Planting Seeds in Children’s Minds

This is the third in a series about how we are home schooling and preparing our children for their futures…the future of the farm. Sustainability is the real issue. If you are just joining us, go back and read parts one and two. I have worked to condense this post down to bare bones but I could go on and on. Forgive me if some of my transitions are …less than smooth.

We, as parents, plant seeds on a daily basis. Some of it is intentional, some of it just scatters about. Genuine comments like “Wow! that’s a great drawing!” or “I really appreciate your help” mean a lot to us as humans and, if you were uncertain, children are humans. Those comments are nurturing but they aren’t seeds. The gift of paper and pencil are the seeds. The opportunity to pitch in where needed is a seed. Comments help that seed to grow or cause it to wither.


Have you ever heard that little voice in your head attempting to defeat you? Let me open up briefly and tell you what I hear on my worst days. I am a worthless, ignorant, arrogant, selfish and generally bad man…hardly a man at all. I talk too much. People don’t really like me, they tolerate me. I just get in the way. All of my ideas are ridiculous. I’m too skinny, too weak, too tall, too short, too ugly, too hairy. Julie made a mistake marrying me. I’m a lousy father. I’m terrible at my job and I’m just faking my way through my career. Somebody is going to find out…and soon. This (whatever crazy idea) will never work. My cows are not getting what they need because I lack the skill to manage grazing correctly. The list goes on but that’s enough.

Is any of that true? I don’t know…probably some of it to some degree. But those thoughts and others like them are on a near-constant loop in my head on rainy days. I’m not seeking a therapy session. I’m seeking real-life examples. Those are weed seeds. And I am not alone in having a mind littered with weed seeds trying to take root. You hear the voices too. My children hear the voices too.

I have to fight that. I can’t let the weed seeds take root in my children’s minds. I have to reinforce to my children that they are good enough. …that they are not an accident. …that their mother and I love them, cherish them and do not regret having them. …that they can make a difference. My children have purpose. They can work to fulfill that purpose and positively impact the world around them…and for generations to come.

To have this opportunity we, as parents, have to work to build personal, intimate, ongoing relationships with our children. With that foundation in place, we can begin to scatter seeds of our own…nurturing those seeds and working to out-compete the weeds.


But there is a tendency to plant weeds of our own. To scatter seeds that work against our children. Have you ever heard or said any of these gems?

“You should go to college because you are too smart to be a farmer.”

“There’s no future here. You’ll never make any money.”

“If you don’t go to college you will never succeed in life.”

“You can’t do that because it would take a lot of money (and you’ll never have any money (cause we don’t have any money (and my ego can’t stand the thought of you succeeding where I have failed))).”

“This country is going to Hell and there’s nothing we can do about it! It’s all the blue team’s fault (or the red team…both the same really). THOSE people have taken away your whole future! We are helpless.”

Don’t send your kids away. Don’t tell them there is no hope. Don’t teach them to be victims. Don’t seed discouragement.

This isn’t a post telling you to boost your child’s self-esteem. That’s a false god. A whole generation of kids who have accomplished nothing believing they can do anything! That lasts until reality strikes. Then they turn to Pfizer for help.

There is a school of thought that we should fill our homes with tools, not toys. Give our children opportunities not entertainment. Those opportunities are the seeds we are looking for. It’s not enough to believe you can. You have to do it. Book learnin’ and believin’ won’t cut it. You have to do it. Kids have to do it. What are your kids interested in? What do they want to do? What chances have they had to really try something? …to really fail at something? …to learn that failure is a beginning? We have tools, stacks of lumber, musical instruments, paper, pencils, crayons, markers, scissors, glue, computers, books on beginning programming, books, books and more books! Pallets for club houses, old tarps for roof tops, messes everywhere! Adventure everywhere! There are rabbits to raise, chicks to play with, chickens to dress, fencing to build, hay to stack, hay to play on, veggies to plant, weed and pick, cows to move and water…all of these are jobs the kids can help with. Look at the opportunities!

We scatter these opportunities in front of our kids hoping they will pick something up. When something sparks their interest we, the parents, have to be attentive and ready to run. An interested learner will consume massive amounts of information in a short period of time. As a mentor you’ll have your hands full trying to keep up…stay ahead…anticipate which direction the learner will go next. That anticipation requires an intimate understanding between learner and mentor.


There are certainly phases of learning where we are just dumping information in front of the children. Phases where nobody is particularly motivated to chase down a specific curiosity. At those times we read aloud, play together or just hang out. I am always surprised how things work out. In a recent rut I borrowed a video game from a friend. That led to pages and pages of artwork and stories about favorite characters by our youngest two. You never know what will allow the opportunity for encouragement and growth.

And those opportunities can grow. Each of the kids has a preferred set of chores. Daughter #1 has her own chickens. She just muscled in and pushed me out of the way. Now she takes care of them. That’s GREAT! That’s what we are after! And each of the kids know that there is a place for them here. That they can succeed here. That I’m laying a simple foundation for all of us to build on. “You can expand the pig operation, you can expand the cattle. You can grow and sell cut flowers. You can supply nurseries with stock. I’ll clean the toilets!” All of these businesses help each other, build on each other and share and expand the customer base. We are planting those seeds now! There is no reason to wait until the kids are 18 to say, “you know…you and your husband could just live right here with us.” By that time our kids will have defined themselves. It may never have occurred to them that we want them here. We say it now. Maybe my oldest will grow up to be an astronaut…or the manager at a Starbucks…or, worse, the president. He may not want to live here. We all have to make our own choices in life. But I’m giving him the opportunity…and I’m giving it now. We will nurture that seed as it grows…even if it doesn’t sprout for 50 years.

