Math in the Hen House

Reader Contribution by Carol Alexander
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I stood in a bookstore, staring in disbelief when I read a
magazine cover that said, “Homeschooling is Hot on the Homestead.” Grabbing a copy I hunted
down my husband and complained, “Someone else wrote my story.”

But they didn’t truly get the whole
story. Yes, it seems that a large number of young families are choosing the
homesteading and homeschooling lifestyles. But my story isn’t about how to
homeschool. And it’s not how to homestead. It’s how to do them

Time after time a family will spend their summer moving to
“the land,” starting gardens, buying animals, settling in. Then when the school
year begins, they attempt to keep up with their classical curriculum, music
lessons, sports practices, debate team, science fair, and get all the chores
done, too. Often, they give up overwhelmed, and either put the kids in school
or move back to the pavement.

That’s why I started Lessons from the Homestead.
It’s a place to come for encouragement, ideas, and basic down-to-earth advice
from someone who knows.

Why do we believe that math must be done one workbook page
at a time, at the kitchen table? Anyone who’s ever kept chickens can tell you
all the math that can be found in the hen

If I have 6 chickens that each lay 1 egg per day, how many
days would it take me to get 1 dozen? 2 dozen?

If I have 6 chickens that each lay 1 egg per day and I cook
2 eggs each morning for breakfast and put 1 egg into my weekly baking of bread,
how long until I can give the neighbor a dozen?

Healthy’s website offers
a bonus. If you order 50 chicks, you receive 25 chicks free. Have your child
peruse the website or their print catalog and choose which 50 chicks he/she
would order. How much would the total cost be (including tax and shipping)? How
much would it be per chick? Now, if you add in the 25 free chicks, what would
the total cost be per chick?

Have your child fill out an online order.

If your order is $42 and the sales tax is 7% for your state,
how much sales tax would you have to add to your order? What if your tax is 8%,
6.5%? What if your order is $65, $175?

Why do we think that science lessons must come from a
textbook? We recently added a couple colonies of honeybees to our homestead.
Oh, the lessons
from the beehive

Have your younger child cut pictures of sunflowers (which attract
honeybees) out of a seed catalog and paste on card stock and label. How many
different varieties can you find pictures for? How many can you find seeds for?

Have your older child write a research paper on bee sting
therapy. Include its purpose, the theory behind it, and who discovered it.

Research what kinds of flowers you can plant in your yard to
attract honeybees. Go plant some. Draw them, photograph them, record the
botanical names and write your own descriptions in a natural journal. (Sorry,
that’s more than science isn’t it? Kinda got carried away.)

Do spelling words always have to come out of a spelling
book? What’s wrong with learning to spell those words we use every day of our
lives: dairy, garden, honey, chicken? Rather than practice handwriting with
random words that someone thought would make a great exercise, why not have
your child copy fruit descriptions from a seed catalog? Instead of assigning
meaningless writing assignments, why can’t we have our children research and write
on those things that matter in our lives?

This is what I call integrating the homeschooling and
homesteading lifestyles. Those who master this integration process won’t be
putting their kids in school before the winter’s out. Nor will they be moving
back to the pavement, either.

For more information on homeschooling on the
homestead–successfully–visit Lessons
from the Homestead
or the related Facebook page; where
you will find resources and encouragement to live out your dreams.

Carol Alexander presented a workshop at the Seven Springs, Pa. MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. 

Please visit the FAIR website for more information about future FAIRs, June 1-2 in Puyallup, Wash. and Sept. 20-22 in Seven Springs, Pa. Tickets are on sale now.

You can also get FAIR updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages.