I’m not a mommy blogger.
But you probably already knew that, huh?
It’s partially because I have little interest in telling folks how to raise their kids when I’m still trying to figure out how to raise mine, and partially because my inspiration rarely flows when it comes to that stuff.
I’ve never been one of the cool moms…
We don’t all have matching outfits for Christmas pix. (Heck, I haven’t even done a Christmas CARD in the last 5 years…)
I couldn’t plan a themed birthday party if my life depended on it.
We don’t do finger painting, homemade halloween costumes, or crafts with rainbow-colored pipe cleaners.
Fun snacks? Um, I think there’s a shriveled up string cheese in the fridge if you’re dying.
Are you picking up what I’m putting down here?
So I couldn’t help but scratch my head when recently, the random photos I’ve been posting of our kids on Instagram have been getting a lot of engagement–even more engagement than my cute cow photos (which is saying a lot).
There was the photo of the kids sitting in their homemade pasture fort made from scraps of lumber from the wood pile.
The photo of the Three Amigos heading out to the pasture with their sack lunch.
And the photo of Mesa and Bridger toting off a refrigerator box to be turned into a covered wagon, then a cabin, and then a rocket.
The comments, messages, and likes I’ve received on these posts have made me think it’s time to dig into this (apparently radical) notion a little deeper.
How We (Accidentally) Started Raising Old-Fashioned Kids
Let me just start by saying I didn’t start doing any of this on purpose.
When Christian and I bought our homestead property in 2008, we were excited at the thought of raising our future children here, but I had absolutely no preconceived notions of what that would look like.
The kids have always come along with us, no matter what we doing. Not because we had some grand parenting philosophy guiding us, but rather because there’s a serious shortage of babysitters out here. And we have busy lives with a lot of moving parts, so it just made sense to pack the kids along with us, almost always.
As Mesa (our firstborn) grew, we just did what felt natural. When I’d milk, I’d bundle her up and she’d toddle along. When I’d ride my horse in the summer, I’d stick her in her playpen in the shady barn and let her nap. Bridger (our middle child) was snuggled into our tattered jogging stroller at 5-days old so he could accompany me to the barn to check on things. And Sage (our thirdborn) has been doing everything she can to keep up with her farm-raised siblings almost since the day she came out of the womb.
It was a lot of work at the beginning (putting on tiny mittens and boots x3 is tedious by any standard), but as they’ve grown, they’ve taking on more responsibility and have become pretty darn capable, if I do say so myself.
Mesa (9) and Bridger (6) do barn chores by themselves (unsupervised) each morning. They fill water, feed the chickens, check for eggs, move the horses, and feed the cats.
They can do almost all of the watering chores in the summer, pick vegetables for me in the garden, and scoop poop out of the barn (I still have to help them dump the wheelbarrow if it’s heavy, but no complaints here.)
They have responsibilities, and I’m a stickler for starting our homeschool routine by 8am each morning, but once school and chores are done, their day is mostly their own.
Boots are shoved on feet, and off they go with a hurried “Bye mom!”
And the house is suddenly quiet.
Outside, they run and scream. They ride bikes and throw balls. They poke sticks in the big water tank and pretend they are fishing. They climb on the hay bales and slide down the sides. They coerce the barn cats from their hiding spots and cuddle them until they melt in their arms. They pile up logs and bits of scrap wood to make wagons and forts and houses. They pretend with hammers, sticks, and shovels. They visit the cows in the pasture and scratch the goats. They embark on grand adventures behind house, weaving in and out of the tree rows. They collect rocks and birds nests and random treasures. They wade in the giant pasture mud puddle after a rain and utterly cake themselves in mud.
When I call them in for supper, they tend to be absolutely filthy, exhausted, and completely content.
Living 35+ miles from town has seriously limited the amount of playdates or structured kid activities we’ve been able to partake in thus far. And if I’m being honest, that used to bother me. A lot. I worried I was doing my kids a disservice by not driving them to all the lessons and Mommy and Me activities…
But I’m starting to realize the sort of unstructured childhood we implement here on the homestead, not because it was trendy, but rather because it was the only natural option, is actually a thing.
Who woulda thought?
The Mysterious Benefit of Dirt, Dust, & Animal Hair
I’ve been absolutely fascinated with all the articles I’ve seen floating around lately with scientific “proof” of an old-fashioned childhood (even though they don’t call it that). Our grandparent’s generation never even thought to question these things, but here we are in 2019 having such revelations such as:
- The New England Journal of Medicine observed the link Amish farming communities and their reduced occurrence of asthma
- A study that shows a rural childhood with exposure to animals and dust can boost the immune system and reduce occurrence of mental illness
- This article in the Washington Posts that highlights the increase of childhood balance issues due to lack of movement throughout the day
- This post on ADDitude discussing how playing outside can decrease ADHD symptoms in kids
- The post on the World Economic Forum that encourages parents to let their children to be bored to increase creativity
It’s really easy for us, in all our modern wisdom, to brush off this sort of childhood as being a thing of the past, but can we afford to merely relegate it to the history books?
In my humble opinion, no we cannot.
Yes, we live in an entirely different time with more concerns and more dangers, but for the first time in history, we have a generation of kids who aren’t outside and aren’t moving their bodies. Unstructured play, rolling around in the grass, or playing in the dirt are identified as being crucial to human health and development, we can no longer dismiss them as the optional, silly parts of childhood.
