Gardening: Project-Based Learning You Can Eat!

Homeschooling isn’t all academic.  In many regards, it’s a lifestyle choice, with parents also teaching their kids the practical how-to’s of daily life.  Years ago, it was expected that children would learn to cook, sew, feed the animals, chop wood, etc.  These days most kids are locked indoors with stark fluorescent lighting and “taught” what they need to know from books.  Living life is something to be done later, after school hours.  Homeschooling is different, because while kids can learn from books, they can also learn by doing.  And learn they do!

Such a basic life skill as growing food ought to be taught to everyone.  If you don’t garden yourself, it’s time to learn along with your kids.  You won’t need a nutrition curriculum because one of the best homeschool resources is right in your backyard!

Something is Terribly Wrong

Let’s face it: our food supply is less than perfect.  It’s full of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and genetically-modified organisms (GMOs).  Much of our food is transported long distances, even from other continents, to be sold in our stores.  These transportation costs add to the prices we pay at the grocery store, and pollute our environment in the process.

 We’re feeding our most precious resource, our children, meats and dairy products that are commercially-raised on grain, hormones, and antibiotics.  Our kids eat genetically-modified produce drenched in pesticide and eggs from chickens raised in giant buildings, never seeing the outdoors.   And it’s taking a toll.  The kids of this generation are the first whose lifespans are expected to be less than their parents.  There are record numbers of overweight and obese kids in this country, and type II diabetes has reached epidemic proportions.    Our kids consume excessive amounts of sugar each day, most of it from soda and processed foods.  Autism rates are incredibly high, and food allergies, which were once a rare occurrence, are now quite commonplace among America’s children.
Clearly, we’re doing something wrong.  Clearly, our children deserve better.   Surely food isn’t causing every problem our children suffer from, but just as surely, it isn’t helping our situation either.

What’s the Solution?

It’s really a Back-to-Basics approach.  The best way to know what you’re eating is healthy is to GROW IT YOURSELF.  Think about that for a minute.  If you produced your own food, you’d know there were no pesticides on the lettuce leaves, and that your eggs came from chickens that spent their days happily pecking in the grass.  It may not be possible for each of us to grow everything we eat, but every little bit helps.  The next best thing is to know the farmer who raised your food, whether it’s milk or beef or a bushel of tomatoes.  Buy from farmer’s markets and build connections with farmers in your area, or join a CSA group (community supported agriculture) to get fresh produce at the best prices.  Start a community garden in your neighborhood – it works!

Other options would include planting a fruit or nut tree, or berry bushes in your yard.  If you don’t want to plow up your suburban lawn, or if you live in an apartment, consider growing a few container plants on the patio or in a sunny window.   Compost your kitchen waste.  Share your extra zucchini this summer with the neighbors.  Teach sustainability by doing it, and most importantly, explain to your kids why this is important, because it IS important.
But HOW?
It’s not magic.  There is no secret.  All you need is time and patience, and a willingness to learn.  Teach a child to garden, and they’ll never go hungry!
About the author:  Jennifer Needham is a gardening geek and unschooling mother to 5 children.  She’s the nutrition editor at Natural Family Today, and she  publishes free lessons on nutrition and gardening for kids on her own site,  Nutrition For Healthy Kids.
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