How Gardening Inspired Me to Homeschool with Special Attention to Soul Growth, Not Just Intellectual Knowledge

Sweet Pea Blossoms, Like a Beloved Soul

Growing My Children's Souls

In 2005 -

My three-year-old, Billy, comes running across our yard with a squashed fistful of bindweed blooms, wild sunflowers, and purple bells with roots attached. "Mama, a vase!" he says, and through my laughter, my second child, yet in my womb, kicks hard. Is this one a girl, or will I have two boys to teach?

To teach.

The words send thrills through my soul, giving me glimpses of the future, of these children grown to be responsible, Godly adults, of my being a grandmother and, God willing, seeing my great-grandchildren at my knee.

They give me visions of flowers.

My goat once called an old gardening shed home. But she is no more with us, and her shed west of the house offers hope for my plans. Our immigrant-built house will not support my school program. It barely contains our lives - we have no room for pictures, wall maps, projects spanning more than a few hours. There is scarcely room for growth - room for this baby. So God gave us the goat shed. My livestock panels seclude it from the rest of the yard and the gravel street. Hollyhocks and ferns and violets provide the beginnings of beauty along the front of the shed. A young wild plum tree, grapevine, elm, and a cottonwood promise shade nearby. If I let the giant ragweed blossom on the outside of the fence, its wide leaves supply me with visions of a veranda in India, with a woman in a white gown and wide sash walking near the railing. This ragweed was the beginning of my dream. When I first saw it, growing like a protective screen around my fence, it inspired me to make the most of my yard, and my children's lives here. I thought, If something as mundane as a weed can be that beautiful, than our lives ought to be, too.

Inside the gardening shed, spilled grain, mice as busy as Beatrix Potter's Tom Thumb and Hunca Munca, and a bullet reloading press mounted on a workbench testify to the evolution of the room. But a broom will take care of the mess. The bench will make a handy study surface, and I see in my mind a library and bit of laboratory, leading to adventures. I see pleasant, blue-sky days in the shade of the cottonwood, and vases of violets on the workbench. I see snow falling, and feel the warmth of a wood stove, and hear the words of G.A. Henty ressurecting the heroes of our world right into our lives. I see the children and I planting flowers and pulling weeds, and dusting all the bookshelves, too. But mostly I see their faces. I see Billy's eyes glowing with the excitement of a new discovery in caterpillars. I see his hands busy with wood and nails and glue, for he has the nerves of a craftsman. I hear Latin roots, and spelling questions, and math equations. I see Columbus and De Gama and Magellan and James Cook, and Beethoven and Mozart, and I hear our own version of the "1812 Overture" with my husband's cannon on New Year's Eve. I see footprints in the snow from the house to this shed, and I think about my husband's family.

Family Past

Two adults and five children lived in our 1,100 square-foot house, making the addition of a kitchen and master bedroom, which doubled the original space (only 700 square feet are highly usable). Will's grandfather's name still hangs cobwebbed on a metal strip near the front door.

I remember Uncle Ivan telling how he shingled this house when he was fourteen. It needs it again. He is now 55. I picture Grandma Martha's canary singing in his cage by the kitchen window, and how he died one Thanksgiving, probably of a heart attack. He couldn't stand the strain of the emotions charging around the house that holiday. I remember the farming hardships that brought my husband's family to this house. And I am grateful to them for making it what it is. They left an abundance of history, and mystery, and a garden. I tend that garden patch now. Grandpa used to cuss to make it grow. We added goat poop. It still requires hours of crawling and weeding. So why do I want another garden?

I want it in which to grow souls.

Progress in All Levels of Soul, Mind, and Body

I want my children to see the wonders of God's creation. I want them to taste the fruits of their labors from study, and the grapevine. I want them to know that all things are possible through God who gave us breath and life. And I want them to know life more abundant and free, from the One who is life itself.

Billy already guards the Gospel of Christ in his heart. I yearn to teach this next baby its essence. God gave my husband and I loan of these hearts, and I refuse to give them to the false gods ordained by the godless in our public schools. I want a garden in which to prevent their hearts from being smothered by the garbage of evolution and self-esteem. They need God-esteem.

