Permaculture Learning Tools for Kids

Gathering Resources

If you’re a parent and your goal is to learn more about the Permaculture practice but you’re also trying to homeschool and get all the things done in a day that goes with training and raising a family I hope you’ll join our family as we learn to combine the very adult world of Permaculture information with a fun hands on experience for children.

While I never finished Permaculture Student 1 because Matt Powers keeps on coming out with new and exciting things to use in our learning adventure, I thought I’d go ahead and post a few things we’re using as we learn more about Permaculture and how I can get through all of Matt’s great information and scale it down for my kids. Our oldest is 29 years old and he actually introduced us to the Permaculture concept a few years ago via Bill Mollison’s Permaculture handbook. We’ve been on our homeschooling journey for so very long now and this is the first time in this adventure that I’ve decided to put what I want to learn in front of my kids so that we’re learning together and it’s been amazing!

Personally I have so much to learn and the Bill Mollison book is way over my head. Quite frankly so is Matt Power’s Permaculture 2 highschool text  BUT it’s more manageable and while I’m teaching my kids I’m learning the pieces that I’ve missed along the way. So here are some tools we’re using to make this fun and scale it down for younger learners while I still get the full benefit of the deeper information.


On this journey we’re using some fun resources like Paul Wheaton’s Permaculture cards.

We’ve been using these for awhile and today they started recognizing the things we have in our garden. We ate mulberries today from our dwarf mulberry tree which is doing really well after just one year. We planted it by our lemon balm since it belongs to the same guild and they like each other a lot. In the deck there is information about Mulberry trees, guilds, the famous trail blazers in Permaculture etc. Anyway, if you’re at all like me and playing cards with kids that take a long, long, long time to think about their moves gets you a bit restless, these are super fun to read outloud while the kids are thinking! Repetition builds memory and these are perfect, except I think Paul Wheaton should be in the deck even if it’s as the joker. 🙂

Something as simple as playing a game like this allows for teachable moments on math, ascending and descending order, manners and game playing etiquette along with permaculture terms and the people who began sharing their knowledge about the subject.

There are many other Permaculture games out there now and we’re trying to add that to our homeschool budget for the future.

Coloring Pages!

Another cool tool we’re using is the Erik and Lauren Ohlsen coloring book series. With the proliferation of youtube permaculture videos to watch I’ve found the more technical ones that might lose their attention will keep them listening if their hands are busy. We also try to watch them after a busy play or gardening time so they’re a bit tired. We rarely watch tv while eating but I’m finding it very helpful to watch some educational stuff during lunch now. They also can color while I’m reading aloud from the textbook. This way I know I’ll read the whole thing and they ask the best questions! I know they’re listening 🙂

It was really time consuming to search the google universe for the exact coloring page to keep them busy but with this series I can page through and find the one I think fits our theme best.

Our Garden

Lunch with things like this beautiful spinach from our garden. We added cilantro too!

There is no substitute for learning permaculture from the garden. It’s a must even if you’re doing your food growing in recycled buckets on a patio.

Reusable Montessori Resources

I’ve also made and laminated some items from the Montessori Print Shop

I’m pretty good at the animal classifications that fall under the Chordata phylum  but all the living animals haven’t ever interested me. After reading Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway I became so fascinated with the creatures in the soil and then listening to Matt Power’s talks with Dr. Elaine Ingham sparked my interest even more and I knew if I taught my kids about this I’d be sure to gain greater understanding of the soil food web happening right beneath our feet!

So here in the picture above we have the control chart, which means it’s the “answer key” that the kids begin using to learn the names of the Class, Order, Phylums, and then they’ll move to a blank graph as they learn where each living thing falls in the plant and animal classification systems. This is becoming a really great tool for looking at patterns in nature and defining what those are by bringing in bugs and leaves then talking about which group they’re in and why. It’s a treasure hunt 🙂

We use other fun things like the Good Bug/Bad Bug Montessori activity from Carrots are Orange, and gathered some bugs from our garden. Then there are fun things like this too! Where does it go in the classification system? Where does it go in the beneficial vs pest category?

