With growing leaders as part of our mission at Gunn Ranch Academy, I was delighted to learn about Leader Garden Legacy, a company dedicated to cultivating children’s unique leadership qualities.
As I explored this company’s website, I learned that they they offer tools for “growing” individual, family, school, community and business leadership gardens, which is the metaphoric theme of their program. For review we worked through U.N.I.Q.U.E. KIDS: Growing My Leadership Garden paperback for ages 5-12 ($18.95), and U.N.I.Q.U.E.: Growing the Leader Within paperback for teens and adults ($18.95) .
Accompanying materials included:
*A physical paperback book of exercises for the teen/adult book: The Leadership Garden Guidebook ($18.95)
*PDF downloads of U.N.I.Q.U.E. KIDS Activity Guide & My Leadership Garden Journal ($8.95)
Whew! That’s a lot of stuff! How do they all fit together?
Well, for kids 5-12 the 8 chapter, paperback storybook with beautiful illustrations has the option to purchase an MP3 audiobook to listen along (which has beeps to clue page turns). At the end of each chapter of the book is a set of discussion questions. For more in-depth study, a parent/teacher may purchase and download a PDF activity guide of printable materials to nurture active participation with the lessons. Along with the activity guide comes a Leadership Garden Journal which can be printed for the student to write his thoughts, draw pictures or express his thoughts on paper however he sees fit to record his own U.N.I.Q.U.E. leadership journey!
For a family with teens, and/or for the adult/parent to work alongside their 5-12 year old’s materials, the teen/adult version of the storybook is the same story with the author’s personal experiences interwoven into the pages. This book is also offered as an MP3 download to listen to as an audiobook for those who prefer this format. Just as the kid’s book can be further explored by use of the activity guide, the teen/adult version has a guidebook to work through with further discussion of concepts, a place for notes, and lines to answer discussion questions for further development of ideas introduced in the story.
So what exactly is a leadership garden?
The leadership garden is an analogy for “planting a garden” of U.N.I.Q.U.E. attributes of leadership in our lives:
while ridding our gardens of the “toxic” weeds of negative thinking.
The book teaches the reader to plant and nurture new seeds of leadership potential as they read about Hugh, a little lost sheep full of fear and cowardice, who wonders onto the Leadership Farm only to meet up with farmers Leda and Aristotle and a border collie named Annabelle who takes him to visit the rest of the farm animals who each have a name and a specific lesson to teach. Little by little, Hugh learns how to be non-judgmental, not enable, use empathy, prune gossip, eliminate blame and eradicate victimization to plant and tend to his own leadership garden and make it thrive and flourish.
Together the materials create a full leadership study for an individual, family, or group to use with multiple ages!
Growing Leadership Gardens on Gunn Ranch
Living on a ranch has blessed us with much opportunity to take care of our animal friends and grow and nurture lots of plants, gardens, wildlife, and many other wonderful things that God has given us to care for. I was very excited about the farm and garden theme as well as doing a study on leadership!
My plans were to read through the adult book, then pass it on to my older girls 16 and 12, to read through. As we read through the kids book as a read aloud together with Levi, my 7 year old, we could then work on the activities appropriate for ages.
I skimmed through the adult book myself in a couple of evenings. I also looked through the downloaded material which were no problem at all to download and find on my desktop. I listened through one chapter each of the MP3’s for informational purposes because we really don’t listen to audiobooks since we don’t travel like we used to. They were pleasant to listen to, but a bit annoying to use because they don’t have breaks for the chapters, so you have to write down the digital number you are at when you stop listening and try and fast forward to pick up where you left off.
A few years ago when we were on the road a lot we would have definitely utilized the MP3’s! The kids audiobook would be a great tool for budding readers, but my 7 year old is not at that level at this time.
I printed off the activity guide and the first few pages of the journal for my 7 year old to work through with sisters looking on and encouraging him. I figured the older girls and I could read through the upper level guide together and have our own discussion once we were finished with Levi, maybe while he worked on his journal. Sounded like a good plan of action!
So this is where it gets interesting. I had already read/skimmed through the adult version of the story, and thought the story was cute and clever with the animals involved. I enjoyed the literary analogies and found the parable quite creative. While the program wasn’t quite what I had anticipated, just about everything that comes through our ranch house door is tweaked and molded to fit into the Gunn Ranch Academy Adventure uniquely so.
While I prefer our character-studies to come directly from the Bible, I don’t have a problem adding scripture and apologetics to thoughtful and creative materials. My kids’ leadership gardens have been planted long ago, and have been growing and being nurtured already, so I anticipated this study taking a bit of a different path for us.
My 12 year old actually grabbed the teen book and started reading before our first session with Levi. She said she really liked the story, and thought the animals were cute. She thought the concepts being taught sounded like an “obvious” therapy session for abused and bullied children, but the metaphor was cool. She said the “psychology lessons”, vocabulary and phrases sounded like they came straight from a college textbook and kind of overwhelmed the story and were a little hard to follow to understanding. She also expressed her relief and gratitude that she doesn’t have to go to public school with “bullies, pitiful victims, injustice, lack of integrity, kids with low self-esteem and kids wasting their time gossiping because they don’t have anything else in their lives to focus on.”
