The Mission of Motherhood ~ Chapter 8: Gardener of Souls

Mission of Motherhood

Continuing with my daughter’s book study on Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkston:

“I’m so glad that you’ve joined me today. Let’s get started!

Our study this week builds upon last week’s topic of being a “Strong Friend” to our children. Once we have formed close relationships with our children, we then have the opportunity to positively influence their lives. We can do this in either intentional or unintentional ways. In this chapter, Sally gives us some areas to think about if we want to be intentional in cultivating our “garden of children”.

Cultivating Our Garden of Children

I love Sally’s analogy of mother as cultivator.

Children do not accidentally become mature adults of strong character, great faith, gracious relational skills, effective leadership qualities, and sharp intellects. God’s design includes the presence of a hands-on gardener, a mother, to tend and cultivate their hearts, souls, minds and relationships. As a garden cannot flourish without a gardener, neither can a child reach his or her potential without someone committed to careful cultivation. Just as a garden without a gardener will eventually go to seed and be covered over with weeds and debris, a child whose growth is unsupervised or left to chance will likely grow wild and undisciplined or stunted and unfruitful.

Seeing myself as a gardener is helpful to me as I think of my mission as a mother. After all, I want more for my children than just getting them to adulthood. I want them to thrive. I want them to grow up confident and civilized. I want them prepared to live as abundantly as possible. In order for that to happen, I need to do a little intentional “gardening”. (p. 142)

Mission of Motherhood

Truly, each child we are blessed with in our family is unique with God-given personality traits, strengths and weaknesses. We don’t choose those things, but it is our privilege to work with what is there and help bring it to its potential.

Cultivating our children’s lives should never stem from pretentiousness. We shouldn’t try to “make” them into something that WE want them to be so that we can show them off. Instead, we should, to the best of our ability, equip our children to interact well with others and make a difference in the world once they leave our homes.

Here are four areas for us to consider as we think about cultivating our children’s lives:

Cultivating Real Skills

Helping our children to develop skills that will serve them the rest of their lives has always seemed important to [Clay and me]. Having observed people in many different settings, we realized that those who felt competent in at least one or two areas seemed to have an edge in life. The confidence they gained from knowing what to do in one area carried over into other areas, including the ability to reach out and serve others. Having observed this, we were determined to give our children this kind of confidence by providing sufficient instruction and practice for them to perform certain tasks well. (p. 143)

Like Sally and her husband, Dan and I try to incorporate real skills into the daily activity of our home. For our family, this was one of two primary reasons we pursued living on acreage in the country. Living on a farm provides many “built-in” opportunities for learning skills together. We have seen our children grow in confidence as they learn to many things from stacking firewood to making salsa to feeding baby animals to tending sick livestock.

Mission of Motherhood

Dan teaches Abigail how to make salsa

What the skills are isn’t really all that significant and will vary from family to family. After all, not everyone lives on a farm! 🙂 Skills can be practical things like knowing how to balance a bank account, mow the lawn, bake bread or organize a home or things like taking photographs, playing a musical instrument or knitting blankets.

The common denominator in all of the above skills is that they are useful for real life or useful to serve others. This is a subtle, but yet an important distinction to consider when we are choosing activities for our children. Are the skills that we invest most of our family’s time, money and energy into ones that our children can use later in life?

Helping With Chores

Jonathan learns how to stack firewood properly

There are several very significant things that are accomplished when we make learning skills a priority in our homes:

Providing our children with real skills not only expands their interests and gives them confidence, but it also provides them with constructive ways to use their free time. Teaching skills (or learning them together!) has the added advantage of teaching them how to learn. that is, when we help our children acquire special skills, we are also preparing them mentally for acquiring additional skills on their own. As a bonus, developing skills together helps solidify family relationships. (p. 143)

Cultivating Appropriate Life Experiences

Exposing children to many different life experiences – within the context of family relationships and parental teaching – is essential to broadening their understanding, their interests, and their compassion. If we want to train our children to help bring God’s kingdom into the world, we need to prepare them by letting them come along with us as we reach out to others. (p. 146)

Secular education prides itself on providing these types of experiences to children. They promote “tolerance” of every belief and try to enrich children’s lives with stories and videos about different cultures. The difference between these types of artificially constructed experiences and actual life experiences that you share with your children is this – when you are the one providing these experiences, you can pass on your view about the world and how you can show hands-on just how you hope your children will respond to the people in it.

Part of cultivating our children’s life experience is helping them to understand that not everyone lives the same way that we do. Exposing children to different cultures, living conditions, worldviews and opinions should be done in a careful way, but it should definitely not be neglected.

Taking children different places to meet different types of people does not have to be expensive. While some families have been blessed financially and can afford long trips, others can only stay near home. But once your eyes are open to local and inexpensive opportunities, you will be amazed at the things you can find right in your own neighborhood to help your children grow in their understanding of the world. Some ideas include visiting your local historical museum, serving as volunteers at a local nursing home, visiting a local (free) nature center, attending local school productions of plays and musicals or being involved in 4-H.

