(This post was actually typed up several days ago but just now being completed and published) :)
I was excited about this challenge because it fit us so well. We've had so many things going on and also been down with a "cold bug" so we've really missed our outdoor time. We are so use to having it almost daily. The Lord really set it up nice for us today. The weather couldn't have been better. A nice, balmy day but with a cool breeze blowing. It was amazing and so refreshing to be BACK in our gardens.
"The heavens are telling the glory ofCharlotte Mason wrote (volume 1, page 43):
God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork.," ~Psalm 19:1 NRSV
"For we are an overwrought generation, running to nerves as a
cabbage runs to seed; and every hour spent in the open is a clear gain, tending to the increase of brain power and bodily vigour, and to the lengthening of life itself. They who know what it is to have fevered skin and throbbing brain deliciously soothed by the cool touch of the air are inclined to make a new rule of life, Never be within doors when you can rightly be without."
This held so true for us today :). AND our flower gardens, having been neglected the past two weeks - had PLENTY of weeds for us to study AND plenty of SEEDS to harvest as I have not been outside "dead heading" them as normal! :) What a blessing to have a nature study challenge that worked SO well in our life at the moment! It was such a good fit, in fact, I decided to break this challenge into 3 seperate lessons on 3 seperate days. So bear with me as I take you through our study of this wonderful challenge!
We started out by having the kids look around the yard and gardens for plants/flowers that they thought were weeds. I had them bring their "collection" of weeds to me.
We sorted through them at our outdoor pation table.
This was the collection of weeds my son picked up. My daughters both picked several dandelions.
I had read the HNS pages 512-514 as Barb suggested.
On page 512 of the HNS, Miss Comstock gives a definition of a weed:
"A weed is a plant growing where we wish something else to grow, and a plant may, therefore, be a weed in some locations and not in others."
I wanted to ensure the children really understood this concept. My first example of this was with the dandelions. My daughters adore them! What little girl has not spent time in her childhood blowing on their seed spheres? I explained that they were a weed and quite a ferocious one but that they may not be a weed to THEM.
I continued talking to them about other plants that may be a weed to others but not to them or vice versa. The first plant that came to mind was our glorious morning glories! We looked at our morning glories and discussed why we love them so:1 - They grow FAST!
2- They are a vine that climbs - which WE were actually looking for to cover our fence.
3- We didn't have to worry about them spreading wildly because we spend so much time in our garden that we had the time to "train" them to grow where we wanted.
4- Their huge colorful flowers of several colors that greet us every morning with delight.
I then brought their attention to the fact that the very same characteristics we love about them may be the characteristic that make others despise them and consider them weeds! They couldn't imagine this so we went to look at our neighbor's yard.
Their yard is neat, well cared for. They created a very smart landscape design. Since they do not prefer to spend a lot of their outdoor time caring for their plants, they chose more of a shrub type landscape. They chose plants that rarely needed watering or pruning. They do not have any flowers whatsover - no color at all other than the few berries and such from the evergreens. It suits them. It is nice looking - very well "manicured".
I asked the children if they thought our neighbors would be happy with a morning glory in their yard. The children thought for a moment and agreed they would not. It was like an A-HA moment!! :) You know those when it's like, "OH!!! I understand!" :) We LOVE color and flowers and climbers and spending our outdoor time (and indoor actually) tending to our gardens, plants, flowers, animals, all of God's beautiful creation! But I have several dear friends that told me I was absolutely MAD when I allowed the girls to plant morning glory sees throughout my rose garden right under the fence! :) It's worked wonders - we Love it. But my friends will complain about those pestering weeds (morning glories) that are choking out their little shrubs! :)
We returned to looking at plants that were weeds in OUR yard. This vine to the left is a vine that my kids KNOW is a weed. l am constantly fighting this weed. I have not identified it but we have "studied" it so to speak all summer. It appears to be in every one of the older garden beds that were here before. When I created a "rose bed" near this little fence/flower bed type area I had no idea what issues these little vines create!
One of my 5yo daughter's suprised me by saying, "Mom, this is the weed that takes the roses' water!" I was impressed :) This vine is fast and vigorous- it quickly wraps itself around the plants and chokes them out. It completely covered a mature azalea bush and killed it when we first moved in.
On page 512 of the HNS it says:
"A weed may crowd out our cultivated plants, byIt seems no matter how often I weed - this vine continuously comes back. We have been watching and fighting it all summer. The only sure help we've found is to ensure when we pull these weeds we get ALL of the root and to be incredibly persistent in trying to tackle them. I have found the only relief is to tackle them daily. I showed the kids how to pull the vines so that they would be able to pull up the root with it. They thought it would be much easier than it is and I giggled as (especially my son) was surprised at the strength of these tiny plants!!
stealing the moisture and nourishment in th soil which they should have; or it may shade them out by putting out broad leaves and shutting off their sunlight."
HNS page 513 ~
"Each weed has its own way of winning in the struggle with our crops, and it behooves us to find that way as soon as possible
in order to circumvent it."
They can become difficult to get the full root once they are even slightly established
Here they are showing me what they were able pull up. They were so happy when they were finally able to get "some root."
We spoke about why I try to at least do a quick weeding each day. How it is SO much easier to pull up a young weed than a weed that even has established for a short time. I showed them the differences and allowed them to try both young weeds and the more established and they quickly realized what I meant! For this reason- we talked about HNS page 513 "Especially, every one who plants a garden should know how the weeds look when young, for seedlings of all kinds are delicate and easy to kill before their roots are well established."
Afterwards - I also browse through the Lesson section of the book and choose a few questions to discuss with my children. I never do them all and I do it all orally and very casually as we discuss our nature study from the day. For this time outdoors, I had chosen some discussion questions from Lesson 135 on page 513 in the HNS.
1- Why do we call a plant a weed? (When it grows where the gardener wants something else to grow) Is a weed a weed wherever it grows? (No) How did this weed plant itself where it is growing? (The dandelions are from seed speres that are blown by wind, children, other things. The vines seem to make their way from roots established years ago and we have yet to "get them all")
2- Where did they find their weeds? (in the lawn for the dandelions and in the rose garden for the vines) By what agency was its seed brought and dropped? (We talked about the different ways seeds travel - birds, wind, people, squirrels, etc. A great book to read about this is The Usborne First Book of Nature. We take it slow - only a 2 page layout per day but its colorful and informative and my children seem to really like it. If you want to supplement - I would recommend this book.)
HNS p. 512~ "(God) is the great farmer. Continually (He) sows and reaps, making all the forces of the universe the plants' tools and helpers; the sun's rays, wind, rain and snow, insects and birds, animals small and great, even to the humble burrowing worms of the earth..."