Contemplating Homeschool as a Farm Family

While talking to one of my friends about sending her first kid to school, she said she missed him and it wasn’t the same at home without him there. I surprised myself when I asked her if she thought about homeschooling? We went to public school along with all the rest of the kids we knew. Thinking about it now, I can only think of a few kids I knew that were homeschooled. Perhaps it was the love in her voice talking about missing the time she used to have with her kid, I’m not sure, but that feels like the first time the homeschool thought crossed my mind.

When it came time to decide if we would send our 3 year old to preschool a couple mornings a week that was an easy pass. Three seemed so young, we were learning numbers, colors, and letter sounds as we went on the farm. Then he turned 4 and while not quite as easy to say no, we decided not to do preschool. The running to town daily and time away wasn’t something we wanted to tackle.

Now we’re looking at kindergarten and the decision is much heavier than before. It’s real now. Are we going to try homeschool or go with public school? It’s time to really make the choice now.

Part of what’s making this decision so hard is how blessed we are to have a great public school as an option. Our oldest loves to learn and would have a blast at school.

Some of the reasons I’m contemplating homeschool come from seeing how valuable the time we’ve had together has been. These kids have already learned so much on the farm being immersed in life opportunities, surrounded by many teachers of varying ages, priceless quality, family time and the ability to learn in a more individualized way.

On paper, when comparing our options it feels like homeschool is a natural fit for our family; we can go at our own pace with what works best for each kid, we have the ability to do so much hands-on, real life work, and family time is literally priceless. So what’s left to work through on this decision?

  1. Having the kids here while we work at the farm is hard. Our efficiency is not the same as it was before kids. Do we send them to school to get more work done?
  2. Will they learn adequate social cues and societal expectations from us at the farm?
  3. What do I need to outsource, offload or postpone to ensure I have the patience and capacity to give them everything they need?
  4. How do I convey the immense value I see/feel in prioritizing this time as a family, teaching the kids in a very old fashioned/unschooled way, and individualizing their learning to our family members that do not yet see the value? I know I don’t need to convince anyone that what we’re doing is right as long as Kyle and I are on the same page, but the value of support is big. Or maybe it’s I don’t feel I have the energy or capacity to be spending pleading my case and convincing people that what we’re doing is good?

When the school called earlier this year about our plans I told the principal I was 60/40 homeschool/public school. When I told Kyle she had called, he said, “I feel like you’re 90/10.” Which I’m glad my confidence to him has been that strong! Right now it feels like the easier choice would be to do what most of society does, not buck the mold or go against the grain. We’d get less questions if we said we go to public school like most everyone else. We’d also get less opinions on our parenting choices if we went to school like most everyone else.

To be very open with you, it’s easy to see the benefits on paper. It’s been harder than I expected to justify all the reasons I see it’s worth a shot. As much as it’s 2024, tradition and societal norms run strong.

So do I worry about my kids not getting to play with other kids at school? No. We can have outings and participate in activities to see other kids their age.

Do I think interaction with their peers of the same age at this age is vital to development? No. They get to see a wide range of adults at the farm daily where we converse and interact as an example, plus practice for them.

Am I worried they won’t learn enough? I’m worried they won’t learn in the same order as the others. Will that matter in the end? I don’t think so. When they are interested or have a question in a subject we do a deep dive into it.

Am I worried about the time it will take to homeschool? No. A family I’m continually inspired by shared a story about math. The mother went to public school and the dad was homeschooled. When they both went to college and took math placement tests, the dad tested into a higher level math class all without ever opening a math textbook in his life. Life taught him math. Real application showed him where math was needed and he used it. When I picture our homeschooling, I don’t envision us recreating school around a desk in our home. I see us learning as we go. Using life to teach us what we need to know and expanding upon what interests us as we go.

Am I worried about missing out? Selfishly, yes. When all our friends have events and activities that center around school. When all their kids are best friends from school. What can I do to stay connected with our friends and help our kids know each other without school?

On the flip side, I’m also worried about them missing out if they’d be in school. I’ve never wanted them to have perfect school attendance because that means they missed all the big days in life because of school.

