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Gardening - The Perfect Unschooling Way to Learn
By Jim Kennard
 
Let me tell you about my success in teaching my children, and then my grandchildren, how to be excellent gardeners while they are having fun, thinking they are playing! First I'll describe a book that really did it for my daughter, and then I'll tell you about a new CD ROM that is unique and wonderful as a tool to teach truly valuable gardening knowledge while the kids are having fun "playing" on the computer.

I enjoy gardening, and our family loves the fruits of our labors, but I just couldn't get our children interested in the garden! It looked too much like work to them and they avoided it. Then one March day when our youngest daughter Heather was 8 years old, I discovered a book called Grow-Box Gardens, by J. R. Mittleider. This great little book was full of easy to follow graphical illustrations and practical advice, giving step-by-step instructions on how to create and grow a beautiful and highly productive garden of any size, in any yard, in any climate. The garden could even be on a patio, a deck, a driveway, or even on a flat roof.

This was exciting, and I sat down with Heather to create a Grow-Box garden. Suddenly it was her garden! And we worked together over the next two months building a beautiful garden, with a semi-automatic watering system for easy care. The boxes, 18" X 12', were filled with sawdust and sand, and we planted seeds and some seedlings from the nursery. This was fun. But the best part was yet to come!

Business took me away from home a great deal during that summer, but the garden produced more than we had ever had before - and Heather cared for the garden virtually all by herself, watering and feeding on schedule, and her mother only helped her pick the vegi's. Of course there was no weeding at all, because of the Grow-Boxes, which Heather loved. We used those same Grow-Boxes for several years after that with great results every year, and I highly recommend them for small yards or on rocky or toxic ground.

Then I graduated to a much bigger acre garden, which is all in the soil. But I still use the Mittleider methods with tremendous success. My garden is visible from Utah's Hogle Zoo, and thousands of people stop to admire and eat the vegetables we toss to them. But this time around I'm trying to get grandchildren interested in gardening, and I recently discovered something even better than the Grow-Box Garden book.

It's called The Garden Master CD, and it has three different things on it that individually or together are sure to appeal to children of all ages and dispositions. Two books, again by Dr. J. R. Mittleider, are terrific. They both have been edited and arranged by Ph.D. educators with extraordinary talents. The first, 6 Steps to Successful Gardening, is very simple and has some fun recipes that many children will enjoy preparing. The other, The Mittleider Gardening Course, is the student manual used worldwide in teaching by Dr. M.

But the really exciting find here is the Garden Designer program. Dr. Ron Guymon, another outstanding talent, created this over the past 3 years, at a cost of about $100,000. He has spent many years developing materials to teach children, and has several things published, but this is by far my favorite.

The person begins by typing in their name (the garden is thus "Tommy's" garden). Then they answer simple questions about the garden they want to create - such as where they live, the size area they have, and what they want to grow. The program then creates the garden for them; all laid out in rows, with everything just where it should be planted. Instructions for when to plant, when to water and feed, and when to harvest are given for every vegetable they named. And there's even a calendar, showing every day - from planting the first item to harvesting the last crop, with instructions for what's to be done in the garden that day.

It's fun for the kids to do the planning and creating, with any number of what-if changes and even multiple gardens, and they can print the instructions and calendar, and be assured they will have a great garden - just by following the simple instructions that are all laid out for them.

And the whole thing is so inexpensive! The hard-copy books on the CD sell on Amazon.com and elsewhere for about $70 without the Garden Designer Program. But the whole package is only $29.95 when The Garden Master CD is ordered from Mittleider's Food For Everyone Foundation. They have an interesting website, with free instruction, and you can order on-line - at www.growfood.com, or you can call on their toll-free number, 888-548-4449. I hope you will benefit as much as I have from this wonderful new teaching tool.