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[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 117 – Creating a Curriculum with Herbal Roots zine

Many people have loved using Herbal Roots zine for teaching their children about herbs over the years but did you know that you can develop an entire school curriculum around the zine?

Today I’m going to show you how!

Grab yourself a cup of tea, a notebook and a pen, and get comfortable as this is a long one!

Why use Herbal Roots zine as the foundation of your studies?

Developing a curriculum for homeschooling children can be a daunting task! On the surface, it seems like it would be fairly easy to put together curriculum to create all the school basics but when you start looking at all the options available, it can become quite daunting!

If you want to give your children an education that includes empowering them to take charge of their health, Herbal Roots zine is the perfect choice to build that foundation on!

Not only will you be teaching your children about herbs but there are many subjects that can be teased out of an issue of the zine.

Right up front, Herbal Roots zine covers science with botany, as well as art. There’s also home economics, math, reading, writing, vocabulary, and spelling. From there it’s easy to build upon these subjects to create a complete curriculum.

How to get started

The first thing you’ll want to do is decide on the herbs you want to teach your children about this year. There are many ways to choose these, and there are over 130 issues of Herbal Roots zine, which might seem overwhelming.

So let’s break it down further.

First, will you be teaching for the entire year? Or are you only committing to the first semester?

How many herbs to you want to cover in the course of the time you are teaching? Do you want to go slow and cover one herb a month? Or pick up the pace with one every two weeks? I don’t recommend adding any more than that unless your student is middle or high school aged and very committed to learning about herbs. Then you may want to cover one herb a week though that can be a bit intense.

Next, decide on a theme. While it’s perfectly fine to just choose a handful of herbs that strike your fancy, you’ll find it easier to tie the year together if you stick with a theme. Let me supply you with a few theme ideas to get you started:

Kitchen Herbs – This is a great beginner theme because you are starting with herbs you are familiar with that you probably already have in your kitchen pantry. You could focus strictly on herbs that are used for spices and flavoring, or dive deeper into herbs that are used as food.

Spices:

Apple (cider vinegar), Basil, Bay Laurel, Black Pepper, Cacao, Cardamom, Cayenne, Cinnamon, Clove, Coriander, Cumin, Fennel, Garlic, Ginger, Horseradish, Kelp, Lemon, Mustard, Nutmeg, Onion, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Turmeric, Vanilla

Food:

Apple, Black Walnut, Blackberry, Cacao, Cayenne, Cranberry, Kelp, Lemon, Maitake, Mulberry, Onion, Oyster Mushroom, Peach, Raspberry,

Backyard Herbs – Another great beginner theme is to focus on the plants that grow in your back yard or neighborhood. These will vary depending on where you live but you will probably be able to find at least 9 if you are focusing on one herb per month.

Black Walnut, Burdock, Chickweed, Chicory, Cleavers, Dandelion, Forsythia, Goldenrod, Ground ivy, Honeysuckle, Mullein, Oak, Plantain, Poke, Prunella, Queen Anne’s Lace, Ragweed, Red Clover, Rose, Shepherd’s Purse, Speedwell, Thuja, Violet, Wild Lettuce, Yarrow, Yellow Dock

Beginner Herbs – If you’re brand new to herbs and want to take it really easy, here are 26 great beginner herbs. I have created two beginner online courses around these herbs, the New to Herbs course and The Next Step course.

Aloe, Burdock, Calendula, Chamomile, Chickweed, Chicory, Cinnamon, Cleavers, Dandelion, Echinacea, Elderberry, Eucalyptus, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Marshmallow, Milky Oats, Mullein, Peppermint, Pine, Plantain, Rose, Saint John’s Wort, Stinging Nettles, Violet, Willow, Yarrow

Mint Family Herbs – If you want to have a focus on botany, choosing a plant family to focus on  can create a great theme. Mint family herbs are often very familiar and often found in the kitchen due to their digestive actions.

Basil, Bergamot, Catnip, Ground Ivy, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Motherwort, Peppermint, Prunella, Rosemary, Sage, Skullcap, Thyme, Wood Betony, Vitex

Aster Family Herbs – If you want to have a focus on botany, choosing a plant family to focus on  can create a great theme. Aster family herbs are very commonly found in the back yard and are a great starting point.

