Friday, October 19, 2018

Family Homesteading

family homesteading family homesteading family homesteading family homesteading our chicks chickie chicken herder family homesteading My friend and homesteading extraordinaire Teri Page just released a book (that I have been looking forward to) this week - Family Homesteading. My family and I have only just begun our long anticipated homesteading adventures so this book couldn't have come at a better time. It has already become an invaluable resource for us. I have been highlighting and taking notes as I read, trying to soak in all of Teri's wisdom that she kindly shares with us all. The funny thing is, every time I put the book down, I come back to find my daughters reading it. They seem to be as enamored with the book as I am.

I recently asked Teri a couple of questions about homesteading with children, hoping to glean some of her endless knowledge on the subject. I thought some of you might be in or near the same place as my family with homesteading and wanted to share her answers with you.

At what age do you think children can start with animal chores - specifically chickens and what do you think is the best way for them to start?

 Introducing children to animal chores can begin at a very early age - we first brought our babies to the barn as infants! - but actually entrusting the care of animals to the children is something that you'll have to evaluate on a case by case basis, based on maturity, interest, and ability. My kids began helping with chicken chores from a very early age. Their first job was to "socialize" the chicks by holding them! As toddlers, the kids accompanied us to the barn and carried the eggs back in a harvesting basket, tossed straw on the coop floor, and carried bowls of food scraps. Once they were tall enough to reach latches, they began opening and closing the coop and feeding the flock. Now that they are older (7 and 10), my kids are more engaged with the day-to-day of chicken care than I am. They know each bird by name and personality, and are the first to spot health problems or food shortages. I still enjoy accompanying them to the coop, but they are the chickens' primary caretakers.

How can you motivate your children to help out on the farm/homestead, for example, when they would rather be in the house reading? 

This is a great question, and I'm afraid that I don't have a magic answer for you! Kids have their own interests and hobbies, and I think it is important to give them the space and time to cultivate their own interests. On the other hand, the family has responsibilities, and kids are part of the family, so can be expected to contribute according to their age and ability. Some things that have worked for us: We have always tried to make farm and homestead chores about connection and fun. We plan the garden to include favorite vegetables, walk to the garden together to harvest, and cook meals that include contributions from their beds. When we were milking cows early in the morning, before the kids were awake enough to chat, we set them up in comfy chairs in the barn to listen to Sparkle Stories. Most importantly, we try to strike a balance between asking them to do chores on their own, and making it something we do together. I have had some of my best conversations while accompanying my daughter to the chicken coop. My end goal is for my children to experience a connection to nature, to the seasons, and to the other members of our family; it's not to raise little homesteaders (although I'd certainly love that!). I also want to cultivate a sense of responsibility and an ability to work hard and follow through with commitments. So I have to continually assess whether or not their contributions to farm/homestead work are meeting these goals, or if we need to make adjustments.

Terri also has a free e-course available to go along with her book here : Go check her book out!

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