They deserve to stand under the stars, naming the same constellations Abraham knew as part of God's vows to him...breath the scents of hedge roses and cherry blossoms...to know that they need not be in bed at a certain time in order to wake to a school bus, and such math problems as these: "There were three birds in a nest. Two of them flew away. How did the third bird feel?" They deserve the chance to make gunpowder, and shoot a black powder pistol like a soldier of the Civil War might have used. They deserve the opportunity to understand the science of yeast, of bread rising in the sun, and to grow their own herbs and brew teas for health. They deserve to know that Abraham Lincoln fought to hold a nation together - not to free slaves, though God managed this through his faithfulness to unity. They deserve to know the point of Thanksgiving is not overeating of turkey, and that St. Bishop Nicholas was a real and a good man, but that the obese Santa Clause of chimney fame is nothing but the leftovers of the depraved god Molech.

Billy already knows the importance of spiritual warfare. He knows that life cannot be lived easily, if he would succeed in the things that matter most. And on a physically practical scale, he already reads a tape measure better than some high schoolers. But I don't want this beginning to be lost. I want my children to understand that Daddy works hard so I can be their Mama, and that we are responsible for molding their souls. I want them to realize that life more abundant and free goes beyond eternity into the Now...and that Now matters in Eternity.

So God gave me a goat shed.

Update on the Success of My Homeschooling Vision

In 2011 -

Well, life has not turned out exactly like I envisioned it, when I first wrote the above, in 2005. Neither has it turned out unsatisfactorily. The main question I ask myself now is:

Have I achieved the goals with which I set out? Have I indeed molded my children's souls for the better, and given them space among living things in which to grow and be nurtured? I am happy to report that, yes, I have. Furthermore, I have achieved many of the details of what I envisioned when I first saw my Unschooling "program". That is an oxymoron, yes. Yet it is a program. I work to set up situations in which my children can be properly educated, naturally. I have done what I can to invite my children into reality - to allow them to learn in a useful, hands-on environment, rather than an artificial, textbook type way. I have also given them an even better garden in which to grow.

We are now in the country, surrounded by wildwood, and farmland. We see deer on our back porch, hear coyote pups learning to chorus around us, and have birds at our feeder that aren't even supposed to be in our region. We have ample opportunities to learn the constellations, and to imagine what might be among and beyond the stars. We grow our own foods, and my children experience the science of everything available with their own hands. They have learned to hunt, fish, and make bread. They have learned to observe what makes things work, and to learn from their worst mistakes.

When they engage in something "schoolish", like reading, they are inspired to learn more of what might be around them...what God has made available for their well-being, and education, and to get to know Him in a thinking, truly engaged way.

I'd say my plans are working out very well, and I am extremely pleased that God chose to inspire me through a ragweed plant.

Your Thoughts on Education

Children Need:

  • Lots of structure, provided by educational experts
  • Families are educational experts, when they care enough about each other's growth, and are willing to make growth a priority
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Like Souls Blooming

© 2011 Joy At Home

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Comments 14 comments

Ivorwen profile image

Ivorwen 5 years ago from Hither and Yonder

This is beautiful, Joy. I love the vision for the goat shed. It is so idealistic and charming. I admire people who can unschool. I have tried, but never been satisfied with the results, but then, my children enjoy traditional learning methods.


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 5 years ago from United States Author

Ivorwen,

Sometimes I have had to break away from ideals, in order to do the best thing for my children, and cooperate with their particular learning styles. But for the most part, it is working very well. I envy people who can do scheduled, traditional schooling! I have tried, and failed miserably.

Of course, my life and schedule has been highly erratic for several years. Because of this, Billy first learned to read off a snoose can, while we were at a job site (construction), on break. It was the only thing I could find in the work truck that had big enough print for him to be sure of. He was ready, and I wasn't. Sometimes it works that way, but we always do our best to do what we can with what we have. That is the best principle I follow: Do the best with what I have.


