Homesteading with young children, is it a good idea? That all depends on your perspective. There is a lot to learn and a lot of work, but there is also so much reward. Let’s look at this together. This post contains affiliate links.
About twelve years ago, my husband and I both started to have a fire in our hearts for one thing–country life. It’s funny how we both felt this draw and this desire to get out of the city and raise our children in the country. However, we didn’t just want wide open spaces. We wanted a farm, with chores. Our desire was to give them responsibility and hard work. Character building 101, that’s what we wanted. Now here we are, seven children, 34 acres and a whole bunch of work later. So what do I think? Is it a good idea to start homesteading when you have young children?
Yes!!! and Nooo!!!
Please, don’t abandon the post, let me explain. Yes, raising your children in the country is what we believe to be the best life there is. However, if you have zero experience with homesteading, or animal husbandry, or land management, then you might want to slow down just a bit. When my husband and I first got the itch and started to dream we had ZERO experience with gardening, raising animals, canning, butchering (I couldn’t even take the gizzard out of a store bought turkey) or even caring for a yard. We were pretty young and inexperienced. Inside, however, we knew it was the life we wanted…the life we NEEDED! So, we started to pray for God to make our dreams a reality.
So, why do I say no as well? Well, because it’s really hard work! Not that hard work is bad– in fact, it’s really valuable. I say no, because it is hard work to figure it all out too. Maybe you are in the same boat that we were. 12 years ago we had only two children. Two sweet little boys, 4 and 2. They loved to explore and go to nature parks and splash in creeks, and we knew that country life would suit them well. They wanted to work alongside their daddy and learn whatever he was learning. The truth is, we were still just learning how to be parents! That’s a pretty big job right there! If God had answered our prayer and moved us that very year, I think it would have been too much.
So what do you do if you have this dream?
I say, do what you can right where you are to start living the lifestyle that you desire. Take a few years to learn, learn and learn. The truth is, you can have a garden just about anywhere. If you have no yard, there is plenty of information on container gardening. Learn while you have no skin in the game. Learn before you own 10 acres and you have the pressure of figuring out how to manage that grass so that it can sustain life for livestock. Can you have chickens in your backyard? Look into it. Maybe you will find that you love raising animals, or maybe you will find that you don’t!
Read, read, and read some more. That is what we did for about five years. I read John Seymour’s book “The Self Sufficient Life and How to Live it” over and over and over. Also, Carla Emery’s book, Country Living. We devoured those and also checked out books by Joel Salatin from the library. We began to understand how we wanted to do this homesteading thing for whenever the opportunity came to be.
Honestly, those years of dreaming were some of my favorites. We dreamed with our children, talking about what it would be like when we had our own land. We discussed the animals we would have, and how we would raise them. Our dreams became their dreams. We planted a garden, and looking back, it may have been one of our best!
Answer the Why. Why do You Want to Homestead?
Why do you want to have a homestead? Is it because it brings up romantic storybook images in your mind? That’s okay if it does. Is it to change the world? Are you wanting to change the way your family relates to food? Do you want to change the way agriculture is done in America? Is it to be self sufficient? Do you or your husband hope to have a profitable farm where you could make a living from it? Are you just hoping to instill character and a work ethic in your children? Maybe you just want a little cottage industry?
All of those why’s are good. You may even fulfill many of those desires. But remember that a whole lot of capital and effort will have to be spent. The mistakes are many to be made, and they don’t come cheap. Often when you put the pressure on yourself to make money with something, it can take the joy out of it. I wanted so badly to sell produce at the Farmers Market. I could picture my little booth. What I didn’t account for, was the time it would take to not only tend a garden of enough size to have veggies to sell, but to go to the market to sell them. How about lugging five little ones to the market at 2:00 in the afternoon to set up? (2:00 is the sacred nap time. who in their right mind messes with that?)
Enjoy Where You are Now and Don’t Rush
When we were living in our house back in the city, I felt an urgency to get my kids to the country. I often times felt unsettled. I was afraid they would be damaged somehow if they didn’t get that life before they were seven or eight years old. The truth is, they were not damaged. Looking back, it was good for us to start life where we did. We lived in a historic neighborhood. We could walk to the library, the bakery, the natural food store. It was a sweet life. We knew our neighbors and our children played together. If those first years had been spent trying to figure out how to homestead, I believe we would have been stressed out and would have missed some of the sweetest years with our kiddos.
Our oldest was nine years old when our dream finally came true. He was just as excited as we were and we thanked God together every single day…we still do. He made our dreams a reality. Our oldest three can remember pretty well what it was like to move here, and that is a real blessing! The other benefit is that our two boys at 9 and 7 were actually able to be a tremendous help. They were big enough to read and learn about chickens, they could do the chores of feeding and watering them. It wasn’t all on my husband and me.
In Conclusion: Keep Dreaming, Name Your Goal, and Then Remind Yourself of it 100 Times Over
For us, our biggest goal was to instill a work ethic in our children. We wanted them to be busy as teenagers, working hard and enjoying the land. Giving them responsibility was the main goal. We have to remind ourselves of that constantly. Our goal was not to become rich or change the world. It was to give our children a connection to their food. We purposed to raise all of our own meat. Keeping that goal in front of us helps us not to chase rabbit trails or to put too much pressure on ourselves to make this profitable. When we start to get in over our heads, we have to remember the why. We did this for our kids, so let’s not neglect them for the sake of a bigger dream.