Homeschooling on the Homestead: Tips to Help You Get Started
Homeschooling has, traditionally, gone hand-in-hand with homesteading. Families whose lives are centered around their homes have often chosen to homeschool their children too, blending curriculum seamlessly with domestic life.
Not to mention, many homesteaders value self-sufficiency and independence, which can include choosing to educate their children at home, on their own terms.
Nowadays, many homesteading families still choose to homeschool their children.
Full disclosure: I am not a homeschooling mama.
Not that I have anything against homeschooling. In fact, I used to be a teacher and have often romanticized the idea of keeping my daughter at home, sitting around the kitchen table with her doing read-alouds and math problems and science experiments together.
But for me, I really need space and silence to get my work done. And, being a (seemingly) extroverted only child, she needs the social atmosphere that her school provides.
That being said, I can certainly see the value and appeal of educating children at home, and I like to incorporate aspects of home-based education with my daughter during the many hours she is at home with us.
I also happen to know many other homesteaders who do homeschool their kids, so I invited one of them here to share her experiences so that others can glean wisdom and ideas from someone with first-hand experience as a full-time homeschooling family.
Homeschooling: The ‘New Normal’
With the past couple years being what they’ve been with the pandemic and all, many, many people –both homesteaders and non-homesteaders alike– have suddenly found themselves having to incorporate homeschooling into their schedules for the first time.
Whether by choice or necessity, it’s not easy to add homeschooling to our already very full plates. Especially as homesteaders, we’ve got the extra work of gardening, cooking and preserving, plus all sorts of other domestic tasks that take our time and attention. For anyone who’s new to it, homeschooling can just feel like one more weight on our already tense shoulders, especially during a year when stress and anxiety is at an all-time high as we all try to adapt to the “new normal.”
And so, for this reason, I’m excited to introduce you to someone who does know what she’s talking about when it comes to balancing homeschooling on the homestead!
Ginny Aaron is a homeschooling mom of three. She’s also a full-time homesteader and keeper of around 60 chickens, three rabbits, six goats, five bottle calves, and about a “bzzilion” bees (blame Ginny for that pun;).
Needless to say, she’s a very busy woman at the best of times, and today she’s here sharing her best tips for incorporating homesteading and homeschooling with your daily routine so that educating your children at home doesn’t just feel like “one more thing” on your to-do list.
If you’re one of the many mothers and fathers faced with homeschooling your kids for the first time this year, whether you’ve got 50 acres in the country and a herd of cattle to tend to or a small house and backyard garden in the suburbs, you’re sure to glean wisdom, ideas and inspiration from Ginny’s approach to homeschooling.
But don’t take my word for it. Read on, and be sure to leave a comment below to let us know what you think, or tell us how you’re approaching your child’s education this year!
Related: How to Prepare Your Kids For An Emergency At School
Tips From A Homesteading, Homeschooling Mom of Three
We’ve been a homeschooling family for the past three years. I’ve researched extensively, read books, joined groups, asked questions and have had people give me many opinions *ahem* on our decision.
We combine a wonderful curriculum with real life experience. Because life does not require you to just know your reading, math, and language arts. It requires life skills, discipline, routine, planning and the ability to follow instructions.
My name is Ginny Lynn Aaron and I am so excited to be sharing a part of our family story with you!
I’m originally from a town near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I met my husband while he was working in Ohio. I was a single mother at the time and never thought that I would be ready to meet the man of my dreams, but that is exactly what happened. After some time, his job ended in Ohio and it was time for him to come back home to Texas.
We had a hard decision in front of us. We were still under a year of being in a relationship. But I knew that it was time to take the biggest chance of my life.
I said our goodbyes to family and friends, loaded the car and we hit the road. This city girl, who loved the nightlife in the city, the convenience of close shopping, and the everyday hustle that it brings was moved onto a red dirt road and tucked back into the woods of East Texas. It’s been an adventure to say the least.
