Friday, March 11, 2011

Guiding Your Child Toward Their Homesteading Interest

I obviously love homesteading and everything that goes with it. Seems like I got a special gene for it that was evident from the time I could walk and talk. Not that my parents could see it or anything, but I longed for a country life even as a six year old! No exaggeration.

The first few years of my life we lived in the heart of a major Texas city. And I hated it. Loathed it would probably be a better description. Whenever we went to my "country cousins" home, in order to leave, my parents literally had to put me in the car screaming "I never want to go back!". Not flattering, but true. 

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Obviously, not everyone realizes that they were meant for country living from such an early age. Most come to the realization slowly, and often at the pinnacle of a high power career that is consuming their very being. I'd love to see the statistics of people who just walk away from the world's idea of "success" and trade it all in for a run down farmhouse, a hoe, and a few animals. Most have little know-how, but lots of enthusiasm! And hey, I'm not knocking that - I think it's marvelous! My parents certainly didn't instill a lot of homesteading skills in me either! 

We can certainly teach our children some of these skills, but wouldn't it be even better to inspire our children to embrace a love for homesteading, at least on some level? Even if they don't seem to gravitate toward such a lifestyle on their own, can we help them relate  to this way of living so that they appreciate it before they're 40 years old and find themselves far removed from it's benefits?

Those of you who have children know that each one has a different personality and different interests. Few are the offspring that welcome every aspect of homesteading out of the shear joy for it all. However, if you watch your children closely, most will gravitate to some particular aspect of homesteading during their younger years (and hopefully as they get older, they'll learn to enjoy even more specific areas of skills relating to it). 

My oldest daughter has had only a passing interest in the outdoor aspects of homesteading but she has had an unnerving interest in bugs since she was little. Now I am NOT a bug person in the least, so to my shame, this attraction was never nurtured by me. Until now. 

As I was reading Fruitless Fall recently, it occurred to me that bees might appeal to her since they are bugs, after all. Now I confess, I really didn't give her a choice, but I insisted that she read the book along with me so we could discuss it and "talk bees". Then I proceeded to tell her I'd like to have her as my beekeeping partner. Good child that she is, she agreed with her mother, but I honestly can't say she shares my enthusiasm yet. 

Guiding your children toward a homesteading interest doesn't always blossom right away. But, then again, there are many things I've guided my children toward that were first rejected and then later embraced with great enthusiasm. When someone doesn't have a wide range of experiences, new ventures can seem unappealing or even scary. But if you are an observer of your child, you can pick up on clues as to what will appeal to them.

My second daughter enjoys being in charge and likes the outdoors. It was also clear that she needed to be responsible for something other than herself. So years ago I put her in charge of the chickens, feeding them, letting them out and putting them up, cleaning their coop,... you name it. Their very lives depended on her (okay, truthfully, I was checking up on her daily). It was rough going for a couple of years, but I'm amazed at how she's grown in being responsible. So recently, when we got a new puppy, I put her in charge of training the dog. Being a dog lover from her toddler years, she welcomed this challenge with a much greater zeal than the chickens and it's been paying off. Was her training perfect? No. But does the dog behave well? Yes. Better yet, she took on a challenge and met it (fairly independently, I might add) while learning to appreciate her animals.

My youngest is our resident artist (and entrepreneur). She loves to create, draw, and put things together in a pleasing manner. This was the child that I noticed always followed me to the garden as well. So once again, I honed in on her assets as well as her interests and started guiding her toward raising cutting flowers for profit. Flowers allow her to experience beauty while being creative as she arranges them. And the home business side? Well, she's excitedly awaiting her late spring debut!

Please don't misunderstand. All the children have done all the different chores around here at some point, but they also know who is the "go to" person (other than mom or dad) for each area on the homestead. And while this gives them confidence that they really have a valuable skill and contribute to the family, it gives them so much more, too. They just don't realize it yet... an appreciation and love for homesteading.

All this is really to encourage you to pass on a love of homesteading to each child in a special way that causes them to really connect with some aspect of it that drives them back to it again and again. They may go off to college, the military, or work at a job in the city, and by not only giving them skills, but a passion for some aspect of homesteading, you will help will them from making the same mistake so many have made in the past... straying too far from their homesteading roots. 

They don't all need to live in the country and become farmers, but even a high powered executive needs a stress reliever, and homesteading may be the very thing that balances out the tension of the corporate world while keeping them grounded in the nature world! And in time, they just might find that they like other aspects that didn't appeal to them a few years earlier.

Don't let the homestead revival flame up and then suddenly die out! Keep it alive in the next generation!

Tips For Developing A Homesteading Interest In Children

• Observe your children and learn what they like or what they're good at. 
• Encourage your children in areas where they show an interest.
• Allow your children to work alongside you even if they really young or don't do it perfectly. Be sure to praise them often and talk about why it's important that you are doing what you're working on.
• Get your kids involved in a 4H, FFA, or FHA.
• Pick an area of homesteading and learn about it together. Read, watch a video, or make a friend who can mentor you and your child in this area. (We did this with goats!)
• Take field trips to County and State Fairs or other venues where your child can interact with others who are doing the same thing or where they can learn more about areas of interest.
• Take a class together, such as beekeeping, cooking, or gardening.
• Turn an aspect of homesteading into a science project for homeschool. (We're learning about earthworms right now and how they convert trash to rich castings, etc. Another time we studied ethylene gas from fruits and vegetables together.)
• At some point, allow them to be responsible for the area of interest by themselves. (When I turned over the bread baking to my oldest, if her loaf failed, we had to eat it. She was highly motivated to become proficient at it after a flop or two).
• Help your children start a home based business in an area of homesteading. Nothing like the idea of a little bit of extra cash to motivate a 12 year old to try something new!
• Don't give up easily. Sometimes it takes age and maturity before an interest really forms.
• Stick with something long enough to really be sure your child has had an opportunity to become interested. (On the other hand, know when to change directions if needed!).
• Don't forget to express thankfulness and joy rather than grumbling and complaining when you are working on your homestead! The subtle message you convey could seal or break the deal!

How do you help your children or grandchildren develop a love for homesteading?


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