That’s how we believe we can achieve sustainability. To get there we have to separate cheap comments like “Good job, Billy” from nurturing comments like “Billy, you did your very best and I’m impressed. I think you have a real talent for …” Nurturing comments are like a ray of sunshine or a cool drink of water. But you can only nurture seeds…seeds you have to plant. We also have to be careful and purposeful about what seeds we plant. What seeds are you planting in your children’s minds?

Next time I’ll share how we attempt to get out of the way of our children’s successes.

14 thoughts on “Planting Seeds in Children’s Minds

  1. That is so awesome. I sure do wish I could have been at home with my children instead of being the sole bread winner and parent. My husband left us to ”date” so I had no choice but to “do it all”…….. Turned out ok…all four are good people and love their mama.

    • That sounds hard. Not impossible…obviously. No matter the schooling situation your kids learn more from you than from anybody else. That seems to upset school teachers who are out to save the world single-handedly but…nobody has more influence over your children than you do.

  2. I really like the concept of the weed seeds and out competing them with the seeds we want to plant. I think it’s a great description of the huge task of instilling values in our children. I learned quite early on (from a book, actually) that it really helped to be specific with praise – that as you mention – there isn’t a lot of value in “good job, Susy”, but there is in “Susy, I really appreciated that I could count on you to walk the dog when I wasn’t here” – something that tells her that her contribution MATTERED.

  3. “Maybe my oldest will grow up to be an astronaut…or the manager at a Starbucks” – lol – yup, I’m there: my eldest is currently taking flying lessons, and working as a barista in a swanky (not Starbucks) café to pay for them :).

  4. Teachers aren’t out to save the world, just those kids whose parents aren’t there for them. We see the lack of nurturing side of the kids lives more often than the nurturing parent side. AND most of the teachers I worked with over the years have developed a strong nurturing attitude. It is said it takes 10 “attaboys” to make up for one “oops”. It takes at least 10 caring teachers/parent to ease the memory of one bad teacher or nutty parent day. Sometimes it is safer to play Legos or read or practice an instrument than learn basic lessons in school. So kids seem to have an interest in one area. That is why schools demand kids have a wide range of subjects they study. As a parent a person has the opportunity to identify a true interest rather than an escape, but a teacher can only do their best within the confines of the classroom. The teacher broadcasts a wide variety of seeds.

    • You are right. My comment reads as if I believe all school teachers are seeking to fix all the world’s problem. That is not what I believe. Let me clarify. There are a subset of people (teachers included but mostly politicians) who believe they can save the world. What we are saving the world from is as unclear as the “hero’s” qualifications for performing that action or the appropriateness of the proposed solution. But, since the public or the school board all got together and voted to make the world a better place we get improvements…and we get them good and hard. Not from all teachers. Not from all politicians. But enough that we, as a nation, attempt to improve the world by killing people to lower the price of gasoline. We attempt to improve the world by delivering major psychotropic medicines to at least 3% of school-aged children and incarcerate adults who use similar drugs voluntarily. What is the road to Hell paved with again?

      I’ll expand on what you wrote about basic lessons in school with a bit of my own flavor. In a classroom, like an assembly line, a teacher has to reach every student and has to do it on a schedule. At home, we reach one student at a time and it can happen at any time of the day or night. Further, we can work in wholes. Music lessons are math lessons. Music is history. Music is art. Music is language. We don’t compartmentalize our subjects and ask them to switch from math to english when the bell rings. We live life. We study the world, often with a macro lens. Basic lessons are …well, basic. 3 Rs. It takes 6 months to teach a motivated learner to read and cipher. Then we apply meaning to those basics by tying it all together. Getting to that point requires passion…passion a mentor can inspire. We seek to inspire, not require. So, yeah, there are a lot of Legos and play-doh and tag. Lots of pictures of Mario and Skylanders. Lots of chickens get butchered. And through it all we are learning. All of us are learning. All the time.

      We have chosen to exempt ourselves from the manufacturing paradigm I was raised in…a world devoid of craftsmanship…an industrial world where teachers bend, shape, twist and force raw materials into a finished product and do so without considering the suitability of the material for the purpose. One could make a wooden trumpet but brass does a better job. So what happens to the wooden students in the industrial schools? Are they put to their best and highest purpose or are they taught that they were born defective and must be medicated? Look, I’m not arguing against public schools. The world-improvers took our money so they must be improving the world…otherwise they wouldn’t take our money! But the public school option is not for us…even though I pay for it. I certainly realize this option is not available to everyone…just as our farm is not available for everyone…just as I can’t go surfing this morning. But it is available for us and it is what is best for our children.

      I am acutely aware of the many issues faced by school teachers today. There is little I can do to face down the world-improvers who have enslaved school teachers with mountains of paperwork. But there is an awful lot WE (you and I) can do to improve your grandchildren’s lives.

      What are you passionate about mom? What motivates you to get up in the morning? What are you actively learning right now? Come up the hill and tell us about it.

      • Updating the family cookbook. Writing my blog ideas – but not posting, yet. Planning the new room. Wishing I could work on my loom. Trying to walk 20 minutes each day (cold weather makes it difficult). Starting a new Bible Study. Preparing for the Chicago conference. Practicing for the Cantata. And your father wants us to throw 10 things away. Good thing I’m retired because I don’t have time to work.

  5. Nice post. I especially like where you ‘open up’ and talk about self doubt. I’m sure we all do that. I’ll be thinking about that.

    Also a thought it raised for me, something that comes up frequently, is this idea of not praising using terminology that implies some intrinsic qualities, ‘you’re so smart’ or ‘you’re good at math’. This can create those weed seeds. Always always praise action. ‘The way you did this thing in this particular way was smart’ or ‘I like how you paid attention to this..’

    We like to emphasize that there is only smart behavior and smart actions. There are not smart people. I think Forest Gump might say this better that I did.

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