Tuesday, September 7, 2010

~ Down on the Farm Homeschooling/Unschooling ~

Welcome to the September Carnival of Natural Parenting: We're all home schoolers
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how their children learn at home as a natural part of their day. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.
We have yet to officially begin homeschooling for this year. We are starting off our year with a field trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota next week and will begin structured classes when we get back. Not being in structure class however does not keep us from learning on a day to day basis. Living on a farm requires you to be open to learning all the time. There is always something that needs to be done and just about a million ways to get it done. The hard part is choosing the way that is not only going to be fastest but also the way that makes the most sense in the long run.
"Many hands makes little work" and "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" are a big part of our day. I am only one mom to four kids and a farm. Including our kids in the kitchen not only has helped us to teach fractions, fire safety, and why choosing organic/heirloom foods are important, but that when you are really hungry, lunch or dinner comes much faster if you are willing to help.
My three year old daughter is learning fractions by helping to fold kitchen towels. We have one drawer for towels and if they are all going to fit they have to be folded in half, in half again, and then in thirds. If was so much fun to watch her little brain go and the concentration on her face as she folded those towels.
We learn about animal husbandry and what it takes to keep animals by having animals. We had 65 chickens, but between one getting stepped on (got the worse mom in the world award for that one), a fox and an owl, we are down to something like 58. The boys and I had to go out in the chicken yard for a few night and chase chickens in the coop instead of letting them roost in the trees. The boys thought it was fun for the first five minutes but after that they were ready to go in. It was a lesson in patience, putting others first, and compassion. If we left the chickens in the trees there was possibility of them getting attacked by the owl.
The chicken in the above picture is a Light Brahms. These guys have turned out to be huge, but gentle and have feathers on their feet. They are tons of fun.

Our calf Carmel.
They have learned that having a cow means we have to have a bit of a schedule if they want fresh milk. She likes to be milked around the same time every morning and when you are late she gets a bit annoyed, but she is always patience and stands to be milked. You most likely will get a few swats with a tail, but after all, you were late. I remind them that when they get annoyed, patience is a much better route to take. It again helps them learn to put others first as our animals can not let themselves out or get their own water.
And last but certainly not least, all of the creepy crawlies that we find. This is a snake that we found the other day. I wanted to get a picture of his whole body because he was huge. He was about four feet long and an inch in diameter. The boys were running home to show their dad before I got a chance to take more pictures. We find moths, worms, beetles, caterpillars, toads, salamanders...its hard to think of what we haven't found.
I know that not every one can or has the inclination to live on a farm or homeschool for that matter, but I believe that our kids are losing out on a huge learning opportunity when all they do is go to the grocery store to get food or stare at a textbook to learn. See if there is a local farmer, big or small, animals or no animals, where you can get a tour or even go help out with afternoon/ evening chores. Most farmers would be glad for the help. Farmers markets are a great place to meet farmers and get some great local foods to cook up together. Scour your back yard for bugs and creepy crawling things. Check out your local library for books on creepy crawly creatures. There are lots of online resources for learning about the life cycle of butterflies or the parts of a plant. (weeds are great to dig up roots and all to learn about the different parts of the plant) God created this wonderful earth in all its glory and I am very thankful that I can spend each and everyday learning and teaching my kids of all it's wonders.
**I must apologize to Lauren and the rest of the carnival members, we went on vacation and I thought I had my post schedule and ready to go but apparently it wasn't.**
Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:
(This list will be updated September 14 with all the carnival links.)

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  1. Great story! Sounds like you are homeschooling to me :)
    Carmel is so cute, too.

  2. "...our kids are losing out on a huge learning opportunity when all they do is go to the grocery store to get food or stare at a textbook to learn."

    I totally agree! Your post was very inspirational and so much of what you say is exactly what I think too.

    Love all the pictures too :-)

  3. I love hearing about farm life! You've really articulated how very many subjects there are to learn on a farm, and I love how you incorporate the kids into your day. The chickens with the feathers on their feet are too cool, and that calf is so furry I want to give it a hug! :) I hope we can find a farm around here to visit.

    P.S. I'm glad you were on vacation and having fun!

  4. It sounds like life is certainly very dynamic at your place! How fantastic for your children to have so many learning opportunities available to them. The chicks are gorgeous too.

  5. I really like all the suggestions you have at the end of your post. And as someone who would love to live a semi-farm lifestyle in the future, I must say I loved having a peek into a day in your farmschooling life. Thanks.

  6. hey, never thought about the folding things as part of learning fractions, great remark. And my dear, you take snakes in your hand??? Living in Ivory Coast that makes me go all queezy... If we see a snake, we run in the opposite direction (though the little one always wants to see)
    We had seven chickens, but they all died (rainy season took too long), so we only have four chicks left.
    I completely agree that the best way for kids to learn about animals/food etc is to be confronted with them IRL. ANd even on an apartment, one can cultivate some herbs

  7. Lovely post! I think you are so right - there's so much about life that people miss out on by never having access to the country. It's an incredible opportunity. Here in London we have 'city farms' that always make me sad, because nice as it is, it's just not the real thing and I feel sad for the kids that think it is

  8. "I believe that our kids are losing out on a huge learning opportunity when all they do is go to the grocery store to get food" — yes! I agree! We live in Brooklyn, NY, and so it's going to take some effort, but we're going to regularly take our 2-yo Critter to farms. There's one in Queens (that might be more museum than working farm), and there are places to go apple-picking just north of the city, but I have my heart set on going to the farm where our CSA produce comes from. Your children's day-to-day hands-on experience is invaluable!