Today's post is from Samantha, a homeschooling, homesteading mom of seven from Georgia, who blogs at My Barefoot Farm.
I will admit that there are days when I wonder what crazy person would trade a perfectly manicured lawn and flowerbed in a subdivision for a life with cow muck on the boots and chicken feathers scattered around the ground from what remains of a hawk killing. There are many days we have sick critters, uncooperative weather, and too many projects to realistically accomplish but at the end of the day we are grateful to have all of the experiences this life offers.
We home educated our children long before we ever lived on the property and started farming, and our reasons for doing such are many. Our day starts out like any other home school day across the country with lessons at the kitchen table. Living out on a small family farm, however, does have its rewards as far as teaching children life skills and expanding their hands on learning.
My oldest daughter, for example, spent one spring learning genetics by pairing some of her chickens together and then marking the eggs layed by the hens with certain symbols for the breeds. She bought an incubator and hatched a huge clutch of eggs, noting what traits showed in the baby chicks. She also had the responsibility of caring for the baby chicks and all of the learning curves that go along with new hatchlings.
Because we have honey bees, the children have extra knowledge about the agricultural importance of the honey bee as well as the life cycles and products she produces. We have several bee suits so the kids can dress up and help with bee yard chores such as hive inspections and splitting hives. One daughter in particular loves finding the queen bee and is very quick at spotting her on a frame.
Lucy, our family cow, has also been a great animal to have here on the farm. The kids have all hand milked her and are learning how to make butter, cheese, and ice cream from all of the wonderful milk and cream Lucy provides. In about a month she will be due to calve and we are are all pitching in to prepare for the new addition. I am sure that the new calf will bring with it new responsibilities as well as opportunities to learn more about cows.
Another opportunity provided to us by the farm is raising food for ourselves and others. Raising pasture poultry has been great because the children not only have a greater respect for their food and where it comes from, but they have learned the many skills that go along with producing and selling a product to others. The kids are involved from the chick stage to the processing stage, including eviscerating and packaging the chickens.
The children do have outside interests that do not revolve around farm life too, and we try and meet those needs when we are able. Typically when a child decides they want to pursue an outside activity such as an art class or guitar lessons, I wait until the child is about 10 years old. Experience has taught me that it is better to wait until the child is old enough to practice on their own with out being reminded constantly. If a child is not interested enough to practice and put forth effort on their own, then it's not worth the time or resources to attend the activity. This of course comes with age and I have found that a ten year old or older is more willing to apply some effort into extracurricular activities on their own. This rule is also a necessity when you have a large family because it is not realistic to run a farm and family if every child has extra activities to attend or if an activity occupies an entire weekend. I also do not believe that all children must attend extra activities in order to be well rounded, and it's possible that too many activities are detrimental if it robs a child from a true family life at home. More often than not, my children find activities here at home that they have been able to learn and develop, such as archery, gardening, sewing, and horseback riding.
Despite the days when there is a sick animal or swarming bees or a drastic drop in egg production from the hens, life on a small family farm is everything you could imagine. The opportunities to learn are abundant and we increasingly learn more and more life skills each year. I always tell friends who live in the suburbs, and those who do not, that it's easy to incorporate some farm life into their daily routines. Backyard chickens are some of the best animals to have because they are inexpensive, easy to care for and provide the family with delicious eggs. You would be amazed at the learning experiences offered by buying baby chicks and bringing them home for your children to care for too! The excitement of gathering their first egg is always picture worthy and will leave a permanent memory in your child's mind, not to forget that fresh eggs are divine!
I know that there are some who balk at life on a farm in this modern day age and think that spending one's day tending to animals will not contribute to a future corporate career. I disagree. Small farm living nurtures a child's ability to problem solve and deal with real life situations, all skills that are needed in any career. I know that my children will one day grow up and might choose to live off a farm, but I have the security in knowing that they grew up learning how to be good stewards to the land and to have respect for all living creatures. They know the hard work that goes into family farms and will carry that knowledge with them always.
I still think that manicured lawns and perfectly perfect flowerbeds are wonderful, but I wouldn't trade the cow muck or chicken feathers for anything!
Samantha lives on a small, 30-acre family farm in Ringgold, GA with her fabulous husband Devin and their seven spunky and home educated children (Journee, Quinn, Indiana, Willow, Rose, Zeb, and Fletcher). Besides farming, her favorite hobbies include quilting, baking, reading and sipping sweet tea. Her house is rarely spotless and neither are her children but she figures that's the mark of a truly fulfilled day. Follow Samantha's family adventures on her blog, My Barefoot Farm.