I say that I’ve been homeschooling our kids ever since my oldest was 2 (I was an over-achiever back then ;)). This year, for the first time ever, we sent one child to public school–that is a long story for another time. I am still homeschooling 3 out of 4 of our kids. I really enjoy being their teacher. I think that homeschooling on the farm was a great choice for our family.
My title of this post sounds a little bossy, saying “you should homeschool,” like you’re doing something wrong if you have not chosen to homeschool. That is not the message I am trying to send at all, so please don’t take it that way. I mean this gently–you should homeschool because it’s a GREAT EXPERIENCE–especially on a farm! I did not write this post as a judgmental piece against homesteaders whose kids ride the big yellow (orange?) bus or who attend a private school. There is no judgement seeping out of this post, I promise. Please let me share the reasons I enjoyed homeschooling on the farm:
1. Science lessons are readily available.
If you’re a Charlotte Mason-style homeschooler, you will appreciate the value of Nature Study. It is SO much easier to make Nature Study happen on a farm than it is in a neighborhood or city. In our current home, we have some frogs and large trees and cool bugs in our backyard, and that is pretty much it. On the farm we had 30 acres of all different kinds of tall trees, fields of grass, fruit trees, different soil types, lizards, frogs, and then of course all of our farm animals.
When I pulled out the Handbook of Nature Study (which is a THICK, wonderful resource book!), we could literally walk out into the yard and study the feathers of a bird (a chicken). We did a tree study with our Keepers of the Faith club, and we walked around our property and drew sketches of the trees. Then, we walked back to that same tree in a different season to see what it looked like. Our kids still remember that. The boys studied rabbit diseases with their 4H club, and learned how to care for a rabbit properly–that is science!
In a neighborhood, science activities are forced, at best. Urban homeschoolers have to travel outside of their neighborhood to see the things that homesteaders see outside of their back door every day. Kids in school don’t get the same great, hands-on early science experiences, either.
2. Farm chores can be shared by all.
There is a lot to do on a farm. There’s collecting and washing eggs, chopping and stacking and gathering firewood, feeding animals, watering animals, etc. Kids thrive on this kind of work. I think it’s best for kids to be brought up with outdoor chores being a part of their daily routine from early on. In their toddler years, they can simply follow mom or dad as they feed the chickens, collect the eggs, etc. They can scoop feed and feel like such a big, responsible kid! When they get this kind of thrill from doing farm chores early on, they are less likely to complain about it later in life. City or neighborhood-dwelling kids who suddenly move to a farm at 10 years old may or may not be excited about the chores, depending on the child’s temperament and how prone to laziness he or she is.
The amount of work on a farm can feel overwhelming if it is only done by 1 or 2 people. If the kids are old enough to manage some of the chores on their own, I believe that this fosters a kind of team work and responsibility that kids can’t learn anywhere else–no school group project compares!! Also, this eases the burden from the adults of the house.
It is more difficult for a child to participate in farm chores if they are leaving early in the morning and returning home when it is nearly dark. When we were on the farm, we had the kids do farm chores after breakfast. This started encroaching into the school hours, as they would waste time and play with sticks, etc. (Kids! ;)) We changed the schedule and had the kids doing their farm chores before breakfast, while I cooked. Our motto became “you eat after the animals eat.” This worked ok for us. Still, if you want your kids doing chores after the sun has shown its face in the morning (and after the coyotes have gone to bed for the day), it works best to keep them home and schooling during different hours than public school kids.
3. The kids won’t miss those random on-the-farm experiences.
Things happen on the farm that are unpredictable. It is an awesome experience for a child to be able to witness an animal giving birth to its young. I would not have my children miss this kind of on-farm adventure for anything. Likewise, when the piglets escape, it’s great to have the kids nearby to help chase them down (and enjoyable for them!).
So many of the big farm adventures happen during the daytime hours. I can think of things that happened on our farm and I am so glad that our kids were there to experience:
- There was an owl watching our chickens, and they helped me scare it away.
- A coyote was hanging out at the top of our hill, overlooking our farm.
- The neighbor’s cows wandered into our backyard and onto our back porch (multiple times).
- The neighbor’s huge pig wandered into our garden and we chased it out together.
