I often get asked how we do all the homesteading we do, while raising and homeschooling 5 kids. Families with kids go perfectly together with homesteading! I thought I would share some of the tips and tricks for how we accomplish it all and get the kids involved.
Homesteading with teens has been so much fun! I love watching them take charge of something and go with it, bringing in new ideas that I hadn’t even thought of and making everything even more productive and fun. For the first 12 years they were following, and then they were able to start branching out and leading in their own ways.
So what does homesteading with teens look like? As I discussed in the previous post in this series, towards the end of the 7-11 year old age range the kids begin to find their niche on the homestead – the things around the home and farm that they like the best and are interested in – and we encourage them in those directions. We also start to include them in decision-making and researching things that we need to learn about. Those things continue in a bigger way into the teen years.
Since our teenagers know how to do all the different tasks around the home and farm due to being with us through their younger years learning them, we pretty much let them focus just on their niche tasks from here on out. If we need help with something, it is all hands on deck (or whatever hands are available at the time) no matter what niche it is. But for the most part the teens get to do their specific thing. For example, Sunshine loves gardening, especially the herb garden. So last year I gave the whole project to her. She got to decide how much to plant, what to plant, where to plant it, when to plant it, how and when to water it, etc. And then she carried out her plans. In the process she also saw a way we could better use the container herb garden space and she made a plan for remodeling it, got permission to carry it out, and then did it on her own. We had BY FAR the most productive kitchen herb garden we have ever had on this property. And for the most part, when we were gardening, she got to work on that and rarely had to help us in the main garden because she had enough to do with her own project. There is less side-by-side and more on-their-own at this age. But there is more discussion as they bring their ideas to us and ask what we think. So the relationship still continues. And often WE are the ones being their “little helpers” to help them make their project ideas a reality.
We also bring a lot more of the economic aspects of homesteading to their attention and ask them to think it through and make decisions to make the homestead more productive. We include them in the bigger decision making and research learning projects as we decide to add or remove some aspect to or from the homestead based on finances and productivity. Our farm is not a hobby farm, per say, everything needs to be as productive as possible and we don’t keep livestock that don’t earn their keep – we just can’t afford it. So bringing the teens in on the finances and helping them see the big picture helps them understand why we make the decisions we do and will help them when they need to make similar decisions in their adult life.
An example of this is that Little Miss (who is just below this age range) is pushing for us to get back the milk goats. So I had her put together the start-up costs and maintenance costs and then figure out milk production and how long it will take the goat(s) to “pay-off” their start up costs (while maintaining their maintenance costs) with the milk we get from them that we don’t have to buy at the store or milk-share. It helped her see the costs and benefits of having the goat(s) so she had a more realistic view of whether or not that was a good decision for the family and farm.
Homesteading with teens is fun because they bring their own ideas to the table and can work independently and take responsibility for things that they find interesting and fun.
We have now discussed all ages of children, from birth to teens, and how our kids participate on our homestead. As you can see, homesteading with kids makes it all the more fun, and helps build strong family unity. It also teaches the kids many practical skills, along with the love of learning and how to learn and teach yourself, responsibility, respect of animals, understanding of food and the work involved in producing it, good character traits, and self-esteem. When done with relationship as the top priority, it is a beautiful thing.