Am I hesitant/worried to put our family on a rigid schedule? Yes. Thinking about joining the school schedule gives me qualms. I don’t feel ready to schedule our life around school days and times.

Really honestly, where I’m at right now — I don’t want to regret not ever giving homeschool a try. I don’t want to choose public school and say my reason was to get more work done, give my kids friends, or appease our family members who didn’t believe in us doing something differently. I’ve always felt that choosing homeschool was a one year at time journey. Try it and see. Reevaluate and readjust as we go.

That great public school we have as an option has an incredible FFA program. I want my kids to participate in that. I love that now, our kids could go to town for some classes and do some at home; a hybrid of sorts. If we choose homeschool, I see us picking out the pieces that work best for us and making a version that gives our kids what they need individually.

If you’ve contemplated similar, I’d love to hear your thoughts or advice on navigating such a big decision! If you’re currently in the same boat, big hugs — happy to be walking this together with you. 

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The Comments

  • Avatar
    June 3, 2024

    We researched & planned to homeschool, and were so lucky to have decided, as my oldest started school in 2020! (When a bunch of our friends had to homeschool with zero prep/desire.) We loved it! Logic of English for phonics and overall Charlotte Mason/Montessori hybrid approach, learning as much as possible from observation & exploration outdoors.

    That said, I had to accept my own limitations and go with (great!) public school at 3rd grade. I just couldn’t offer my kiddos what they needed at that point due to interruptions from younger siblings.

    As for what people think, I suggest coming up with brief non-engagement answers, like, “This is what’s right for our family.” Some people will be annoying no matter what you decide!

    • chelsey
      > Maria
      June 3, 2024

      Thanks so much for this! Do you mind if I ask how the transition has been? As of now, I’m contemplating taking it year by year and always keeping the door open to school next year, similar to how you did.

      • Avatar
        > chelsey
        June 3, 2024

        My kiddo who started in 3rd grade had the best possible year. The teacher was a great fit, he was ready for where they were in the curriculum, and even the classmates were welcoming (which was my biggest concern if I’m being honest).

        Sending him to public school then freed me up to follow my younger kiddo’s interests at his pace, same luxury that older brother got at that age.

        If I could tell you anything, it’s that your intuition will guide you well. Try to tune out others’ opinions and your list of shoulds, and, as you’ve said, give yourself continual freedom to reassess. Good luck, mama!

  • Avatar
    June 3, 2024

    I am having the same feelings and questions as you. I am also interested in regular Religious teaching in the home. If anyone has any insight in that aspect, that would be helpful!

  • Avatar
    Christie Jaeger
    June 3, 2024

    I’ve been out of this role awhile with my youngest is now out of college! I do look at the perspective of rural schools though- fewer kids enrolled makes it harder and harder to get and keep teachers and to keep a good FFA program like you mentioned. So I would definitely keep that in mind as well, that your kids being in the rural school keeps the programs there!
    I remember sending my first it’s hard, but the things they bring back to the farm and younger siblings is priceless as well. And your younger ones won’t have the same experience with you at home on the farm as your oldest when now you also add teaching him.
    Of course, I’m a huge proponent of school and how valuable it is for kids to be away from their family for a period of time as well as I think it creates more balanced adults. Farming is also not done at 3 pm each day so there is still so much time to be with family on the farm! And your kids will teach others at school so much about modern agriculture! Just some thoughts 😊 Christie

  • Avatar
    June 3, 2024

    My husband used seton when he was homeschooled but probably spent as much time chasing cows and working on the farm as much as he did school…and he only made it to eight grade level, went to community college, transferred to universitiy and has a masters degree…I went to public school, was valedictorian and never made it that far as I never finished my masters lol…my husband is a farmer now…a math wiz and basically a genius though he says he just wings it 😀 My sister in laws use Catholic homeschooling programs as we’re all Catholic. My husband thinks some of them use Ave Maria but I’d have to ask around if you want more info on what they all use. On my husbands side there are 7 sister in laws who homeschooled basically throughout elementary and high school currently. My husband says the programs they have now have made it a lot easier/more structured and a lot more tutors and online courses with live teachers/tutors to homeschool than when he was a kid.

