Homestead School

lettuce, berries, peppers_6135 copyWhen my husband and I decided to take out the front lawn and use that space to grow vegetables, I leapt into the project. Same thing happened when we got chickens. Asked what I wanted for my birthday, I raised the coop idea, happened upon some chicks for sale on Mother’s Day and bought them—before my husband and the kids had even razed the yard to build the chicken house.


snow peas 3First planting began one fall four years ago when I sewed one crop — a package of snow pea seeds—in two large planters housed on concrete pavement in the backyard. These first plants yielded two to three bowls of peas. Crunchy and yummy, they lured my then seven-year old outside to graze in the garden—well, terracotta planters.

Since then, our 6,000 square foot yard has been through much resting, revamping, and rejuvenating, and sometimes many months of fallow. All along my gardening goal has been to create a circle of planting, eating, and composting from the plants out front, to the kitchen table, to the side yard and back to the garden.

“Plant something rather than nothing at all,” is my motto. The result is many salads and even some meals that are completely off the grocery store grid. This fall, we are still enjoying salad every night from 24 lettuce plants started mid summer.

In our four years, we’ve grown tomatoes, peppers, artichokes, oregano, thyme, lemon verbena, calendula, nasturtium, kale, chard, arugula, lettuce, spinach, and strawberries. And in an old sandbox, we dug in potato starters (homemade from under the kitchen sink).  Also in the backyard are four chickens that lay many eggs


A A science_6137 sizedcopyHomeschooling germinated like homesteading; it began in the kitchen because I wanted our kids to eat healthy food. I was concerned that once they started school, they would be enticed by packaged food, and lose interest in vegetables, fruit, and homemade lunch.

I also wanted them to play outside and all over the house and—as much as possible— to stay away from television and computers. I wanted them to invent their own games and stories.


Our homeschooling family is a bit more organized than our gardening. We’ve always studied math and writing, and have some history and science in the mix. We play sports and music. We don’t always have a happy idealistic group at the kitchen table eagerly factoring rational numbers and exploring the Lewis and Clark trail or another historical journey, but in our best moments the kids and I are learning to study, and converse, and write about it.

Alex Doug measure for deck_6162 copyAnd I adjust every minute. Just yesterday I finally realized that I needed to ask my younger son how many math problems he could do before he ran out of steam.

“Eight,” he told me as he whipped through them in five minutes, and then pointing said, “If I finish quickly, I can do this page too,” confirming he wasn’t trying to squirm away from doing more.

I also realized that if I wanted my older son to fully answer his biology questions, I needed to clearly explain how to do it. Probably seems obvious to some, but for me, it took a while. So, I told him what was expected, and he agreed saying, “I get it mom.” And away he went.

Homeschooling can be hard, but it’s also great. I’m constantly interrupted and often challenged, but every morning I get one, sometimes two, requests to sit on the couch as we wake up, and even in our toughest moments, there’s always the understanding that we’ll come back together.

Our threesome still eats lunch together, and there’s still quite a bit of home cooking.


Lately there’s even time for gardening. After all, until you can manage more than eight math problems, you have time for measuring wooden boxes, mixing vermiculite with compost and peat, and sweeping yard clippings.


Jenn at desksmall_6895 copyIn addition to homeschooling and urban homesteading, Jennifer Castro writes children’s picture books. MOM*ME, her first, was published May, 2013. Visit Jennifer at



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Peggy O'Mara

About Peggy O'Mara

Editor and Publisher of Longtime natural living advocate, award winning writer, and independent thinker.

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