If this trend continues, where will we be?
Free Time Magic
As I watch our kids race, imagine, explore, and create, I am fascinated to watch valuable traits naturally emerge. The kind of traits that will carry them far into adulthood.
They carry themselves with confidence. They find joy in their work (most of the time…) They are creative. They have the ability to solve problems on their own (like filling and carrying a heavy chicken bucket, and coercing the escapee horses back into the right pen).
Is it sunshine and roses all the time?
Well, of course not.
Sometimes they fight. Sometimes they get hurt. And sometimes they come to the house with a scraped knees and snot running down their face.
But that just comes with the territory.
I’m not claiming to have it all figured out, not by a long shot. And I’m usually extremely hesitant to give parenting advice, because, well, my oldest is only 9 and I still have yet to determine how this whole gig will turn out.
But I am completely and utterly convinced one of the most powerful parts of a healthy childhood lies is the unstructured free time.
It’s powerful stuff.
How to Start Implementing an Old-Fashioned Childhood for Your Kids
Whenever I talk about this, naturally, the logical question that arises next is, “And how exactly does one do this?”
Here’s my best advice:
Step One: Kick them out the door and leave them alone.
Step Two: Repeat the next day.
Kind of kidding…. but not really. I realize dangers do exist. And it’s quite likely that you’ll be able to let your kid ride their bike across town (unless it’s a very small town). Of course, you’ll need to weigh the risks in your particular situation and be mindful of them.
But we do kids a disservice by scheduling them too much.
Let them play.
Limit the screens.
Don’t fear their boredom– that’s where creativity is born.
Fight the urge micro-manage them.
Teach them to wonder and ask questions.
Give them hours on a summer day to hunt insects, look at clouds, and roll in the grass.
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m NOT against putting your kids in activities (we do 4-H and a weekly homeschool co-op), but when it comes to the most meaningful activities we do as a family, I’ve found that my kids light up the most when they have the chance to be a part of something bigger than themselves.
For us, growing food together is more meaningful than finger-painting. Not that there’s anything wrong with finger painting… But my kids love knowing the green beans they planted are a crucial part of our family’s meal plan come July, they argue over who gets to smash the tomatoes into the food mill when we make sauce, and Mesa beams with pride when she can rattle off the tag numbers of our beef cattle by heart.
So no… I’m not a mommy blogger, and I won’t pretend for one minute that I know everything about parenting or raising kids. But I wholeheartedly agree with Mr. Rogers when he said, “Play is the work of childhood.”
And I’ll venture to say that if we can parent like it’s 1955, our kids will be a whole lot better off.
Listen to the Old Fashioned On Purpose podcast episode #20 on the topic How We’re Raising Our Kids Like It’s 1955 HERE.
(Closing Note: This post wasn’t written with the intention of making anyone feel less than or guilty about how they parent their children. All families are different. That being said, I hope it serves as an inspiration and a spring board for parents desiring a different sort of childhood for their kids. Also, we aren’t purists at our house– my kids do watch limited amounts of TV, which doesn’t bother me, as long as it’s punctuated by plenty of free play outside.)
Barbara Cliche says
Great advice. Thanks, Jill
Dawn Postle says
Please stop apologizing for the way you’re raising your kids….the helicopter parents never would.
Leah foster says
Love everything you post! Just wanted to give you the heads up for one of your advertisers….NoraCora
Leah foster says
Sorry ? my attempt at leaving a comment was incomplete ….NoraCora is represented in your feed… you may want to google reviews for this company. Not very favorable! Keep up the good work ???
Love everything about this, we live on 33 acres in NC, & have found it has been amazing for our kids not only to have responsibilities but to have places to roam & explore on their own. Thank you for posting this!
Mona Price says
I was raised on a farm and did the same with my daughter. I came from a big family. She on the other hand was a only child. I put the play pin in the barn. So when I WAs doing things she WAS safe. Personally i think this is the only way to raise kids. Seems to give them a better understanding of the basics. Oh she went to public school and we got some notes sent home about what she shared. Like MOM and Dad delivering baby calves. The teachers thought it was great! Thank goodness! She is now 26! Your post take me back to her younger years. Keep up the good work! Enjoy your pictures and cooking! Ky
Kayla- Prairie Homestead Assistant says
That’s so sweet! Thanks for sharing your story, Mona! 🙂
Jan Engelberth says
And my youngest told of butcher and slaughtering a cow. She told how she loved the sound of removing the skin with her plastic knife.
Laura Olofson says
You’ve hit the nail on the head, well done. But they aren’t raised yet! Things will change as they grow up. We homeschooled 8 sons over 23 yrs ( that’s just schooling). We lived rural although not always on a farm but mostly. And the joy of mud puddles and doing chores definitely changed over time. As did being isolated and living a little prairie life. Dirt bikes and trucks help but at some point they want to play sports and be out there as they should. So be ready! It’s ok and they will be ok. 4 of my eight sons have served the military (2 are police now) . Afew own there own business. But they ALL adventured out at 17/18 in one way or another. Living the prairie life makes them brave and adventurous for sure. So hang on mama it gets wild. Blessings to you and your family.
