Radical Unschooling

#100 Days of Home Ed: Earth Day

In celebration of Earth Day, I am reusing some of my earliest posts on this blog…after all reduce, REUSE, recycle!

It is surprising just how much home education and Radical Unschooling seemed to happen with PanKwake…even when she was in nursery and school. Especially environmental/life sciences. My child could teach the subject actually…and often does to strangers on the street.

Hope you enjoy this blast from the past…


I’m a little late getting back from dropping PanKwake off at nursery today, because I spent the morning helping her friends discover the lost art of growing your own. In fact if any single thing represents the core values of Frugal Family, it is this one. Whether you have acres of backyard to plant or simply a small window sill, growing your own fruits and vegetables encourages you to spend more time with your family, saves you money at the grocery store, is very environmentally friendly and makes healthy eating easier. It is a winning combo all around. I want to share with you some of the facts and funny stories around this simple and fun tip.

Spending time together as a family. Growing up, our house was on a half acre of land in a rather mild southern climate. My step-father had not one but two rather good sized garden plots. If we could grow it ourselves we usually did. Some of my best memories with him were of evenings spent planting, weeding and watering those plots. We would go out together each evening as the sun went down and turn on the sprinklers; we do pick anything that was ripe; and we would talk…about anything and everything.

Teaching our children
Teaching our children

That is the ideal with which I began my own gardening adventure last year. For twenty years I had been saying that I had a black/brown thumb; that I killed anything I planted. But the shopping bill was rising, my daughter loved plants and I wanted to give it one more try. It was definitely a mixed result. I got started way too late for the much harsher British climate. So while almost every seed I planted came up, we had an extremely paltry harvest with the cold hitting before my plants ripened. This year I am trying again though. Because despite the lack of physical fruit from my labors, the emotional benefit of time spent with my children and the sense of accomplishment those sprouting seeds brought were well worth the efforts.

Saving money. Two years ago when there were five adults and an infant in our family, our shopping bill was about £90 each week. Now, with three adults and a three-year old our shopping bill is still £90 per week. It is virtually impossible to get it below that either. It is frustrating to say the least. Hopefully though this year’s crop of tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, peppers and other things will allow us to bring that bill down. And perhaps even barter or sell the extras.

Environmentally friendly. In the UK, there is a phrase ‘food miles,’ which indicates how far this item was imported. The idea being that the closer to the source you purchase the more environmentally friendly it is…due to the environmental factors associated with the transport. How much more environmentally friendly can you get than the tomato grown on your patio?  We have taken the environmentally friendly a tad further in that we plant our seedlings in cardboard egg cartons. We also create our own compost and liquid fertilizer in our wormery.

Healthier. One of the biggest complaints we hear is that it is cheaper to purchase junk food such as crisps and soda than to buy fresh fruits and vegetables. Growing your own helps to bring that cost down and encourages us to eat healthier. Trust me too when I say that planting, weeding and watering is a form of exercise. In addition, if organic is important to you there is no better way of ensuring that what you put in your mouth is truly organically grown than to do it yourself.

This weekend is the perfect time to begin too. Whether you have those acres that my step-father had, a small patio like we do or even just a window sill; you can see some real benefits from growing your own. There is nothing like the taste of a cherry tomato picked fresh and popped into your mouth while still warm from the summer sun. Whether it is the freshness or the sense of accomplishment in having done something so life affirming for your family, it is a feeling that you and your children will remember for a lifetime…I know I can still taste my first tomato that I grew under the watchful tutorage of my step-father. Give this wonderful gift to your family and the environment this summer.

Originally posted February 26, 2009

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