Character Lessons from the Homestead

When we bought our house, I had dreamy visions of gardening, egg-collecting, and happily tending to our chores as a family. It will be perfect, I said. We will homeschool and homestead and my children will learn how to live a nature-filled life that carries the perfect balance of freedom and self-discipline. 

As you may imagine, it isn’t always as dreamy as I had originally hoped.

Reality: My sink runneth over and so does the poop. I change diapers and clean coops.  The rabbits escape and we have to choose whether we should chase the bunnies or the babies. Decisions, decisions.


I was lamenting the truths of our less-than-ideal scenario to my sister-in-law, and wished aloud, “I just hope the kids get something out of all this.”

“Isn’t that how all parenting is?” she replied.

The revelation struck me. I really want to see character development in my kids, especially in relation to all of our homestead efforts. But I must remember that most character development doesn’t happen overnight, or even over months or years. It’s the nitty gritty, day-to-day stuff that forms a person.

How important it is that I don’t give up too quickly.

I hope all of this helps to teach the kids…

Patience. You have to wait for the fish to bite. A garden takes time to grow, and harvesting must be done when the food is good and ready. Building or repairing an outbuilding can go on for months. The work of a mini-farm takes time, both in daily work and in long seasonal projects.

Discipline. The animals have to eat every day, whether or not we feel like feeding them. When she’s in milk, the goat needs milking twice a day. The eggs must be collected and harvests preserved. There is no room for not doing the chores.

Compassion. We treat our animals with kindness- even the ones destined for the stew pot. Each animal is to be respected and raised humanely. Sick animals are to be nursed to health; babies are to be well-cared for.

Curiosity. What is this plant? Why does the rabbit pull out her fur? Where does that bird live? Why does the egg we eat hold a yolk, but an egg kept warm for several weeks hold a chicken? There are endless questions to explore in the natural world, and answers that none of us know yet. How wonderful to be curious and not know everything!

Running free across the yard.

Freedom. Running across the yard, climbing a tree, exploring on your own… these are the things we all wanted as a child. Even as adults, we still crave the freedom to let go and enjoy the little things that matter most. I really want my kids to hang on to just a little bit of that feeling as they grow up.

Wisdom. From matters of the birds and the bees to understanding death, the kids are exposed to all the tough stuff at a young age. They’ve watched chickens mate and helped to bury dead hens. They’ve helped to care for baby kits, and observed the butchering of grown rabbits. All of this has created an open door to talking about the hard topics that all of us must grapple with at some point.

The kids observed Dada processing a rabbit. It's the beginning to talking about "the circle of life."

I truly hope that an introduction to the hard stuff now will help them to approach it with temperance and thoughtfulness later in life.

Of course, I’m still a relatively young mother. Perhaps I really am being dreamy and I actually have no idea what I’m talking about. But I do pray that these guys will grow up to be well-rounded, independent, kind people– and that maybe some of these lessons will help just a little bit on the way.

Come to think of it, I think am learning a lot of these lessons too. How about you?

 

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