Tom, KS says
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I agree that everyone has unique circumstances but it is good to let kids be about the business of being a kid.
Becky Crisswell says
Yes Ma’am! I’m # 10 out of 12. Momma said she had to live in the country cause folks didn’t like it when she had to use a switch or the belt.
Everything your kids are doing – we did as kids. Now I live in a country community. Every summer I have Grand Camp for a month. My grands love coming here! Goats, Steers, Donkey and huge bunch of ducks and chickens, cats and dogs. We explore the countryside and swim in the creek. Fishing is a favorite with them kids. They also learn to do a lot of mowing, dig holes for plants, fencing, gardening and anything else I can think of. They have adventures in the hay field and sheds. They help great grandma and all the older folks close by.
I’m all for raising them out here. My daughter says when the kids are here I impart a quality of life they don’t get anywhere else.
That is a huge compliment! I will take it!
God bless you for your Input and guidance. And God bless your family, crops and critters.
Love this! Very inspiring. So hard when things get more electronic by the minute. Wish we could pack it all up and go find wide open spaces. Hubby isn’t as much built for it as I am. I’ll keep praying on it though.
Cristy Kessler says
I absolutely love the idea of Grandcamp! I don’t have grandkids yet, but I know I want to be as hands-on as my kids will let me. I want to give them a break from time to time, and I think this sounds like a great way to do it. We definitely need to let kids be kids. Too often they are trying to be “grown” way before their time. This grownup deal is certainly overrated. 🙂
This article was a gift to me as a mother of a one and three year old. I know in my heart this is true and yet I feel this pressure to do all of these kid oriented activities! Interesting to think about how mothers of generations past raised their children as you prescribe, alongside their daily work and in the home and with the Lord. My thoughts lie in how young people seem to have a growing sense of entitlement and I wonder if that sources at least partly from all of these child oriented activities.
You summed up everything perfectly! I don’t live that far from town, but we rarely go there unless we need groceries or something from the hardware store. Most family activities we do revolve around our kids learning something. History, culture, and respecting our environment are top of the list!
I always joke that I should have been born in the 50’s! I love watching your little ones, reminds me of watching my own!
I absolutely, wholeheartedly agree! Our kids didn’t start out raised on a farm, but they were young when we moved to one. They were involved in 4H and FFA, two wonderful programs. The lessons learned through chores and hard work (I mean did they really want to follow the hay wagon and throw square bales on to it by hand? And then stack them in the barn in the 90 deg hot August sun? I think not) And livestock means chores, daily chores, every day. No matter what else is on the schedule. And yet their time in the barn doing chores, also allowed for time spent with each other. Time for ummm….manure battles, and climbing in the loft, and things I probably never want to know about. They learned to entertain themselves, work hard, play hard, problem solve. I could go on and on. They have all grown up to be hard working, productive adults now. Full disclosure: none of them had a cell phone until they were 16 and started driving. They probably came as close to the childhood I had (I was born in 1955) as any child in their generation could.
M. Whitley says
Absolutely love this! I have been parenting like it was 1955 for the last 22 years. My oldest two are in college and they often ask if I am letting the six younger siblings do the outside things they got to do. “Momma,” my daughter who is 19 said, “you need to make Daddy get the kids a dump truck full of dirt. Remember that time he did it for us and we had that huge dirt hill?” It makes for great memories and lots of fun. I love that other people are seeking it for their own children. It will make for an amazing next generation!
HELP! I love your site…. but everytime I ever try to look at things and read them, I am bombarded with ads. It takes forever to navigate your site because of the constant ads. There are so many things I would like to read or look at, but I usually only get halfway thru before I get exasperated. I tried on my laptop and my ipad. Its all the same. WHatever your subscriptions are with advertisers, there are too many and it actually drives people away. and, your site other wise, is absolutely beautiful. Maybe thats why I get frustrated. Its because I am actually interested in reading your articles and blogs. You write very well. Well, just wanted to share with you.
Try a different browser. I switched from Chrome to Mozilla Firefox and there are far fewer ads for me.
Hmm…I use Chrome and I have zero ads. I wonder what the difference is. Permissions or maybe a virus?
Cookies. Remove them periodically.
Same here! I want to read but the ads take over 3/4 of my phone’s screen . I skip a lot because of it.
I use Safari and have virtually no ads.
I use Safari too, and get lots of ads.
This is really condescending to “mommy bloggers” (as though they cant write about what they are learning or know but you can re homestead?) but agree on all points about raising kids the old fashioned way!!!!! We have 5 and while we dont homestead the vast majority of their time is spent doing random imagination led things!
There is a little icon, 4 horizontal lines, to the left of the blog name. If you press it you get ‘reader view’ which is just photos and text.
Rhonda Mason says
Oh my gosh!! I didn’t know that! That’s awesome. ?
Try looking for the “Reader View” option on your browser. My iPhone and my laptop (Firefox browser) have it. It will take out all the ads & items blocking the screen. I use it all the time because those things are so annoying!!
ICouldn’t agree with you more. We raise our kids basically the same way. I wish I seen more family living like you and me this world would be a lot better place!
Laurie Hines says
I’m 61, a grandmother of 4, a retired teacher and all I can say is you are wise!!! I wholeheartedly agree!
