The Best Kind of School


A friend of my mom’s drove up to our home a few days ago … as she showed her around, introduced her to the animals, she looked around at the girls helping me plant the garden and jumping on the trampoline and promptly announced …

“You girls have the best kind of school.”


I thought about that for a moment and then dwelt on that comment later. The week has been so busy that I had felt we were skimping out on “school”. We have had little formal schooling this week – Bible memory, math, music, language, reading with a little bit of history sprinkled in there. It has been a very busy week of prepping and planting the three vegetable gardens, along with the flower beds that border the house.

I believe, as a homeschool mother, we often think school consists of physical books, actually crossing off pages of what we accomplished in school, seeing paper work accomplished. And while yes, that is so important and not to be skipped, there is another aspect to living a home-education lifestyle – one that you cannot nail down to a schedule, outline or plan … one that is organic and living and full of its own rhythms.  It was so refreshing to be reminded by an outsider that some of the best learning experiences are beyond the desk – or kitchen table. We all know this as homeschooling mothers -but I can get caught up in the official feeling of school and the amount of pages we can do a day in our Language Arts books.

This week, we have done our basics, but we have been outside from morning to sunset, working in the soil. The girls are running, squealing with dirt between their toes, jumping from piles of dirt to the another, showing me proudly how dirty their feet can become with the freshly cultivated dirt. They have had their hands and fingers deep in the warm soil, planting seeds, seedlings and plants, helping map out the garden and water the new tender baby plants. They have dreamed of their own little flower gardens and have asked for their “own bit of earth”.

Lacey had planted her calendula seedlings – with hopes the rabbits do not munch them down over night – the seedlings were started indoors back in the cold, Ontario mornings of April.

Today, Lyla is planting her little flower garden. She has been patiently waiting for her own little plot of earth – but as our vegetable garden keeps expanding, we needed her little section each time. Last night, her grandfather helped clear out a new spot just for her. I do hope her seeds and flowers grow. We even found a few websites that will send her free flower seeds in the mail. This just tickled her pink! She also wrote a business letter to a local seed company, explaining her age and desire to have a flower garden, and asked if they would send her a seed package in the mail. [I do hope they respond. I know it is easy to just purchase a seed package, but she was learning how to write a business letter so we thought this went hand in hand.]


Our 9 year old  Lucia is delighted a finding all the bugs and insects, worms and frogs as we work in the dirt. She has her own little praying mantis egg to hatch indoors, which we will release in the garden once the babies are hatched – and has even found an egg outdoors on our fence. Using her little bug book, she knew which kind of praying mantis each egg was without me looking it up.

Lovelyn, 6, planted her sunflower seeds and is hoping to plant more today. We will hope they grow nice and tall like beams of sunshine for her!

Leia, 5, planted her bean plants right near our patio so she can watch them grow. They are a climbing bean so we hope they grow nice and tall for her.

And the little ones are just enjoying the freedom of running around, playing in the dirty, soaking up the sun and being free. I have noticed a fair decrease of little squabbles while outside – I think everyone was just getting so cooped up being indoors for most of the winter. All this free time running around outside is doing everyone a favor.


“As for the baby, he is in bliss: divested of his garments, he kicks and crawls,
and clutches the grass, laughs soft baby laughter,
and takes in his little knowledge of shapes and properties in his own wonderful fashion…”

-Charlotte Mason, on outdoor nature time






With the help of my father and mother in law, and loving husband, we have expanded our vegetable garden – again. If any of you have seen The Long, Long Trailer with Lucille Balle, you will know what I am referring to when I name the garden the Long, Long Garden. Every year – sometimes even twice a year – we have expanded our garden as our family just keeps growing.

As we learn more about our food and nutrition, it also seems vastly important to be providing this food from our own hands and land. Yes, it is a work, but it is good work.
We are hoping to keep the weeds down with lots of mulch, delivered by a friend who has a tree business. We draw water from the well at the back of the property with a little gas pump and fill rain barrels, delivering the water on the golf cart to hand water the garden. I once thought this was too much work – there must be a more efficient way to water the garden – however, I have since visited a few Mennonite friends who have large, amazing gardens… they, too, water their gardens by hand, going up and down the rows with their watering cans each morning or evening. They also have to bring in their water from their source, as no water is available where the garden is planted. This was a bit encouraging to me. I will choose to see the beauty in this hand watering method – allowing the girls to help and enjoying the sounds of the morning, the birds, the wind in the trees and the calm before a busy day.  I also think this will be very healthy for the children, as well as for myself.

“He {the child} must live hours daily in the open air, and, as far as possible,
in the country; must look and touch and listen;
must be quick to note, consciously, every peculiarity of habit or structure,
in beast, bird, or insect; the manner of growth and fructification of every plant.
He must be accustomed to ask why––
Why does the wind blow? Why does the river flow? Why is a leaf-bud sticky?
And do not hurry to answer his questions for him;
let him think his difficulties out so far as his small experience will carry him.”

–Charlotte Mason
May 22, 2017 - 9:39 pm

Julianne I love this! You have been such an inspiration to me as to getting my son outside! We live in Minnesota and also get our share of cold weather, but thanks to a post you wrote a few months back I’ve been encouraged to get outside as much as possible! (My little one is just a few days younger than your son) Now that the weather is warmer I love how he is content to spend hours outside just exploring and taking in nature. We are planning on homeschooling and I hope he, and any other little ones we are blessed with, grow up with a love of learning like your little ones are!

May 22, 2017 - 5:16 pm

Gigi Inside in a special glass case! She is anxiously awaiting hatch day!

May 22, 2017 - 5:16 pm

Gigi Sarah, love that you know what movie I am referring to… hee hee…

May 22, 2017 - 5:16 pm

Gigi Hello, Anna! Welcome! I was born in Comox (if there is where you are) … and a piece of me remains there. I dream of a cottage on the ocean, but right now am enjoying Ontario life. I hope you find encouragement on your journey as a mother. Blessings!

May 22, 2017 - 3:40 pm

Anna Great post! My neighbour Lyndy recommended your blog (she says you are friends), because I am trying to live a similar lifestyle, although I didn’t grow up doing all these wonderful things you have your children doing. I am a self-taught homesteader in the making and I want to raise my children like you are so beautifully raising yours. Right now I have only my first baby girl, but I have already considered homeschooling to give her experiences like these ones. I am a trained teacher and teach part time at a little private school on the ocean where the children plant a little veggie garden and live with the rhythms and seasons of nature. But I love that homeschooling offers so many opportunities for organic learning. And I believe children learn best when it happens naturally and doesn’t feel forced. Not to mention the many, many benefits to time spent learning outdoors.

Keep up the great work! Looks like your raising great kids.


May 20, 2017 - 1:12 pm

Sarah This is such a lovely post! We too have begun planting our gardens. We live in an area where there are a couple large Mennonite communities. My mom and I visited two of their green houses yesterday to purchase plants. We had a wonderful time! Each year we try to expand our garden a bit. “The Long, Long Trailer” is one our favorite movies. : ) My husband and I watch at least once a year. Also, I love the picture of little Lavender and her kitten, so precious!

May 20, 2017 - 8:26 am

Brenda (Gigi’s Mom) Where did Lucia put the praying mantis eggs that I bought her? Is it inside or outside? We planted calendula also. Did you know the flower is edible? Lazarus looks like he wants to do gardening too. Mom xo