamin content. (Cabbage loses all its vitamin C content in two weeks!) The heavy use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers that are a necessity for commercial farming is avoidable.

We may not escape everything, but a small garden can go a long way toward keeping our children in touch with a way of health and happiness.

Gardening is an easy skill to learn. It's handy, inexpensive, attractive, and reaps generous returns for your investment of time. If limited space is a factor for you, many plants can be grown up stakes or trellises, even in containers, with a remarkably bountiful harvest! I hope you'll give gardening a chance to share its wealth with you. Start out small; learn and grow together.

Mary Braden is author of Gardening Adventures Unit Study. She homeschooled her five children for 13 years. Together with her husband, Lee, she began Braden Road Farm and Garden, supplying organic beef, chicken, and produce locally and garden seeds nationally. They hold an annual Homeschool Kids' Biggest Vegetable Contest! Visit them at www.bradenroad.com

Copyright 2004.
Originally appeared in Summer 2004. Used with permission.
The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.
www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com


 

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