This past weekend, we spent a few hours in the backyard planting a garden with our children, Shelbi (6) and Lawrence (4). They requested that we plant a garden after watching fifth-graders breaking ground with First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House. So on Saturday morning, we went to the local nursery and selected beets, carrots, red bell peppers and several herbs to plant. The kids got a kick out of selecting plants and painting flower pots for the herbs. As we were digging in soil and determining how far apart to place seeds, I realized that the act of planting a garden is educational in many ways.
By planting a garden, our children are getting a new appreciation for where their food comes from. They have always known that it does not grow at Publix, but now they understand the work that is involved with growing a vegetable from a mere seed. We also taught them how nutritious organically grown vegetables are and that any chemicals used on our seedlings will ultimately become a part of our vegetables.
We’re also teaching our children that they are doing something good for the environment. Even buying veggies from the local farmer’s market reduces the emissions created in transporting fruits and vegetables from distant locations. Growing vegetables in our own backyard is a wonderful way to participate in an ecologically beneficial activity.
Creating a garden was also a fun family activity. We had such a great time playing in the dirt and the water that my husband and I felt like kids ourselves. And one final perk – planting a garden is relatively inexpensive. The price of soil and seeds is negligible compared to the benefits of the garden itself. And in 40 – 60 days, we hope to see even more fruit (or in this case, veggies) of our labor!
We strive to incorporate diversity into our children’s daily lives. Our family is African-American and we know how easily others can make assumptions about people based upon cultural stereotypes. At the beginning of this year, our children started taking Tae Kwon Do. In addition to going to class twice a week, we teach them about Korean culture with food, books and cultural events. Our little citizens (ages 3 and 6) can now count in Korean and know some basic Korean phrases. They have even attended a traditional wedding.
The wedding included a ceremony during which the couple bowed down to their parents and grandparents to show their respect for their elders. The gesture was a powerful cross-cultural moment and one we explained to our kids. The continuity and value of family in Korean culture and the commitment of younger generations to take care of and respect their elders is an idea we are trying to incorporate into our own family, and where better to see it than in another culture’s ceremony.
The best part of our learning experience as a family so far, is the knowledge that our little citiznes now understand Asian culture is as diverse and varied as American culture and that there are things we can learn if we open our minds to those who appear different from us.