Go Exploring: the Best Education

Open the door and let your children go out exploring today! Give them each a little sack, and tell them to put their treasures in it. Better yet, go along with them, and be the “sack holder”. Smell all the blossoms. Listen to the birds. Look for butterflies. Observe the clouds. Pick up the prettiest rocks you find. Consider your children better educated for it.

“A child should have mud pies, grasshoppers, water bugs, tadpoles, frogs, mud turtles, elderberries, wild strawberries, acorns, chestnuts, trees to climb, animals to pet, hay fields, pine cones, rocks to roll, sand, snakes, huckleberries and hornets—and any child who has been deprived of these has been deprived of the best part of his or her education.”
—Luther Burbank

Luther Burbank lived until 1926 (77 years old). He was a botantist and developed more than 800 varieties of plants, including 113 types of plums and prunes, as well as the freestone peach, Shasta daisy, Elberta peach, Santa Rosa plum, and most noteworthy, the Russet Burbank potato, the common potato we all use. (McDonald’s fries are made exclusively from these potatoes.) In a speech given the year of his death, he said, “I love humanity, which has been a constant delight to me during all my seventy-seven years of life; and I love flowers, trees, animals, and all the works of Nature as they pass before us in time and space. What a joy life is when you have made a close working partnership with Nature . . .”

My Cantaloupe Man

Ammon (15) loves plants. He cherishes them, in fact. He can spend hours supervising and nurturing his garden. When he was a little boy, I always made sure he had his own large bed in our family garden that he could plant with whatever he wanted. This year, Ammon wanted to plant melons and squashes—both which take more space than our garden would provide, so the idea was born to let Ammon grow his sprawling garden in front of our house. We live our in the country, so this is not so radical a plan as it sounds like . . . but we have had some comments from the neighbors.

Ammon chose his seeds carefully from catalogs during the winter months, with me as his partner. He spent hours upon hours scheming and planning on paper while the snow was still deep. Finally spring arrived and in went the seeds, not haphazardly, but with the greatest of care. All of us in our family were amazed at what detailed care he took.

Now Ammon is enjoying the fruit of his labor—we all are! It is cantaloupe for breakfast, honeydew for lunch and more, more, more for dinner! He wants to taste and relish each variety. He photographs each melon, both on the vine, and cut and ready to eat.

As a mom, I am hoping we will very soon progress to the desire to give them away and reap the joy that comes from sharing something you have worked hard to produce. That would be the ultimate lesson.

While watching Ammon out in the blazing sun tending his melons, I often think of Mark Twain’s remark: “Don’t let your schooling get in the way of your education.” Ammon took a Botany course at the local high school with textbook readings and rather contrived projects. He learned a lot, especially vocabulary terms that he now uses when talking about his plants. But, he has learned a zillion times more about Botany by actually getting his hands in the dirt and growing his melon garden. It is a lot harder in real life than on the pages of a book! There is the constant need for water, weeds to deal with along with bugs, wilting, raccoons, birds, and the scorching sun. Ammon often comes to talk to me about the newest challenge: this week the leaves have developed mildew!

What wonderful preparation for life! Our at-home-Botany-course has taught marvelous lessons that far exceed the textbook, and will ready him for life, including:

*neglect when things are young can ruin them when they are grown (including people, animals and plants)

*the path includes challenges, and joy

*we are dependent on God for every blessing

*growth is a miracle that we take for granted

*you only reap what you sow (corn seeds do not produce cantaloupe, forgetting to practice does not create a concert pianist)

*only God can make the sun shine, can bless us with the necessary elements to create life

*time marches on (get your planting done early in the season, as you cannot delay the killing frost)

. . . and many more lessons!

I love homeschooling!