Love what you have said here. My husband and I live on an acreage and he farms as well as works in town. I worked until we started our family 11 years ago. We were both raised on a farm with various animals and crops. When our oldest was around 7, we realized we were raising “city kids” on a farm. They were not getting any of the experiences with animals and farming that I cherish (mostly) from my childhood. So we purchased 20 chickens and it has been a slippery slope since. We now have 80 chickens, 18 ducks, and 19 dairy goats and a garden. My children now know where most of their food comes from seeing it first hand. We hope we are teaching them responsibility and respect for food and animals and most importantly people. As you said it isn’t always easy, especially when they have to miss some of the extra activities that their peers are involved in. But who said raising children or life for that matter was supposed to be easy? Thank you for putting this out there. I hope it encourages even one family to get back to the basics.
I agree 100%. I grew up north of Seattle on some acreage with all the animals you could think of, but even so, when we moved to SD with kids it was a whole new ball game. Out here I parent too much, but when I visited back there I was always judged for not doing enough. Now a few years later and a couple more kids I’m leaning to my free range kiddos on 10 acres with chickens, ducks, and goats. I kick them outside and love seeing what they’ll come up with! Just kids being kids! Great post!
Thank you for your lovely post. It delights my heart to see this!
It’s what I wish for, but it doesn’t seem to be God’s will. In the ways we can, we do parent like it’s 1955. Our children are 12 1/2, 9 1/2, and 6. We’ve not put them in sports or most other activities and seriously limit screen time. And they find things to do both inside and out – with neighbors, just each other and rarely, alone. The farm life is what I dreamed about for them; my husband wanted fields & streams for them to roam. Instead we live in a subdivision outside two major cities. Acres to roam and animals to tend and a garden to manage don’t seem to be in our future. But it makes my heart so happy to see it for others! ??
ICouldn’t agree with you more. We raise our kids basically the same way. I wish I seen more family living like you and me this world would be a lot better place!
Barbara Gosnell says
This may be one of the more important posts you’ve ever done. And that’s saying a lot! Thank you!
Hit the nail right on the head. Let kids be kids. ? Loved this post.
I agree with you. Children need and benefit from unstructured time to be children. When I studied special education it was drummed into us, “Play is the work of the child.” Sadly I can’t reference the quote anymore.
We lived in the suburbs on one of Australia’s busiest roads. Play time was limited because leaving the backyard was not safe. Also the harsh climate restricts outside in the sun time. My children went outside before school and after school. They had one swing of the very old fashioned type and later some bikes. They had chalk to draw on the cement and roadways were popular. Most toys were chosen to be open ended.
Weekends often saw up visiting parks so they could play. Inside time did not equal television or computer time. Daily rests were implemented. I have a fond memory of my youngest sleeping while the eldest sat in arm chairs playing with needles and thread. My son looked at my daughter and said, “Hey Bethy I love you.” Those moments are far more precious than many store bought memories.
Yes! We live in a little apartment in a city and dream to have a little farm one day… but alas, we have to make do with what we have. This ultimately means lots of unstructured time, some open-ended play items, lots of books and art supplies, and letting them loose in open green spaces many times per week. I wish I could put them to work outside, but currently inside chores and helping me cook have to suffice.
Saving this post for my future family. Thank you 🙂
Tonya Vaden says
I have never read a more accurate post in my life. My husband and I are raising our two boys exactly as you are…on our homestead with every kind of animal and pure grit of hard work…and the benefits of hard work. They head outside on a Saturday morning and are gone until lunch…sometimes I have to bring them back in for breakfast. ( I truly can go hours without seeing them) They fix their own lunch if I am outside working…and clean up. I love our life and feel blessed that God has provided us richly to raise our boys just as we are.
Ranch Wife says
AMEN! I know that everyone’s situation is different, but I am saddened to see that the vast majority of children these days are missing out on childhood. Our children are now grown, but we ranch and I’m grateful that we were able to raise them out at the end of a dirt road where dirt and fresh air and endless sky and imagination were in endless supply. They often left the house after breakfast and chores and disappeared for hours, returning home when they were famished…dirty but happy.
I guess technology wasn’t quite as infused into society then as it is today (our children are 28 and 25), but we never had video games in our home and they never had televisions in their rooms. If they were inside, we had books and puzzles and board games, but they were honestly raised outdoors. They helped in every aspect of ranching and both have a strong work ethic. They both often reminisce about their childhood and say that they are grateful for the way that they were raised.
Keep up the good work!
I laughed so hard at your line about shriveled up string cheese…that is my house. My husband sent me this and said “I thought you would like to read this and know we aren’t alone.”. We do have a few friends surprisingly close by, but we all live rather busy-at-home lives. Outside activities stress me out because we have so much to do right here. I grew up close to where we currently live, and my parents raised us much the same.