  • Avatar
    June 4, 2024

    I bring kids to work with me on the farm almost every day like you. We have decided to do public school because I don’t want their whole life to be so one dimensional. I am confident I could give them a good education, but I think it is really important for them to experience life outside of our family/farm dynamic. I want them to make friends with kids who have completely different lifestyles. They will still many, MANY, hours on the farm before they leave home for them to enjoy our lifestyle.

  • Avatar
    Colleen Vardeman
    June 4, 2024

    I am not to this stage of life yet as my son is only one BUT we fully plan on homeschooling. That really stems from my husband being homeschooled and he loved it. (Also we live 40 miles from town) He didn’t like the school part but rather liked being able to spend most of his time on the farm. Him and his siblings were taught by a tutor! She would come out to their house. Doesn’t take near the time away that public school does. Homeschooling my children myself seems very daunting! So that may be the route we go with too. Best of luck in your choice!

  • Avatar
    June 4, 2024

    We started homeschooling our 9 and 7 year old this past fall when I was 8 months pregnant with our 3rd. The only regret I have is not homeschooling them sooner. We, unfortunately, do not live in a good school district so at this time public school is not an option. Even after doing a significant amount of research, I’m still surprised at how little time it takes to homeschool. I was very active in FFA and it really helped shaped my life. I was worried about the kids missing out on the opportunity but I have learned that you can charter a homeschool FFA chapter. I learned more helping my dad on the farm than I did in school. Everything I learned from the farm helps me in my job as an engineer in agriculture. My suggestion would be to at least try homeschool, they can always go to public school.

  • Avatar
    Kristin Dolman
    June 4, 2024

    I love following along on your families adventures. I split my time between ranching with my husband and I am a classroom teacher. It sounds like homeschool is the route you are leaning towards and I commend you on choosing that route! Homeschooling wasn’t an option for us, but I did feel compelled to tell you that if you ever decide to go the public education route down the road we find our kids are still very involved in day to day. I miss them and the value that they add to the operation when they are gone, but we do try and make sure they are involved afterschool, evenings and weekends.
    Thank you for sharing your life with others.

  • Avatar
    June 5, 2024

    We’ve been contemplating the same. We did decide to stick him in preschool this last year and this coming year. Something I never really thought about before and have been loving is that he takes his knowledge of agriculture to school and is so excited to share and teach his friends all about it.

  • Avatar
    Shelby Baugh
    June 12, 2024

    I relate to this so much!! We are in Texas and our kids just completed 5th and 3rd grades at our small rural school.

    Homeschool has always been a consideration but we opted for a private preschool and public school But we are changing it up in the fall and shifting gears to a Hybrid Homeschool at one if the churches in town.

    They teach the core subjects 2 days a week from 9-2 and then you can focus on whatever your family chooses the other days.

    For us that’s our construction company and fab shop, and farming and ranching.

    Our kids, 11/9/9, love being at our shop and working with my husband operating equipment, welding, and building cool stuff. Everyone is amazed at how handy they are, and it’s because they learned at a young age like your kids, even though they’re still young. My husband loves having them there because he prefers our boys as equipment operators over most of our employees. 😂 And I love the flexibility to be a full time family. It’s not always easy, it’s definitely hard most days, and stressful when your young kids are doing hard and dangerous things like the day I pulled up at home to my husband on the roof with our 5/4/4 year olds putting new sheet metal on. I was terrified and just went inside because it was clear they weren’t coming down and I couldn’t watch. But they’ve learned to do so many dangerous things carefully and as they grow it’s definitely a benefit. I’m still learning to back a trailer but my oldest was a pro at 7 so I just let him do it for me. It’s definitely saved our marriage at the boat ramp the past 5 summers.

    I’m thankful for our time in public school and the skill sets and abilities my kids have from those experiences- mostly I didn’t have to teach them to read, but now we can build on that foundation.

    I think the most important thing is something you already said, take it one year at a time. And also, knowing you’re doing what’s best for your family is what’s most important, other people don’t always understand our why and that’s ok.

    I love following you on IG and always look forward to what you’re sharing each day- my handle is @raisingthebaugh

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