Many of us who homeschool will, at some point in time, get the homesteading itch. Something about being more self-reliant with a take charge attitude towards our children's education can spill over into having a desire to become more self-sufficient in our everyday lives.
I remember the freedom I felt when my husband and I took my now 18 year old daughter out of second grade and started homeschooling her. She was free to excel at her own pace, to explore, to learn real history, to know that there is more to this life than being lumped into the same category as an animal. And I had the privilege to teach and learn with her.
After my third little one was born, the homesteading itch started. I grew up on a hobby farm where my dad raised our own beef and chicken. He had a big garden and there were many nights that I sat at the dinner table feeling complete satisfaction that everything on that table was from our land. Even as a child, I knew and appreciated the importance of growing our own food. So, I guess you could say that the desire was always there, but to act upon it was depending on timing and location.
I have five children. At this time, my oldest has graduated and I am schooling three. Last year it was four. How in the world do I homeschool and homestead without getting some sort of nervous twitch?
Here are some tips I have learned along the way.
1. Be flexible. It is good to have some sort of schedule throughout the day, but if you have a strict schedule, you will more than likely end up being frustrated and disappointed. As a homesteading family, there are numerous interruptions. Some days are one big interruption and you might only have time for one subject or no subject at all for school.
This can lead to some very negative feelings because you have set such high standards in scheduling. If you do decide to schedule your days, be very flexible and include some wiggle room for the unexpected. The homesteading life does not have a schedule. Try scheduling everyday life on the farm and see what happens. Sure, you can schedule feeding times, garden chore time, etc. But, honestly, this life is full of the unexpected. So, just expect it. Then, when interruptions come, you won't lose your mind!
2. Use the homesteading life as part of school. Let's face it, you probably don't have time to take your kids to a homeschool co-op or do a lot of 'extras' in your curriculum. I am amazed at some of the extensive curriculum there are.
We love history and could really go crazy with what some books will have us do as supplements to each lesson. I tried to do it all years ago, but after talking to other homeschool moms with smart kids, I realized that even they don't do it all. Because we don't really have time to spend 2 hours on each subject or take an art class, I felt like I was falling short of giving my kids a well-rounded school day.
But, what I realized is they draw, a lot, sometimes using step-by-step instructions on how to draw a certain thing or get an idea from the farm. That's art. They learn a lot from the farm. There is science all around us. They explore and use their creativity. They build, they role play, they learn outdoor skills, they learn a good work ethic(that in itself is one of the most important things to learn, I believe. Right up there with reading.).
So, don't feel guilty for not being able to fit it all in what some would call the normal homeschool standards. Remember, we aren't normal! Homesteading is a big school in itself.
Heck, I guess that means I'm still in school!
3. Keep your sense of humor. I'm just going to be quite honest on this one. Lighten up! Nobody likes to be around a gloomy person for too long, including your kids. If the homesteading and homeschooling life is one big burden to you, it might be time to rethink why you are doing what you are doing. When we miss the humor in things, we miss God-given opportunities to find joy in life. This doesn't mean we becoming laughing hyenas, of course, but it means to not be afraid to see the funny side of things.
Sometimes we can get into a rut, that's normal. Those are the times to renew our faith, renew our vision and maybe take a little breather to refocus. How do we talk about our homesteading/homeschooling adventures to others?
Are we constantly complaining about trials or do we share what we have learned through these trials, even to the point of sharing joy or humor in certain situations?
Sharing blessings and humor with your kids speaks volumes to them. They will learn to find blessings in a lot of negative circumstances. They will learn to find the funny side of certain situations. This will make the homeschooling, homesteading experience a much more memorable one!
4. Know your limits. We have two huge responsibilities here. Homeschooling and homesteading take an amazing amount of commitment and sacrifice. Just let that sink in for a moment.
If we neglect our responsibilities, more than likely our children and farm will suffer, sometimes in a big way!
I used to think I could do it all. I also used to feel guilty for not getting involved in every neat opportunity that comes along.
Homeschooling is more flexible than homesteading. You might be able to take some time off of homeschooling and make those days up whenever you choose, but you can't take a break from homesteading. The winter time is downtime on the farm for us, but the animals still need care. So, we can say yes to extra events a little bit more during the winter. Spring and summer are the two seasons that we are pretty much bound to the farm.
There will be some who do not understand why we can't go out of town for a day or two or why we really can't take on any extras during this time. But, if we don't say 'no,' we will pay the consequences.
We have learned the hard way quite often in this area. We don't need to do it all, and our kids will be much happier if we put limits on ourselves. They don't like to be rushed through school and running ragged, to live at a neglected homestead because we are hardly home, to hear their mama gripe about not having enough time in the day, etc.
So, put limits on yourself and your family. Let the seasons work for you. We have some very big responsibilities that cannot be ignored. Once you truly understand that, saying 'no' will be much easier.
We don't have to lose our sanity. God will give us the wisdom and courage we need to take on these huge tasks that He has blessed us with. Let's rise to the challenge with gusto and leave the nervous twitch with the barn mice!
What are some tips you have learned along the way?