PHOTO: Tessa Zundel
January 4, 2016

It’s natural this time of year to reflect back on what was accomplished around the farm or homestead. We make lists of goals and note the things that came to pass—and the many things that slipped through the cracks. As your family comes together this new year to set goals for the seasons to come, be sure to include your young farm sprouts in the planning.


Why Bother Involving Children With Farm Goals?

It’s true that when we involve our children—especially the younger ones—in our chores, they tend to take longer. Kids make messes during learning, crafting and playing. Their hands are smaller, their attention spans are shorter, and they have a tendency to introduce glitter and Legos into whatever project you’re working on. So why bother?

Well, because they’re our children and we want the best for them.

We want them to learn to work and to take the work seriously. We want them to love this lifestyle we value, and we want them to be happy in it. We include them in our homestead planning for the year because we respect them and want them to learn how to make and set good goals. Is that more work than just doing it all ourselves? Of course! But since when did hard work intimidate farm parents?


Find The Way That Works

Having said that, however, not all parents have the same personality types or the same relationships with their spouse and children. You need to find a way to plan and discuss the goals for the coming year with your children in a way that suits everyone’s needs. Teri Page , an off-grid homesteading mom who blogs at Homestead-Honey.com, shares this:

“We have a pretty informal system where I mostly churn out ideas and goals, and my husband builds me structures! But the kids are very active participants in homestead life and in the care of our animals and garden. Every half year or so, we assess their chores. For the 5-year-old, we decided (together with him) that he would sweep, fold and put away laundry, occasionally do dishes, and help with animals where needed. In the summer, the kids do a lot of harvesting, and we try to regularly have “kid kitchen,” where they are in charge of the meal. I’m a big believer in letting them participate in meaningful work. The only challenge is having enough time to really set up systems that work for their skill level.”

In our family, we’ll often get together at the dinner table and make a list of all the crazy dreams that everyone has for the land this year. I try to make a special treat because, in my experience, everyone pays much better attention when they’re eating something yummy. This year, the kids and I went to the library and looked at a bunch of farm animal and garden books. Each kid made a list of everything that caught their eye and then we talked about what we already have going on.

This is our first year on our 20 acres, and we’re all feeling a bit overwhelmed with the new space and all there is to be done. The kids were able to look at their lists and, for the first time, pare them down on their own a bit. The oldest of my children is 12, and she’s finally getting to that mature place of discernment between what we dream and what we really feel we can accomplish. My youngest still wants to breed unicorns this year, but everybody else settled for piglets and poults.


The Right Chore For The Right Child

As parents, we need to be careful about what chores, especially animal-related ones, we assign our young children to oversee on. Maat van Uiterz, blogger at FrugalChicken.com, makes a good point:

“I don’t trust anyone else to do anything right, so every decision is mine and it better be done exactly the way I say. This sounds like I’m a dictator, but if it’s not done my way, corners are cut and shoulders shrugged and the animals suffer for it.”

It might sound harsh, but if you’re more comfortable overseeing the actual execution of the work on the land, especially with the animals, by all means, double check your children’s work.

Listen To Your Kids’ Farm Dreams

When you’re just in the planning phases of your farm, let your children dream a bit and lend their voice to the coming year. They just might surprise you with their ideas.

One of the neatest things that came out of my family’s planning session this year was that my children talked about building their own off-grid cabins on our land. My husband and I have talked about straw-bale houses before and had shared our ideas with the children. They know about alternative energy sources because we’ve talked with them about the changes we’ll need to make once we begin using solar panels. They’ve thought about living without indoor plumbing and central heat because we’ve discussed those topics with them repeatedly.

After our goal-setting session, my kids hopped up from the table, grabbed our straw bale building books off the shelf and started designing their own cabins. My daughter came up with this amazing gravity-fed water system for her brother’s cabin. They talked about the merits of building a common outhouse and how they would take turns helping each other clean their little houses. From pouring foundations to planting their own gardens, I was amazed at what I was hearing. They’re still passionately discussing and planning it, even days later.

Will each little house ever be built? I really have no idea—I hope so! But what I learned about how my children think and what they’re interested in was priceless to me. I know that they’ll be willing to work on building projects and off-grid energy experiments this year because I listened to them talk at great length about their excitement to try both! Knowing what motivates a child is valuable tool in educating them.

Do you have a system of goal setting that works in your family? Please share it with us in the comments below—I’m always looking for inspiration!


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