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.

Permaculture Student Chapter 1

Here’s how chapter one looked in action for us 🙂

We had no lesson plan, start or stop time and kind of muddled through waiting for everyone to order their books from Matt at The Permaculture Student – but that’s done so Chapter 2 is looking very promising!

After our first “class” with our family we went out and planted potatoes, onions, beans, spinach, etc, etc, etc

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We worked really hard Wednesday to get ready for our friends to join us at our 2nd Weekly Permaculture Student meeting so we took a break to eat homemade bread and Marmalade. We probably should have watched Paddington but the day was gorgeous!

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Lesson 1 – Week 1 January 13, 2016

So, here we are coloring and talking about Permaculture

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We’ve got some grown ups watching Matt Powers video

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They stayed at their work for a long time tonight because it was super cold out, what Texans call freezing, somewhere around 40 🙂

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Luke sharing his quail tractor prototype

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Farmers Market with Memaw!

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This was our very first effort and I think we cleared $42! The kids packaged basil seeds that we harvested, lots of herbs, marmalade, cute painted rocks and some plarn bags 🙂

Chapter 1 – Week 2 – January 20, 2016

During the week we worked on measuring our yard using a Montessori style discovery learning approach and we read some great Caldecott Children’s books about the garden and the sun.

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In this picture we’re learning that our property isn’t flat but has dips and swales!

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This is the start of our first Hugelkulture

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For our potluck we used the fish head that was a gift from my mom and followed Chef Keith Snows concept of Harvest Eating using techniques rather than recipes. We live in the country and this concept has really helped us stock our pantry and use what we grow!

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Here’s some sticky notes applied to our site map with the seeds that we planted. I’m a bit afraid to draw directly on my site map.

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And here’s our next CLASS! Some video and coloring pages because I still hadn’t had time to come up with a hands on activity that supports thinking.

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Chapter 1 – Week 3 – January 27, 2016

I didn’t take any pictures but we colored, watched more videos and had a conversation about the design plan for Wednesday nights.

Chapter 2 – Week 4 – February 3, 2016

I finally had the chance to read the chapter, the workbook and watch the online resources that we’re using and came up with a plan! Check it out here


Permaculture Student Chapter 2

We started Chapter 2 Wednesday February 3, 2016 and here I am trying to come up with a plan and Paisley wants to watch the video because they can hear the opening music.



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Check out our lesson plan here. Remember it’s a work in progress

We opened with an challenge for the adults to write down the name of as many plants in their yard that they new the real name of, either latin or the local name. This kept them busy while the kids watched about 6 minutes of the video on diversity. The parents have access and can watch the videos at home too. Our adult winner could name 37 of her plants! I was so excited that I posted it on facebooks “Unschooling with Permaculture” page and Matt let me know he has like 600-800 species? We have our work cut out for us.

We were learning about diversity and the kids were cutting up magazines, gluing and coloring. This combination of activities takes a long time at this age and allows for lots of conversation.

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While the kids were making their diversity posters the adults were watching some videos on swales and discussing how each person might use that on their property.

The kids finished out their evening by playing Paul Wheaton’s Permaculture Playing Cards

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First thing the next morning my son Jack wanted to play those cards but we’re saving them for Wednesday nights so they’re special 🙂

Chapter 2 – Week 2 – February 10,2016 – stay tuned!

Permaculture Student Laying the Ground Work

tsp matt p

My husband loves listening to “The Survival Podcast” with Jack Spirko – “Helping you live a better life, if times get tough or even if they don’t.” Michael had a cyst on his spine a few years ago and was given the remove it or you’ll die speech along with the encouraging, you could die during surgery pep talk. Michael has become highly motivated to “live a better life,” and I’m such a good wife I would listen to the podcast when he’d text me about ones I’d like including the time stamp 🙂

One day last December he sent me the TSP “must listen” text for a homeschooling idea called The Permaculture Student by Matt Powers. I listened a couple of times, went to his website to see what he had to offer and immediately checked my bank account and bought the student set and I was ready to get started! It looked to be about Jr High in the ability level so it seemed like a piece of cake. Maybe I should change the easy/cake to easy as digging in well composted soil?

Turns out it’s pretty simple if you read it and color the pages BUT if you actually get out in the garden and DO IT, suddenly that Chapter 1 you were going to do in a week turns into a month! What a great month it’s been (after the first month of trying to figure out how to implement it:)

Here’s our journey with Chapter 1

In December 2015 when the book came in it encouraged us to do some of the things we were meaning to do! We got around to picking oranges from our neighbor’s abundance and making Marmalade!

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Here’s Alexis lifting the finished jars out of the boiling bath. She’s 9 and didn’t get hurt in the making of this marmalade!

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Alexis is listening for the popping sound to let us know the jars are sealed.

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The return of surplus and sharing our abundance with Memaw who went to the neighbors tree to help us pick the oranges 🙂

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Jack is carefully taking hot sterile jars out so Alexis can fill them.

Even though it can be a bit messy all the peeps helped pick herbs from the yard and make bread.

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Jack’s first bread is rising!

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We had to eat one jar of marmalade right away because the seal didn’t pop.

Luke led a discussion on what sustainable means and how we can use less.

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Permaculture Students need time to think about and discuss their work 🙂

So, now we’re in January and that first Wednesday night family night was so fun!

We worked on our previously started site map. We just have one oddly pie shaped acre and Luke is cutting out some green circles to represent our water collection tanks. I used large graph paper taped together so we could use the 1/4″ = 1′ for the acre.

