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Homeschooling Resources: Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month!

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Homeschooling Resources: Fresh Fruit

and Vegetables Month!



All right, everybody – JUNE is NATIONAL FRESH FRUIT AND VEGETABLES MONTH.  Which isn’t to say that June is the only time for fresh fruit and vegetables. Still, it’s always fun to celebrate.

My latest non-fiction book, How Carrots Won the Trojan War (Storey Publishing, 2011) is crammed with info and anecdotes on the science and history of garden vegetables. It’s a teen/adult book, but is adaptable for a wide range of educational ages and purposes. Find out about the Burmese Cucumber King, Henry Ford’s carrot obsession, the pirate who discovered bell peppers, and what corn had to do with Dracula.

Learning with a Picky Eater?

Your kids hate vegetables? Try this one. In Lauren Child’s wonderful I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato (Candlewick, 2003), big brother Charlie convinces his picky little sister Lola to eat by reinventing carrots as orange twiglets from Jupiter, mashed potatoes as cloud fluff from the top of Mount Fuji, and fish sticks as Ocean Nibbles. (Mermaids eat them!) For ages 4-8. (And up. I just love Charlie and Lola.)

In Marc Brown’s D.W. the Picky Eater (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 1997), Arthur’s little sister gives Lola a run for her money. D.W. won’t eat anything with eyes, She also spurns pickles, tomatoes, mushrooms, eggplant, pineapple, parsnips, cauliflower, and liver (never), and – especially – spinach. (“Face it,” says Arthur. “You are a picky eater.”)   D.W.’s eating habits cause all kinds of trouble until, at her grandmother’s birthday dinner, she orders Little Bo Peep Pie – and enjoys every bite before discovering that it’s made of…spinach. For ages 4-8.

In Katherine Pryor’s Sylvia’s Spinach (Readers to Eaters, 2012), Sylvia – a confirmed spinach hater – comes around when she’s given a package of spinach seeds to grow in a school garden. For ages 4-8.

In Lois Ehlert’s gorgeously illustrated Growing Vegetable Soup (Sandpiper, 1991), a child and father plant and tend a garden, harvest the vegetables, and cook up a yummy pot of vegetable soup. A soup recipe is included. For ages 3-8.

The Vegetables We Eat by Gail Gibbons (Holiday House, 2008) covers eight groups of vegetables, with lush illustrations and scenes of garden, farm, and supermarket. Text is straightforward and unexciting (“It is good for us to eat vegetables”), but the pictures compensate. For ages 4-8.

Rosalind Creasy’s Blue Potatoes, Orange Tomatoes (Sierra Club Books for Children, 2000) is a picture-book guide to planting a “rainbow garden” filled with unusually colored plants. Who wouldn’t want to grow purple beans? (Or even a whole purple garden?) For ages 6-9.

Kathleen M. Reilly’s Food: 25 Amazing Projects (Nomad Press, 2010) is an information-packed activity guide on food, incorporating history, culture, and science. Included are “Words to Know” lists, fact boxes, and hands-on experiments. Study gravity with beans, snack on fried dandelions, and make your own marshmallows. For ages 9-12.

Hands-On Vegetables

From TOPS Learning SystemsGreen Thumbs: Radishes for grades 3-8 and Green Thumbs: Corn and Beans for grades 4-12 are terrific hands-on life science units, with complete illustrated instructions, reproducible lab journal pages, extension activities, and far better-than-average experiments that require (really) very simple, but creative, equipment. Great science, with vegetables. Highly recommended.

This is a mathematical tour-de-force for seed-savers. In Mitsumasa Anno’s Anno’s Magic Seeds (Puffin, 1999), Jack is given a pair of magic seeds by a wizard, who tells him to eat one and bury the other – which will grow and give him two more seeds in the fall. All goes as planned until Jack decides to plant both seeds, from which he harvests a crop of four. He eats one and plants three, which gives him a crop of six. And so on it goes, as Jack marries, has a son, and plants and harvests more and more seeds. Then a hurricane strikes…Anno brilliantly combines story, art, gardening, and geometric progression. For ages 4-9.

Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld’s Secrets of the Garden (Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2012) traces a family garden from planting to harvest, showing its many connections to the food web – all with the informative help of Daisy and Maisy, a pair of knowledgeable chickens. My favorites: the wonderful picture maps variously showing each family member’s plot, the compost bin, the chicken run, and the treehouse. For ages 4-9.

Vegetable gardening: it’s not just about food. Paul Fleischman’s Seedfolks (HarperTrophy, 2004), set in a poverty-stricken urban neighborhood in Cleveland, begins when Kim, a Vietnamese girl, finds a hidden spot behind a rusted refrigerator and plants lima beans. That single simple act has far-reaching implications as persons of all ages, nationalities, and circumstances share the garden and find pride, identity, friendship, and hope. An inspirational read for ages 10 and up.

Mary B. Rein’s The Budding Gardener (Gryphon House, 2011) is a 64-page collection of gardening activities for children, among them planting a Three Sisters garden, sprouting plants from kitchen leftovers, and making a homemade greenhouse and worm farm. Appropriate for ages 3 and up.

Garden Plans and Recipes

Constance Hardesty’s Grow Your Own Pizza (Fulcrum Publishing, 2000) is a collection of garden plans and recipes for kids, categorized as Easy, Medium, or Advanced. For example, kids can grow pizza gardens, spring salad bowl gardens, salsa gardens, corn crop circles, and a Three Sisters Native American Garden. For ages 8 and up.

Beyond the Bean Seed: Gardening Activities for Grades K-6 by Nancy Allen Jurenka and Rosanne J. Blass (Libraries Unlimited, 1996) is a compendium of garden-related books, projects, recipes, games, and writing and art activities.  Included are instructions for planting bird, butterfly, bee, butterfly, windowsill, container, and clock gardens; and recipes for potpourri, fruit leathers, garden vegetable soup, and mashed-potato candy. Projects include making a terrarium, a seed chart, a scarecrow, seed markers, flower puppets, and a blueberry-dyed stuffed bear. Some of the featured books are out of print – check your library for titles – but this is still a great idea-packed resource.

See also Homeschooling: Do I Need to Use Textbooks? by John Taylor Gatto

Laurie Carlson’s Green Thumbs: A Kid’s Activity Guide to Indoor and Outdoor Gardening (Chicago Review Press, 1995) is a collection of projects and activities for young garden lovers, variously categorized under Planting Basics, Pesky Pests (sample activities include making homemade bug sprays and a scarecrow), Garden Partners (build a birdhouse, plant a butterfly or a bee garden), Tasty Ideas (make nasturtium salad and carrot cake), Grow Some Fun (grow a bean tent, cultivate peanuts in a pot), and dozens more. An appendix lists supplementary resources.

No room for a garden? Don’t Throw It, Grow It! by Deborah Peterson and Millicent Selsam (Storey Publishing, 2008) has instructions for growing 68 different windowsill plants from (!!) kitchen scraps. Fun (and surprising) for all.

From the National Gardening Association, Kids Gardening has dozens of categorized activities and lesson plans for a wide range of ages. Also at the website see Books in Bloom, a kids’ gardens-and-literature program.

From the San Francisco Exploratorium, The Science of Gardening has informative videos and interactive features on all aspects of gardening, from compost and dirt to hydroponics, pumpkin competitions, and the history of vegetables.

For even more – including creepy carrots, magical apples, vegetable poems, and potato art – see



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One Response to “Homeschooling Resources: Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month!”

  1. […] sure sounds educational.   Parent at the Helm has many, many interesting book suggestions for Homeschooling Resources: Fresh Fruit and Vegetables Month!   Including one combining seed saving, geometric progression and a hurricane – I’m putting […]

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