My sister and I grew up on a large farm. We have so many memories of being outside exploring and figuring out things on our own. I always knew I wanted my kids to experience this too. My husband grew up in the city and wanted to be in the country because of how he grew up. Our 3 year old successfully does her chicken chores by herself, and most of the cattle chores. She’s not afraid to show others how it’s done and tell them why. Our almost 2 year old follows behind her like she’s 3. I love that they would rather be out in the garden than watching TV. The little tv they see is limited which is clear they have less novelty things they are into. I’d much rather them have life skills filling their minds and learning from their experiences. We frequently have friends asking us to do dance, gymnastics, etc. then preschool at 3, etc. Its a constant fight to resist, but our heart doesn’t doubt how we are raising our kids. I love that we are not part of the “normal” but yet our kids truly are having a great childhood. One that we think they can benefit in the long run. Thanks for putting your words out there. It’s good to hear that there are people who think we are doing right and resisting what everyone else says we should do!
I am a mom of 7 in upstate NY. We purchased a garden center and u-pick berry farm in 2007 with the intention of raising as much of our own food as possible and teaching our kids how to work. Loved this post! Glad to know that I am not the only one fighting off the nagging thoughts that I should be doing more for my kids than just putting them to work on the farm and providing unstructured time to play. Keep writing Jill. You are such an inspiration to me.
Jean Betzold says
I totally agree with you and everything everyone is saying about kids being outdoors. I am 61 with two sons and 3 grandchildren. My son’s grew up helping on our small average farm with the animals, garden, watering, haying etc. They used to complain once in a while about chores and responsibilities, but in the end, they turned out great. My grandkids have been raised in cities, no garm life at all, unless they visit grandma and grandpa. I worry about how they will learn about where good food comes from, the responsibility of taking care of animals, and just being in nature and being outdoors instead of looking at TV or phones and computers all day. I applaud you Jill and love your truth about how you chose to raise your family. Your children are beautiful, and look happy and healthy. If only this outdoor way of life would catch hold again and parents would realize the importance of letting kids make their own imagination and games outdoors. NO PHONES ALLOWED!! I mean look at us, we survived and are probably way better off for having been raised outdoors.
When we started homeschooling one of the reasons was to let our kids be kids. Then I got the homestead bug and chickens, a cow and sheep followed. My middle child has grabbed a hold of the homestead life with bith hands! Her college classmates were fascinated by her lifestyle. It is so foreign to them.
Even my cuty girl ildest would like a little room in the country someday. Growung up outside and in the dirt is such a blessing!
Patricia Harvey says
I LOVED your post this week, you could write about your kids every week, and you are absolutely doing the right thing.
I’m almost 70 years old, which means I was a kid in 1955, and I grew up on a farm in Iowa. I had a horse and a bike and I lived outside. I played in the barn, hung out in the chicken house, and had lots of chores. I walked or rode my bike the mile to our one-room school everyday., rain or shine. It was the greatest childhood a kid could have, and my three sons, while not raised on a farm, were raised pretty much the same way. Unfortunately my grandchildren did not have that opportunity, and they’re living the city life addicted to their phones and devices. Your kids will be much the better for their lifestyle, but you already know that. Keep up the good work and give us more stories about the kiddos.
I was 10 years old in 1955 and I remember playing outside, with mud and anything else I could find in the yard. We had no scheduled activities other than our music lessons and having to practice and do homework. We walked or rode our bikes everywhere. Life was a lot different then, at least in the city I grew up in. I applaud you for not micromanaging your kids and over-scheduling them. Your kids are learning that responsibility is NOT a dirty word, and that it can actually be enjoyable to be responsible. And they have great opportunities to develop curiosity. Curiosity is the one thing a parent would do well to develop in their children – it can last a lifetime. I’ve never had my own kids, so I haven’t thought that much about how to raise them, but I love seeing that your choice of lifestyle has resulted in raising your kids well. In my experience with watching our grandchildren, children who do not spend all their time on computers and the like are much more interesting people and much easier to talk to than the ones who are deep into their electronics.
Simply a fantastic and priceless message.
I like the reference to 1955 – since that’s when I was born! And I think that my kids are doing a pretty fine job of raising their kids with an attitude similar to yours – but I think it is so rare in today’s world and mankind is losing touch with so many of the important things in life as the less important things seem to be grabbing more and more attention and enthusiasm. Kudos to you for doing what you do, for expressing these thoughts and spreading them around.
Lori J. Yeilding says
When my Children were 4 and 5 years old we lived in a town. My Son went to Kindergarten. He was held up for his lunch money on a regular basis. The school and police seemed unable to help. We packed our family and moved to the mountains. We built a cabin, 1 1/4 miles by foot in the mountains. I homeschooled them. We worked together as a family, raising and gathering food. Hunting. Building the cabin. The trees were sawed down by hand and dragged to the building site. We used hand frowns to peel them. We scavenged roofing, doors and windows. My kids played in the mud and learned a lot of different things. We had no TV, so we took turns reading aloud by kerosine lamps at night, before bed. They are now in their 40s. They are strong people mentally and physically. They are raising their own children. They wish that they could do it like they were raised, but the Government won’t let them. Sad.
I strongly agree. I was raised that way, as were my children. Now I see many children going to classes and activities everyday even as young as 1 year old. Kids need creative time, outdoors as much as possible. I will also keep them healthy. Don’t fear the dirt.
This is great, but how do you disconnect kids that have already been connected to things like videogames and ipads? Mine are 10, 7 and 4. The 10 year old plays sports and does after school activities but in his free time only wants his ipad or to watch youtube videos of videogames!!!! Any suggestions from any readers would be great.
