When Penny lies crippled with rheumatism and worries about the spring planting, Ma Baxter says he spared Jody from the work for too long. Do you agree with her?
I think it depends entirely on your perspective. From Ma Baxter's perspective, she is absolutely right. More than anyone else she feels the fear of starvation as she knows it too well. She understands that Penny's weakness combined with Flag's destruction could lead to their utter ruin. From her perspective, Jody's love of nature and willingness to sacrifice to take care of Flag is evidence that he doesn't understand his own role in making sure the family has enough to eat. If Jody had been forced to deal with the work sooner, he would be more proficient and that would ease her worries about how things would turn out.
From Penny's perspective, he was probably right to allow Jody to nurture his love of the natural world and everything he finds so fascinating. He felt the same things when he was a boy and he knows the value of those memories and feelings. Penny is also a bit more confident that things will work out so he feels that Jody can afford to be a boy a bit longer before he has to become a man and forego all the things that he loved as a little boy.