Boneset, Burdock, Calendula, Chamomile, Chicory, Coltsfoot, Dandelion, Echinacea, Elecampane, Feverfew, Goldenrod, Gravel Root, Gumweed, Milk Thistle, Mugwort, New England Aster, Ragweed, Spilanthes, Wild Lettuce, Yarrow

Herbal First Aid – Have a budding nurse or doctor in your household? Or are mishaps a part of your daily life? You might like a herbal first aid theme!

Aloe, Burdock, Calendula, California Poppy, Cayenne, Chamomile, Comfrey, Crampbark, Eucalyptus, Goldenrod, Gumweed, Jewelweed, Lavender, Milky Oats, Mullein, Oak, Peach, Peppermint, Plantain, Cottonwood, Prunella, Saint John’s Wort, Shepherd’s Purse, Skullcap, Speedwell, Spilanthes, Usnea, Wild Lettuce, Wood Betony, Yarrow, Ginger, Wild Cherry, Willow

Herbs for Stress and Anxiety – Who couldn’t benefit from learning about herbs for stress and anxiety, given our current events? These herbs are all calming and soothing to the nervous system, making this a great theme to study.

Borage, California Poppy, Catnip, Chamomile, Crampbark, Hops, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Milky Oats, Motherwort, New England Aster, Passionflower, Rose, Saint John’s Wort, Skullcap, Valerian, Wild Cherry, Wild Lettuce, Wood Betony

Cold and Flu Herbs – Building your immune system and learning to fight off viruses is very helpful, especially as we are starting to head back into the cold and flu season in the midst of a pandemic. This theme will help you prepare to fight off viruses.

Astragalus, Boneset, Cayenne, Echinacea, Elderberry, Eucalyptus, Forsythia, Garlic, Ginger, Goldenrod, Ground Ivy, Honeysuckle, Lavender, Lemon, Mustard, Peppermint, Prunella, Rose, Rosemary, Sage, Spilanthes, Thyme, Willow

Herbal Trees – We often forgot about the tall plants – the trees – but they are a great source of herbal medicine! Why not dedicate a year to learning about the medicinal uses of trees?

Apple, Bay Laurel, Birch, Black Walnut, Cacao, Cinnamon, Clove, Cottonwood, Eucalyptus, Ginkgo, Hawthorn, Lemon, Mulberry, Nutmeg, Oak, Peach, Pine, Sassafras, Slippery Elm, Thuja, Wild Cherry, Willow, Witch Hazel

Herbal Shrubs – Shrubby plants are another category that are often overlooked when we think of herbal medicine. There’s a lot of herbal medicine to be found in the shrubs.

Blackberry, Crampbark, Elder, Eleuthero, Forsythia, Honeysuckle, Poke, Raspberry, Rose, Sumac, Vitex

At-Risk / Endangered Species – I dedicated an entire year of the zine to this theme. If you want to teach conservation and the importance of cultivation, this would be a great theme to base your homeschool year on.

American Ginseng, Black Cohosh, Bloodroot, Blue Cohosh, Calamus, Echinacea, False Unicorn, Goldenseal, Osha, Pleurisy Root, Slippery Elm, Solomon’s Seal, Trillium, True Unicorn, Wild Yam

You’ve chosen a theme, now what?

Now that you’ve picked out a theme, and chosen about 9-18 herbs to learn about over the school year, it’s time to pull together your curriculum.

Let’s take a look at the subjects you’ll need to teach. Remember that these will vary depending on the age of your child so be sure to check your state requirements for teaching to fine tune your curriculum. To give you an idea, in my state (Illinois), the law recognizes the branches of education to be language arts, math, biological and physical sciences, social sciences, fine arts, and physical development and health.

Breaking that down further, you might come up with subjects similar to these:

Language arts – This can include reading (literature, short stories, poetry), writing, spelling, grammar

Science – Depending on the age, earth science, chemistry, botany, physics, astronomy

Social Studies/History – World history, local history, geography, sociology

Mathematics

Physical Education

Home Ec – Cooking, cleaning, sewing, shop, household management, nutrition, finances, child development, health

Art – History, drawing, painting, printing, dyeing, sculpture, dance

Music – Theory, singing, musical instrument

Now you’ll want to decide how to structure your curriculum. Which of these subjects can you tease out of an issue of Herbal Roots zine? Let’s take a look:

Language Arts

You can use the All About section to read all about the plant then use it for copy work. There is a glossary section that can be used for vocabulary words, or you can pull words out of the All About section to create a list. These sections could also be used to create sentences with mistakes in them – punctuation, grammar, etc. for them to correct.

