by Mike McHugh
One of the oldest and most basic activities of man is gardening. Adam was, after all, directed by God to till the ground or tend the garden as part of his duty to exercise dominion (stewardship) over the created order. Many years have passed since the days of Adam and Eve, and yet, it is good to remember that human beings still have the duty and privilege to fulfill the creation mandate to subdue the earth and exercise dominion over it. Christian home school parents, therefore, would do well to make the effort to incorporate the task of gardening/basic horticulture into their educational routine.
As home educators endeavor to teach their children how to garden and steward the land, they may want to follow these steps:
- Obtain and read several books on the subject of gardening. (Most libraries and local bookstores have books available on this topic.)
- Determine what type of vegetables/flowers would grow most heartily in your particular climate and soil conditions.
- Choose the specific plants that your family will grow. Encourage your children to become involved in the selection of what seeds to plant.
- Study the layout of your yard and determine where and in what configuration you should place your garden plot.
- Visit a local gardening shop or greenhouse and obtain advice on the best tools to purchase to develop and maintain your garden. It is a good idea, by the way, to invest in good quality tools for they are worth the higher price tag.
- Plant your seeds during the standard planting season for your area. Whenever possible, try to do the planting with your children so they gain first-hand experience and you do not end up with an empty garden!
- Establish a schedule to tend your garden that incorporates every able –bodied person in your family. Proper and timely watering and weeding are essential to a successful garden.
A number of profitable unit studies flow quite naturally from the exercise of gardening. For example, home school students could study topics such as seed types, germination, soil erosion, natural alternatives to pesticides or organic gardening, and how to identify common flowers. In the wider but related sphere of horticulture, children can also study how best to care for shrubs and trees, and be encouraged to learn how to properly fertilize and prune them. As young people grow in their understanding of how to tend trees and gardens, they should be encouraged to read a biography on the life of the famous scientist and horticulturist George Washington Carver. It was Carver, more than any scientist or researcher of his day, who demonstrated how vital it was for farmers to make decisions about how to steward plants or soil on the basis of comprehensive research. Too often, youngsters fail to see the connection between the hands-on work they do in the field and the scientific principles that must be mastered in order to permit them to do a job properly.
Of all the benefits that flow to families from gardening and the tending of God’s creation, however, perhaps the greatest is the tendency for such activities to strengthen the relational bonds of family members. Gardening or working in the yard unites family members in a common cause that provides them with very tangible rewards. It is, after all, in the shared experiences of life in both the spiritual and physical realms, where families find their most meaningful relationships and memories built up and strengthened. Contrary to the modern humanistic notion that people who work the land are nurtured from the earth itself, we find the precious biblical truth that creatures gain fulfillment and joy from the creation directly in response to their willingness to recognize the splendor of the Creator’s handiwork. All nature does indeed sing of God’s glory and majesty, and home educators must make the effort to get their children in touch with God’s world so they can behold for themselves the wonders of creation.
Copyright 2006 Michael J. McHugh
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