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?
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.
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.
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