Homeschooled teenager learns why people like to shop
by Kimberly Gallagher
~ Make Your Own Herbal Medicine! ~
I had been working with Annika for about three years when
I suggested we use our time together to go harvest stinging
nettles. Annika is a thirteen-year-old homeschooled young
woman, and she was pretty tentative about my idea.
“Stinging nettle?” she asked me, with the idea
implied, “you want to go and pick stinging nettle
leaves, on purpose??”
Now, she knew I had been studying herbalism, and we had
done some other projects together such as making dandelion
flower cookies and fritters, so she did agree to go, just
reluctantly. I think my enthusiasm carried her along.
We drove a ways to my favorite nettle collecting spot –
an open meadow in a forest of beautiful, old maple trees.
She was enthralled by the beauty and magic of the place,
and astounded by the number of nettle plants stretching
out before us – a blanket of them beneath the trees.
We’d worn our long pants and long sleeved shirts,
and now we put on our gardening gloves and began to pick,
I with my baby in a pack on my back.
After picking the first leaf without getting stung, Annika
gained confidence and was soon picking happily. I told her
how I had drunk nettle tea all through my pregnancies and
to help with my milk flow in the early years of my babies’
lives. I raved about nettle soup and how I put nettle leaves
in all my recipes that called for greens in the early spring.
I talked about how they were full of vitamins and minerals,
and especially high in iron. And, mostly we were quiet,
just picking nettle leaves together in this special, secret
a time, I had to stop picking and nurse my baby. Annika,
however, didn’t stop as I thought she would. She kept
picking. She was actually enjoying it! My heart leapt.
I talked to her about how this is something women have
been doing for centuries, how gathering is in our blood.
Yes, I could see she felt it too, the rightness of it. She
gathered and talked to me while I nursed Hailey. “Hey,”
she said, “maybe that’s why women today like
to shop so much. It reminds them of this.”
What an amazing thought. I had never put that together
before, but it did indeed make sense. This experience with
Annika is only one of the magical experiences I have had
doing herbal projects with kids.
I find that homeschooling and herbalism are very natural
partners. Herbal projects form an experiential base for
in depth studies in the areas of science, math, social studies,
and on a fundamental level, basic life skills. Beyond this,
herbal projects help connect children with the natural world
in powerful, empowering ways.
After we had gathered those nettles, I sent Annika home
with a recipe for cream of nettle soup. The soup provided
a very simple way for her to use and taste what she had
gathered right away. This is the place to begin with your
homeschool student. Pick something to gather and a project
you can do to immediately use what you bring home. This
kind of experiential education will then provide a basis
for all kinds of deeper studies. I suggest sticking with
the experiential level for quite some time.
My son, Rowan, has grown up in our herbal family. Like
Hailey he has gone on harvesting missions from his earliest
days outside the womb (and even quite a few when he was
still in the womb!). I have a picture of us picking red
clover in a field when he was just a month old and riding
in a sling on my front.
Now, at six, Rowan can identify the plants we pick often
– red clover, stinging nettle, all of the edible berries
around here (and there are many in the northwest), and many
more. He is also a help when we go harvesting now, pulling
on his gloves and happily filling his nettle bag or blackberry
Rowan and my latest adventure together was digging burdock
root. We tried to dig all the way down to the end of the
root without breaking it. He had his own child sized shovel
and I had my full sized one and we dug and dug, carefully,
far from the root. We dug so deep that I had to reach my
whole arm and head into the hole to reach the bottom and
dig with my little hand trowel. Still we didn’t get
to the root tip. I kept asking Rowan, “Should I just
break it? Are you tired of this?” “NO!”
was his firm answer again and again.
He wanted to get to the bottom of the root. He became my
cheerleader since he could no longer reach the bottom of
the hole. Finally, anti-climatically, I broke the root off
by accident. We were disappointed, but also astounded by
how deep we had dug. This root was taller than 15-month-old
Now we brought that root home and washed it and cut it
up and stir-fried some of it for dinner. Rowan was able
to taste it that very night. We poured vinegar over some,
and will strain and taste it in a few weeks. We also made
burdock pickles, which Rowan doesn’t care for, but
John (my husband) and I think are divine.
Rowan is growing in the sophistication of his learning
with each herbal experience. Now he is learning to identify
plants, asking questions like are the leaves opposite or
alternate branching? What colors are the stems, the flowers,
and the underside of the leaves? How many petals do the
flowers have? When do they bloom?
He is taking a more and more active role in the gathering
process and in the processing of the plants once they are
back at home. I imagine that, in a traditional society,
these are the kinds of experiences young people would have
on a daily basis as a very natural part of life. This is
how they would learn “science.” So please, don’t
underestimate the learning that is occurring through these
working with another young teen-age girl right now, too.
We had dug burdock together a week before Rowan and I went
and I sent her home with the pickle recipe. She loved them!
Then, the next time we met, we made root beer together from
dried roots – burdock, sassafras, and licorice.
How amazing is that, for a young person to learn that root
beer is actually made from roots, and that it was originally
a medicinal, tonic sort of beverage, rather than junk food.
Not only did Rachel learn about the origin of a product
she was used to buying in the store, she became empowered
to make it herself from common plants she was coming to
Now, once homeschooling students have had some experiences
seeing, touching, smelling, tasting, even listening to the
plants, they are going to be inspired to learn more. Just
look for those moments when their curiosity is peaked and
begin offering them resources.
These experiences open the doorway for deeper studies in
botany, in ecosystems…
Where do the plants grow and why? Where can we find the
plants we want to gather?
and in chemistry…
What are the constituents of the plants that make them
effective as medicine or for nourishment? What makes some
plants poisonous? How do we prepare the plants for our various
Processing the plants through cooking opens the doorway
for practical applications of math.
