Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Real Life Homeschooling - Day 4 - Our Outdoor Classroom

Today is Day 4 of The Schoolhouse Review Crew's "Real Life Homeschooling" bloghop.   I've already showed you some of the "ugly" that is our homeschool, but now I'll show you one of the awesome things we get to do.

Right now, our big project that we are all working on together is our garden. We started studying botany a while back which sparked our interest in starting a garden. We also got a great deal on an Aerogarden which is a small indoor hydroponics system. Using both of these in conjuction with our Apologia text book and notebook, the kids have been working hard every day to help tend the garden by preparing the soil (granted, Dad did most of the hard work), planting seeds, watering the garden twice a day, weeding, ect.    While we're taking care of the plants, hummingbirds buzz over our heads and butterflies and ladybugs flitter all around.  It makes for a really great learning environment.  It's also something that we have all worked on together - the kids have been outside with rakes and hoes along side Mom and Dad so it's not a project that they are just observing - they are completely involved.

The various things we have done, far beyond just the basic planting of bean seeds in a Styrofoam cup, have made it a really unique experience. We've tested the PH of the soil using vinegar and baking soda and then had to figure out how to raise the PH since we had extremely alkaline soil. The kids have had a wonderful time picking out vegetables to grow from seeds that they wanted, which has resulted in a garden currently full of carrots (Garrett's choice), and Brussel Sprouts (Ash's choice), Kohlrabi (Dad's choice) among other things.  We even made our own "hot box" which we have used to start seeds indoors .

The Inside of our hotbox.. Not much left except tomato seedlings.

Another thing we've gotten to do was plan our garden out using the Farmer's Almanac Garden Planner. We were able to use it to figure out how many plants we could put of each type of vegetable in the space we had.  The garden was originally only half of what it is now.

The current layout of our garden, soon to be expanded to include Tomatoes, pumpkins and watermelon

Our classroom extends way beyond a designated room inside a mortar and brick building that is typical public schools.   And we have the added benefit of time on our side - we can do our classwork during the very hot hours and then turn around and work in the garden once it cools off, which is long past the normal public school hours...  We've had fun exploring seed catalogs and learning about growing seasons and learning what mistakes we have made in this first garden so that when we begin planting for the fall crops, we will not make the same mistakes.

Here's what we have so far after 2 months of hard work    We started the garden officially on Feb 15th.

First, a reminder of what we started off with.. very dry, very sandy alkaline soil.
The beautiful green bounty that the kids have worked hard on. We weren't sure we would be able to grow anything being in the desert but so far so good. 

Garrett works on preparing dirt. He wants to plant a huge sunflower here.  In typical Garrett form, he refused to put a shirt on for the picture.. But, this is "Real Life Homeschooling" so.....

Our Garden.. More Green then we're use to seeing.   We've also noticed right close to the fence on the neighbors side has turned green from the extra water we're providing ;)  

Ashleigh's Brussels Sprout..  We ended up transplanting three of the plants today because we couldn't bring it to ourselves to discard three plants.  

Walla Onions with Radish seedlings on the right. We harvested radishes last week and those are the new ones we sowed a few days later.

And here are some of the radishes we grew.. We were all so excited to know we grew these from seeds - and they tasted GREAT to boot :)

Carrot plants.

 Our Aerogarden has been busy and the kids check it daily to see if its needing water or plant food.. We have used fresh herbs from it several times now and have even had to harvest from it and dry out what we cut in order to make room..   The Aerogarden is great for allowing the kids to observe the root systems of the plants and also to allow them to watch the tiny tomatoes start off as flowers and then the progression of the fruit. 

The VERY extensive root system in our Aerogarden.

About time to harvest in order to trim it down again.

Lots and lots of tiny tomatoes

My husband wanted Coleus so I started some for him..

 We are currently working on an experiment to see how plants grown in the Aerogarden compare to those grown in regular dirt.   We started both of our cherry tomato plants at the same time in the Aerogarden.   A few weeks ago, we removed one of the plants and put it in dirt and left the other one in the Aerogarden.    While the Aerogarden plant has definately grown much bigger then the dirt counterpart, both are producing fruit. So once we have tomatoes on them, we will taste one from each plant and see if there's any difference in taste.

This tomato plant enjoys lots of sun and the benefits of being in soil.

We can't forget about BIG tomatoes.. The kids and I started three different heirloom varieties from seeds. Honestly, we did not expect that they would grow but grow they did.. Before we knew it, we had so many seedlings, we knew we would not be able to put all of them in the ground.. We have transplanted the best of the seedings into Terra cotta pots and are letting them get bigger before we thin them out to the best plant out of each pot.. That way, we will have two Purple Cherokee, two Carbons and two Pink Accordion plants to put in the ground.

I leave you with this thought.. All of this is for one class, our Botany science class... My kids are getting a hands on education and are learning skills that one day might come in handy, if they ever have any desire to homestead or if there's some sort of event that makes growing ones own food necessary.     Real Life Skills from Real Life Homeschooling at it's best.


I hope you've been enjoying these looks into our homeschooling and what the kids have accomplished. If so, please head over to visit the blogs of these other Review Crew member who are also participating in the "Real Life Homeschooling Blog Hop"

Discover real life in other homeschools with the Schoolhouse Review Crew bloggers! Join the blog hop to read more!

Real Life Homeschool Blog Hop

Also, if your also into gardening,  click on over to my friend Wren's blog and check out all the wonderful work they are doing in their garden :)


  1. How beautiful! I've never heard of testing the soil with homemade ingredients. Please share how you did that. I LOVE the hotbox. This is all so ingenous and your garden looks so lovely. You'll also have to let us know how the tomatoes came out.

    1. Kemi, the PH test is really easy.. Take two samples of soil, about 2 TBS per sample.. In one, simply pour 1/2 cup of vinegar into the soil. If it starts fizzing up then your soil is alkaline. If it doesn't fizzle, then in the second cup of soil mix in some distilled water to make mud. Then slowly add 1/2 cup baking soda. If it fizzes, then you have acidic soil.. :)

    2. Thank you Brenda! That's priceless info. I'm going to try that. I need more baking soda.That stuff is good for so much!

  2. Brenda, this is spectacular! What an incredible home "classroom" experience. I am sort of drooling over your garden! We have SUCH a short growing season there was definitely no planting going on for us in February. ;) I've also never heard of an Aerogarden before. I must say, the results are amazing. I still can't get over those root systems!

    Thank you so much for linking up AND sharing our Garden Party Link kind of you. And of course I loved that I was able to read your incredible gardening story.

    On a completely unrelated topic....had you heard that Flagstaff, AZ, has designated this the "Year of Pluto" in honor of its founder, who was there when he discovered it? Cool story!

    1. Melanie, thank you so much for stopping by and for hosting such a wonderful linkup..

      Those roots are unreal, huh?? Eventually I'm going to trim them back some though, so they don't clog the pump..

      I didn't know about the Year of Pluto, but I will pass that on to Charles.. We're going to pass through Flagstaff in June, so we might have to see what they are doing for it when we do :)


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