This is the third in a series about how we are home schooling and preparing our children for their futures…the future of the farm. Sustainability is the real issue. If you are just joining us, go back and read parts one and two. I have worked to condense this post down to bare bones but I could go on and on. Forgive me if some of my transitions are …less than smooth.
We, as parents, plant seeds on a daily basis. Some of it is intentional, some of it just scatters about. Genuine comments like “Wow! that’s a great drawing!” or “I really appreciate your help” mean a lot to us as humans and, if you were uncertain, children are humans. Those comments are nurturing but they aren’t seeds. The gift of paper and pencil are the seeds. The opportunity to pitch in where needed is a seed. Comments help that seed to grow or cause it to wither.
Have you ever heard that little voice in your head attempting to defeat you? Let me open up briefly and tell you what I hear on my worst days. I am a worthless, ignorant, arrogant, selfish and generally bad man…hardly a man at all. I talk too much. People don’t really like me, they tolerate me. I just get in the way. All of my ideas are ridiculous. I’m too skinny, too weak, too tall, too short, too ugly, too hairy. Julie made a mistake marrying me. I’m a lousy father. I’m terrible at my job and I’m just faking my way through my career. Somebody is going to find out…and soon. This (whatever crazy idea) will never work. My cows are not getting what they need because I lack the skill to manage grazing correctly. The list goes on but that’s enough.
Is any of that true? I don’t know…probably some of it to some degree. But those thoughts and others like them are on a near-constant loop in my head on rainy days. I’m not seeking a therapy session. I’m seeking real-life examples. Those are weed seeds. And I am not alone in having a mind littered with weed seeds trying to take root. You hear the voices too. My children hear the voices too.
I have to fight that. I can’t let the weed seeds take root in my children’s minds. I have to reinforce to my children that they are good enough. …that they are not an accident. …that their mother and I love them, cherish them and do not regret having them. …that they can make a difference. My children have purpose. They can work to fulfill that purpose and positively impact the world around them…and for generations to come.
To have this opportunity we, as parents, have to work to build personal, intimate, ongoing relationships with our children. With that foundation in place, we can begin to scatter seeds of our own…nurturing those seeds and working to out-compete the weeds.
But there is a tendency to plant weeds of our own. To scatter seeds that work against our children. Have you ever heard or said any of these gems?
“You should go to college because you are too smart to be a farmer.”
“There’s no future here. You’ll never make any money.”
“If you don’t go to college you will never succeed in life.”
“You can’t do that because it would take a lot of money (and you’ll never have any money (cause we don’t have any money (and my ego can’t stand the thought of you succeeding where I have failed))).”
“This country is going to Hell and there’s nothing we can do about it! It’s all the blue team’s fault (or the red team…both the same really). THOSE people have taken away your whole future! We are helpless.”
Don’t send your kids away. Don’t tell them there is no hope. Don’t teach them to be victims. Don’t seed discouragement.
This isn’t a post telling you to boost your child’s self-esteem. That’s a false god. A whole generation of kids who have accomplished nothing believing they can do anything! That lasts until reality strikes. Then they turn to Pfizer for help.
There is a school of thought that we should fill our homes with tools, not toys. Give our children opportunities not entertainment. Those opportunities are the seeds we are looking for. It’s not enough to believe you can. You have to do it. Book learnin’ and believin’ won’t cut it. You have to do it. Kids have to do it. What are your kids interested in? What do they want to do? What chances have they had to really try something? …to really fail at something? …to learn that failure is a beginning? We have tools, stacks of lumber, musical instruments, paper, pencils, crayons, markers, scissors, glue, computers, books on beginning programming, books, books and more books! Pallets for club houses, old tarps for roof tops, messes everywhere! Adventure everywhere! There are rabbits to raise, chicks to play with, chickens to dress, fencing to build, hay to stack, hay to play on, veggies to plant, weed and pick, cows to move and water…all of these are jobs the kids can help with. Look at the opportunities!
We scatter these opportunities in front of our kids hoping they will pick something up. When something sparks their interest we, the parents, have to be attentive and ready to run. An interested learner will consume massive amounts of information in a short period of time. As a mentor you’ll have your hands full trying to keep up…stay ahead…anticipate which direction the learner will go next. That anticipation requires an intimate understanding between learner and mentor.
There are certainly phases of learning where we are just dumping information in front of the children. Phases where nobody is particularly motivated to chase down a specific curiosity. At those times we read aloud, play together or just hang out. I am always surprised how things work out. In a recent rut I borrowed a video game from a friend. That led to pages and pages of artwork and stories about favorite characters by our youngest two. You never know what will allow the opportunity for encouragement and growth.
And those opportunities can grow. Each of the kids has a preferred set of chores. Daughter #1 has her own chickens. She just muscled in and pushed me out of the way. Now she takes care of them. That’s GREAT! That’s what we are after! And each of the kids know that there is a place for them here. That they can succeed here. That I’m laying a simple foundation for all of us to build on. “You can expand the pig operation, you can expand the cattle. You can grow and sell cut flowers. You can supply nurseries with stock. I’ll clean the toilets!” All of these businesses help each other, build on each other and share and expand the customer base. We are planting those seeds now! There is no reason to wait until the kids are 18 to say, “you know…you and your husband could just live right here with us.” By that time our kids will have defined themselves. It may never have occurred to them that we want them here. We say it now. Maybe my oldest will grow up to be an astronaut…or the manager at a Starbucks…or, worse, the president. He may not want to live here. We all have to make our own choices in life. But I’m giving him the opportunity…and I’m giving it now. We will nurture that seed as it grows…even if it doesn’t sprout for 50 years.
That’s how we believe we can achieve sustainability. To get there we have to separate cheap comments like “Good job, Billy” from nurturing comments like “Billy, you did your very best and I’m impressed. I think you have a real talent for …” Nurturing comments are like a ray of sunshine or a cool drink of water. But you can only nurture seeds…seeds you have to plant. We also have to be careful and purposeful about what seeds we plant. What seeds are you planting in your children’s minds?
Next time I’ll share how we attempt to get out of the way of our children’s successes.