Bri and her husband Art run a homestead in Ashville, North Carolina turning a beautiful old farm into a bountiful family homestead and letting us follow along every step of the way, giving tons of tips and tutorials on their Youtube. The following is an excerpt of a previous Instagram takeover.
How do we involve our kids on the homestead? Sometimes this means how do we actually get work done with a small child. It can mean how do we get our kids interested in the homestead? Or how do we practically give our kids chores and jobs? I have found that young children love what we love. As they grow into their independence a bit they begin to have their own thoughts and place their own value on their time and interests.
This growing up is wonderful but it definitely has its own challenges. The 2 year old, who wants nothing more than to be with you at every step of chores and every seed planted, now wants to do their own thing and may not seem quite as interested in the farm.
The challenges of homesteading with the infant or toddler, such as keeping them safe, wearing them on your back, needing to just get something done without help become the challenges of considering your child’s desires but still wanting and needing them to participate in the family. So here is what we have found to be helpful with our own children.
When they are young and excited about everything you are doing…. include them. This is the actual challenge. Because it’s way easier and more efficient to milk animals alone, to make dinner alone, to plant 400 onion plants alone. But really the only way to get through this time is to learn how to include them.
That can look like scaling back so that you can include your child and still accomplish what needs accomplishing. It could be realizing that some of your rows will be uneven and over sown. Some produce won’t be making it to the kitchen. It can be dragging a pack N play to the garden so your little one can play and nap. Having a stroller with you while you milk etc… I find this to be the hardest season of homesteading. Homesteading with babies on my back or in a stroller or playing next to me in the dirt.
It is hard for me to lay down my agenda in order to include my child. But it really bears a lot more fruit when you do. Because I have found they are so much more excited to be a part of the farm as they grow into the next phase which is…
Giving Our Children Responsibility….
How do you involve kids that are past the age of being in love with everything mama does ? This can feel tricky because as mothers we walk that fine line of teaching our kids industry and yet also wanting to let go of them a bit. I am speaking of more the ages 4-7 ( loosely) What we have seen with our kids is that what they are often craving is responsibility. They don’t want to be told what to do every second and they definitely aren’t interested in the mundane chores like they used to be. So we give them their own chores.
We still teach them and guide them and we check up on them. But this is when they are given tasks that are all their own. At 3 or 4 they can be in charge of trash duty, table setting and clearing, running small errands, getting the eggs each day from the chicken coop, having a small garden to care for, watering etc…. 5-7 They can let animals in and out of pens, weeding, harvesting, putting clothes away, caring for their own things, putting clothes in the dryer and taking them out, and even small meals. I find at this age that they crave responsibility, they desire so much to be useful and they know when they actually are.
The hard part of all of this is the patient teaching and correcting. The hardest part for me has been letting go of control of exactly how something is done. If my child has done it well even if it isn’t how I would do it, then it needs to be allowed. Of course they also needs lots of play time and free time, so we keep these tasks small and easy to accomplish so they don’t feel overwhelmed and end up feeling incapable or end up just hating to work. The other thing we do at this age and every age is we just have fun working with the kids. We have jobs they are free to join or not. They are welcome to be nearby playing and just being with us.
Mom, when can I have my own goat? My own garden? My own egg business?” My 9 year old (at the time) kept asking when something on the farm could be hers and only hers. It took me a minute to catch on to this request because in my head I kept thinking … “You can’t” But in true fashion my oldest daughter proved me wrong time and again with so many smaller things. I finally realized what she needed to continue being excited about the farm was ownership.
My oldest is 11 now so we haven’t dipped our toes into the teen years but I think ownership is very important at some point to continue encouraging and exciting our kids. So she bought her own goat, she eventually sold kids from that goat and it was her money. She started 6 day old chicks this year and sold them at 8 weeks as started pullets, she made $60 after feed and purchasing the chicks. I mean $60!!! For 6 young chickens. She has grown her own flower garden and sold bouquets. She has projects that have failed… hatching out geese. Her own personal vegetable garden and I am sure there will be others. But she failed not because I said “no.” She failed for different reasons and then she learned how to push forward, re-evaluate and try new ideas.
Ultimately with all the tips I have given today the main lesson is this… If you want kids to help you on the farm you have to involve them, give them responsibility and give them ownership.
Do I think my kids will be homesteaders when the grow up? I have no idea! But what I do know is that they will believe that they are capable people with something to offer this world. And with that they will be able to do anything.