Homeschooling in the Garden
One of the advantages of homeschooling is the ability to get outside and do some hands-on learning. I love to be in the garden. I literally have no idea what I’m doing out there, but the garden is incredibly forgiving. It is also a wonderful place for hands-on learning about life.
I’m going to lead you through some of the resources we’ve found helpful in structuring the work we do in the garden. You could do this as a unit study, or just sprinkle it in to what you are already doing. I keep our learning fun and whimsical but also focused. (This post contains some affiliate links to products that we use in our studies.)
Youth Squad Badges
My kids love earning badges (as you’ve probably noticed from how often we integrate Jr. Ranger Badges into our homeschool routine). A friend introduced me to Youth Squad, which offers a variety of themed badges oriented around service activities. The activity suggestions are all free and you can choose to order any badges that you earn, each is a few dollars. (They do have a membership for earning a service medal, but that is unnecessary to use the program the way we do.)
I will warn you that the Youth Squad webpage is terribly organized, so prepare to be frustrated. I will try to link to the relevant pages here to save you some trouble. It’s a really great resource though so we have just pushed through it.
I’m homeschooling a variety of ages (8, 6 and 3) so on several of the patches the littles were each working on a different badge at the same time. Each badge is roughly broken into a ‘learning about it phase’ (books and videos) a ‘seeing it phase’ (field-trip) and a ‘doing it phase.’
The hardest part of these badges during Covid-19 is completing the service portion, as we are trying to socially distance. There is always the option to make a donation, or table the service project until it’s safe to complete.
We started with the Clean Air Series of Badges. The Little Little (3) worked on Clean Air Helper and the Big (8) and Middle (6) Littles worked on the Gardening Service Patch and the Tree Planting Patch.
We all started together by watching the suggested YouTube videos.
We also added in a few of our favorite books about plants and trees. I’m including affiliate Amazon links, but we utilize our library whenever possible. I highly recommend the Library Extension, which lets you know if a book you’re are looking at online (on Amazon for example) is available in your library’s catalogue.
- A Tree for All Seasons by Robin Bernard
- This is the Tree by Mariam Moss
- Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt by Kate Messner
- A Seed is Sleepy by Dianna Aston
I’m a huge fan of the Julia Rothman books. If you already have these in your home library they are easy to integrate into these lessons. We used her Nature Anatomy book. Page 62 features a flower diagram and page 99 features a tree diagram. I use the Rothman books with the companion guides from Homeschool Giveaways, which features activities for each of the topics in the Rothman books.
The Junior Forest Ranger badge is a great fit for this area of study as well. The adventure guide is printed at home and mailed in for a badge.
I also used Nature’s Day: Out and About: Spotting, making and collecting activities in our morning basket. This paperback book has a collection of activities to be done outside. There are coloring pages, scavenger hunts and instructions for things like making daisy chains. I found a smaller version in Target’s Bullseye Playground that I also put in the basket.
I can’t pass up the opportunity to integrate some history into what we are studying.
We studied George Washington Carver who was an American agricultural scientist, as part of our Gardening curriculum. I used the books A Weed Is a Flower: The Life of George Washington Carver by Aliki, which presents an opportunity to talk about slave labor in America. We also watched Story Bots Presents Inventors: George Washington Carver and Sung History “I’m a Peanut, Let Me Be!”
The best part about these badges is you really don’t have to go anywhere to see it – just head outside. Depending on what is open and safe near you, consider heading to a Botanical Garden or a public park. We used the free printable, Flower Scavenger MiniBook from Life Over C’s to help guide our walk around the neighborhood.
Additionally we use Herbal Adventures by Rachel Jepson Wolf. This adorable paper doll activity came from the Herbal Adventures book.
The Seek by iNaturalist app is a wonderful tool you can use to help identify plants in your neighborhood. In addition to having it on my phone, we loaded an old iPhone with this app for the littles to use on our nature hunts.
The Gardening and Tree Planting badges both have worksheets to print and complete. Gardening is a coloring sheet and gardening checklist while Tree Planting is a more advanced word search.
The Little Little and I created some painted stones to display in the garden. I also made some to help mark what we had planted.
We planted our own garden, taking inspiration from the books we had read, and supplementing with things like basil that we use often in the kitchen. The littles completed the “do it” phases of these badges by helping tend to the plants in the garden. The Little Little helped with planting and watering. The Middle and Big Littles are much more capable in the garden, working on weeding, pruning and plenty of critter hunting.
The Middle Little wanted his own little garden that only he cared for, so we set aside a special planter box just for him.
The garden has also proved to be a wonderful place to nature journal, a hallmark of Charlotte Mason education. There are plenty of things to observe and draw right in our backyard. (If you need some inspiration for starting a Nature Journal check out this post from Lilly & Thistle.)
To help the Little Little really get a sense of how plants grow, we performed the typical “grow a plant in the window” experiment. All three of the kids enjoyed this. Once the plants had rooted we transferred them to the garden, just to see how they would do. (Here are instructions for this experiment from Teaching Preschool.)
While the Little Little was planting a new plant, the Big Little learned to root new plants from cuttings of old ones. We Googled specific instructions for each plant we rooted. Generally, though, you take a cutting 3-6 inches long with no buds and a few leaves, you remove the leaves and place the cutting into water. You can also use rooting hormone and plant them directly into a small pot.
If you want to order the badges here are the links to order the badges.
I haven’t decided how I want to display all these new badges. In the past we have made little banners to display our accomplishments, so I may do the same for these badges as well.
If you are looking for something easy and ready to go, “badges in a bag” are also offered. Check out this Clean Air Helper Badge in a Bag.
This is just one of the badges we’ve earned in our Garden. I’ll post the run-down for other badges soon, so keep your eyes out for that.
This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through our Amazon links, we receive a small payment at no cost to you. As always though, all opinions are my own.