Incorporating Homesteading and Homeschooling
Reading Time: 5 minutes
By Jenna Dooley – We homestead and homeschool with our eight children. Incorporating the two lifestyles just comes naturally. I’m a huge proponent of life schooling. While bookwork is important and there is much to learn that way, I believe that much more is learned and retained through experiencing life.
There are plenty of chores to be done daily on the homestead. These chores offer constant learning opportunities for our children. Collecting eggs is a great example. This chore can be done by even very young children. Here we have the opportunity to teach counting, how to care for a fragile object, the value of items, how chickens develop and lay eggs, incubating eggs for hatching, the list just goes on and on.
Homesteading with a very busy and full lifestyle is simpler and slower than modern-day lifestyles. It is also a very seasonal lifestyle. Some seasons are busier than others.
There is the excitement of springtime with fresh green grass, plants beginning to sprout, seeds planted with so much hope for the future, babies being born, and the sun beginning to warm the earth. Summer is full of garden work, weeding, harvesting, preserving food, as well as putting up hay, and preparing for winter. All of these chores stretch into the autumn.
Fall time brings the final push to preserve everything you can and be stocked up for the winter months. It also ushers in the cooler weather and the beauty of the changing leaves.
While wintertime does bring about rest and less business, there is the cold and weather to deal with. This compounds the difficulty of simple everyday chores. You’ll need lots of extra layers of clothing and there will always be frozen water buckets to deal with. Your children will also have the fun of sledding and snow days if you live in an area that receives snow.
All of the seasons and the work that comes along with changing seasons builds up children educationally. More importantly, it develops a lot of good character qualities. They learn the importance of living seasonally. In a world of instant gratification, living seasonally teaches patience, self-control, the natural rhythm of life, and that all good things are worth waiting for.
Lessons Learned on the Homestead
I like to look at each aspect of homesteading and what my children can learn with hands-on education. Experience can be the best way to learn and is invaluable.
In the garden there seem to be endless lessons. Because of her love of gardening and desire to learn more, my oldest daughter has ventured into the botany curriculum and may pursue furthering her education in horticulture. She has developed a true passion not just for gardening, but for learning as she gardens. That isn’t something that can be accomplished from textbooks alone. The experience of growing up in the garden itself is what has inspired her.
A short list of lessons taught in the garden rather than through books are things like patience, caring for the needs of something, and the excitement of success. Working in the garden can also teach how to deal with failure. Inevitably, something in the garden will fail and disappointment will come. Learning how to cope with disappointment is great preparation for life.
On our homestead, we have both dairy cows and goats. So much about responsibility is learned through milking animals. This chore has to be done twice a day, no matter what. The routine and schedule keep the animals healthy and our family in fresh milk.
Utilizing the milk in different ways offers all kinds of lessons in math and science as well as electives like culinary arts. Who doesn’t love making butter? Yes, it’s science but there is just something magical when that white liquid separates and makes a golden substance that tastes amazing.
We also raise grass-fed beef, bees, pastured pork, pastured poultry, and laying hens. We have pets as well; a horse, a dog, barn cats, peacocks, and bunnies.
All of these animals require food and water daily. The chore of caring for them offers a lot of learning experience. We learn about breeding, pregnancy, lactation, bottle feeding, basic animal husbandry, how to treat and care for sick animals, etc. These lessons will follow and benefit our children throughout their lives.
A harder lesson is death. When you raise livestock, you will inevitably have to face death. This is never easy and it always brings heartache. It is a sad part of existence and teaching children how to deal with death and the emotions that come with it will aid them in life.
When you homestead and raise and preserve the majority of your food, you spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and baking. We teach all of our children how to cook and bake. I feel that this is an essential life skill. Most of our children love cooking.
Our children have told us over and over that math makes so much more sense to them when they learn through cooking. The hands-on experience and seeing fractions with their own eyes make a bigger impression on them than a piece of paper.
Language arts, handwriting, and spelling are other great subjects to teach in the kitchen by having your children write out recipes.
The homesteading and homeschooling lifestyle also often incorporates other skills like art, sewing, needlecrafts, leatherworking, and woodworking just to name a few. All of these skills are valuable throughout life as well as full of educational opportunities. Lots of math with angles, division, fractions, multiplication, addition, subtraction, etc. are all used while developing and practicing these skills.
Other lessons like giving and generosity can be taught by having your children make gifts for others. They learn the enjoyment of making someone feel special with a handmade gift.
I cannot imagine raising and teaching my children in any other way. Homesteading and homeschooling truly is a very rich lifestyle. The lessons my children have learned over the years of living this way will follow them and help them for the rest of their lives. I hope they look back and appreciate all that this life offered them as they grow older.
Originally published in the May/June 2022 issue of Countryside and Small Stock Journal and regularly vetted for accuracy.