It is hard to go for long without hearing someone talk about the state of the world. There are those who predict doom because of the spiritual state of our world. Others anticipate a government takeover which will include the abolition of personal rights regarding free speech, gun ownership, owning personal property, and more. The disaster-fearing weigh in with predictions of natural disasters causing global disruption or electro-magnetic pulses (EMP) that would render all of our technical devices unusable and worthless, leaving us vulnerable in numerous ways since we have become dependent to some degree on technology. Still others believe that our economy will collapse and the currency we use will have little or no value once the collapse occurs. Prepping in some form bears consideration.
Whether the extreme predictions come true, or just a facsimile of them, there seems to be a consensus that some degree of change in the world is imminent. There are differing opinions on how much “prepping” a family should do, but even if you are just planning on making small changes, homeschooling provides wonderful opportunities to incorporate planning and undertake projects in order to be better prepared for the future.
Personally, my faith remains rock-solid that God is in control of all things and I can trust him to lead and use my family as He sees fit. We are told in Matthew 10:16 to be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves. Given that many people much smarter and wiser than I am are exhorting people to prepare for some of the uncertainties of the future, I want to make the most of my time and resources. I don’t want to become obsessed or anxious about possible future difficulties. At the same time, I really don’t want to die stupidly. So my husband and I have been reading up on ways to survive various doomsday predictions, without becoming overwhelmed by all the possible scenarios. We just want to be responsible to take care of our family and we would like to be in a position to help care for others in need. One of the first things we considered was food supplies.
If the grocery stores ran out of food, we would be in trouble because we know very little about raising plants and gardening. I used to joke that I had a brown thumb since everything I planted died. Those of you who raise crops on farms or who are avid gardeners have an advantage and hold much-needed knowledge about growing food. My family was eager to learn and we had to start somewhere, so we planted a vegetable garden with a variety of vegetables. Most of them grew well but a few did not. We don’t know why some of what we planted thrived in the garden while others never produced anything.
How much space do you want to devote to growing your own food? This would be a great homeschool project, to figure out what kind of soil to use, when to plant different vegetables, how deep to plant the seeds, and how far apart to space the plants. Some plants need thinning, so it would be good to read up on which plants and when the thinning should take place. Your homeschool students could research which plants bear fruit throughout a season, and which ones will only produce a harvest at one time. What is the best time to plant? Should everything you intend to grow be planted at once, or on a staggered schedule?
There are so many things to consider once you delve into gardening. We have learned that some plants do better when placed next to specific other plants. We didn’t worry about watering until days went by with no rain and we realized we needed to figure out when and how much water our plants needed. I made the mistake of watering a plant in the middle of a sunny, scorching hot day and the poor plant just fried up. It was sad but educational, and some of the learning process includes figuring out what not to do.
Being the big city dwellers we are, our mental image of broccoli is a nice clean bunch held together by a strong rubber band and freshly misted in the produce department of the grocery store. With great anticipation, we planted broccoli and waited for the harvest. We waited and waited, but it never really looked like the broccoli in the store and one day we realized it was past the point of harvesting and had gone to seed. Clearly, we have much to learn.
As I was studying up on what plants would be best for the plot of land we could devote to a garden, I came across an article that suggested there are many edible foods growing wild. I took a look at the pictures in the article and realized that I had an abundance of one of the edible plants in my own yard. Think of the money I could save! I read some of the ways people eat the weed, which was something in the nettle family, and decided to try and use some in a green smoothie. I harvested, then used my smoothie maker and added vanilla yogurt and some fruit. In my enthusiasm, I went way overboard with the amount of weeds added, and the result was not impressive. My son said it tasted like grass clippings and my husband gamely stated that if we had to, we could drink it. Another lesson learned.
Even a relatively small project like ours involved learning opportunities with math, science, history, and exploration. Some of our garden was best used as compost, but we learned about the importance of compost and how to best procure it. We measured and observed plant growth, sunlight and water, and even which insects were pests and which could be helpful in a garden. We talked about planning for the future, and how we had the opportunity to hone our skills while still having local markets available if our garden didn’t succeed.
Gardening also allows students to be assigned age-appropriate chores. One student could be responsible for weeding, while another’s task is to water the garden, and so on. It is a good way to instill the message that “In our family, we work together”. Not only are these chores meaningful, they provide accountability because each family member is counting on the rest to contribute via their assigned tasks. Our children learn that their contributions matter and if chores are neglected there will be natural consequences.
No matter how developed your family’s skill set is, it is a good idea to try gardening even if you only plant a few vegetables in pots. Your students will learn new skills while enjoying the healthy foods they tended throughout the growing season. If your garden really takes off, you might even have enough to share with neighbors. There’s something about homegrown food that just tastes better than store bought. Harvesting from your own garden is a satisfying accomplishment that just may be the beginning of a love of gardening for you and your children.