We don’t all live on a farm and we might not bake bread. We don’t all raise chickens and we may not even own a tractor. Many of us home educators live in the suburbs, and we simply can’t replicate that homestead lifestyle. How can we instill those down-home values while living near the big city?
Homeschool Values for the Neighborhood
1. Teach our children how to learn.
I taught my children to read, to follow directions, to clean up after themselves. After that, they were ready to cook anything with a recipe. My daughter is determined to learn how to bake bread. I can’t bake a cake. Since she is equipped to learn, that hasn’t stopped her. Princess has devoured books on bread baking, watched DVDs on bread baking, and compared recipes for bread baking. She has baked dozens of fairly good loaves, becoming increasingly better with each one. She found someone experienced in bread baking, and shared a loaf with her to ask for further advice. When we teach our children to learn, we give them the means to grow for the rest of their lives.
2. Give them tools.
Toys are fun, books are better, but tools instill a love of work. My middle son loves to work with his hands; he figures out how to fix furniture, appliances, even parts of the house for us. He owns his own tool box, and his favorite Christmas gift was a fold-out workbench for his projects.
Tools take many forms. My oldest son received binoculars for Christmas. My daughter got a sewing kit for her birthday. Whatever the child’s passion, give him the means to do it with all his might.
3. Feed the Pets.
Caring for animals teaches many valuable lessons, including responsibility, dominion, and compassion. I am not a natural animal lover, but over time my children and husband have taught me the benefits of having animals around the house. Each creature, including the dog, fish, frogs, and ants, is the responsibility of the child owner, so no one may have a pet until he is ready to take over the care. Feeding, exercising, grooming, and clean up should be the responsibility of the child, with adult supervision.
4. Exercise dominion over the bedroom.
In our home, each child is responsible for his own bedroom. Cleaning, organizing, and decorating is primarily their duty. This small sphere of influence allows the child to see, daily, the effects of the curse as their world turns toward chaos immediately upon clean-up. Yet, I expect each of them to make their beds, pick up the floor, hang up the clothes, and even occasionally change the sheets. Once in a while, closet inspection takes place. Household management is training in fulfilling the dominion mandate.
5. Work those chores.
Besides ordering the bedroom, each child should meaningfully contribute to the daily household duties. The more children you are blessed with, the more hands there are to make light the load. Serving one another daily should be seen as a necessary – and loving – part of family life.
6. Encourage entrepreneurship
And I have found that the best way to do so is to pay rediculously low wages at home, forcing the young worker to look outside the home for money. For instance, we do give allowance at the Garfias home. It is such a low allowance; it would be considered an extremely low allowance by 1980s standards. And on rare occasion, I do pay for extra household work. I pay so little for it as to be hardly worth the effort. But my children are usually desperate for cash.
To counter my miserly rates, my sons have resorted to hiring themselves out to the neighbors for work. They will pick up doggie doo, cut grass, water plants, sort acorns, anything you can think of, if you will pay them a dollar. My son negotiated what he thought was a bonanza rate, cutting wrapping paper ends for our neighbor before the holiday at 6 cents a roll. It is embarrassing how much he made for hours upon hours of mindless, paper-cut-inducing work. If young people are not given ready spending money, they will creatively work to earn it. That is an important lesson of entrepreneurship.
City and suburb homeschools can teach the rich lessons of country life. Creativity, hard work, and family values are just as important in our neighborhoods. Counter-culture living is possible, right in the middle of town.