It is a hot summer morning, children can be heard running, digging, and climbing trees. Horses are trying to stay cool, dogs run in the sprinkler alongside a toddler in her princess underpants, goats climb and get into trouble. There are no backpacks in sight, no lunch bags, no uniforms. This is a day in the life of a homesteading unschooling family.
What is a Homestead?
Homesteading is as varied as the families who choose it. Homesteading is a basic commitment to living in a self-sufficient way. For some families growing a small garden or raising a pair of egg laying hens is homesteading. For other families working a full-scale farm is homesteading.
One thing all homesteading families share is a desire to live simply, with a dedication to self-sufficiency. Homesteading families tend to have a desire to live off the land, utilizing resources available and producing much of their own needs.
Some examples of our family homestead include:
- Raising chickens
- Raising goats
- Raising sheep
- Tending fruit and berry trees
- Spinning wool fiber for use as yarn
- Keeping horses
- Soap making
Clearly, there are countless examples of homesteading activities. Not all homesteading requires a large area of land. There are many people who have small scale urban homesteads in the middle of cities.
Some common urban homesteading choices might be:
- Raising a few hens
- Gardening, especially container gardening
- Soap Making
- Planting fruit-bearing trees
Homesteading is a fun and fulfilling lifestyle for many families.
What is Unschooling
Like homesteading, unschooling means different things to different families. The common thread that runs through all unschooling families is a recognition that learning happens in all aspects of our daily lives. The term “unschooling” can be heard in many homeschooling circles, but what exactly does it mean?
Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning.
— Wikipedia [source]
Unschooling families recognize that learning happens in every facet of our lives, not just within the confines of a classroom or curriculum. Learning happens throughout life; a trip to the grocery store can include a science, reading, math, and home economics lesson without the parent ever formally “teaching” anything.
Children are naturally curious, always seeking to explore. When that natural curiosity is encouraged and engaged, a love of learning is fostered. Unschooling assumes that each child is unique and will learn in his or her own way, on his or her own timeline, and according to his or her own interests. A child will naturally be inclined to academic pursuits that spark their curiosity and feed their own passions.
When Homesteading and Unschooling Meet
Homesteading lends itself well to unschooling. Likewise, unschooling lends itself well to homesteading. When children are given the opportunity to learn and explore in their own way, according to their own interests, in their own time and are privileged to live in a self-sufficient environment, the opportunities for learning are endless!
Back to that hot summer morning where a three-year-old girl laughs as she watches a silly kid (goat speak for baby goat) try to jump from the feeder to his mama’s back. A five-year-old watches a colony of ants in the dirt. An eight-year-old grooms his favorite horse while his nine-year-old sister socializes the new kids, only a week old. A teenager shovels out pens and figures out when she will need more hay for the animals.
As they add to the compost, check the soil, budget the hay, feed, and water the animals, gather eggs, water plants and trees, watch the ferrier use his blacksmithing skills to shoe a horse, they are learning valuable skills without ever being taught a formal lesson.
Of course, not every moment of every day is spent outside farming. Children might read about methods to can vegetables or how to clean raw fiber to prepare it for spinning. They might even watch television or play a video game. Even in these activities there is learning to be had.
What’s the Take-Away?
Both homesteading and unschooling are wonderfully fulfilling lifestyles that coexist beautifully. That said, there is no recipe. No one size fits all approach to life that will result in a satisfying and enriching experience for all families. Homesteading is certainly not the only way to effectively unschool and unschooling is certainly not the only way to homestead.
For a good many families these choices have encouraged a quality of life that is both challenging and rewarding. It certainly is not the right choice for everyone, but for those who seek to encourage self-sufficiency and foster a sense of autonomy and self-direction in their children it might fit just right.
Thinking homesteading and unschooling might be worth a shot? It is always an option to start small-- plant a garden, research making your own yogurt, perhaps even get a couple of hens. Fresh eggs sure are delicious!
If you are already a homeschooling family and are interested in exploring unschooling, read stories about what works for others. Perhaps give yourself a designated period of time, put away the curriculum and expectations for a few months and see where your children’s curiosity might take you.
The beauty of homesteading and unschooling is the opportunity to grow and learn together as a family!