The lore and poems can be used for short stories and poetry. Seek out other poetry about herbs through books such as Botanica Poetica and Materia Poetica by Sylvia Seroussi Chatroux and Among Flowers and Trees with the Poets: or, The Plant Kingdom in Verse: a Practical Cyclopaedia for Lovers of Flowers by Minnie Curtis Wait and Merton Channing Leonard.

In addition, whenever possible I link to story books that can be added to the curriculum depending on the herb and availability.

For older kids, you could add in some books about botanists such as Anna Atkins and Charles Darwin.

Science

This year could focus on botany and biology to learn about plant life. Have your children learn about the plant’s parts and if you have a live plant, examine one to see all the parts up close and personal when possible.

Books that make a great supplement for botany are Shanleya’s Quest 1 and Shanleya’s Quest 2 by Thomas Elpel, including their corresponding card games. If your child is a bit older, try out his Botany in a Day book. Tell him Herbal Roots zine sent you!

Sometimes in the craft section there are experiment style crafts such as making litmus tests from violets.

There is chemistry to be found in the recipe section if you care to dive into kitchen science.

Learning where the plants are native to and where they’ve naturalized can lead into discussions on geography.

Social Studies/History

While there’s not a lot of historical information in the zines, you can base your history for the year according to your child’s grade level and add in supplemental studies. If your child should be learning about the states, look at the state’s flower – violet is the state flower of many states including Illinois.

if studying native/endangered plants, you could learn about the geographic regions each grows in and study the history of that region.

If the plants come from Europe, Asia, Africa, or South America, study the history for those countries each month. Some great books that give an eye opening look at how the world is different from North America are Material World, Women in the Material World, and What the World Eats which can lead to some great conversations.

Mathematics

While there isn’t a solid math program in the zines, there are fractions and basic math skills in the recipes. You may wish to get a full blown math curriculum (Math-U-See, Life of Fred, Singapore, or Saxon) or go with a book such as Kitchen Math, STEAM Kids in the Kitchen: Hands-On Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, & Math Activities & Recipes for Kids, or Math in the Garden to supplement.

Physical Education

While working with herbs isn’t necessarily physical, if you take a daily walk outside to look at the plants, the walking can become part of the PE activity.

Home Economics

The recipes in the zines are a great basis for home economics, teaching cooking and medicine making.

Learning about herbs and how to use them for health issues helps to teach the importance of boosting the immune system and working with your body to ward off illnesses.

Sometimes in the craft section there are sewing crafts such as making eye pillows or a treasure bag.

Focus on the nutritional aspects of the herbs to learn about basic nutrition. Match that information up with what our bodies need and perhaps start a journal of human nutritional requirements and add the herbs to each requirement as you learn about them.

Art

Each issue encourages drawing the plant. There is also a coloring page to color the herb.

Often there are crafts to create a variety of art projects from sculpture to paper craft to painting. In my two beginner year long courses, there are year long art projects that include dyeing with the plants to create a functional and beautiful textile.

Music

Singing the song about each herb can lead into learning the song on a musical instrument and performing it for family. Or create additional verses. Or both.

How to use Herbal Roots zine on a daily basis

For a further break down on how to use the zine on a daily basis, check out my newest course, 30 Days, One Herb. This gives daily suggestions on how to use an issue of Herbal Roots zine throughout the month while studying about an herb. The course is free but there is an option to purchase it for $1 per day to help support the time and energy I’ve put into the course as well to help with the costs of running an online course website if you’re able to financially contribute.

Will you be homeschooling this year? Do you have a curriculum picked out or will you be putting together a curriculum to suit your family’s needs? I’d love to hear your plans and ideas in the comments!

4 Responses to “[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 117 – Creating a Curriculum with Herbal Roots zine”

  1. 1
    Yvie

    LOVE this idea! I wish my children were younger so that we could do this. Once college-bound kids hit high school, there’s less flexibility. 🙁 But we’ve enjoyed going through the material together over the last….several….years!

  2. 2
    Jane

    We are planning a year (at least) study using Herbal Roots. Thus was such a helpful article. Thank you!

  3. 3
    KristineBrown

    I’m glad you found it helpful!

  4. 4
    Nancy E Mills

    Just what I have been working on for the last 5 years – I’ve been creating a habitat for pollinators and trying to figure out how to get an education center going to teach how what is often called ‘weeds’ have nutritional value and environmental necessity.
    This is a great plan to engage the local school.


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