Sunday, 11 April 2010

Family Farm School

When people ask my almost 6 year old daughter where she goes to school, she replies, "I'm farm schooled." We have always homeschooled her and she has always been pleased with this, but moving to the farm was really influenced by her development.

When she was three a neighbor gave her a wire pig lawn ornament. From that point on, rain or shine, she checked on, fed, and played with her Wilbur every single day. She was the first one of us to really start verbalizing the longer our practical, "if we ever get a farm" but, "WHEN we get our farm!"

Now that we are here and a mere eighteen months into this dream, she works and learns right along with us. She wants a horse so we have explained to her the steps she needs to take to acquire and care for a horse. Now, along with taking care of the wire Wilbur, she collects scrap bits of metal and nails from around the farm, washes and loads empty buckets for whey collection from the neighboring goat milk microdairy (for our pigs), mixes pig porridge (grain and water), feeds chickens, collects and washes eggs, and cares for the cats. She does this all to prepare for the eventuality of horse ownership. In the next year she'll join Clover Sprouts, take horse care lessons, and possibly help with a bottle calf or lamb.

She also works in the garden using real tools, pulling weeds, planting seeds, harvesting, and canning. She's only five, but she's a good helper and we work well together. I treat her with respect, her ideas are as valid and informed as mine in some cases. We are learning this life together. Not to say that she doesn't (or I don't) have bad days where all she wants to do is scream at her sister, but in general the chores calm her and give her something to do with her hands. I totally relate.

Then of course our almost two year old daughter (the aforementioned sister) wants to help too. She also helps wash eggs and buckets.

We have been criticized for having the girls, at such a young age, be so hands on and present at the work we do. There are dangerous moments, for those I make the girls wait in the truck or in the tractor cart. Those are the moments that I wonder about my own capability to handle the situation (like a great pig escape....the one time that the pigs escaped out the gate with me in charge, it was Lily's idea to just fill their food buckets and pour the whey out into the basin. They did quickly come back!) My point is, I'm not irresponsible, but I do want to let them help when they offer it to the best of their ability. Sometimes even beyond what they thought their own ability was. Sometimes I do things I never thought I was capable of; for a child those moments are HUGE and with the right guidance and support....often. This is our family farm we are starting up from scratch and each family member has a place in it.

One of the things my husband and I discussed when we began our family was who we wanted to be like. Not just as parents, but as people. It always seemed to come back to people who were raised on a farm. Those people knew things we wanted to learn, had a way with people, and in general knew a lot about a lot of different things. Skills. Building, fixing, gardening, livestock, engines, religion, hunting, harvesting, cooking, beekeeping, glasswork, carpentry, animal husbandry....the list goes on. We wanted that for ourselves and then for our children. My happiest moments, the only moments in my childhood that were peaceful, were at my aunt's farm in rural Eastern Colorado. Until now, that kind of peaceful mindfulness had eluded me. Now I feel it every night as I tuck my daughters in to bed. It's hard work, but farm school is really the place for us to be right now.