Hmmm, so I’d say her comprehension is right on, LOL.
For our first read-aloud session, I gathered the materials and kids at the table. I began to read the kids story book. They all commented that it was a nice little book with pretty pictures. They acted out and personified the characters as they met them, just as expected. 🙂
Levi, my 7 year old, never ceases to amaze me anymore than my 12 and 16 year old girls. As I read about little Hugh the lamb being scared and running away from the circle of coyotes who had his mama surrounded , Levi started running around the room wildly shooting imaginary coyotes *bang* *bang* “get away from my Momma,” *bang* *bang* “ok Mom, no worries. I got em all, but let’s hang one in the tree to scare the others away just in case they come back.” (OK, so hard to get the “cowardice” point across to this kid who has spent nights helping his family protect our livestock from coyotes,LOL.)
My 16 year old, on the other hand, commented “Oh my gosh, that’s TERRIBLE! Gonna scare those poor little city kids to death!! That’s very traumatic for little kids to read about that haven’t lived on a ranch and understand the cycle of life and the way a ranch and wild habitat with predators works!”
All the while my 12 year old says, “Huh? Where was their Great Pyrenees and why didn’t they get on their horses and chase the coyotes away? Where was the shepherd? Where was the donkey? Why didn’t they have a llama? Who was suppose to be protecting the flock?”
Yep, my kiddos pretty much recreated the whole story, LOL. All of our animals have their own unique personalities, which made it fun, and interesting to relate our livestock and pets to the ones in the story!!
We actually ended up reading most of the book in three sessions. My 7 year old really couldn’t answer any of the discussion questions at the end of the chapters. He did enjoy some of the activities, but didn’t grasp the concepts they were trying to instill (that he didn’t already know on his level). It’s hard to teach a concept that the child can’t relate to, and totally doesn’t understand. He pretty much stayed stuck on “WHY would anyone run away if their momma was in danger?”
With every new concept I tried to break down and explain in words he would understand, he had a difficult time grasping “why you would let those weeds grow?” He plants and tends to his very own real garden, and could relate to the physical part of pulling the weeds and reaping the harvest since he does that pretty much all on his own. He did enjoy learning and discussing about the “leader” the plant puts out. He will be watching and identifying those in his own garden now.
He used the journal pages to draw pictures. Mostly pictures of shooting the coyotes and saving his Mom, the dog Annabelle, our goats butting horns, our cow standing in the garden eating his plants (which really happened at our ranch, LOL), our roosters and hens and our geese. And after the chapter on geese, he brought in our “golden” goose eggs to the incubator to hatch, LOL.
I have thought so much about this. There are certainly character issues we work on everyday. I tried to put some of those things we struggle with in place, but it just didn’t coincide with the concepts the book was trying to discuss. He just enjoyed the story at face value (aside from “all the weird words” he didn’t understand), and enjoyed visualizing and creating stories with his own livestock and ranch pets. But I’ll bet a psychologist would have fun evaluating his pictures in a therapy session, LOL!
The discussion questions were all things we have covered in the past so pretty much were a good review and a bit of a re-evaluation of sorts. Many of the questions were completely irrelevant to our learning sessions since my kids, especially my older two, already have valid goals, have a mission statement for their lives, and couldn’t come up with any answers to several of them. Some of the questions did give us a springboard to be thankful for what we have and to further outline future goals, as well as discuss specific situations with friends and circumstances.
My girls and I agreed that the concepts and principles the author was trying to cover in the book were difficult to identify and single out without the guidebook and discussion questions at the end of each chapter. They felt like the vocabulary and psychological principles kinda muddied-up the grassy pastures of the farm, without really lending themselves to the creativity of the story.
My 16 year old described the book as a “Parabolic Therapy Session for Bullied and Underprivileged Disturbed Schoolchildren”. She also said it sounded like and used many “humanistic” words and values.
I can see where this book would be great to read in public school classrooms, as it seems to meet what I would suppose the government would allow, and it meets many Oregon standards for education. It would especially be good for bully prevention sessions which I think is a hot topic in public schools these days.
I personally don’t feel the book really covers “leadership” per-say, as much as it is a self-help book for building confidence, self-esteem, redirecting abused or underprivileged kids; it is a great book for self-discovery, working on setting personal goals, learning about your own unique personality and how to respond to different types of stimuli with desirable results. These are all things it takes to rise above the “norm”, which in a sense is what it also takes to be a leader.
While I don’t agree with some of the concepts and ideas brought forth, I believe this book is written from the heart; it’s a success story about a courageous woman who worked through a difficult, yet meaningful journey, didn’t give up, and was gracious enough to share all that she learned and discovered along the way. She has chosen not only to use her gifts and talents to share with us that they might help us in our own journeys, but has also adapted them to reach out to our children: tomorrow’s leaders. THAT is what leadership (and love) is all about. Thank you to Debra J. Slover for your courage and your legacy. You can come visit our ranch anytime!
Enjoy your Journey!
**Leadership Garden Legacy is offering the TOS Community a “Spring Special Discount” of 20% on all their Empowerment Tools. This is in addition to their already discounted Tool Kit bundles.
To receive your discount, enter the discount code: TOS-SS20D upon checkout. This is a limited time offer and the code will expire on May 31, 2013.**