It was our second date…
We were at Applebees, and I sat there chewing my cheeseburger as the future Prairie Husband told me of his dreams to own land and cattle someday.
They were pretty audacious statements from a guy who had lived in town his entire life with little to no agricultural background. Interestingly enough, I just-so-happened to share those same audacious dreams, and I had only ever lived in town my whole life too. We were quite the pair. I hardly knew the guy at that point, but he earned some serious brownie points that night.
As our relationship grew more serious, we talked in length of our desires to raise our future children in the country– we wanted to give them the childhood we never had. City living was never even discussed as an option.
Fast forward 11 years and here we are: 67 acres in the middle-of-nowhere-Wyoming, several dozen farm animals, and three wild, dirt-covered prairie children. Whew. We made it, I guess?
It’s been everything I thought it’d be… and more. Our kids are learning to be gritty, determined, and resilient, although I’m not necessarily teaching them those things– the homestead is. As I watch them grow right alongside the calves and veggies, I’m continually struck by the lessons they are learning. Here are a few of the most notable ones:
7 Lessons Homestead Kids Learn
1. Working hard is a gift.
So many adults treat work like a four-letter word and that makes me sad. Working towards something you love is beautiful and the process of creating and building is intoxicating once you push past the blocks. Yes, work can be hard, dirty, and sweaty, but that moment where you step back to admire the fruits of your labor is one of the best natural “highs” I know. I do everything I can to make sure the Prairie Kids get to experience that feeling, and the homestead provides ample opportunities.
2. You don’t need to be entertained.
I continually scratch my head when I read the complaints from folks in our local newspaper and social media channels declaring there is “nothing to do” in our nearby town. I don’t get it. What can you create, dream up, build, or improve? Do you need to be entertained all the time? Homestead kids learn quickly it’s not the iPad or TV’s job to keep them busy. You will get out of something what you put into it, and if you want something, it’s your job to create it.
3. Care for helpless things.
There’s nothing that puts a lump in my throat faster than watching my kids nurture a sick animal. Even wild-and-rambunctious Prairie Boy instinctively knows when to be quiet and soft when something is helpless or injured. They care for and fiercely guard even the smallest of creatures. Not to mention, the animals do an outstanding job of teaching them exactly when to be firm and assertive, and when to be gentle and nurturing. That happens to be an important skill for human interactions, too. Ahem.
4. If you’re a girl, it’s fine to be feminine and girly, and also know how to build fence, drive a stick shift, wrestle calves, and make a mean pie crust.
Lord help my daughters’ future boyfriends… Prairie Girl resembles Elsa from Frozen with her long, blonde braid, but she’s one of the grittiest 7-year olds I know. She can hold her own with a pushy 1200-pound horse, and isn’t afraid to put a rude turkey in his place if the need arises. I love the confidence homestead living has instilled in my children– especially my girls.
5. If you’re a boy, it’s OK to be loud and rough and tumble. (Although it’s generally best to do it outside.)
It seems like there’s a lot of pressure for little boys to be meek and mild. While I whole-heartedly agree children need to understand appropriate times to be rowdy, I also firmly believe little boys were made to be loud, dirt-covered balls of energy. Nothing encourages this more than country life, and Prairie Boy generally has the biggest smile when he’s completely covered in dirt from head-to-toe.
6. You can do hard things.
The pony will be stubborn and attempt to drag you over to the hay bales, the barbed wire gates will never shut without some grunting and stretching, and coercing the escapee chickens back to their pen is indeed harder than herding cats. Don’t quit, embrace the failure, and keep trying.
7. Producing food is hard work– appreciate it.
When you play a part in growing and nurturing the food you eat, you tend to appreciate it more. The Prairie Kids know food doesn’t come from the grocery store, and they are right in the middle of everything food-related on the homestead, from growing veggies to butchering meat animals. I frequently get questions about how our kids handling butchering time, and honestly, they take it all in stride. They know meat comes with a sacrifice and they instinctively honor that.
Although not without bumps and struggles, homestead living has been one of the best choices we’ve ever made for our family. And just in case you’re reading this and don’t have a homestead yet, take heart. These life lessons aren’t exclusive to country-dwelling folks; you can facilitate them with your own kiddos as well, even if you live smack-dab in the middle of suburbia. With a bit of awareness and creativity on the parent’s part, a child from any walk of life can grow with these lessons as a part of their childhood.
Your turn: What are your favorite aspects of homesteading with kids?