This is not what I planted!

Two winters ago, we moved to a highly-ranked school district in the hopes that L would be able to attend their schools, grades 1-12, receive a well-rounded education, and thrive.

Those of you who have been following us for awhile, feel free to resume reading when you’re done laughing.

The reasons the school didn’t work for L are complex and have much to do with her wiring and only a bit to do with any individuals. Regardless, our experiences with formalized K-12 school settings led us to homeschooling, and thus to blogging, and thus…

Last summer, we didn’t do a whole lot of gardening because we were still tending to the ‘deferred maintenance’ of the house we bought and moved into. This summer, though, we decided it was time to plant.

My handsome, hardworking husband cut the sod out of an 8′ by 24′ rectangle, enriched the soil with humus and our own compost, and laid a rock border. L and I started seeds indoors and moved them to the patio when the sun decided to spend more time with us. I laid out the blueprint for the garden, checking to see how far away from one another each plant needed to be, and in doing so, we realized that we needed another 8′ of garden. My handsome, hardworking husband cut an additional 8′ length of sod, enriched the soil with humus and our own compost, and moved and added to the rock border. Our garden dimensions this year were 8′ by 32′.

When the appointed day came, L and I used a measuring tape to lay out the garden and painstakingly planted our seedlings, using popsicle sticks with labels to indicate which plants were planted where. We planted corn, summer squash, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, peas, bell peppers, cherry and full-size tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, and asparagus.

We waited. We watered. We used our most compassionate selves when the deer and/or bunnies ate the tops off of our sunflowers. We watched things grow.

About a month in, we realized that things that looked a lot like tomatoes were growing where we hadn’t planted tomatoes. And things that looked a lot like squash vines were growing everywhere. We pulled the obvious weeds, laughed, and went on with our lives.

We waited. We watered.

Our radishes paid off quickly. We pulled them from the soil with excitement, rinsed off the dirt, and bit into vegetables that proved that when you buy them from the store, radishes have a lot of time for their pepperiness to mellow!

We pulled carrots and ate them. The were oddly formed, but sweet.

We pulled pea pods off of the plants when we were weeding and watering, using their crisp freshness as a reward for working in the hot sun.

We noticed that those mysterious tomato-appearing plants really did look like tomatoes, so we just supported them with wire cages and moved on with our lives.

We noticed that those mysterious extra squash vines were doing just fine and appeared to be producing fruit, so we just kept the path clear for them and moved on with our lives.

Then the summer squash came. And it came, and came, and came. We have harvested upwards of 40 summer squash so far – and they’re still growing. We have become quite adept at using summer squash in a variety of applications. We also all have a good laugh at Kroger now when we see the tables of summer squash for sale. L has decided that we don’t ever need to buy summer squash EVER AGAIN.

We then noticed that those mysterious extra squash vines were, indeed, fruiting, but as those fruits developed, they sure didn’t look like summer squash. We let them go.

We continued to harvest summer squash. And we noticed that there were green tomatoes everywhere. Ridiculous amounts of green tomatoes. Dozens in each square foot. Dozens of square feet. Tomato-o-rama.

One day, it became obvious. One of the mystery squash fruits declared itself: I am an acorn squash, it said. I am green and teardrop-shaped with a pointed bottom. I am not a summer squash. Several others followed suit, and my handsome, hardworking husband and I were perplexed.

We didn’t plant acorn squash.

However, we read about when to harvest acorn squash, pulled them when it was time, and are thrilled to have them sitting on our shelves in the basement. What a treat it will be when, in winter, we can eat bonus squash from our garden.

Another day, it became obvious. Another one of the mystery squash fruits declared itself: I am a pumpkin, it said. My rotund green self is turning bright orange. I am not a summer squash, and I am not an acorn squash. Several others followed suit, and my handsome, hardworking husband and I were perplexed.

2016-08-28 11.03.14

We didn’t plant pumpkins.

However, we read about when to harvest pumpkins, pulled them when it was time, and made delicious pumpkin butter from them. We have a few in the basement also, and we will be thrilled to eat them this fall.

And then, it became obvious. Another one of the mystery squash fruits declared itself: I am a butternut squash, it said. My oblong green self with the bulbous bottom is turning tan. I am not a summer squash, and I am not an acorn squash, and I am not a pumpkin. Several others followed suit, and my handsome, hardworking husband and I were at our wits end.

2016-08-28 11.02.43

We didn’t plant butternut squash! We didn’t plant pumpkins! We didn’t plant acorn squash!

What on earth is going on here?

I was explaining all of this to a friend over brunch one morning, when the metaphorical lightning bolt hit me – THE COMPOST!

We had been throwing all of our plant waste into it the previous summer and fall, and we’d certainly eaten butternut squash, pumpkins, and acorn squash. And come to think of it, we’d eaten a ton of tomatoes as well!

Our compost had seeded our garden the way it wanted, regardless of our plans. Some of the things we planted didn’t thrive. They dried out, or animals ate them, or they were crowded out by our bonus plants. We didn’t get to eat what we’d planned, but what we did get to eat was unexpected and delicious. Our plants didn’t even grow the way they were supposed to – check out this squash that thinks its a tomato!

2016-08-28 11.02.20

And for those of you who have read long enough to make it to this part – and I appreciate you sticking with me – here’s why this post was important for me to make.

In my last blog post, I was totally freaking out. That same dear friend who I was talking to when the compost revelation occurred was talking to me about my total freak out. She listened lovingly when I said I was onboard with an unschooling approach for everything but math. She gently helped me see that I might not be onboard with the same approach for math, but that L might need that approach regardless of my comfort with it. She helped me to see that I can build persistence and challenge in other ways, like through swim, gymnastics, and authentic projects which L chooses to do and which also build executive functioning.

When I was harvesting in the garden today, it occurred to me that our garden is like schooling L. I might have plans. I might measure things and have expectations. As she has taught me repeatedly, and as I’m sure she will continue to teach me, those plans and measurements and expectations bear little resemblance to the learning that she needs. She will seed the garden with what she needs and the things that are meant to grow will grow. I can water and weed the garden, and I can figure out what supports the bonus plants need to thrive. It’s not my garden, though. It’s nature’s garden. Wild things cannot be controlled. They’re not meant to be controlled. They’re meant to be protected and supported and awed by.

I will continue to work on remembering that it is my job to protect and support and be awed by L’s learning, not to try to control it.

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5 thoughts on “This is not what I planted!

  1. Helene says:

    Great post. Great analogy. Great reminder that learning is not about control. This is the distinction between teaching and learning. As educators and parents we have our plans and ideas about what and how to teach, but it is the learners who are constructing knowledge as we guide them and learn from them. It’s really hard not to be in control…especially as a parent. Thanks for the reminder.

    Like

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