- Our pigs escaped and tried to eat the bicycle helmets in the barn. The kids were the heroes that day! We sat on one of our van benches that was in the barn, reading homeschool books and watching the pigs to make sure they didn’t eat anything else (they shouldn’t eat) before my husband got home and could get them back to their pen.
- Big dogs came onto our property. I saw the boys go from scared to brave.
- Newborn kittens were found in the shed–multiple times.
- Squash seeds sprouted up all over the hard dirt where the pigs had once lived. Noah (our 3rd son) helped me dig up the sprouts and plant them in the garden, and we got tons of spaghetti squash!!
- The baby turkeys were all dying. We set lawn chairs around the brooder and brought books out there. Whenever a baby turkey started tipping over, the kids would pick it up and bring it to the water or the food. We saved some turkeys lives that day.
- The baby chicks, and turkeys, and ducks, and geese arrived at the post office and the kids got to go with me to pick them up, and set up the brooder for the new batch of little birds.
- HUGE Turkey Vultures flew over our home and down to the field where we had just butchered pigs the day before. (We haven’t seen Turkey Vultures in our neighborhood home, unfortunately!!)
Do you see what I mean? There are so many adventures that the kids can be a part of on a farm. It is a lifestyle that cannot be replaced in any other setting–especially not in a school building all day long.
4. The family will be better connected.
I mentioned the team work idea above. Not only that, but being on the farm all day, experiencing all of the random things that happen, will make kids feel like they are a part of the farm just as much as their parents are. It won’t be a “I’m a student, they’re farmers” kind of mentality. People (children and adults) tend to place their identity in what they “do” for the majority of the day.
With homeschooling, a child will still be a student. But they’ll be doing their school work at the kitchen table with the chickens wandering right out back, or the farm kitties meowing at the window. They will be surrounded by so many great experiences. So they will be a student and a farm kid. If a child attends school for 6 or 7 hours per day, they may not feel as connected to the farm experience. (Besides, then they will come home with homework, and then they have farm chores–it may end up being something they dread rather than something they look forward to)….I think the education piece is one thing that makes or breaks whether children *love* growing up on a farm or hate it. And don’t we want more children wanting to be farmers?
5. The kids can learn to be entrepreneurs.
When we lived on the farm, my kids decided to sell all kinds of things. Two of my boys set up a “store” in the backyard, selling painted rocks and bugs. They put price tags on things, made signs, and had a great experience doing it. I purchased some bugs and then paid them to be bug babysitters for me.
Our oldest decided that he was going to scoop up rotted chicken manure and mix it with some things to make a garden fertilizer. He boxed it up and wanted to sell it. Every day after he did his school work, he would go outside and scoop away. He was covered in yuck, but he was SO happy to “work his business.”
This kind of experience can expand as the kids get older. We know a family whose teenage boys decided to start raising broiler chickens for profit. They built their own mobile slaughtering station with a plucker and scalder on it. They built brooders, and chicken tractors, and they even designed nice ways to store these things in the barn in the “off season.” They put together a website and blogged about their chicken-raising experiences. They were high schoolers. If they were at school all day long (and doing homework in the evening) it would have been much more difficult to build this kind of business. (Side note: when we were learning to be farmers, these nice homeschooled, high school age boys taught us how to butcher our chickens. Their experience was so helpful to us. I’m thankful that their mom & dad decided to homeschool them and allowed them to run a business like that!).
I think that it is much easier for farm kids to learn to become entrepreneurs than it is for city or urban kids. There are more opportunities–more things to raise, grow, and sell. A child might choose to become a gardener and sell starts, or to save seeds and sell them, or to mix a chicken feed and sell it, or to make garden fertilizer. If the kids are home during the daytime, they can also bring their school books along to the farmer’s market with the family. They can learn to set up a booth, weigh products, collect and count money, and how to spend money frugally and smartly at the other booths. In between helping, they can get their spelling done, read their history book in the car on the drive there, or listen to an audio book of a famous person’s audio biography with the family. Homeschooling is so flexible, and this kind of school experience is unique to homeschooled children.
Overall, I think it’s a great decision to keep kids home on the farm and teach them! If you have questions about homeschooling, I’d be happy to answer them and help you get started! I don’t think you’ll regret it!