It’s a blessing for you that your children are still young enough that you can take the ipad and video games away. They will definitely find something else to do, even if they put up a fuss or complain at first. It’s so much easier at 10 and 7 than it will be at 20 and 17.
I know it seems like a simplistic approach, but truly, it’s as simple as removing the technology <3
Feel your pain. We raised five children in the city. Hated that for them.
Soooo, we spent quality time in the library searching for books to address their interests. The books had to be passed by me since not all books are worthy to be read.
I invited the neighbor children to our home. Invitations to the neighbors’ homes were not all positive. The only safe place was our home, so kids had to come to our yard, our home to play marathon basketball.
I organized a baseball game with parents bringing their children to a nearby baseball field.
My husband built an indoor treehouse in the upper ceiling area of our former garage. A HUGE hit. Loved it for them; loved it for us as parents.
Homework was taken very serious from school and done after a thirty minute break from arriving home.
It’s not easy but you get creative and keep the children busy by creative, on purpose, activities.
I also chose what video games came into the house. No violent useless stuff.
Videos, in general, had to maintain family friendly themes.
Young minds are impressionable and it was our job, as parents, to keep things “G rated”.
Sue` Barker says
The “fort” under the weeping willow tree, gathering worms for fishing, riding bikes, warm eggs from the nesting box, horses sniffeling in your hair, falling out of the crabapple tree, bumps, bruises bees & birds nests, planting , watering and on & on. 65 years later and I can still picture it all in great detail….and I am still playing in the dirt.
Even though I was raised in an urban environment in the 1960’s I benefited from living next to miles of undeveloped hills. I do recall coming home only for lunch but otherwise we were in the mud, creek, bugs and bikes. Sisters and brothers. It started with the parents though, both of whom were raised during the 40s – 50’s in woods or from make-do lifestyle. I know this generation can turn it around and I see it with kids riding bikes and running through puddles on my block.
This is lovely! I grew up riding bikes to a local ford and “gardening” in ignored patches of land, but as the mum of a 5 month old I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to give her anything like the childhood you’re describing – land in the UK is expensive, there’s not much rural space that isn’t intensively used, and the garden in the first house we’ve been able to afford is maybe 20 square yards, most of which is paving! I’m definitely hoping to manage a vegetable patch before she’s old enough to help, and there are a few local paths in our village that I think a small child could find a wonderland of play in, but otherwise it’s hoping we can upgrade in a few years to somewhere big enough for chickens and maybe a climbable tree or two!
Micromanaging will absolutely stifle creativity.
Born one of 5 in the early 70’s in a small suburban Australian town. Back yards were bigger and mother had no chance of keeping us all in check or inside for that matter. Life was busy climbing (the higher the better), building crazy contraptions in dad’s shed, mud pies, growing veggies, raising a goat, feeding chooks, riding bikes…… falling off bikes!
The only rule… ” Be home before the street lights come on”.
We also owned 36acres in the country where we ran wild like a hoard of screaming banshees, swam in the river, rode the neighbours horses, watered the chestnut grove with buckets on the back of the trailer. Life long problem solving and coping skills were developed.
Now a rock climber with skills and knowhow to renovate my own house. We wore hand me downs and ate home cooked nourishing meals from scratch.
There were no mobile phones. You learnt phone numbers from memory! Smart devices are killing creativity and disabling memory development. Life was simpler back then but far richer than today.
Kids have their very own perfectly good problem solving brain. I know I thought I was super capable of making my own decisions at age 4!
Jill, your kids are wonderfull little humans and will be forever grateful for their magical freedom. The answers to the best future lie in the past. I only wish I had my own children to pass on my adventures. Love to you all x
Jill, this has to be your best post ever! I’ve enjoyed reading all the comments too. I have one DD who ‘gets’ it, and is raising her kids similarly. (She is a ‘city kid’ who realized she wanted better for her own kids) The other grands are being raised as city kids, get the ‘rare’ visit out here, and have no clue how to entertain themselves without their electronic devices. Our rabbit ear tv isn’t good enough for them. They don’t want to get dirty playing outside or helping in the garden. We are the ‘wierd’ grandparents to them. It’s okay, we will continue to try to inspire them on their rare visits. So keep on ‘doing you’, because it is so important that more people know it’s ‘okay’ to ‘free range’ their kids. Isn’t it ironic that so many of us grew up the same way, but these days, it has a ‘label’ and often a negative connotation? We all survived just fine…and your kids are obviously thriving!
Jennie Pence says
Loved your post. My kids were brought up in the 80’s and most of the time they played in the garden. The old climbing frame they mended with an old broom handle, they then used an old set of curtains to drape over the top with an old door wedged in to make the platform for the house! They really enjoyed themselves.
This is how I was raised and its how my kids are raised. They are homeschooled and they would live outside if I let them. They all have a tablet & rarely touch it. They have toys & video games but they are barely touched. My kids love the outdoors and the learning it brings. They love our animals and bees on our little farm. We are not giving them a disservice by allowing them to know a life outside of a screen. I quit blogging & I need to pick it back up. I felt I wasn’t the mommy blogger like others with interesting daily projects but truly I have what others need. Real life. Thanks for the post and vulnerability.
