The really neat thing about home-school is that you can add classes to your schedule and give the kids more depth to their education. I'm not knocking public schools or teachers. But they are governed by state rules and a board who stipulates the types, length, and quality of classes. Most teachers I know are really frustrated by this and would give anything to be able to devote more time to subjects and expand their classes. Fortunately, home-schoolers are not governed by these rules.
As an addition to my grandchildren's home-school, my daughter-in-law and I are going to do gardening classes one afternoon a week after the regular classes are finished. This will go toward a science credit. As they get older, farm classes can be credited toward an agri class.
Our first class started at the beginning with seeds. Which came first, the plant or the seed? Actually the plant did, but the book I bought to use as a resource (Seeing Seeds by Teri Dunn Chace) begins with “A seed is both the beginning and the ending of a plant's life.” I had never looked at it that way before, but it is absolutely true. You can't have a plant without a seed, and you can't produce the seed without the plant. As I read through this book I became more and more fascinated with the conception and life cycle of a single seed.
A seed has three basic parts: the seed coat, stored food, and the embryo. Its a bit like a baby in the womb. Seeds lie dormant (the incubation period) until three perfect conditions end the dormancy: the correct soil temperature, the correct air temperature, and sufficient day length and light. When these conditions (which differ for each species of plant type) are met, the seed coat begins to split and the cotyledon (or new embryonic plant) starts to emerge. As the cotyledon splits apart, the leaves emerge and the young plant is born.
Then, just like a new baby, the young plant must be tended to carefully. If the seeds are started indoors for a later planting, the seedlings must be kept in a controlled environment. I have a mini green house I keep indoors with grow lights to keep them warm. I use bio-degradable peat pots that will decompose after planting. I set these in a shallow pan (I actually use new cat litter pans) and pour water into the pans so that it will soak up from the bottom to water the plants. If you pour water directly onto new plants, it will pack down the soil and make it difficult for the plant to emerge and to grow. Every couple of days, I use a spray bottle and mist the plants to keep the leaves moist.
Today we started cabbage seeds to be transferred to the garden around the middle of March. We also planted sunflowers. I found two seed-starter kits at the Dollar Tree so the kids can take home their own seeds as well.
In addition to the starter kits, I ordered a magazine from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Co. (copies are often provided free to schools and non-profit groups). Amazing Seeds ~ A kid's guide to incredible garden veggies! is a great read. It is full of fun facts, tips, and activities for the young beginning gardener. I enjoyed it as well, and found many things I could use in it.
The really cool thing about this class is that I am learning too. To teach, you must study, and by studying, you learn. Next week, we will learn about soil and how different plants need different soil types. I can hardly wait to get started!