Written by Rachel Wolf of Clean.
For as long as I can remember I have wanted to live on a small homestead, tucked away in the hills in some quiet corner of Wisconsin. I longed for an old red barn when I lived in an apartment in the city; dreamed of sheep when I was a non-knitting vegetarian.
Why? I can’t explain it. I grew up in the suburbs for goodness’ sake.
When I was ten my only life goal was to live on a farm with my best friend, raise pigs for show, and have a house filled with pets. Fast-forward thirty-some years and most of that dream has come true.
I live with my best friend (my husband) on a small farm in Wisconsin. While we don’t raise pigs, we do have forty-some animals in our care. Or maybe it’s fifty. Frankly I’ve lost count.
Aside from our two homeschooled children, in our charge are six quail, nine ducks, dozens of laying hens, and (until last weekend) eighty (that’s 8-0) meat birds. Add to this our fifteen sheep, five goats, a fledgling fruit orchard, a gaggle of house pets, and a big vegetable garden and there are days when I question my sanity.
There are days I can’t seem to locate anything that even resembles my sanity.
With milking and fencing and weeding and canning and mucking and tending – time is often thin.
And I wonder, “I’m supposed to ‘do school’ when?”
Homesteading makes for nice photographs, great food, and good stories. (Like of the four of us in our pajamas chasing errant sheep across the marsh at bedtime.) But at the end of the day I sometimes question if it’s worth it.
Because if we weren’t homesteading we’d have time to sit at the table and work on spelling and math more often than we do. If we weren’t homesteading we’d have time to go canoeing, attend a performance, or visit the museum more than once a year.
If we weren’t homesteading we wouldn’t drop to sleep so exhausted at the end of every day.
If we weren’t homesteading
Yes, there are things we miss out on because we are busy with the work of our farm. But what would we miss if we gave up and went back to the life we had before?
If we weren’t homesteading my daughter would not have huddled in my arms one cold spring morning and watched in awe as twin lambs were born before her eyes.
It changed her. It changed me.
Some weeks later when a goat was giving birth she stayed by her side until late in the night, whispering softly, until the difficult labor was over and two of her babies – healthy and strong – were finally nursing.
Only then would my farm girl go up to bed.
If we weren’t homesteading my son would not have learned the power of his growing body by throwing hay bales down to the barn, one after another. Food for our sheep to last through the winter.
So often in his head, lost in books or science experiments, when we needed his help he rallied and found his hidden strength.
His pride in his work was palpable.
A perfect job for this boy who is growing into a man.
Indeed, homesteading is rich with lessons.
1. We have learned how to pull together as a family.
From daily chores to annual chicken butchering, we’ve each found the jobs we can live with. (And even a few that we love.)
And we have learned that one person can’t possibly do all the work required to run our farm.
It takes hard work from us all. No job is insignificant.
2. Through farming we model self-directed learning.
We didn’t grow up farming, so every project begins with questions and research. Pasture management, hoof trimming, permaculture – every day there are new lessons to be had.
We model this hunger for knowledge to our children day after day.
They see us ask questions and seek answers again and again.
3. We know where our food comes from.
Meals where every item on our plate was grown within 100 feet of our door are not unusual. We can’t take for granted food we worked so hard to put by.
And knowing how to grow and preserve food is a useful piece of education.
4. Life and death are not mysteries anymore.
The amazing – and the tragic – transitions on our farm have us better equipped to navigate the big transitions in our own lives.
Birth, sickness, death – our children have grown up with intimate knowledge of these passages.
Make no mistake. Homesteading is hard.
But then again, so is homeschooling.
We’ve never made a habit of choosing the easiest path. We have made a habit of choosing the path that most aligns with our hearts.
And so our journey is built with homegrown, elbow-deep, boots-on work. In how we live and indeed, how we learn.
Like homesteading, homeschooling is among the hardest – but most rewarding – work we could do.
And for all of the effort, I can’t imagine learning any other way.
What lessons have you seen come your children’s way through living in alignment with your family’s life purpose–whatever it may be?
This post is part of our Hardest Part of my Homeschool Year series.