Funschooling Homeschool Montessori Science

Use Your Garden as an Outdoor Classroom

We homeschool year round. This approach has provided us with a much more relaxed homeschool environment and offers us the time and opportunity to really immerse ourselves in the subject we are studying. One of my absolute favorite subjects to immerse in is Botany. We use a Montessori-ish approach, and the Apologia Botany curriculum as our backbone for the study. We literally teach this curriculum every single spring and summer. Gardening and this botany curriculum just go hand in hand so perfectly to transform your garden into an outdoor classroom.

 

Learn God’s Word Through Gardening

Gardening is more than just learning about soil and plants. It is the best opportunity to take part in a living classroom where you have the opportunity to not only see but participate in all the beauty of God’s creation. So many authors in the Bible describe spiritual principles in terms of agriculture and gardening, so teaching your children gardening will help them understand God’s Word.

From watching the miracle of germination and the seed sprouting to working the ground to protect the seedling from those life-robbing weeds, every aspect of gardening is an opportunity to teach and learn about God's Word.

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 Gardening Establishes the Way We Think About Food

All of us have had picky eaters and we always will. Many children (and adults) cringe at the thought of eating vegetables. But research shows that children who garden apparently really do eat more fruits and vegetables. So, if you have one of those picky eaters,  the search for the answer maybe to get them gardening!  Through the process of designing, planting, and maintaining a garden, our children learn responsibility. Through harvesting, cooking, and sharing the food, they are learning about healthy nutrition. Gardening provides so many opportunities for engaging and enticing our children to get off technology and go outdoors! And all of these things combined can lead to healthy eating habits and healthier lifestyle choices in the future.
When children are involved in actually growing and cooking the food, it improves their diet! garden kale modified

Gardens Are the Ultimate Learning Laboratory

Garden laboratories can spark a child’s imagination by making dry academic topics leap to life, literally. It is a science laboratory that helps cultivate curiosity about nature, botany, insects, animals, weather — you can literally bring almost every subject you teach and weave it into gardening! But one of the most important lessons gardening teaches is how to nurture life.  These little seedlings will require patience, consistency, and protection, and providing this teaches children responsibility. It demonstrates cause-and-effect on a scale that even young children can understand. Students will vividly see the relationship between their efforts and the reward of healthy plants that produce fruits and vegetables for them. The harder they work, the more their garden will produce and thrive. Through your children’s efforts, they learn first hand about the cycle of life and how they are a part of it.

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Gardening provides many learning experiences outside of just science. Gardens are the ultimate opportunity to cultivate those problem-solving skills because every garden we’ve ever grown had problems–from tomato worms to weeds and everything in between! Gardens can also provide many opportunities for your children to review and practice their math skills. From just plain ole counting, to geometry for designing the garden, percentages and ratios for fertilizer, and data gathering for tracking everything happening in the garden. Children begin developing and honing these skills from the moment you start discussing the garden through the design, creation, and support of their little garden plot.

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How to Start Gardening

It is really easy for us to take on the garden project and not leave anything but the labor to our children. I have done this and I can assure you, they lose interest and fast! I encourage you to not let that happen. Engage them from the beginning, through the entire process, literally starting with choosing what types of things to plant, to the recipes you cook with their produce. And one other piece of advice to remember is that the goal is not perfection. I am the ultimate perfectionist, but this is not the time for it. We can have our own garden where we can insist on straight rows and no weeds, but allow their garden to be theirs–mistakes and all.

Preschool is not too early to start. Seriously, gardening engages even very young children by providing a hands-on environment to observe, discover, and experiment… which leads to learning! So give them their own spot in the garden where they can dig and plant!

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But, you don’t have to live on a farm or have a huge backyard to have a garden. Really, all you need is a small patch of ground, some dirt or a container, seeds (we prefer heirlooms), water, sun, and some good ole fashioned TLC. Your children will take whatever area they have to work with, pull out the grass and weeds, plant the seeds, and start nurturing their little plants. It shows children they have the power to make this happen! (One of our favorite places to get wholesale discounted seeds is Mountain Valley Seeds. Shipping is free for orders over $35.)

One really fun way to inspire children to get in the garden is to help them make their garden unique. One idea might be to help them create cute signs to label the plants or rows. You might inspire them to grow something they love to eat, from seed.  My children loved the aspect of digging up the root vegetables… almost like digging for buried treasure. So be sure to include enough root vegetables in the garden.

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How to Incorporate Apologia’s Botany Curriculum

We love Apologia’s Botany curriculum and have been using it now for years. We don’t read every word (never have) when using it to learn about the garden. It is more the resource manual to help explain what is happening at every step of the process. We used our Botany textbook to help us classify the plants we were growing. To see how long it takes the seeds to germinate. To understand why water was so important and how they were using it. To understand why we can’t pick the beautiful flowers that are growing. To research why bugs are not just beneficial but necessary pollinators. It is literally pulled out almost every day and discussed. But not to tell them what is about to happen. To discuss what IS happening. It absolutely brought this curriculum to life to see it happening in the garden first.

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Reinforce the Learning

We absolutely love using the garden as the hands on laboratory for learning about Botany! The activities in the Apologia book and notebooking journals provide everything to guide you through using the garden to study Botany. And don’t skip the value of the notebook journals! They can be a powerful tool in the learning process. It is perfect for recording their observations and discoveries and to display their work… but more importantly, it encourages our children to process what they are seeing and reflect on what they are learning.