AND don’t forget dirt! Lots and lots of lovely soil to plant things in like this terrarium that is teaching us about ecosystems 🙂

Story Time

There are an amazing number of new stories out there that teach kids about permaculture and have a great homeschool, family learning feel. We like:

Farmer Phil’s Permaculture

The Magic Beans

The art in this story is all done in water colors using plant based paint!  

Eric Carle

These are adorable classic stories about the garden and hard work!


There’s no substitute for hands on learning and actually getting out and discovering the sound, sights, touch, smell and taste of the world around you but on those to wet to play, super hot sun, or freezing (50 degree) Texas days it’s great to have tools that are reusable and fun.

Then there’s this:

Wildcraft: An Herbal Adventure Game is a cooperative game that is super fun. The goal is to go up the hill, pick two buckets of huckleberries and get back to Grandma’s house before the sunsets WITH your whole team. You’re only as fast as your slowest hiker explains this game really well. Some kids find it hard to think in terms of the group winning 🙂 

Creative people in the Permaculture space are putting out new things all the time to enhance children’s understanding of the real world around them.

Homemade Stuff!

Laundry Soap

Michael has allergies to strange things and we’ve been buying tide for years now. This soap lasts about the same amount of time as $17.95 worth of tide. This is significant at our house with 9 people doing laundry!

A GSD Day!

Normally on Saturday I do the netflix marathon, eat chocolate and Michael waits on me hand and foot, but this week I decided to Get Stuff Done!

Homemade Laundry Soap

Homemade Powdered Laundry Soap

1 box zote $2.54

1 ½ cup baking soda $0.75

1 ½  cup washing soda (found in the grocery store with the stain removers) $1.00

1 ½  cup Borax $0.75

30 drops lavender essential oil or lemon or combo 🙂 $1.00

Total: $6.04


Dump the soap shreds in a bowl. Add other ingredients and mix to combine. The essential oil is completely optional, but does create a lovely natural (and non-headache inducing) scent.

Store in a jar or other container. We use 1 heaping tablespoon per load

Michael has allergies to strange things and we’ve been buying tide for years now. This soap lasts about the same amount of time as $17.95 worth of tide. This is significant at our house with 9 people doing laundry!


Just Give Me A Minute!

A Time for Everything

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—

A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.

What profit is there to the worker from that in which he toils? 10 I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves.

If this is true, and I believe it is, why are there so many “times” when I just need one more minute?

What happens to my day between lunch and WHAT? How can it be time for dinner?

How can my awesome plan to have the house all picked up before Michael comes home end up with Michael coming home early? Wait! He’s not early, time disappeared somewhere.

Then there are all the times I’ve told my kids I’ll listen to what they have to say, look at their project, check their math . . . . in just a minute.

I can’t tell you how many mornings it’s time to start school and I’m not ready.

Why can’t the Bible have more detail on how to manage your time? Just a list of things to do each day with a time for each of them would be really helpful wouldn’t it? Except for the part about not even being able to follow the love God, love your neighbor commandments but somehow I think I’d follow a detailed plan for the day. ha!

I’d also really like to know if there’s supposed to be a time to sew together why don’t I ever get to sew! (That’s a joke for the literal folks to miss)

I’m amazed at a Creator who gives us such freedom and loves us to death and yet reminds us that He has a time and season for everything. What does that mean for all of my “Just Give Me A Minutes” to my family or running late for an appointment or friendship?

That’s alot of questions when you’re probably looking for answers but you probably won’t like the answer any better than I do. We all know it’s the truth but still  . . . . it’s hard to be the grown up in a world of children.

I have a timer that wakes me up at 5:30 am every morning (I clarified the am for those of you who might mistake that for pm) then I have a pattern I follow for the things that need to get done by 6:30 when Michael leaves for work. The next timer goes off at 7am when I have to wake up the kids who haven’t already left for work. Honestly, I snooze that a time or two some mornings but I always regret it! This works so great you think I’d have a series of timers through out the day but I just don’t want to be that timed!

