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Free Garden Planning Pages

This time of year provides us homeschooling mamas and dadas with a great opportunity to teach our littles about life and biology and botany and how connected we are (or should be) with our planet.  Getting into the garden or the greenhouse is one of my favorite ways to teach.

morning garden 4

You can study life cycles in the garden, simply by growing a plant from seed and watching it for an entire season.  Keeping a diary or calendar of the plant’s growth can help your little understand scientific observation.  Planning a garden helps your little learn about how things grow together.  If you’re planting flowers, you can add an ongoing color lesson for art studies.  If you’re planting vegetables your little can learn about where food comes from and what is good for his body.  Littles can learn how plants need water, soil, and sunlight.  If you’re starting in a greenhouse, they can learn about how different seeds need different temperatures to sprout.

morning garden 1

There is so much a little can learn about life from gardening, but one of the most important lessons they can take away from gardening is that hard work pays off.  Gardening takes some work–you have to baby those seedlings, make sure your plants are getting the right amount of water, keep weeds from stealing the necessary nutrients, and harvest at the right time.  My Littles have been helping with the gardens since they were old enough to walk, and they groan when the weeding or hoeing needs done, but they realize that all that work is going to result in lots of fresh food and beautiful flowers to enjoy from the patio.  So they do it.  I love that it keeps them physical all summer, beyond jumping on the trampoline or swimming in the pool.  It makes them work those growing muscles in ways they wouldn’t otherwise.

morning garden 2

We always grow one special thing for each of the boys in our veggie/fruit garden.  For Littlest it’s watermelon.  For Middle, it’s our grape arbor.  This year we bought some new seeds that are supposed to grow giant watermelons, so Littlest better have his grubby hands ready to get sticky.  We’ve walked out to the orchard and looked at how our fledgling apple trees are covered in blooms this year, promising an actual crop of fresh apples for the first time.  Even the pear trees are producing this year, though not quite as much as the apples.

morning garden 3

Every year the things we grow provide fresh insight and lessons into science and nature.  I want the whole world to enjoy that connection.  I’ve made up a couple of freebies for you, and you don’t even have to subscribe to get them.  Though it’d be a lot cooler if you did.

Here’s a set of Garden Planning Pages to get you and your littles started:


garden planning pages


And here is a set of Garden Diary/Calendar pages to help your littles learn all season:

my plant diary


Print these out and get outside with your littles and enjoy glorious spring.  Learn while you’re having fun?  Yeah yeah.

That’s the stuff.

Love wins,


Confucius Says…

So we’ve been studying Asia for the past couple weeks, and one of the awesome ways we’re doing that is to study the history of gardens.  China is interesting because its gardening philosophy has historically been exactly the opposite of ours here in the West.  Europeans and, by tradition, Americans, have spent their histories trying to contain and conquer nature.  The great, wild world is a dangerous place, so we put up our walls and plant things in orderly rows, and show our dominance in order to hide from our fears.

finished garden

Okay, so maybe it’s not so much like that anymore, but that’s exactly how gardening began in Europe.  When we turn our faces to the East, we find a much different approach to nature and gardening.  The Chinese culture has traditionally considered their gardens to be works of art, much like their landscape paintings.  For an example of Chinese painting, see my earlier post about China.  The Chinese believe that in painting, as in gardening, an imaginative approach to simply copying nature is the best way to feed one’s soul.  So they don’t try to conquer the natural world.  They celebrate it.

A lot of that philosophy goes back thousands of years to Daoism (or Taoism, however you want to spell it).  Daoism is based on the “totality of all things,” both past and future, in its constant state of flux and transformation.  Daoists believe that if a person can give himself up to the changing currents of nature, he will become one with those forces in celebration of an unalterable cosmic plan.  Unity with nature as a benign wilderness is a source of awe, magic, and sustenance, and inspires the Chinese to recreate its poetic wonders within the garden.  Keep in mind, neither gardens nor landscape paintings are meant to present nature in any literal way.  Rather, gardening is without rules beyond the intuitive powers inspired by a particular place or setting.

studying gardens

Without rules?  You can imagine the folks in 17th century Europe, who produced gardens like the orderly rows in Versailles, trying to interpret that?  Let nature in?  Celebrate it?!  Frightening!