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There are so many different ways to use the garden as the lab. For us, we liked to do the garden activity first and then come back and discuss it. So, we would plant the seeds  and watch for the plant to start growing. Then we would complete that chapter in the textbook and learn about what was happening. Afterwards, we would pull out the notebook and do the activities.

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If you enjoyed this article, you may also want to take a look at 10 Herbs That Repel Garden Pests.

Pictures of Our Community’s Gardens

We asked the moms in our community for images of how they are using their gardens as incubators for learning. These are the images they shared with us! We love all the different ways they are studying and learning!

How about you? Have you started a garden yet this year? If not, it is not too late! Grab a copy of the Apologia Botany Book and Notebook, some heirloom seeds, and your garden tools, and let’s get that incubator started! 

 

 

 

About the author

Trish

Trish is one of the owners of Hip Homeschool Moms. She has been married to her best friend, David, for 22 years and they have three sons (ages 19, 17 and 15). Trish is from the coast of North Carolina, but they now live in rural West Tennessee on a 40+ acre farm. She has been homeschooling since 2009 and her homeschool style leans towards a Montessori approach with a heavy emphasis on hands-on learning. Trish’s family is Messianic and they love studying the Scriptures, learning Hebrew and growing in their faith and walk daily. In her spare time, Trish loves to travel, write, work in their garden and can regularly be found trying to learn something new, modeling that learning is indeed a life-long endeavor!

44 Comments

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  • I have been wanting to start a small garden in our backyard, and this just lit a fire underneath me to get started. We are headed out to the backyard tomorrow to get started and clear a spot!

  • We are excited to start a garden this year and my husband will be making some raised beds that the kids can help build!

  • This sounds like so much fun! This is our 3rd year having a garden & I can’t believe I’ve never even thought of turning it into botany lessons. What a great idea!! My son can learn & spend time outdoors – pure win!

  • We just put in two 35′ by 4′ beds and have planted asparagus, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, watermelons, acorn squash, zucchini, parsley, basil, cilantro, lettuce, and beets! We are also eagerly anticipating strawberries, blueberries, apples, and peaches!

    • Love it!! We have blackberry, blueberry bushes. Apple, pear, peach and plum trees. We even have some grape vines! We love gardening!!

  • Great idea! My girls love going out and picking and eating peas everyday. They go and see if there are any new ones. I would suggest not to go too big if your just starting. It can get overwhelming.

  • We have been preparing for our garden for the last few months. My daughter is 4 years old. She gets so excited to plant things and watch them grow.

  • I have an 8 yo, 5 yo, and 3 yo. I’m excited because this is the first year that at least the oldest two are actually helpful. We’ve already planted 75% of our garden and will hopefully finish up the rest of the planting this week. Love the idea of having a resource/textbook to help explain what they already see going on in nature.

  • We are slowly but surely getting our garden started this year. My mom just helped me expand the garden when she came after the birth of child #7. Yay! for more growing space. So far the kids have helped me plant onions, carrots, and winter squash. I haven’t really thought about the garden as a school classroom so much as a life classroom.

  • We started a garden this year in raised beds. I would love to have a curriculum to help reinforce the hands on learning!

  • We just started out garden. I was looking for ways to turn it into a more teachable experience other than just “plant this here. Dig that there. Etc” Thank you for the suggestions!!

    • Oh Ivy, I’m so glad you found the article helpful! Apologia has the absolute best Botany curriculum that I’ve found! I hope you enjoy it too!

  • We are just beginning Botany with Apologia. I love the idea to do it every Spring & Summer… Learn more each time. This is perfect for our young family.
    Thank you!

  • We are in the midst of planting now. This is the first year our children will have their own garden beds. We used Apologia Botany as our summer science years ago — I don’t think all of our children were even born yet. Time to do it again I think. We keep journals and track the productivity, pests, weather, etc. but the book to facilitate more discussion would be great.

  • Just what I need to get inspired again! I love gardening and we have done it in the past, but last two years have been hit and miss. Now I am so encouraged by this blog! Thanks!

  • I have a garden. We enjoy flowers, vegetables, and fruit from it. We really enjoy seeing first hand the life cycle of the monarch butterfly and ladybugs.

  • I’m so excited to start our garden this year! A little late since my husband has been offshore for 8 weeks, but better late than never, right? Lol!

  • I love this! My boys and I planted a container garden in March, and now we are harvesting squash and cucumbers, with several other veggies on the way. They are three and five, and I often use it as part of our school day. Plus, they’re more likely to want to eat vegetables that they’ve grown themselves!

  • This is so neat! I am finishing up our raised bed and then we will be on our way to our little garden ?

  • We are finishing up Apologia Astronomy and would LOVE to be able to move straight into Botany! Thanks for the opportunity to win!

  • My kids would love this! We will be starting a garden within the next year or two and this would be perfect.

  • I love this post! We will be starting a garden soon and have all intentions of including the kids in the process, but you’re right, there are many things that I probably would have left them out of purely because I didn’t think of including them in every step of the process. Thanks for the reminder 😉

  • I am so excited to start our garden. We are starting our homeschooling journey this year and I think this is a perfect curriculum for us.

  • I love how gardening can be incorporated into homeschooling and learning. We started gardening a couple of years ago but the kids weren’t as involved and I plan to change that. I’m going to let go of being the perfectionist and really let the kids use this to observe, learn, and work hard. Thanks!

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