I don’t have to remember what time lunch is because I have a 16 year old boy and they are equipped with a 30 minute warning/reminder that lunch is at noon. You know 8 am and you’ve just finished breakfast so they want to know what’s for lunch, 8:30 they want to know if you have everything you need for lunch, 9 am did you take it out of the freezer, 9:30 should the bread go in the oven, 10 am do you need help getting lunch ready  . . . . I think two hours is plenty of time to get the already made salad on the plates by noon!

There is a get ready for bed timer at 8 pm for the little people who can’t remember to brush their teeth and such but what about all those appointed times in the middle?

Probably like your day we don’t do the exact same thing every single day so it’s hard to “timer” all those things and I don’t want to miss out on the sweet moments during the day that you can’t plan for by being over timed, BUT I want to get everything done in a day that I planned, which in 28 years of parenting has never, never, never happened. Yet I still want that? Like today I need to make a practice wedding cake with various flavors for my daughter to try this weekend. I need to spend 24 hours in the yard just for starters, do school, make the usual three meals a day, lesson plan for the next school year, clean the hangar clean the loft . . . . that’s it. oh and it’s laundry day.

Some timers really help me and it is incredibly helpful to be up and going before everyone else in the “school” zone of our family is moving. One of the few memorable lessons I had while in college learning to be a teacher was that the first person to the classroom owned it and was in charge for the day. It wasn’t always like that when we started out homeschooling. Some mornings my 5 year old would bring his school work to me while I was still in bed because he didn’t understand it and I’d tell him it was because it was 7:30 and you couldn’t understand math until later in the day. Now, I own the house and we have this great morning pattern that isn’t dependent on timers as much as processes.

Can you appoint all of the minutes in a day with a family and be sane? I don’t see how but you can follow some patterns each day that give it a happy rhythm that everyone knows, which gets the work done and lets everyone know where the free time to play goes. While my mom was working with Preschoolers with disabilities she taught me that the consistent schedule helps kids move from task to task easier. They know what’s coming next and even though they can’t tell time they can start, finish and move on to the next task by themselves. I think the first time my kids all learn is 12:00 – it’s lunch!

All the time I’ve been homeschooling I’ve had a vice that holds me back from getting the job done on time or accomplishing the things I know are important in our families day. It’s a different vice through the seasons. Romance novels turned into lesson planning (seriously when I found excel this was a vice and I still prefer planning to doing) iphone aps – now that’s seriously stupid of me and I’m thinking a blog could end up being a vice if I’m not careful.

Don’t hear what I’m not saying! We all need breaks and a time to relax but not every 15 minutes once our game ap has reloaded with more lives. However, in the fullness of time, at the appointed time when the job should be done we should get it done.

So tomorrow, I’m going to stay on task, work my plan and I won’t need to say “Just give me a minute!”  If you’re thinking, “In your dreams.” you’d be wrong because it’s in the planning and choosing that things really happen not in your dreams 🙂 The amount of work I get done now compared to 25 years ago is tremendous because with my husbands, process improvement, Dr. Demming, ISO 2000 and other business models that he taught us to use at home we’re better at staying on task but sometimes need a reboot. For me that’s tomorrow – no games – so there’s time for everything.

The answer is stop playing games and being lazy Sue!

Love Hate Relationships

It’s all of us, not just you! Your spouse is super awesome and you’re on a high of happiness then they do something totally selfish or stupid and you have to ask yourself, do I let go of the anger and remember all the good or do I hold on and become a bitter person? I’m kidding we don’t actually stop and think about that do we? We just react!  Let me recommend forgiveness since you’re no rainbow farting unicorn yourself. In case you haven’t figured it out this isn’t just your spouse or your kids, your sibling or your parents. We’re all imperfect with no hope for perfection so get used to it and get used to forgiving people if you want the favor returned.

We all want a magic pill that our spouse, kid or parent can take so we can take them a little easier. Again, ditto

Relationships are hard work everyday. Some days all the hard work seems to be paying off and others you’re floundering in guilt wondering what you’ve done wrong, how can you fix it and the whole time it was just a simple communication issue or a change you need to make yourself.