I love the idea of letting kids be kids while also raising them to be responsible. The world needs more parents like this. Heck, I need to switch my parents more to this style. I think we could all learn something from this. Even us adults could do with a bit of outdoor time and freedom to explore and learn instead of being tied to technology so much.
Kaylee Fisher says
I totally agree with you and your thoughts! It is a tough task to raise a happy and good person with the right values. Nowadays really important to talk with kids, teach them what is good and what is bad, what is right or wrong. We are responsible for the next generation. And I think every parent should be extremely focused on proper parenting!
Crystal Dawson says
Thank you so much for writing this. I agree that you shouldn’t apologize for the way you raise your kids. We have moved to a munch smaller town and only have a .27 Acre, and in the smallest way have been trying to raise the kids in the 90s as my husband and I say. No tablets, little TV screen time and lots of outside dirt and fun. I have had doubts some days about the lack of play dates and kids activities and it’s been at the back of my mind for a while, then finding and reading this post calmed all those doubts. At least we are focused on the manner of their growth! Rock on momma! Thank you so much for your words!
Natalie Roe says
Yes yes yes!!!!!! We are raising ours similarly, minus the cattle for now. We live in a small town in rural Northern California, close to the Oregon border. Just last weekend we spent the day butchering our meat hens, we plucked by hand, my 10yo, 8yo, and 5yo are the best little pluckers!! They attend a small charter school, where I’m a teachers aid as well. My husband is a paramedic and part time fly fishing guide. We eat a lot of fish as well 🙂 We have to go to town to use the internet and a few nights a week we watch Andy Griffith before bed 🙂
Thank you for sharing!
Rural raised kids rock????
Dirt don’t hurt??
~A Momma with the same heart
Natalie Roe says
I’m a former city kid too, born & raised on the beaches in Los Ángeles!
Lori Rothschild says
Love your thoughts here! Also- The photography is SO beautiful! Are you using an iPhone ? If not, what camera do you use?
You’d be a great mommy blogger. This post was awesome. Sure your lifestyle wouldn’t work for every family but I don’t think anyone could argue the benefits your children are getting from the way you’re raising them. I aspire to raise my daughter (2.5) this way but it’s hard with her being an only child. She gets bored easily and looks to me for entertainment but I think when she gets some siblings that’ll change. Thanks for sharing this post, I really enjoyed it.
Keep up the good work, it’s hell lot inspiring!!
I can testify that you do not have to be rural to try and raise ‘old-fashioned’ kids. I am American but live in the congested city of Cairo, Egypt. Thanks to a tile backyard space, my 3 young kids still spend hours outside. There’s no rolling in the grass or climbing trees, but there’s still ants and beetles to be hunted or forts to make out of cardboard boxes. Thank you for encouraging each of us to make space for our children’s imaginations no matter where God has placed our homes.
Kayla- Prairie Homestead Assistant says
This is so awesome! And a good reminder that we can raise old-fashioned kids no matter where we live or how much space we have! Thanks for sharing Beth!
Thank you for this! Its like a breath of fresh air… a blog post not telling me how to do things a d making me feel like a shitty parent because I don’t fingerpaint!! Seriously. I happened upon this on Pinterest somehow and I’m glad I took the time to read. Ill be following you guys from now on! Blessings to you and your family.
Heather S. says
Yes! We live “out in the boonies” as everyone says and my boys can easily spend hours outside and play and explore. I usually get one coming to the open windows yelling, “mama, come look what I found!” My husband even does learning activities with them. When school was out due to the pandemic, he had them each draw a garden box on a big concrete slab with sidewalk chalk. Then use different colors of chalk to draw what veggies or berries they would want in their garden and how many. Once they did that he gave them a “price sheet” so they then could figure up how much money was in their garden. They have animal chores and garden duties here and don’t spend hours on electronics or tv. We don’t have cable or internet either so the tv part isn’t hard when there’s nothing on the 30 channels we have that interest them. We do however enjoy the older shows that I grew up on thanks to antenna tv and miss out on most of the newer shows. I’m not complaining and my kids don’t either. i’ve had several people tell me they love that we’re raising them like this and I do too.
Love your blog and thank you so much for this post. 🙂
Sarah Nash says
I love this. We are raising our children different and I think it’s great but I know a lot of people don’t agree with it. We homeschool and my boys ( I have 3 another due in October) play outside most of the time. We’ve had goats before but currently we are content with our chickens, dogs, and cats. We have a garden and woods to roam in. We don’t go places all the time or do exciting things every week but my boys are happy and healthy and we have a great relationship with them. I feel so blessed to get to live this life alongside my children and I am grateful for the opportunity to have this lifestyle, whether anyone understands it or agrees with it. I love to see other people living their lives in a different way that doesn’t just go along with what society says we should be doing.
I was raised in a home with no television…..we lived in town, but there wasn’t any computer or cell phones…..when I listened to music, it was on my Mickey Mouse AM radio in my room. My mom was a school teacher and every morning (in summer time) after completing our morning chores, we did a couple of hours of school work. Mom said it was important to keep up our study skills during the summer so that getting back into the “school learning mind set” was easier to do. After that, the day was ours to read, go rollerskating, build a fort out of a refrigerator box, going down to the local pond to catch pollywogs…I loved that part of my childhood and wouldn’t trade it for anything…..you’re doing a great job as a parent in these scary times – and your kiddos will be good, well adjusted adults because of how you’re teaching them and raising them! Blessed children!
