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Homeschooling for homesteaders is an adventure! Learn how to give your children a world class education on the farm.
We started homeschooling officially in 2016. I knew after we had our first child that, the public school system was not for us. You might be also led to take on your child’s education. If you are a homesteader or aspiring homesteader there are some unique challenges that we face. Both homesteading and homeschooling are highly demanding, but with the right strategies you can do it!
Make the core subjects a priority
Modern education incorporates many subjects into book work. We have found that children work best when more of their education is hands on and integrated into their everyday life. By only focusing on what needs to be done with pen and paper, children remain attentive longer. What do I mean by core subjects? On our homestead, we consider the core subjects as:
- Language Arts
Sometimes in a child’s development focusing on these four subjects heavily is too much. Or, if it is a busy time on the homestead, we will focus only on language arts and math for a season. In fact, early on in a child’s education, I think it is highly important to let them experience science in their natural environment by going outside. The most important part of the core subjects on our homestead, especially in busy seasons is:
- Language arts (reading, writing, grammar, handwriting)
Making math a priority is important because it is easy to get behind. Math is taught by layering concepts, so it is crucial to keep up on this. Reading is equally important, and something we really focus on teaching because once our children are reading well, their education becomes so much more enjoyable and independent.
“Learn to read, so you can read to learn.”-anonymous
Focus on reading
This topic deserves to be addressed separately from all other subjects because it is THAT important. Teaching the skill of reading to your child is a lifelong gift that keeps on giving. It also makes homeschooling easier for the teacher. Here are some actions you can take today to make teaching your child reading a breeze.
Create a reading rich environment
What do I mean by a “reading rich environment?” Stacks of books everywhere, of course! When furnishing the rooms of our home, I drew heavily from the atmosphere of places like libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops. These spaces, encourage me to curl up with a good book. You will find books tucked everywhere in our home. Especially while I have a budding reader, I place readers that are at grade level, so it is easy to pick them up.
Read aloud every night
This is huge! It is also one of my favorite tips because I enjoy taking these nightly adventures with my kiddos. After I read the Read Aloud Revival by Sarah Makenzie, I was certain that reading aloud every night with my kids was for me. It has helped their reading fluency, and overall language development is such a large way.
15 minutes a day will go a long way
When teaching children to read we like to take a tip from the famous educator Charlotte Mason. Short lessons everyday are the best way to teach children and have it stick! We create the habit of reading by setting aside a daily reading time. I take this time to read a book myself which models the behavior I want to see in my kids (and is nice quiet time for me!)
“The most common and the monstrous defect in the education of the day is that children fail to acquire the habit of reading.”–Charlotte Mason
This last tip that we use quite frequently in our home that encourages reading is listening to audiobooks. It is easier than ever to get great narrators of wonderful stories. Audiobooks can bring a story to life and expose children to literature that they might not be able to read themselves yet. We usually listen to audiobooks in the car, but you could easily play them in the house, garden, patio, etc. These books really make my children excited about reading. We have a membership to Audible and enjoy it very much.
Model a love of learning
This is one of the advantages that homesteaders have. The farming lifestyle naturally requires learning. We are constantly learning new skills like soapmaking, candle making, how to grow new types of food, raising different types of animals. We recently started incubating our own chickens, which was a whole new world learn!
By being intentional about bringing kids into the process we can be a wonderful role model for them. They can see first-hand how learning doesn’t just happen in the classroom; it is a lifelong process. I consider their experiences all day a part of their education. When we sit down to work on our core subjects, I avoid calling it “school” but rather “paperwork.” This helps them love “school” or “education” because it is all encompassing not just drudgery.
Keep your children close by
It is easy to have children go play while you work on the farm chores, but it is better to take them under your wing. By mentoring them throughout the day, they are getting more quality education than any classroom could give. If I am planting out kale, or assisting a sheep give birth I make an effort to invite them in.
Throw out the public-school schedule
This is a major stumbling block for parents, especially if we come from the public school. Because learning is happening all of the time, we do not need to stick to the rigid schedule of the school system. Instead of having three months in the summer off, consider year-round schooling which gives more flexibility day to day. We use the year-round schooling method and take our breaks around Spring and Fall planting times, and holidays.
Throw out the public-school classroom
School can happen anywhere. It is tempting to create a classroom at home, to mimic the public school system. Homesteaders and all homeschoolers need not be confined by the classroom. That method of putting desks in rows with learning posters all around was designed to be able to teach uniformly many students at once.
When approaching education at home, we get to have math happen organically at the kitchen table. Reading can take place on a blanket in the garden. When in doubt, think about how adults learn.
Teach your child how you learn best
How do you currently learn something new? Do you go to a structured setting with other adults of the same age and listen to someone talk? Probably not. Learning does vary from person to person, but it typically starts with curiosity.
Take your child’s lead in what interests them. When they are NOT interested in a subject, like math, tack on a lesson of discipline and fortitude. Character development is a major part of any good education.
Look for teaching moments throughout the day
Start your day, with an intention to be present and slow enough to look for opportunities to teach your child. If you are distracted or unavailable, you will miss so many wonderful lesson opportunities. Is your child out catching bugs? Read and talk about insects. Did your child just fall off of their bike? Read and talk about gravity. You get the picture. Just keep talking to your children.
Don’t count out mealtimes
One seamless way to get some paperwork is to serve it up with a meal. We take most breakfasts with a lesson. I like to plan my day at breakfast with my planner. I ask my children to also get some paperwork in during this time. It varies depending on the current need. Sometimes, it is handwriting practice, math practice, grammar worksheets, etc. Sometimes we talk about table manners.
Move towards independence
Keep in mind that the goal of parenting isn’t to raise children, it is to raise men and women. As children learn in early childhood, they will be prepared for independence. As a parent it is important to look for opportunities for them. Allow them to step out on their own with a project or relationship. Once reading is established more paperwork can be done independently which will free up your time to work on the farm or help a younger child.
How do I homeschool while homesteading?
- Simplify book work to the core subjects.
- Focus on helping your child read.
- Encourage independence.
- Model a love of learning.
- Throw out the public-school schedule.
- Throw out the public-school classroom.
- Teach your children how you learn best.
- Read aloud every day.
If you are running a homestead, while homeschooling I know it can be challenging. If you consistently do a little a day, those lessons will add up and your children will thank you for a rich hands-on education. Are you interested in more content like this?