Homeschooling Homesteaders

Homeschooling Homesteaders

Reading Time: 4 minutes

By Jenny Underwood – I’m quite certain that many of you reading this are possibly already homeschooling on your homestead. But just as many may be considering such an idea and think it’s completely impractical or downright impossible! I’m here to say it’s definitely doable and with the right mindset, it can even be enjoyable and a blessing to both the homestead and homeschoolers.

First off, let’s define learning. Does it have to be done with worksheets in a classroom-type setting? If your answer is yes, then you may either have to tweak your view of learning and education or the combination of homeschooling and homesteading may not work well for you. In my opinion, for you to succeed, you will need ALOT of flexibility. Because while you can most assuredly use worksheets and computers, tables, etc., your children will most likely learn far more by participating in hands-on activities on the homestead.

I know this flies in the face of conventional education, but in fact, it’s quite traditional and how most children learned their life skills for centuries. There was no shop class or home economics, instead, kids learned directly from their parents and grandparents. And there is no reason that your kids can’t do the same. 

But you don’t have to depend on the homestead for simply practical skills; it can be an amazing science, history, literature, and art teacher. How you ask? Let me just give a few ways your children learn academic-type subjects on the farm.

Science. This is the easiest one with all of the planting, growing, harvesting, and animals around. You have the perfect opportunity to learn insects (parts, types, habits, methods of elimination, and where they fit in the food web), insect controllers like snakes, spiders, frogs, and birds. You can teach them reproduction with any animals you have like chickens, rabbits, goats, sheep, or cows. They can be intimately involved in each aspect of animal husbandry from feeding newborn babies to composting manure. Not only is this a huge help, but it teaches them down-to-earth practical science. Of course, this is also the perfect opportunity to let them write stories, draw pictures, or take pictures. Encourage them to submit their works of art to the wonderful homesteading magazines out there!

History. What exactly is history? Is it a collection of dry dull names and dates or is it the life stories of ordinary but courageous men, women, and children? On the homestead, you may be using tools from centuries past. This is the perfect opportunity to learn about those tools, who invented them, when they were invented, and what modifications they have undergone. Your children can learn about history through the many pieces of artwork that revolve around traditional farming and country living. There are many excellent living books that tell of past rural life such as The Diary of an Early American Boy, The Little House series, G.A. Henty’s books, and many more. Not only will this prove to be wonderful entertainment, but I can guarantee that history will come alive to them. And when they can make connections between their own way of life and these people from the past, that history lesson will never be forgotten!

Homesteading makes a great opportunity to compete in 4-H competitions or in county or state fairs. Since your children are at home with their projects daily, you won’t have to try and make extra time for these awesome activities. Not only will these projects afford your children room to grow, but they’ll be contributing to the family economy by helping to grow crops or animals for entry.

And that leads me to another aspect of homeschooling and homesteading. It gives you the best way to teach your children about family economies and the ability to work together. Your children can then carry this over into their own lives as they mature. In an excellent book called Durable Trades by Rory Groves, he discusses how this was the norm until the Industrial Revolution and how this almost destroyed family-centered businesses. But you can bring this back in your family! Children can be a needed and integral part of your homestead. When you realize that while you will need to make adjustments when they are a constant presence, the benefits will far outweigh the costs.

Now when there are children involved, you will realize the need to train early and often for independence and obedience. There are many things on a homestead that can pose dangers, but instead of insulating them from the possible dangers, I recommend training them to avoid them until they are mature enough to use them safely.  For example, we use fertilizers and sharp tools on our homestead. The older children help use these with supervision while I’m training my two-year-old to respect and leave these alone. However, while she can’t use a hoe yet, she can weed the raised beds by hand. Even a toddler can learn what weeds are and what are not. My 10- and seven-year-olds already are using the wood splitter under Dad’s direct supervision and with the proper safety equipment. Not only is this a huge help to our whole family, but my children will have so many skills under their belt that they will be way ahead of the masses as they become adults!

When you look at homeschooling and imagine that you must recreate a schoolroom atmosphere, it seems impossible to merge homeschooling and homesteading. However, when you realize that you can completely involve your children in every aspect of your daily life, you begin to understand what true learning is and how amazing it is to include your kids in whatever you do! 

Originally published in the January/February 2022 issue of Countryside and Small Stock Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy. 

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