The Abundant Garden: Growing Quality Kids Through Gardening

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“…in this world of instant everything, productive gardening re-teaches one the true meaning of that old word, patience.”     ~Richard Beckett

I love this quote because it’s so true. Over my career as a middle-school and high-school teacher I have seen the “instant everything” creeping more and more into the lives of our children. Life lessons, like the value of patience and hard work, seem to be taught less and less. In many ways we are at a crisis point in the education of our children. As you read the following quote, keep in mind that the author lived a century ago.

“If we paid no more attention to our plants than we have to our children, we would now be living in a jungle of weed.” – Luther Burbank.

I wonder what Luther Burbank would say today…. Would he have something to say about our children’s lack of knowledge of the natural world, knowledge we lack as parents and teachers? Would he have something to say about where our eyes are focused and what we do with our hands? We are living in a dangerous world where fast food is destroying a slow-paced way of living and a screen is destroying the enjoyment found working in the dirt. Our generation has the opportunity to help our children, to make a difference in the way they grow up.

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In an age where learning is more accessible than in any other time, it is telling that we, as a society, cling to the shallow and superficial type of learning, rather than the deep and natural education God has intended for us. We are deficient in fundamental, real-life, essential techniques and know-how. This is not a problem we will solve in our schools with more testing, however many of the skills that are lacking in students can be taught very simply, very effectively, and very enjoyably through gardening.

“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.” May Sarton

Gardening teaches essential character traits such as patience, grace, persistence, responsibility, the joy of hard work, and respect for God’s creation. Gardening naturally teaches the parts of the scientific method such as observation, forming hypotheses, experimenting, data collection, data analysis, and retesting of theories. And gardening has also been found to be healing to the mind and soul.

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Dr. Raymond Moore (a leader in practical education of children and author of “Better Late Than Early”) described a child’s education as being like a three-legged-stool with each “leg” being the heart, the hand, and the mind. He further developed his thoughts into what is now known as “the Moore Formula”.

1) Study from a few minutes to several hours a day, depending on the child’s maturity.
2) Manual work at least as much as study.
3) Home and/or community service an hour or so a day (Raymond Moore, The Successful Homeschool Family Handbook, p. 273).

Gardening is a perfect way to implement the Moore formula. It requires constant study and learning, manual work in plenty, and can be an integral component of service, whether that is sharing your produce with others or using the skills learned in gardening to help and serve others.

“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.  – Alfred Austin

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Using Dr. Raymond Moore’s formula of study, work, and service, and Charlotte Mason’s method, “education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life”, we, a science teacher and home school mother of four, have created an online gardening curriculum, specifically designed for preschool through elementary-aged children (but is great learning for everyone.) If you have land or live in an apartment, if you homeschool or go to school, if you learn by reading or by doing, The Abundant Garden: Growing Quality Kids Through Gardening curriculum will help you learn all the important lessons that gardening has to offer. Our curriculum is designed to be an experience, project, and literature-based way of learning for the entire family. It consists of 40 weeks of lessons which begin in September. Each monthly unit will include four lessons: the study of basic gardening concepts with practical applications and activities, a theme plant, a garden creature of the month, and an influential pioneer in gardening/agriculture. It will include monthly gardening goals that will help you gradually build and improve your garden and your gardening skills.

For those of you unsure if you are able to garden (perhaps you have a black thumb or live in an apartment or area with less than perfect growing conditions) please read carefully the following quote. Charles Dudley Warner had this to say about gardening in the year 1870, “The principal value of a private garden is not understood. It is not to give the possessor vegetables and fruit (that can be better and cheaper done by the market-gardeners), but to teach him patience and philosophy, and the higher virtues,—hope deferred, and expectations blighted…. The garden thus becomes a moral agent, a test of character, as it was in the beginning” (My Summer in a Garden, “What I Know about Gardening: First Week,” 1870).

The goal of this course is to help you not only grow fruits and vegetables, but more importantly to grow the body, mind, heart, and soul of your child.