My husband Robert is a hard-working man who has been in the oilfield industry for close to two decades. Triple 13 Livestock, our family farm, has been a dream of his. However, his adventurous life of being an oilfield man has kept him steadily traveling.
He has traveled all over the United States and worked in more states than I have ever dreamed of visiting. But after 17 years of that life, I am glad that he has decided that coming back to the dirt road home was the right thing to do. I am so blessed that he chose me to be his partner in achieving his dreams, and how fun the journey has been.
Izzy, our daughter, is 11 years old. She loves to cook and bake, and she loves to bottle feed our calves. She’s a terrific helper when it comes to helping with her brothers or cooking supper. There is not a challenge that she will not conquer, head on. She’s a strong young lady and I could not be more pleased with how well she’s growing up.
Maddox is our 9-year-old son. He’s more laid back, but he loves to get outside and all but roll in the mud. He is his daddy’s helper and loves to make him proud. Though he may not always remember to wash his hands, he can tell you exactly how to mend a hole in the fence!
Our youngest son, Axyl, is seven years old and is as spirited as they come. He will talk your ear off, run circles around the yard, and climb the fence posts to hang upside down. Axyl isn’t always the most eager to help tend to animals, pick weeds from the garden, or complete his chore of straightening the bathroom, but if you need a good laugh, a great big hug, someone to read you a story, or someone to snuggle with, he’s all in!
We use a terrific curriculum, but we know that education is much more than just opening books and writing answers on the lines.
Here’s how we incorporate homeschooling with daily life on our homestead, broken down by subject…
Along with following our curriculum, we apply language arts skills into our daily routine.
The children all share the responsibility of writing our shopping lists. We work on their proper grammar, punctuation, and handwriting by writing letters to family members and friends. They love to use this time to practice their art skills and draw and paint pictures to send along with their letters. I also have them keep journals.
They keep a Bible journal to write their daily verse in and they put into their own words how that verse is useful in their lives. Izzy loves to do her weekly lesson plans and fill out her planner.
For reading, we love to visit our local library. Axyl goes straight for the computers, Maddox heads directly to the comic books and Izzy goes straight for the chapter books! They get to choose one book that they want to read, and I have them each get a book on a subject they’d like to learn. It could be a book about woodworking, lightning, plants, the Periodic Table of Elements, the options are never-ending!
The point is, you don’t need to read specific texts or only write essays, stories and poems in order to teach Language Arts. Instead, incorporate Language Arts into your existing daily routine and let your kids choose what interests them. This makes it much easier and more enjoyable for both the teacher and the students!
Math can be monotonous, frustrating, and bring the whole vibe of the day down! It isn’t their favorite subject to sit drill (and who could blame them). But math can be incorporated into all sorts of tasks, from cooking and baking to gardening and finances…
First, we spice things up in the kitchen! We get to work on mental math skills, fractions, weight conversions, temperature, and the dreaded “telling of time” while we work on cooking and baking projects.The kitchen is such a great place to practice these useful math skills, plus it shows how to apply them in real life!
In the garden, we keep simple math skills sharp, such as grouping and counting by 5’s or 10’s by counting out seeds for our new gardens. The kids learn record-keeping and a little about accounting. Izzy is even practicing calculating area and perimeter as we plan our new square-foot garden!
She’s a planner by nature, so she gets to draw up ‘blueprints’ for the garden. She will calculate the area, research how far plants need to be spaced out, and draw out the plans so we know what is to be planted where. It’s a well-honed system…usually;)
They help figure out how much the grocery bill will be. We practice math in the car when we go for drives (ie. How many songs can we listen to before we reach our destination? We are driving 65 mph and our destination is 60 miles away, when will we get there? Etc.)
Every moment in life can be used as a learning moment, for you and your children. Education doesn’t have to be separate from daily life. And truly, it shouldn’t be.
Science is a favorite subject for all of the kids (and the teacher, too!). We tend to bounce around in science and incorporate their lessons with whatever we’re doing that day.
