“The boys have actually evolved into legitimately productive contributors to home and farm. They no longer pull up beets by mistake. They don’t bend nails anymore. Or no more than I do, anyway. But to learn how not to bend nails, they had to bend some. To learn how not to pull up beets, they had to pull some.”Ben Hewitt, Home Grown
Welcome! Thanks for taking a peek in our garden! If you’re just joining us, here’s what you’ve missed of our Gardening Skill School so far:
- Little Green Thumbs’ Skill School #1: Can You ⛏️DIG IT?
- Little Green Thumbs’ Skill School #2: HUNGRY DIRT😋!
Gardening Week, Day Three: Weed, Water, Watch, and Wonder!
Today, we’re focusing on the Four W’s of gardening with our kids. Two of these are practical skills—weeding and watering, and two are skills for the soul —watching, and wondering.
SKILL SUPPLY LIST:
- child-sized gardening gloves (if the child doesn’t care for getting hands dirty)
- small watering can
- nozzle/sprayer for hose that your child can manage (optional)
- camera or phone camera that your child is permitted to use (optional)
- journal or sketchbook (optional)
VOCABULARY TO INTRODUCE:
- weeding vocabulary: root, top, eradicate
- watering vocabulary: spout, spigot, nozzle, mist, spray, shower, jet, flood, etc.
Lesson One: WEEDING
Let’s just start off by saying: some weed tops are gonna get pulled. And some vegetables tops in tow. We can, of course, minimize weeding errors by a good, thorough lesson beforehand. However, a certain margin for error just goes with the territory. And to be fair, I can’t count how many weed tops I myself have pulled so far this growing season. So, as in all things parenting, weeding with kids requires patience and grace.
1.) Start by showing your child how to identify weeds in your garden. Pay special attention to those weeds that are “copy-cats”; those that closely resemble baby vegetables, and help your child learn to distinguish between them. If a row of vegetables looks too weed-like to your child (such as root vegetables), simply allow him to weed an area of the garden that is much more straightforward (such as pumpkins, squash, or cucumber).
2.) Be sure to set your child up for success by watering a few hours before the weeding session, and equip your child with spade or trowel (for older kids) for deep weeds.
3.) Weed with your child. In my experience it is simply the best activity for conversation. Some of my most educational and impacting conversations with my dad growing up took place as we weeded a row of corn or green beans in the cool of the afternoon. Farmers don’t have much time to just sit and shoot the breeze. But my dad was always available and more than willing to talk with us while he worked. And in recent years, I’ve learned through various childhood development and education literature (particularly Montessori and Waldorf) that children actually converse more easily and more readily when their hands are at work. Somehow working with the hands frees up a child’s mind and even loosens emotional knots they may have been keeping from us. My dad may not have known all this. But then again, he is a farmer, and farmers have an instinctual, practical, observed form of wisdom that often rivals that of academic literature.
I am now getting to enjoy the beautiful partnership of work and conversation, now unto the second generation. And what I’m finding there in enchanting.
I’m discovering that the conversations that spring from a bed of weeds are of a unique variety.
Just this past week, while weeding the butternut squash, I pointed out to my son how the nasturtiums were sending out new shoots in a circle around the mother plant. My son’s reply surprised me: “OH!” he said “just like a mother redwood!” I stifled the surge of pride I felt by his knowing response and kept weeding. We then went on to enjoy a long, lovely conversation about redwoods, fairy-ring circles, and the place that “papa” and “mama” got married.
Lesson Two: WATERING
Watering plants is one of those tasks that seems so straightforward that it needs no explanation, let alone a tutorial. But in teaching kids, especially little ones, we must remember that the world is brand new to them, almost nothing is straightforward, and almost everything warrants further explanation. No wonder the word “why” is often a favorite of young children. So, let’s take the time to break down the art of watering plants; quite possibly every child’s favorite gardening task.
1.) Show your child how to use a small watering can. Direct her to hold the handle with one hand and support the spout with the other. Model for her how to walk with a watering can, how to water low down for minimal dirt disruption, and how to gently water at the base of plants rather than attack the foliage with a deluge. Explain how powerful water is; it’s the stuff of life but it also destroys. It is helpful to personify our plants in a garden (and not just for little kids) to illustrate that the plant is thirsty and needs a drink, but it does not want to be drowned or water-boarded.
2.) Model proper use for watering with a hose. Show your child each setting on the sprayer and demonstrate each —how gentle the mist setting is, how destructive the jet setting is . . . even to the grass. Tell your child which setting to use for different plants; perhaps mist for the herbs and shower for heartier shrubs and bushes. Show your child where to water; close to the roots but not uprooting, and not pelting the leaves or flowers. Teach her to give some distance and space when needed.
3.) Part of your watering lesson with an older child may include showing him how to run the sprinkler system and how to adjust the drip line. Setting up and moving a “rainbird”/moveable sprinkler may also be an applicable task for you to teach your child.
Lesson Three: WATCHING
Think watching doesn’t need a lesson? You’re probably right. Watching is more of an art than a task, after all. Learning to watch could maybe even be considered learning to be . . . present, patient, at peace. And a garden is the perfect place for our children to practice this art of watchfulness.
There are bees to observe.
Butterflies to admire.
Birds to watch.
Flowers to study.
Armies of ants marching through a forest of grass to stalk.
1.) Have you tried out our “Morning Watch Club” yet? Usher in the day with the grounding, peaceful practice of watchfulness.
2.) Sit and observe the garden with your child. Lie on your backs and look at the clouds. Crouch over a shrub to watch how a snail slithers along the leaves. Watch the woodpeckers and purple finches. Listen to the humming of the bumblebees. Sketch, journal, or daydream.
3.) Monitor the growth of the garden with your child, either through sketches, daily measurements, or our favorite . . . photographs! You can access our full tutorial for tracking growth here: 💥 ~SCIENCE CAMP AT HOME~ 🦎 Plunge into Sensory-Rich Discovery!
Lesson Four: WONDER
Every morning since we planted the garden, our son awakens with one rousing thought front and center in his mind: how much has the garden grown overnight, and what new wonders will welcome him today? He greets me each day by pulling open the screen door, running past me as I do my “peaceful” morning yoga on the porch, and shouting out to me how many new tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash blossoms there are today. He jumps for joy and claps his hands. For before his very eyes, he’s watching our garden grow, and he’s filled with wonder. He’s witnessing the miracles of nature in real time, and they are marvelous! And I can’t help but think as I watch him —eyes bulging at the site of a pumpkin plant that looks as though it could swallow him up—that the pumpkins aren’t the only thing that grew overnight. And then I too am caught up with wonder.
How is it that a single seed now claims the space of a dining table?
Where are the bees in the dead of winter?
How do the tendrils of the peas know to wrap around the lattice?
Why does the wild sage seem to grow only when I turn my back?
How does the spearmint and lavender know when winter is over?
When did the leaves of the butternut squash expand to twice the size of my face?
How do a hundred petals spring from the mouth of a marigold?
Tune in tomorrow for Little Green Thumbs’ Skill School #4: 💐PICKING PRETTY!
Thanks so much for reading!
Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~