“The average food item on a U.S. grocery shelf has traveled farther than most families go on their annual vacation.”
Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
The longer we homeschool, the more I let go of what I think learning should look like and just do what works for our family in the season we’re in. We’ve been dreaming of moving to the hill country to build our homestead for the past couple years. This past summer, I came to the realization that if this was truly our dream, we needed to educate ourselves in the world of homesteading and organic gardening. I discovered that with our mild winters, fall is a great time to start a garden in central Texas so I decided to create a unit study on gardening to kick off our school year. I quickly realized that this would not be a typical month-long unit study. My little gardening unit turned into a 15 week in-depth study. Several hours went into collecting resources and preparing material so I wanted to share it here in hopes that others might find it useful.
I began by researching gardening books specific to our area, Central Texas, and found Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening by Howard Garrett. I highly recommend it if you are new to gardening and reside in Texas. I referenced this book almost daily for the first couple of months. I scoured websites looking for resources and living books based on several different catergories of agriculture. While learning to grow our own garden was the primary goal, I also wanted us to study the farmers themselves and how farming has changed throughout history. Because of the age ranges of my children, I intentionally used books with a variety of reading levels. We typically read a mix of picture and chapter books together and I always had a few reference books around as well.
Each week the boys would notebook their favorite part of a particular book or activity. We typically worked on our notebooking activity for 2-3 days depending on how extensive the writing and drawing was. I also added in several hands-on activities and a few videos to keep things fun for my crew. We were ecstatic when an opportunity to volunteer at at local farm practically fell in our laps last September. It is still the highlight of our week.
Although I was certain I planned everything perfectly so that when we were studying carrots, we would be harvesting carrots and so forth, that almost never happened. We were also quite unprepared to care for our seedlings when August temperatures lingered in the 100’s. It was difficult to provide enough light to delicate seedlings without them getting scorched in the sun. Mother Nature continued to surprise us with extreme wind and rain from Hurricane Harvey and a several inches of snow in early December.
All this to say, we had many successes – a huge healthy crop of pole beans that accompanied dinner consistently in October and November, loads of radishes and cucumbers, mixed greens, rainbow chard, kohlrabi and the most amazing broccoli that my oldest harvested for Christmas dinner.
As I finish writing this post, our family is preparing to move and begin our dream on 4 acres in the Hill Country, leaving behind the garden that fed our bodies and nourished our souls. I pray the next family that lives here will enjoy it as much as we have.
Fall Gardening Syllabus Download – 15 week unit study with printable weekly schedules you can customize to your season, climate and preferences (works best if opened on a PC).
A list of chapter books or books with multiple stories read throughout the 15 weeks:
Resource books used throughout 15 weeks:
- Farm Anatomy
- Grow: A Family Guide to Growing Fruits and Vegetables
- Texas Organic Vegetable Gardening
Complete list of picture books used for weekly subject focuses:
- Winnie Finn, Worm Farmer
- Diary of a Worm
- We Dig Worms!
- The Life Cycle of an Earthworm
- How Does My Garden Grow?
- Miss Maple’s Seeds
- From Seed to Plant
- Isabella’s Garden
- Superstats: Incredible Bugs
- Are You A Ladybug? (Avenues)
- The Beetle Book
- And the Good Brown Earth
- Farmer Will Allen and the Growing Table
- A Weed Is a Flower : The Life of George Washington Carver
- This Year’s Garden
- The Little Red Hen
- Tony’s Bread
- Anywhere Farm
- How Do Apples Grow?
- Apples to Oregon: Being the (Slightly) True Narrative of How a Brave Pioneer Father Brought Apples, Peaches, Pears, Plums, Grapes, and Cherries (and Children) Across the Plains
- Bring Me Some Apples and I’ll Make You a Pie: A Story About Edna Lewis
- Apple Farmer Annie
- Johnny Appleseed: The Story of a Legend
- On the Farm
- The Story of the Root Children
- Rah, Rah, Radishes!: A Vegetable Chant
- The Vegetables We Eat
- Pumpkin Jack
- Seed, Sprout, Pumpkin, Pie (Picture the Seasons)
- The Very Best Pumpkin
- Apples and Pumpkins
- The Popcorn Book
- Corn Is Maize: The Gift of the Indians (Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science 2)
- The Rough-Face Girl
- Jack and the Beanstalk: How a Small Fellow Solved a Big Problem
- Green as a Bean
- Green Beans
- Little Pea
- Gregor Mendel: The Friar Who Grew Peas
- The Year At Maple Hill Farm
- Pickles, Please!: A Dilly of a Book
- Pickles To Pittsburgh
- Secrets of the Garden: Food Chains and the Food Web in Our Backyard
- The Carrot Seed
- The Very Big Carrot
- One Potato, Two Potato
- Too Many Carrots
- Rachel Carson and Her Book That Changed the World
- The Giant Cabbage: An Alaska Folktale
- The Cabbage Soup Solution
- Who Grew My Soup?
- Stone Soup (Aladdin Picture Books)
- Strega Nona’s Harvest
- The Thanksgiving Story
- We Gather Together: Celebrating the Harvest Season
- Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message
- More Than Moccasins: A Kid’s Activity Guide to Traditional North American Indian Life
- Winter on the Farm
- Sleep Tight Farm: A Farm Prepares for Winter
- Maple Syrup Season
- Diana’s White House Garden
- First Garden: The White House Garden and How It Grew
As an Amazon Affiliate, I receive a small fee when you purchase from the links on this post.