If we’re planting a new garden bed, we go over how plants grow. How do they reproduce? What’s the life cycle of a plant? What do plants need to survive?
Digging in the soil and observing natural life is a great way to get kids interested in science and asking questions about the world around them!
If we’re making changes to our calves’ bottles, we go over the life cycle of a cow and how their stomachs work. That works well with the goats, too. Collecting and packaging eggs to sell? That’s a perfect day to talk about the life cycle of chickens!! Why do hens lay eggs and what is needed to fertilize them?
We get to hunt for bugs and look at them closely. We really love to learn about honeybees! We’ll go to our hive and watch the new baby bees doing their orientation flights, watch the worker bees bringing back pollen and open the hive up and go on a search for the “torpedo butt” queen! It’s all just so exciting! Science is the subject that makes me forget that I’m the teacher because we get so caught up in the learning.
We incorporate science into cooking and baking as well!
Why does a cake rise? What ingredient do we put in it to make it rise? What happens if we use baking soda instead of baking powder? Sometimes we will mess up a recipe JUST to see what happens and how it is affected! Don’t worry, we will still make it edible!
We love to visit local museums and learn about how our great state was founded and established. While Robert traveled for work, we used that as an opportunity to visit many museums and learn about each area.
If you ever get to come to Texas, it comes HIGHLY recommended that you visit the Washington on the Brazos State Park. The park is absolutely beautiful, the museum is educational, interactive and it is so fun that you forget that you’re learning.
When it comes to learning about history, the library is a great place to start. But there are tons of great videos for kids on YouTube that make learning about the past both fun and entertaining. You could also have your kids act out historical events and perform them for you, which incorporates art and drama into your homeschool curriculum too!
Find teachable moments in the everyday
One of the greatest misconceptions about homeschooling is that we need to do it just like public school. But what if you are homeschooling because your child didn’t thrive in public school? If you mimic the routines and lessons that you took your child away from, what’s the point of homeschooling?
Throughout history, until very recently, education has happened at home.
The truth is, there are teachable moments to be found all throughout our days so long as we take a little time to stop and recognize them and capitalize on the lessons to be learned in everyday tasks.
You don’t have to sit at a desk for 6-7 hours a day drilling kids’ minds full of memorization, repetition, and bookwork. Not to mention, what takes a public-school teacher 45 minutes to teach to 25+ children, you can teach your child in 15 minutes! You have the added advantage of knowing your children and their passions well. And if you don’t know their passions well, homeschooling gives you a fantastic opportunity to learn more about them as people and bond more as a family.
The bottom line is that homeschooling is exactly what YOU make it, and my family has decided to make it fun and captivating while still being very educational. It’s an adventure, and in these uncertain times, nothing makes me happier than being on this adventure every day with my family.
* If you’re interested in learning more about homeschooling, the Fall 2021 issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine breaks down the many different educational methods and models available to new and seasoned homeschoolers alike, and features an inspiring and enlightening interview with Allyson Speake, homeschooling mom of two, trained professional educator and creator of the popular nature-based education site Tanglewood Hollow. Subscribe here to read it for free or become a member and get unlimited access to this issue and to our entire library of past issues!
Plus, whether you’re a homeschooler or not, if you’re looking for some well-rounded, fact-based learning materials to help enrich your children’s education at home, our affiliate partner, Britannica Kids offers a wide range of age-appropriate educational resources for kids from Pre-K all the way to high school. Their subscription program gives kids access to more than 100,000 articles, images and videos, as well as lessons and projects on the Activities Corner, a dictionary powered by Merriam-Webster, and interactive country data. You can check out everything they have to offer right here.
My name is Ginny Lynn Aaron. I’m just a Pittsburgh woman who fell in love with a Texas man. My husband and I are raising our three children, tucked back into the woods, while teaching them to be self-sufficient and self-reliant.
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