I have never been interested in gardening, nor have I liked to garden. I tried a vegetable garden many years ago, but bugs and critters gained more benefit from it than our family did. I sometimes get physically sick when I get too hot, and gardening in Kansas involves heat. My back hurts frequently, and being bent over to garden can exasperate the pain. Therefore, I simply purchase our vegetables at the grocery store.
With that background, you need to know that I have a thirteen-year-old daughter who wants to garden. She has been learning about gardening. She started with flower gardening last summer, and this year expanded to vegetable gardening. Her dad has purchased reference books for her and invested in the necessary equipment: seeds, fertilizer, fencing to keep the dog out, mulch, stakes, gardening gloves, gardening tools, and more that I probably don’t even know about.
As the summer has progressed, Anna has been caring for her gardens. She shares with us her successes and concerns. One day, I realized that while I am not a gardener, I could help her keep up with both the vegetable and flower gardens. “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour” (Ecclesiastes 4:9). I enlisted myself, Mary, age 9, and Jesse, age 11, for a half hour each morning to work with Anna. Together we tackled weeding, watering, and deadheading the flowers. The work went quite quickly, was manageable in half-hour increments in the morning before the worst of the heat set in, and gained us good fellowship time.
To be quite frank, after making the plan to garden every morning, I dreaded the thought of spending a half hour a day in the heat, bent over in the dirt with the bugs. That is a pretty good summation of my feelings toward gardening. However, I wanted to help and encourage Anna in developing her gardening skills and in the blessing her work is to our family. That desire overcame my dislike of the task. Do you know what happened in the process? I realized I could go for an early morning walk on a hot Kansas summer morning, come home, get down on my hands and knees, and pull weeds for half an hour, continuously dripping sweat, and survive! Not only did I survive, but I was happy.
I enjoyed the results of our work. The flowers began to look very nice as we eliminated the weeds in the mulched areas and took off the dead blooms. I liked spending time with Anna, Jesse, and Mary. I even developed an interest in Anna’s gardening. Together we pulled out her Home Depot comprehensive gardening book and read about how we were to deadhead her flowers. We learned why one would deadhead flowering plants and how to deadhead various types of flowers. The next day, we took our pruners and scissors outside to put into practice what we had learned. When my mom sent over her Birds and Blooms magazine for us to see, I sat down with Anna to look at the sample gardens, discuss the plants highlighted in them, and learn what we could about our gardening.
Every day as we worked together, Anna thanked Jesse, Mary, and me for our help. She has owned the gardening as her project and was grateful for others pitching in to assist her. We were blessed to be able to give her some additional encouragement for her investment of time in the family gardening. I think Jesse and Mary will be developing their gardening skills as they work with Anna as well.
I wonder if I might, through my summer gardening experience, encourage others to explore a child’s area of interest in a practical realm with that child. As a homeschool mom, I would much rather be my child’s teacher or learn with her than to send her to someone else for that part of her education. I didn’t know anything about gardening nor did I even like it, but I could find the resources to teach both Anna and me about gardening. I can give her time to study gardening, plus I can learn right alongside her. Anna’s gardening education and experience will be a benefit to her and our family both now and in the future. My investment of time and energy in this pursuit will be helpful to me as well.
A year and a half ago, the Lord began directing our family, through Steve, to begin to learn to play instruments like the guitar, banjo, fiddle, and mandolin. Neither Steve nor I are musicians, but we believed we could facilitate our children in their learning while we were learning alongside them. The outcome of this has been that every member of our family can now play at least one instrument and some can play several. We have begun to learn to sing harmony. We have been able to play and sing together as a family in nursing homes and at homeschool conferences. Our family ministry has been enhanced because of a simple decision to pursue an educational adventure together with our children. Isn’t that what we as homeschool families are all about? Here is a link to Steve’s Dad’s Corner on this topic from last year.
It is important to us that we build and develop our relationships with our children. We see this as a vital part of keeping our children’s hearts. Spending time with them in an area of their interest, learning and working together, is one perfect vehicle for doing this. We are turning our hearts to our children when we do this. “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord” (Luke 1:17). Not only do we gain the benefits the particular interest affords, but we are making precious memories as well. All the time I spend with a child when we are together will be hours we are investing in communication and our relationship.
As homeschooling moms, we are afforded the perfect opportunity to help and encourage our children in their practical interests. Even if it is an area we dislike, we can choose to set those feelings aside while we plunge into the endeavor with the child. While it is likely we won’t be qualified to be a teacher for every interest, we can be a learner with our child. There are benefits to be gained from learning and working with our children – in our relationships with them, in their education, and in ours as well. May we be moms who will step out of our comfort zones to join our children as they pursue their education in practical areas of life.