Spotlight on the Crew — Hobby Farm Homeschooling

{This week’s Spotlight on the Crew article is brought to you from Jennifer, at  Our Peculiar Lives.}


One thing I’m learning, a couple of years into this home educating journey, is that things change!

Our oldest, Hannah, is 6 ½.  Then we have three boys. We decided to do school on daddy’s work days.  We planned to do schoolwork year around to make up for the four day school weeks.  Nothing will change this, it will all work out, no problem, no stress.  (Seasoned homeschoolers, you can laugh, go ahead!)

Last fall we were transferred from the big city, to theLandofIceand Snow (orLandofMudand Road Construction in spring/summer).  We decided to dive head first into the country lifestyle that I spent my teen years living.  Instead of the way most people do it (slowly), we jumped in with both feet.  By the end of May we had one Nanny goat, three lambs, two goat kids, about 150 dual purpose and heritage chicks, 26 bronze turkey chicks, 11 laying hens, one dog, three kittens, and the cat that came with the place.  Oh, and a garden.  We still planned to continue schooling all year!  Then we discovered that animal chores plus regular chores plus watering/weeding plus daddy gone divided by four kids and one mama multiplied by willing hands that can’t lift heavy things equaled 34.75 hours in the day.

Something had to give.

The Bible says, “And these words. . . shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”  (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

Interesting instructions for a homeschool, aren’t they?  So given that, and life, we’ve had to adapt a slightly different approach to schooling our children.  I’d like to share a few of the learning activities we’ve done, masquerading as the things we really had to do every day.  Many of them you might be able to adapt to your family, whether or not you live on a hobby farm.

Schoolwork on a hobby farm might include counting eggs, sheep, or goats.  A child might learn to measure by feeding grain.  There are always feed labels to be read.  A crash first aid course may occur as we care for an injured or sick animal.  If you don’t know the correct anatomical terms for the animal you’re caring for, get a book and learn them together!

A hot afternoon might be spent playing at the pond.  Then they’ll ask the questions that mom doesn’t know the answer to, like “What do leeches eat if not all of them eat animal blood?”

A little further from the house, they might run across wildlife tracks and droppings.  Discussions with dad might lead to deciding what animal they belonged to.  Usually it’s not a dinosaur. 😉

Hannah is developing a knowledge of herbs.  She’s learning to identify the ones that grow wild here, what they are used for, how to collect, preserve, and use them.  We’ve made salves and tinctures together from many different herbs.  In the kitchen we also bake together.


What about how to use tools?  All our guys can pound nails and sink screws with a drill.  They’re learning the names of all the tools so they can bring daddy the correct one.

We have a shelf in the bookshelf with science books and textbooks at different levels.  We also have an encyclopedia set.   Hannah can spend hours reading those books.

All that weeding – it’s the perfect opportunity for another crash course.  The kids can identify several different types of weed/herb by name.  Don’t try to tell them that dandelions or horsetail are weeds though!  You’ll be informed that they’re actually a herb, and what they are good for.  They will pull them out of the garden, though!

There are the long philosophical conversations that happen over folding or hanging laundry, dishes, or weeding.  We talk about God’s heart, His desire for relationship with us.  We pray.

I don’t suggest trying this method of learning – but my husband sliced his fingers on a table saw.  In the moment and for the first few days it was chaos of course, and most of the time the kids were with family.  Once things calmed down a little, there were discussions on the anatomy of the hand, what happens in the operating room, what the medications daddy was on do, why he was on them, what nurses, doctors, surgeons, paramedics all do, how and why to bandage injuries, and on and on.

Three days before Andrew tried to trim his fingernails on the tablesaw, he and Hannah found a three foot long garter snake in a pile of old rotting hay.  He learned that garter snakes pack a nasty bite if you try to pick them up near their head!  The kids learned how big garter snakes can get!  We also found a molted skin so that was interesting.  We had some science lessons, complete with trip to the house for bandaids and what not to do!

Life happens.  We have the best of intentions, but sometimes we get overwhelmed.  I want to encourage you to consider, especially in the overwhelming seasons that we sometimes find ourselves in, to adopt a more life learning approach.

Although we’ve not been doing anything “formal” since April, I am amazed at how much my children have learned.  I am also surprised at how well-rounded their education is this way.  It’s amazing how many rabbit trails one topic can lead.  They learn valuable, real life skills, and they pack away knowledge in a way that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

It isn’t always easy, and it requires intention.  Most days I need to remind myself to intentionally include them in what we need to do.  I do feel though that no matter how hard it is, it is worth it.

Once life slows, perhaps this fall, we’ll open the lesson plans again and dive back into our unit study on Abraham.  I know though that we’ll look back with fondness on this busy season, well except for the table saw accident.  We’ll remember those conversations, the “Did you know’s” that Hannah keeps bringing up after spending an hour with her nose in an encyclopedia, Gabriel singing made up songs about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, and our little Isaiah learning how to count to five by watching us wash eggs – or counting the clips holding daddy’s bandages on.  We’ll remember our two year old Gideon coasting through life with a constant smile and occasional (make that frequent) “Oooooops!!” on his trike dragging a sled behind.

We’re not feeling guilty that the schedule stopped.  I hope you don’t either if yours has.  My children and yours will learn as much or more by living life with us, as they did from the carefully thought out lesson plans, as long as we take the time to teach and to encourage learning to happen.


Jennifer is a paramedic’s wife and mom to four children, ages 6, 5, 3, 2.  She is a second generation homeschooler.  They currently live off-grid in a little valley by a lake in north-centralBritish Columbia,Canada.  After seven years of big city living, they think this lifestyle change is paradise!  Jennifer blogs about the adventures of their little family at Our Peculiar Lives.

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