Just about every two- or four-legged creature you can think of on a homestead at one point or another has found itself a resident of my kitchen. Rearing anything is hard, hard work and children are no exception.
One of the biggest draws to living a homestead lifestyle is what it offers, and doesn’t offer, to my children, who are fondly known to our friends and followers as the Bluebird (5 years old) and the Butterfly ( 3 years old).
I’ve got one shot to do this right. Here are some tips to raising your most important homestead crop: your children.
Family Contributions through Unpaid Jobs
I recently read the book The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey . In her book, Lahey introduces strategies for raising children with resiliency. She brings up the topic of chores and promotes not paying for contributions your child makes to the family. Paying your children to do work around the homestead is, of course, a parent’s choice, but at our house, everyone is expected to make contributions.
As an adult, when was the last time someone paid you for washing your dishes or mopping the floor in the living room you live in? For that reason, I strongly share in Lahey’s recommendation that you establish the expectation that from an early age, completing household chores is part of the responsibility of being a member of the family.
Importance of Swimming Skills on a Homestead
It is essential that all people living the outdoor lifestyle know how to swim. I’m not saying that you need to be the next Michael Phelps, but it is important to have basic swimming skills that could save your life.
On our property, we have two steams and a large farm pond. Although the ladies are never near the water unattended, being assured my girls know what to do if they end up “in the deep end,” is essential. Last year, Bluebird was digging for snails and slipped into the deep. I was pleased to stand shore side as she coached herself out loud to stay calm, kick, scoop her arms, and get back to where she could stand in a matter of seconds. I’ve been super impressed with the cost and instruction of the swim lessons provided by our local YMCA.
Creating Ownership Over Homestead Tasks
Growing up, each season we each chose one task that was “ours.” For me, it always was pumpkins (my sister loved to grow watermelon). At the end of each season, the pride in having been the sole proprietor of that pumpkin patch come Halloween was one of my greatest childhood joys.
Bluebird has taken to hogs and loves her Old World Spots. Each season she proudly raises one to keep and one to eat. At 5 years old, she finds incredible honor in being able to sit at the table and know that what our family eats, she created with her own hands. At 3 years old, the Butterfly has added goats to our homestead and I look forward to fresh cheese and soaps in the years to come that will contribute to her sense of pride.
As parents, we must always remember that the childhood years are fleeting. Our goal is to raise responsible, respectable, self-reliant adults. Now is the time to begin that journey and never underestimate the contributions that even your smallest homesteader can offer.
Amy Vaughan-Roland is a Maryland homesteader and educator who operates The Annetta G. Wright Learning Lab, a learning space for diverse learners promoting courses in the lost arts and hands-on learning. She is an avid canner, gardener, thrifting expert, and monarch butterfly enthusiast. Connect with Amy on The Annetta G. Wright Learning Lab on Facebook and on Instagram @agwlearninglab, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.