Then, as we learn about how people have used the plants
historically we move into the realm of social studies.
Each of these subjects can be studied in whatever depth
is appropriate for your child.
So, how do you get started?
Well, I suggest, come spring, you gather some dandelion
flower petals and add them to your favorite sugar cookie
recipe. It really is as easy as that.
Other beginning herbal projects:
Dandelion fritters or pancakes
Gathering plants for a wild salad (especially including
Plantain or burdock leaf band-aids
Cream of nettle soup
Rose petal honey
Digging roots for stir-fry
Gathering herbs for tea.
If you get hooked after trying those dandelion flower cookies,
please do take the time to learn about sustainable harvesting
methods and remember to always give thanks for the plants
you’re gathering and the gifts they’re bringing
to your lives.
Medicine Making Kit will be an invaluable resource to
help you gain confidence in your own herbal skills so that
you can pass them on to your children.
Future projects to consider after gaining a little confidence
and experience are practically endless.
Slightly More Advanced Projects:
Making your own:
Healing salve or cream
House cleaning products
Plant an edible flower and herb garden in your yard
For me, herbalism has become a way of life. It is at the
heart of our family’s life together. The passion that
John and I have for herbalism makes it a natural homeschooling
activity for our children.
Perhaps you will not take it as far as we have, perhaps
you will just learn a couple of plants and do some fun projects
with your children. At whatever level you and your children
engage with the plants, I promise you surprising and richly
fulfilling experiences that deepen your connections to each
other and the natural world.
Medicine Making Kit (everything you need to make your
own salve and tincture and a free herbal medicine making
home study course)
Wise by Susun Weed. Wonderful, entertaining, and detailed
descriptions of a few common plants and many simple recipes.
4. The Wild, Wild Cookbook: A Guide for Young Wild-Food
Foragers by Jean Craighead George. Descriptions and habitats
of common, useful plants and great recipes.
5. Shanleya’s Quest by Tom Elpel: Fun story that teaches
basic botany to children.
6. Botany in a Day by Tom Elpel: More in depth, simple botany
learning guide. Both of Elpel’s books are available
Gallagher, M.Ed. homeschools her budding herbalists,
Rowan (6) and Hailey Wren (16 months). Kimberly is a certified
teacher and formerly worked in alternative schools in Washington
State. She is currently apprenticing in the Wise Woman Tradition
at Ravencroft Garden in Monroe, WA. Kimberly is co-creator
of the Herbal
Medicine Making Kit.
She and her husband John started LearningHerbs
Herbal Medicine Making Kit
Wouldn’t it be great if you could make your own herbal
remedies…immediately?!? Herbal Medicine Making Kit
includes everything you need to make your own healing herbal
salve and Echinacea tincture. Get your first herbal creations
going in minutes!
Includes the Roots and Branches Herbal Home Study Course
for free. The course take a couple weeks and uses Susun
Weed’s Healing Wise as a required text!
Medicine Making Kit is an awesome place to start if
you’re thinking about more serious herbal study or
you simply always wanted to make an herbal remedy.
About the creators of the Herbal Medicine Making Kit:
We are the
Gallagher family: John, Kimberly, Rowan and Hailey.
We live in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains in the
We recommend in this kit only remedies and recipes we use
ourselves. We believe it is so important for families to
be in control of their day-to-day healthcare. We want to
spread knowledge that will help people stay healthy and
empower them with skills to treat common illnesses naturally.
John Gallagher is a Community Centered Herbalist, trained
at RavenCroft Garden, and workes at Wilderness Awareness
School, where he teaches herbal medicine with the Wilderness
Awareness Residential Program and teaches about wild plants
in the Puget Sound region via the Kamana Naturalist Training
Program, a home study program that has reached thousands
The Gallaghers combined their knowledge of how to learn
herbal medicine along with expertise in distance learning
to create The Herbal
Medicine Making Kit and the Roots and Branches Herbal
Home Study Course. This is a family run, handcrafted business.
We all take part in the fun, even baby Hailey. She cheers
us on while we put together the herbal kits. Come and learn
What you will make…
I. Echinacea Tincture. (4 bottles)
The kit includes:
Dried Echinacea root
4 colbolt blue dropper bottles
Labels for your finished tinctures
A labeled jar to make your tincture in
Cheesecloth to strain your tincture when completed
A tincture is an extract of an herb in an alcohol base.
Echinacea is a great immune system stimulant for when you
feel a cold coming on and an excellent anti-bacterial for
first aid situations.
II. Herbal healing salve. (4 tins & 2 jars)
The kit includes:
Salve herbs (a mix of comfrey, calendula, St. John’s
wort, and plantain)
4 metal salve tins
2 salve jars
Lavender essential oil
Labels for your finished tins and jars
Cheesecloth to strain your salve when completed
This salve is excellent for cuts, scrapes, bumps, bruises,
itches, inflammations, diaper rash, chapped lips and more.
It’s my FAVORITE recipe and it works great!
III. The kit also includes a CD-ROM containing a beautiful
full color manual that walks you through home medicine making
step by step. There is a photo to accompany EVERY STEP of
the tincture and salve making process.
We are with you through the entire experience.
The manual also introduces you to how to begin learning
herbal medicine. It includes information on all the
herbs in the kit and how to use your remedies.
~ Make Your Own Herbal Medicine! ~
CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE
An Herbal Adventure Game
A cooperative board game that teaches edible & medicinal
Wildcraft! includes a 20x20 inch game board, instructions,
4 player pieces, 52 plant cards, 52 trouble cards, 25
cooperative cards, and a spinner. It also comes with a
downloadable story to enhance the story of the game.