We were married in 1985 and it’s 2016 so my husband’s story goes like this, we’ve been married 29 wonderful years. Then he waits to see if the listener can do basic math then says, 29 “wonderful” years, there were two that sucked. Really awful almost over, that came down to me sitting on my packed suitcases by the phone (you know when it was plugged into the wall) while my husband said he’d call the pastor and go for counseling and I was saying, “Do it then.”

And he did, but I want you to know that I hated him and contemplated his demise. I have a tendency to over think so I came up with a brilliant option. That he’d get hit by the Budweiser truck and the driver would have been drinking Miller light at the Shell gas station near our house. I know you’re thinking that’s genius!

Today he can still annoy the crap out of me at times mostly because we’re slower, older and loosing our hearing but we’re old enough to know that misunderstandings are normal and we can laugh a whole lot more because we understand the foundation of marriage isn’t about us but about the calling of Christ from Ephesians 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

If we didn’t understand that we wouldn’t be able to walk through the dark days of adoption or when the doctor told Michael that he didn’t have to have the surgery but he’d be dead in two years if he didn’t and then that he could die during surgery. Not funny, but I’ve got to tell you the hot flashes are hilarious!

On that fateful day when Michael called the pastor for counseling and my sister watched our three little people, we sat on the couch and Michael’s opening line was, “My wife is crazy, I hope you can fix her.” We learned something amazing that night, that it was all Michael’s fault!

Okay, not really, but it sure felt that way to both of us as we drove away. Lucky for me Michael really went to work on being a better husband and father but the crazy thing about his awesome improvement was it started making me look bad. I mean I can’t blame him for everything now can I?

For ten years this pastor and his wife looked after us, encouraged us, listened to us, laughed at us, no seriously, when you’re in your twenties you say some stupid stuff. They taught us great skills that Rick’s written down in a book for you to use too! 5:21

Twenty nine wonderful years later I have that book on my shelf and can pull it out and hear his voice. It’s so simple and not grand or elaborate with seven magic steps but a deep abiding truth that has seen us through many hard times.

Then there was the time, I can’t remember when that we went for counseling at our church for just one annoying thing. Problem solved. Then we went again 9 years ago and the pastor, who’s our age and a friend kind of laughed when we all sat down and said something like what are you doing here? Your the healthy family. BUT we were building our house at the time, like literally hammer and nails, not hiring contractors and we were arguing alot and we just needed a refresher course because we seemed to have forgotten how to be nice. It was awesome to be reminded!

We thought we’d seen it ALL by then, closing in on 25 years of marriage (23 wonderful years) but then we came in close contact with “social services.” Talk about a nightmare! What does a nice family do that’s successfully raised/raising kids  when they’re feeling really blessed? They decide to take in more kids! Michael and I had talked about this  before we got married and here we were doing it! Oh my God we’re awesome!

Pride goes before a fall is an understatement when it comes to my less than awesome moments in this process. We couldn’t have done it if we didn’t have the support of awesome friends who’d done it before us and truly understood the hardship that comes with social services. One friend described “social services” as a group of people who are in charge of the children but usually don’t have their own children, are very young and know how to best raise children even though they don’t want any of their own, but they know exactly what you should do. It took it’s toll.

But we came up fighting on the same side! Even when things look dark and they’re down, you have to let love win, forgive, accept and keep moving forward together.

We’re so blessed right now to have a large group of older couples in our lives each with their own amazing story most over 70 with a lifetime of pain, loss and sadness behind them but still joyful in their journey because they have someone to love. For about half of them it’s a new love because the old one passed away or they were divorced along the way but because they learned how to love they can find a new love. One of the guys in his 80’s jokes that his current wife of 10 years wouldn’t have married him if his first wife hadn’t trained him because he was trouble back then.

Life comes at all of us the same. If we want to be in relationship and have healthy happy families we have to start with and as we walk along the way we have to invite people in to encourage, correct and reprove. When you do that with your spouse and they do that with you and you gather other people willing to do that (I’m not saying it’s easy because most people don’t want to be corrected) and you’re a happier person that can invite more people into your life like your own family, your siblings, parents and children. When you learn to address the hurt and forgive you learn what true love is.