4H Fair

Visiting our local science museum and reading about the evolution of the mastadon

I often talk to other parents who take this point to an extreme, though. They are very concerned about providing their children with “quality life experiences”, such as expensive trips, inclusion in all the “right” clubs/groups, summer camp, sleepovers, a jam-packed activity schedule, etc. But sometimes these pursuits can be to the detriment of family unity or push aside other important things like Biblical training. Offering life experience does not necessarily equate to helping out children check items off their ”bucket lists” – rather, it is a way of living life in which we keep our eyes open to the things and people around us and learn how to fully interact with life!

New Experiences

After reading many books about boats, my children were excited to try a rowboat for the first time and learn about working with or against a current.

Cultivating Manners and Graciousness

Sally says:

I am convinced that mothers have a lot to do with the manners of their children. And yes, I am really talking about yet another set of real-life skills. No child I know is naturally polite and thankful and prone to take the initiative. No child instinctively knows what to do in a social setting. And yet a child who doesn’t know how to act with others will suffer socially the rest of his or her life! Job interviews, professional interactions, marriage and family relationships, and friendships are all enhanced by politeness and graciousness or suffer because of thoughtlessness or rudeness.

Cultivating our children’s manners and gracious attitudes not only makes them more pleasant to live with, but it also helps give our children a platform of confidence on which to build their future lives. (p. 149)

There are many ways to train our children in graciousness, and most of them are very small things – writing a thank you note after receiving a gift, welcoming visitors into our home with a smile and an offer to carry their things inside, volunteering to hold someone’s baby when you can tell they need a break – even just smiling and looking at people’s faces when they’re speaking!

This is one of the areas of raising children that is very easy to overlook, but also very easy to incorporate into their training – if we ourselves have a servant’s heart. {Related posts: Teaching Respect for the ElderlyRaising Children Who Serve}

Serving The Elderly

My children making new friends with some of the elderly brethren in a new church area.

Cultivating Appetites for Excellence

Is exposing our children to ”the finest” art, music and literature really necessary for them to have fulfilling lives? You may argue that it is not…and you may be right.


Making an intentional effort to come alongside our children and help them to develop tastes and appetites that are edifying, uplifting and God-honoring is a worthy use of our time, because there is so much mediajunk out there waiting to be consumed. I think that sometimes parents let children decide for themselves at too young an age what is appropriate and what isn’t, stating that a young child’s “personal preference” must be taken into account. But how do young children know what is high quality unless they are exposed to it? How do their minds learn to stretch and grow unless they are challenged beyond what “everyone” is listening to?

You may think of “the arts” as either high-browed and stuffy or something that requires large amounts of money to participate in. This is simply not true. There are ways to help develop children’s appetites for “good things” that are neither expensive or pretentious.


Many towns and cities offer free outdoor concerts in the summer that showcase a wide variety of music. Local high school concerts are usually free. If you are blessed to live near a university, you have access to many amazing free concerts! Our local civic orchestra offers special concerts for students at a steeply discounted price.

A few members of our local homeschool group attended this concert last month. (Photo courtesy of Diana W.)


Local art shows or craft fairs are usually free to attend and can give children the inspiration to get involved in art. Again, local community colleges and universities often have student work on display for free. Large-format art books can be borrowed from the library, displayed at home and enjoyed – all for free!


Helping children develop a love of great literature does not need to cost anything except time. It takes times to research good books and it takes time to read to our children. Building a home library of quality books does not need to cost a great deal of money, either, but it can make an enormous difference in our children’s lives.

But what if you did not grow up with a wide range of experiences yourself and don’t know what is actually “good”? Well, you could look on the bright side and realize how blessed you are to have the opportunity to learn right along with your children and share in the excitement of new things!

Sally says:

As we practice nurturing their minds, the natural result is that our own tastes are refined as well. Exploring the worlds of literature, art, and music with my children – and doing the research to discover what to explore with them – has certainly broadened my education in these areas, and I have relished the chance to learn along with them. (p. 153)

I was raised in a very musical family. However, I had less exposure to art, poetry and great literature, so I’ve had to learn about these things along with my children. It has been an exciting journey! I’ve shared some of our beginning discoveries as we’ve delved into these areas in these blog posts: musicartpoetryand literature. They may give you some ideas to get started with as well!


The way you tend your children’s lives will depend on your particular interests, skills, and convictions – as well as on the needs and personalities of each child. The overall benefit of your intentional “gardening” is that your children will blossom in mind, heart and soul because you took the time not only to love and protect them but to cultivate their skills, experiences, relationships and appetites.


“Blessed are the children whose mothers garden in the soil of their souls. The fruit they bear will not only serve them in the future, but a whole generation will be beautified and enriched!” – Sally Clarkson

Now it’s your turn!

I’d love to hear about something that you and your husband have chosen to cultivate in your children – a skill that you are teachingan experience that you’ve intentionally carved out for them or a habit in manners that you are working on. You are also welcome to share a favorite quote or your answer to one of the study questions from this week’s chapter, too.

Thank you for being here today! We will continue our study next Monday, December 16th, with Chapter 9: Keeper of the Domain.

To view all posts in this book study, click HERE.


“The Mission of Motherhood” Discussion Group Kick-off!
In “Mission of Motherhood Book Club”

The Mission of Motherhood ~ Chapter 5: The Discipling Mother
In “Mission of Motherhood Book Club”

Mothering Monday: You’re a barometer! (Plus, a new book club)
In “Mother Life”

I Would Love To Hear Your Comments


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