At this point I wasn’t using the books but trying to get a handle on how it all worked. We watched the opening video on Week 1 and I had read through the first chapter and we did some coloring. It was just our family but when I posted it on facebook we had more people join us the next Wednesday!

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Jack squeezing blackberries that were leftover from the wine making to make blackberry chocolate chip ice cream!

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My facebook invitation picture to those kindred spirits willing to join us

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Home grown lemon, mint and pomegranates for our mint tea ice ring. We’ve had a very warm winter and the herbs are doing really well.

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fresh dill in the potato salad

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bread makers with rosemary, cilantro, dill and other deliciousness in the breads

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and of course a snack 🙂

So, all of this in preparation to really get started! We all know we enjoy the harvest that our yard is producing almost two years after my mom got married and moved out. Now we have to see if we can put in the hard work in order to reap a greater harvest of abundance to share with our friends and neighbors.

Permaculture Student- Our Design

The design principal in permaculture was the first thing that drew me in. Everything in life can be designed to suit the needs of those involved and as an old time homeschooler that’s starting in with the first grandkids I’m wanting to design a homeschool plan more in tune with nature. The nature around us and the nature of children.

So, here’s our design for using The Permaculture Student by Matt Powers – I hope you can gather some fun and useful ideas and then design a process that works for those around you.

Now that we’ve finished up chapter 1, and when I say “finished” I really mean that we’ve scratched the surface of the concepts taught in chapter 1 while trying to get out and do each activity. That’s taken us about a month of working in the garden, group class time on Wednesday nights, watching videos and assorted other work. Our group is 3 to 78 so it might look a little different than yours.

Here’s our four starter families:

1-Two cute old people who are enjoying thinking differently about the garden they have and adding the layers to their just over an acre property.

2-Our family that has a great start on permaculture thanks to the years my mom invested in trees and mulch on our one acre.

3-The Pond family – they left the big city a few years back and now have a garden and ducks swimming in their pond!

4-The Soon to Be family – they close on their six acre property any week now and man do they have swales to work with! Already paddocked sections, out buildings and water run many, many places! We’re all very excited for them.

I’m working on a lesson plan that’s a little sketchy at the moment but we’ll adapt it as we go since the plan is to cycle around through the course repeatedly until one of us is ready for the official PDC! We’ll be taking many weeks to work through each chapter.

Here are a few items we’ve got going:

1-Having a family time on Wednesday night with a potluck from our abundance which at the moment sometimes means fried chicken from the drive through window because we’re just starting out 🙂

2-Have a weekly game, activity, coloring page and watch a video together or just part of one since our little guys have a short attention span as do I.

3-On Wednesday night we’re having about 20-30 minutes of kid focused time, then they go complete an activity.

4-The adults will have a similar topic from the “Introduction to Permaculture” text by Bill Mollison w/Reny Mia Slay as we learn more about permaculture.

5-We’ve set up a work day each month where we’ll got to each family’s property and help them knock out a labor intensive job.

6-We’ll have ongoing permaculture projects at our own homes each week. Like checking our soil samples.

As we cycle back around through the curriculum, we’re planning on adding some other fun science elements: Fall -Chemistry/Physics, Winter – Anatomy, Spring – Flying Creatures. We’ll be using resources that we already have in the Apologia Young Explorers Series. But this time when I use these textbooks I’ll have a much clearer application for each topic right in our yard!

It’s never to late to change up the design or begin a design of your own.



Tending the Garden


Permaculture Student by Matt Powers picture


Was it perfect in the Garden of Eden? I always thought so until recently, well actually I didn’t think about it I just assumed so. Does that make sense? Heaven was perfect, Eden was perfect, it was all perfect until Eve ate that non-botanically specific piece of vegetation. Right?

It’s not that we haven’t had some excellent teaching along the way but until recently we didn’t have the chance to have a Dr. Dr. Dr. who reads his New Testament in Greek to talk to about these questions.  So, heaven wasn’t perfect, Satan got in, the garden wasn’t perfect Satan got in there and the two people sinned.

This is really about my actual garden and that I grew up in a garden that was in tip top very tidy shape with all the weeds removed. Like I’m sure it would have looked in Adam and Eve’s garden where everything was perfect. Except why did Adam have to work?

Genesis 2:15 Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.

Are weeds new or did they occur in the garden that Adam tended too? In this great documentary called “Back to Eden” the guy has some cool thoughts about this subject and great thoughts about the weeds in my garden! If I manage my garden like God manages the forests and things man doesn’t tend then the closer I get to the natural processes of growing the easier it will be, which means I’ll have weeds but I’ll outgrow them with good seeds!

I’ve been avoiding my yard since my mom moved out. For almost nine years she tended the garden in our yard then she abandoned me to marry this adorable old neighbor of ours! I kept calling it her garden and telling her it was going to die but then I came across this really awesome concept of Permaculture which reminded me of the Back to Eden video and I realized I should take some responsibility for MY garden.

We’ve got a pretty busy life with kids, adventure  and community so I couldn’t see how I could get out there every single day but with the Permaculture Design I think we can make it happen.

There are some excellent Christian principals in the concept like Care of People, Care of the Earth and the Return of Surplus. There’s also something amazing about spending time in the garden that touches my soul and makes me happy, tired but happy. Our youngest three kids have really been loving it more than all the other things we’ve done so the hope is we’ll soon have an abundance to share with our friends and neighbors.

We also found a great resource Permaculture Student by Matt Powers that is about Jr High level, unless you’re actually getting out in the garden and doing the work, then it’s much harder! If you’ve been thinking about tending a garden with your kids this is a very encouraging resource.

Now if I could just get rain every day like they do in Jamaica it would be so much easier!