LiftedUp profile image

LiftedUp 5 years ago from Plains of Colorado

To let a child follow his own inclinations, to encourage him in these insofar as they are healthy and good, these, I think, are the things which build a child's soul and spirit, and allow him to be open to further teaching. The hours I spent with my dogs and cats may have seem wasted to some, but they were not to me. They allowed me to explore, and to expand my knowledge and skills, and I can see this same effect taking place in your children's lives as they live in their freedom-inviting environment.


always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

I loved your story. Hw wonderful that you could stay at home to hoom-school your children. For many, it takes two incomes to live these days, but then i think, does it really? I think for some it really does take two, but for others, They want so much. Your story reminds me of a better time when life was simple. The goat shed, how lovely. Thank you.

Cheers


marannt profile image

marannt 5 years ago from Virginia

I really enjoyed reading this! I think we have much in common.


Garnerbird 5 years ago

DREAMY spiritual writing-very soothing. I agree totally with you about spiritual warfare! I live in an area where actual Cult members have stalked me and my loved ones/this writing was so vivid I could almost smell the flowers in the arbor!


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 5 years ago from United States Author

Lifted-Up,

I am glad you can see good fruit coming from my chosen method. I always feel I am not doing enough to help my children on their way, and yet, I know I have provided them an environment that is going to make it easy for them to follow right paths. You said: "[Free opportunities] are the things which build a child's soul and spirit, and allow him to be open to further teaching." All I know for sure is that five minutes of teaching at an opportune moment is worth more than 50 minutes during an inattentive time. Catching those opportunities is the trickiest part!


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 5 years ago from United States Author

Always Exploring,

You said: "For many, it takes two incomes to live these days, but then i think, does it really?"

Technically, my family didn't (and doesn't) make it on one income. Nor do we live expensively. Most people in the U.S. wouldn't be able to live on what we do. That's right, I said "able", not "willing". For years, my husband and I worked together in sheet metal construction (still do, on occasion), and I have done and been many things in order to supplement our income. There are times when the largest money-making burden fell to me. For instance, when my husband got West Nile in 2003, he was out of work for 14 full months. But you are right in that I have *chosen* to live, at this time, very much of a backwoods lifestyle in order to fulfill my ideals - time with my children. It is, as you said, simpler. But it isn't easier. The fact is, I wouldn't have *time* to teach in a traditional, fully-scheduled way with the other things I have to do. Reviving an old homestead doesn't leave time for much else. But it does make provision for the future.


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 5 years ago from United States Author

Marannt,

I am pleased to meet you. I'll bet I could learn a lot from you. I only have two kids! ;-) There were supposed to be more, but God has them now.


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 5 years ago from United States Author

Garnerbird,

I didn't know if anyone would actually notice my remarks on spiritual warfare, or not. Those who know me well know it is one of my pet topics - because I have found it so necessary to my daily life. I therefore have written a handful of articles on the subject here, and have more planned.


Rose West profile image

Rose West 5 years ago from Michigan

Now I see where you get your name, Joy at Home! This is such a beautiful story - how you really care for the souls of your children, nurturing them as plants in God's garden. Great read!


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 5 years ago from United States Author

Rose,

Seeing you've left a comment always makes me smile. I had no idea, previous to all these comments, that people would find my thoughts on growing kids so inspiring. I threw this article out here because I liked it, and had a vague hope that I wouldn't bore too many people with it. ;-)


no body profile image

no body 5 years ago from Rochester, New York

I can see you doing what God intended parents to do. Train up a boy in the way he should go and even when he gets old he'll not depart from it. It is wonderful that you see your job as a trainer and not as a person fit into some program wheel that the kids get crushed under. God wants parents to show the kids the way and the world - not the kids to be discovering things and showing the "backward" parents the "real" meaning of life. It is wonderful you do what you do and wonderful that you are there as an example to show others what is possible in Christ. I want to say though, that lots of Christian people would look at that and say "but that's why I pay taxes- so i pay others to do this for me." And that is exactly my point. God said for US to train. God bless you Joy. Much love Bob.


Joy At Home profile image

Joy At Home 5 years ago from United States Author

No Body,

You have a way of putting things in perspective for me, and encouraging in the foundational ways that count so much. Thank you.

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