By Rebekah White from New Life on a Homestead – Homesteading today is an idyllic lifestyle. While days are filled with seemingly never ending lists of tasks, dirt, and literal sweat and tears, it’s a rewarding and sustaining way of life that has unending benefits for those who choose to live it. The family of homesteaders experiences no exception. Homesteading today has remarkable benefits for family life, namely, for raising children.
When kids are thrown into the homesteading mix, a whole new realm of possibilities open. Here is your opportunity to raise the next generation the right way … to teach them how to live off the land, as well as how to deeply appreciate it. It also teaches kids the most important and most frequently forgotten value of all: hard work.
Regardless of whether your farm is big or small, in the middle of nowhere or smack dab in the middle of an urban jungle, here are 10 things your kids will learn from homesteading today.
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1. Hard Work is not a Bad Thing
Something we frequently forget, even as adults, is that work isn’t always a bad thing. Working toward a goal, or working at doing something you love, is both rewarding and exhilarating. Kids who grow up reaping the direct benefits of their hard work will see that hard work doesn’t need to be dreaded, and, in fact, is a necessary part of achieving lasting happiness.
2. Entertainment is Free
Anybody who willingly lives in the countryside knows that there is never a shortage of “things to do,” despite the lack of movie theaters, restaurants, and other “easy” entertainment. Kids who grow up on the homestead learn how to make their own entertainment. They play in the mud, catch frogs, or tend to backyard poultry. They know that entertainment isn’t always something that is tangible, but that needs to be created. If you want to be entertained, you need to seek that out yourself.
3. Empathy is Crucial
Kids on a homestead learn how to care for others besides themselves. They learn the value of nurturing, and care for the smallest and most helpless of creatures. Animals are quick teachers when it comes to caregiving. If you feed them, they live. If not, well … you know what happens. Teaching kids to care for animals is a great way to show them the value of selflessness. Kids who are raised on a homestead quickly realize how delicate and precious life can be, and will care deeply about playing a role in protecting and nurturing life.
4. … But so is Firmness
Kids growing up on the homestead must quickly learn that, while it’s important to care for living creatures, there comes a time when that same life must be taken away. Very quickly, homestead children learn when it’s the time to be gentle, and when it’s the time to be assertive. Animals will teach children when to be firm and when to be nurturing. Kids will learn how to hold their own against unruly critters, and be aware of the times when a firm grip is crucial for an animals overall wellbeing, and when a gentle touch is more fitting.
5. Gender Roles Don’t Matter
There’s no defining role that gender must play in raising homestead children. Girls do the same things boys do — while a little girl is learning how to raise pigs, a little boy might be in the kitchen learning how to can. Homestead tasks don’t come with exclusions based on gender, and children often learn how to do a variety of tasks without being pigeonholed into specific categories.
6. You Can do More Than You Think You Can
A homestead quickly raises a stubborn child — but in a good way. Your animals will be stubborn, your pigs repeatedly knocking down fence after fence, your goats repeatedly chewing up your vegetables. Children will learn how to be just as stubborn, meeting each challenge with dogged determination. They will learn the value of never quitting, and of embracing failure as a way of personal growth.
7. Food Should be Appreciated
Children raised on the homestead will have a much healthier relationship with food. They’ll realize that food doesn’t come from the grocery store, and with this knowledge will eventually come a greater understanding of nutrition and of the circle of life. Homestead children are more likely to “clean their plates,” and will realize how important it is not to waste any item at all.
8. It Takes a Village, and a Whole Lot of Teamwork
A homestead can’t run on the efforts of one — it takes a family. Homestead children will gain responsibility through small tasks, such as feeding rabbits, collecting eggs, or planting seeds. They will learn that they are relied upon, not just by the animals for which they are caring, but by the rest of their family. They will feel important and gain a significant amount of self-esteem as they learn that it takes a team to be successful. The accomplishments of one are just as important as the accomplishments of the group.
9. Self-discipline is Critical
Many homesteader parents find that they need to do very little to motivate their children, both on the farm and off. Children raised in this lifestyle often realize that, although they might not particularly feel like going out to milk the cow, the cow still needs to be milked, and they still have to do it. Homestead kids can’t grow up as laggards because they realize that other living things rely on them. This skill will carry them far in life, as they navigate school, college, and eventual work and family responsibilities of their own.
10. Patience is a Virtue
This one is a tough lesson for kids to learn and, admittedly, very few adults have actually mastered the art of patience. Yet, as a homesteader, it’s essential to realize that nothing happens overnight. The fruits of your labors may not be apparent for days, weeks, months, sometimes even years. Homestead kids will naturally learn that small actions lead to big results, even if you have to wait for those results.
Every child should be given the opportunity to live, even if only temporarily, on a homestead. There are so many intrinsic and extrinsic, short-term and long-lived benefits to this lifestyle. While very few people would claim that it is an easy way to live, most children who have grown up on a homestead will agree that it is the most educative — and arguably the most rewarding.
Rebekah lives on a 22-acre homestead in New York, raising bees, chickens, and lots of veggies. When she’s not practicing or writing about homesteading, Rebekah teaches high-school English.