We learned about the basic beliefs of Chinese gardening philosophy today, as well as the European reaction to it.  The lesson truly showed the stark contrast between the gentle beliefs of the East and the mighty explorer/conquerors of the West.  It was fascinating for the boys to compare our summer vegetable gardens with the pictures of the flowing Chinese gardens.  They decided my flower garden would be more Eastern if my paths weren’t so symmetrical.  I’ll give them that.

materials for garden cutting pond

To wrap up the lesson, we made our own miniature Chinese garden.  I reminded the boys that a Chinese garden isn’t symmetrical or uniform, that it is best thought of as impressive through disorderly grace.  We got together our supplies–a small wooden birdhouse to represent a pagoda, some moss, tall grasses, willow leaves, and stones–and I set them to work.   One of the main features of a Chinese garden is a pond or other water feature that represents the yin, or feminine side of the universe.  The water balances the interesting rock features that represent mountains or the yang (masculine) side.  So I got a small, plastic jar and used a box cutter to cut off the bottom.  The Littles buried it in the sand, cut up some leaves to represent lotus flowers, and filled it with water.

It turned out so cute!   I wish I would have thought to cut off some flower heads from my mums, since mums are a sacred flower in China (representing long life).  But it turned out quite well, even without a bit of color.

finished garden 3I am crushing hard on this amazing project!

Stay tuned for Friday when I start a new series called Story Time, that will be chock full of ideas for doing an entire lesson based on a picture book.  The first book, in honor of October, will be The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda D. Williams.  Till then, remember

Love wins,


How to Invigorate History in Your Homeschool


I have written a few times about how much I loved taking art history classes in college.  I have even mentioned a garden history class I once took.  I bet you are kind of wondering about garden history, huh?  Who in their right mind cares about the history of gardens?  I’ll let you in on a secret.  I learned A Lot about the history of the human condition in that class.  It was actually really informative and eye-opening.  And art history–don’t you have to really love art to enjoy it?  Well, no!  Of course not.  You can have a passing interest or not understand the visual arts At All, and an art history class can still teach you plenty.  Same goes for a music theory/history class.  Here’s why.  They’re all history classes.  And with the right twist, they can be so fun they don’t even seem like history lessons.


Adding these types of history classes to your homeschool is easy and fun.  You know how I feel about the resources we can find on the ol’ interweb.  Depending on what country you are studying, there is a plethora of info to help you inform.    Since we are studying Asia this year, I found a great free resource from the World Affairs Council on Chinese Gardens.  The packet is subtitled “A Gate to Understanding Chinese Culture,” which kind of proves my point about how garden history can teach you about the human condition.  There really is no better look at how a culture views the world than through its gardens.  For a fairly reasonable price, you can pick up Japanese Gardens in Focus from Enrichment4You on Currclick.  (And it’s on sale until August 27th!)  The cool thing about studying garden history is the projects you can do with it.  You can make Chinese lanterns to hang in the garden.  Or draw a garden on a Chinese fan.  A scroll painting of an indigenous Chinese tree.  You can get a Zen garden kit and create your own miniature Japanese garden.  Care for a bonsai tree.  See where I’m going with this?  And you can always find a field trip to go with the lesson.  Many museums and public gardens have examples of garden history in them. And while your littles are learning about gardens, they are also learning about culture and the past and the present and the evolution of society.  It’s pretty cool.

mini garden

For art history lessons, I love the free project ideas in the Art Around the World in 30 Days from Cindy at The Art Curator for KidsKids Discover has a great free spotlight on Renaissance art.  There is a really good selection of living books in the Anholt’s Artist Books for Children series.  And, of course, a million and one art projects, crafts, or museum field trips can be part of this lesson.

Another great series of living books is Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers.  These are great for a music history lesson.  We have the boxed set called Classical Kids-The Classroom Collection that we’ll be using this year.  Although we’ve done a music theory class and studied composers and orchestral music in some way every year, Classical Kids looks like a fun way to remind us and add new information to our knowledge banks.  The kit includes audiobooks about the composers’ lives set to the music of each composer and suggested activities for each story and musician.

Both art and music history are helpful in teaching littles about the various historical eras.  If your littles learn about the Romantic period from all three of these types of history, they will be able to go, “Oh yeah, Chopin composed during the Romantic period, Rousseau painted around the same time, and the gardens of Central Park were designed then, too.  Add in a regular history lesson, say about slavery and the Civil War in the U.S. or Queen Victoria in the UK, and suddenly your little has learned much of the scope of that era.  And how cool is that?  It puts each historical period in perspective, and because you are using living books, field trips, and projects instead of texts, your little is truly enjoying learning.  It’ll stick with him.

So don’t just study history from one perspective.  Give your littles many different ways to view the past so they can assimilate it into their knowledge base  more easily.  Above all, have fun with it.  We certainly do.

Love wins,