It would be so easy to do: make your kids hate homesteading.
Having never even been around a farm while growing up, it’s been quite the learning process for me to be married to a man who’s never known anything else. The differences in our upbringings became especially noticeable when it came to raising our own children on our homestead.
It only makes sense that the only way he knows how to parent is to let children run free on the farm, as that’s how he grew up. Likewise, it only makes sense that the way I know how to rear children is to keep them safe—away from the dangers of a farm and homestead—since that’s how I was raised.
We have both learned to compromise in our parenting. The Farmer has reflected on his childhood and I can’t count how many times he’s come to the conclusion, “I can’t believe we all made it to adulthood.” He is now more cautious with our children than he was when he was growing up.
And me? I’ve had to let go of, “Don’t go near that horse! It’s a wild animal after all!”
We’ve met somewhere in the middle. He has realized that if you let them run completely free they’ll get hurt, or killed. I have realized that if I sequester them too much, they’ll hate their farming experience and ultimately hate homesteading.
I don’t want them to hate this life that I love, so I’ve had to identify what I could do as a parent that would cause this, and I’m sharing that list with you.
Here are a few things to do to make sure they hate homesteading:
Don’t let your kids help in the garden
Kids tend to step on plants, pull them out, and even play in—and ruin—areas of our gardens. The younger the child, the more damage they can cause.
It’s easier and more efficient to just keep them out. Right?
While these may be primary reasons many of us consider keeping children out of our gardens, there are also other things to consider.
- Kids who help in the garden tend to more readily eat what they grow and have healthier eating habits throughout their lives.
- Kids who help in the garden learn about life and biodiversity.
- Kids who help in the garden have respect for agriculture and grow up to love gardening themselves.
Telling a child to get out of the garden and never letting him in will likely result not only in a lack of interest, but possibly even resentment for it as well.
Don’t give your kids farm chores
Not only can farm chores be dangerous if not done correctly, but it also takes time to teach a child to do them correctly and safely. It can be hard to take the time to slow down and teach when you know there are so many things to get done. Who has the time?
Children who work with animals on the farm grow up to have a much deeper respect for animals as well as the food chain. Those who don’t participate in farm chores, however, never develop an appreciation for them.
Don’t expose your kids to life off the farm
Life on the farm is so peaceful and simple. Life off the farm—is not. There are so many things about the outside world I’d like my kids to never experience.
But if I kept them from these things, they would not be well adjusted to them once they encounter them. I want well adjusted children. I want them to enter adulthood with the intelligence to go anywhere and react to anything appropriately. How will they be ready if I never let them experience these things?
Another danger of keeping kids locked up on the farm is that they will likely eventually get curious. Curious kids will eventually try new things—wouldn’t you rather be there to guide them?
Imagine a teenager who goes off to college only to realize he knows nothing about the outside world. No one wants that.
Don’t let your kids go foraging with you
This is one I’m guilty of. If I go for currants, I have to go in the canyon and there are plenty of mountain lions in there. The serviceberry patch we forage in? I’ve been chased out by a mama moose and her baby. So there have definitely been trips where I make darn sure someone else is watching my kids so I can go in swiftly and focus on a quick and efficient trip.
It’s hard for me to really feel completely comfortable taking my kids (especially the youngest ones) on foraging trips.
However, if I never take them, they will not only never learn how (and the patience it takes to collect good, organic food), but they will also never learn to enjoy the process.
I have learned that if I make sure to take extra adults and the appropriate protection/precautions, I can take my kids on most foraging trips. I also take the time to thoroughly talk about the possible dangers where we are going, and how to responsibly avoid or deal with those dangers.
Simply telling my kids, “It’s too dangerous for you to go” each trip would foster fear in them–not an appreciation.
Don’t let your kids learn about dangerous things
It isn’t hard for a parent to let their imagination run wild and think of all the ways a kid (or an adult for that matter) can get hurt on a farm.
When your mind starts to wander, you’ve just got to remind yourself that if you never teach them, they will never learn.
There are small children who’ve had a (short) lifetime to learn to safely ride a horse that would be 10 times more responsible on a good horse than a highly intelligent adult who’s never been on one.
If you want your kids to be safe, you’ll need to have the patience to teach them when the time is right. If you don’t, they may just be scared of every little thing on the homestead that could hurt them.
Keep all technology away from your kids
Off grid and self sufficient living is a wonderful adventure. I love that my kids are well adapted to their natural surroundings.
But let’s face it—some day they’ll need to know how to use a phone, or a computer. Don’t forget to introduce technology to your children so they aren’t stuck in the stone age while their peers move ahead.
Giving your child the impression (whether intentional or not) that life must be one way or the other, may foster a sense that he may need to choose one day. If any of that technology looks enticing as he gets older, he may choose a modern life and walk away from living off the land. It’s better to give him the best of both worlds.
Focus on how “poor” you are
Anyone living off the land is most definitely not rolling in the dough.
Homesteaders are frugal. Everything must be planned, and there are rarely any extras.
Most of us are just used to it—so used to it that when our kids ask why we don’t have, or don’t do something, we can nonchalantly say, “We don’t have the money for that.” And even though we don’t feel poor, we may not realize the impact these words said over and over have on our kids.
Kids may begin to think that their family is poor, and will never have the things, or go the places that everyone else does. They may gain the wrong impression of the lifestyle and develop resentment as they grow older.
We often remind our children of all the things we do have that, honestly, most other people don’t. Let’s be honest, it feels like we’re rich most of the time.
These are the areas I’ve realized I have to really pay attention to. With little self-reminders, I can focus on what I should be exposing them to.
What would you add to this list?
Do you yearn to raise children on a homestead? Maybe even off the grid? Nervous?
If you’re worried it’s too hard, too dangerous, or just not possible, let me reassure you.
Parents have been raising their families off the grid and in a more natural environment around the world for thousands of years. Many of them still do. You can too. For more reassurance and my tips on how to get it all done, be sure to read Raising Young Children On The Homestead: A Young Mother’s Guide To The Early Years.