Susan Hammond says
Yes, I love this! One point, the reason your kids are so ready to just go play is because they have work to do first. Work is an important part of childhood and is best implemented on a farm/homestead. There is always work to be done and so much is kid appropriate in this setting. So, when the work and school is done, they are ready to go and be creative and on their own. No need for “guided play”. You probably have to “make” them come in!
milly james says
hi how do we get your schedule ? chores homeschooling etc? and i cant sign up email link nor working
What blessed kids you have that they are able to really experience childhood. More people should be so lucky. Your doing a fabulous job. Enjoy every moment of it. Kids need the basic structure you are giving them and their feet and imagination will do the rest.
Currently reading a book that was talking about raisins kids in the 50s. I wish we could but unfortunately we have many more worries as a parent these days. Parents in the 50s didn’t worry about there child at all because everything that we are suppose to accept as normal now days was weird and not ok. I’m still going to try to instill morals and values in my children’s lives but I would be naive to think their education on sex, drugs, alcohol, homosexuality isn’t going to be brought to their attention early in life.
L0ved that…We raised our kids in the 90’s and the start of thev20’s in a very small town. I loved the freedom they had growing up…so important….I agree with everything you said.. Thank you wonderful articla
I loved this post! Around what age did you begin giving your children the freedom outside, without your presence?
When my granddaughter would complain about being bored, her mother would tell her. It is your job to be bored. She never apologized & never tried to solve the problem. Mommy had a job. Daddy had a job. Lia had a job and sometimes her job included being bored. She was always a responsible well adjusted and independent child and has carried those same traits off to college.
I’ve never commented on an article or blog before…. but this one… it’s like you wrote it from my heart. This. Is. Our. Life. I don’t do elaborate celebrations, we don’t have many extracurricular events for the same reasons you describe and we homeschool with a really broad acceptance of what counts as school, because it all counts! After the dedicated school work, they play independently for much of the day; their creativity and problem solving is magnificent to watch. They work as hard (or harder) as paid farm hands and we all earn the sweetness that comes from the fruits of our labors, making it all more worthwhile. We work shoulder to shoulder, we play hand in hand and everyone knows their value in this family.
I loved your article, thanks for giving me words to help describe the awesomeness of a life like this. ??
Sami V. says
As I read your article I realized, yes, this is what I want for my kids. And it was very much my childhood, although not on a farm, there was woods and streams and fields and we were a good distance from town and sidewalks and friends. We also didn’t have a tv for a lot of my childhood. My kid does a lot with me because its easier than trying to occupy him elsewhere and be constantly interrupted, so yes, you can help me make cookies or garden or wash the porch. And I still think raspberry bushes are the best for kids, just their height, red is ready, and they are so good at prompting me to go check everyday or run off by themselves to do it. Articles like these are always good reminders and kicks in the butt to further limit screen time (mostly me!) and get outside or get busy inside. Now I need something to help me with my clutter! (Also part of my childhood)
Thank you thank you thank you. I didn’t realize you had a website as I’ve watched you on Youtube for a few years now. This is how we were raising our kids and much of the time I have felt so guilty for not doing the big parties (I hate it and I’m a terrible party planner) and not going to tons of playdates, etc. we have 10 acres, 1400 sq feet of food production gardens and maple forest we tap. No tablets, not allowed cell phones, limited video games, required helping with wood/dishes/laundry. We’ve been teaching them all the skills i grew up with, living on a very small income in the Central/north of Ontario. We are in a southern area which affords us a great homeschool community but a lot of families seemed to be way more into the extracurriculars than we could be. I just have so much to do and accomplish during the day and I always thought we got so much out of playing in the bush and mud. We have 3 grandparents living with us here too. I just so very much appreciate your take on it and it kind of gives me the permission (that I shouldn’t need but do) to keep doing what I think is best for their solid development.
I agree that unstructured free time is important and limiting screens, etc. all that you said was good. But now that I have kids that are just arriving into adulthood, I feel that you may have missed the most important thing in your kid’s lifestyle that will help them transition into adult life: meaningful and purposeful work done together with family. Kids need more real work responsibility. Otherwise they get to be the age of an adult and can’t handle doing anything unpleasant. They feel like they can’t work at anything unless it’s fun. They don’t like to have to do things a certain way ( makes it hard to have a boss). They just want to “follow their heart” and wait for the dream job to fall in their lap ( because all dream jobs are always fun and interesting). Meanwhile, they continue to live with mom and dad, or mom and dad pay for them to live elsewhere… work is a blessing and brings a lot of self esteem. Work also inspires creativity (how can I do this more efficiently?). Structured, real work is a blessing (read Wendell Berry). Too much work is not good, but these days we aren’t in much danger of too much work I believe. And doing work together as a family is the way to do it. Start young so the kids are used to it. The chores your kids are doing are going to be the best part of preparing them for a healthy adulthood.
Cris - Prairie Homestead Team says
Jill is ALL about teaching her kids how to work! Check out her other articles on this topic: https://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2017/08/lessons-kids-learn-homestead-life.html and https://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2017/01/im-teaching-kids-fail.html and https://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2021/08/homesteading-with-kids-how-we-do-it.html