September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.

Our big experiment

By Susan Steinke- | Comments: 0 | Leave a comment

"I never get to see Dad." This was the common complaint I heard from Lily during her first months of first grade. "I don't want to take Lily to school." This was the common complaint I heard from Tate when I'd wake him up early in the morning during Lily's first months of first grade.
Most of my friends tell me how lucky I am to be raising my kids on a farm and to be able to work side-by-side with my husband and my family.
I do feel lucky, but life on our farm last fall wasn't quite the idyllic family situation my friends might have been imagining.
Instead of working by my husband's side in the barn, I was waking up three reluctant children and herding them through breakfast and into the car to take Lily to school. When I got home from taking Lily to school, Kurt would be coming in for breakfast. By the time I returned from picking Lily up from school, Kurt was heading out for evening milking. When he was done with chores for the day, Lily was heading off to bed. The little kids and I were spending 90 minutes in the car every day, Lily was out of our house 40 hours a week, and Kurt only spent time with her on weekends. Frankly, school was making our idyllic farm family life less than ideal.
Dairy farming is a dedicated lifestyle and it can be tough. Having your whole livelihood rest on your shoulders, work that needs to be done every day, and the difficulty of getting away can all add up to a lot of stress. In exchange for the sacrifices, I want to take full advantage of as many of the perks of dairy farming as we can. For our young family, one of those perks is having Dad at home and all of us together. Except we weren't all together; Lily was missing.
Lily's a great student, her school was awesome, and she was happy there, yet I wasn't content. Our days were hectic and I felt like we were missing out on some of the reasons we were supposed to be so lucky to be raising our kids on a farm. Kurt and I wondered whether there might be a different approach to school that would let us enjoy that perk of being together as a family. And so, after an agonizing decision, we pulled Lily out of school to try homeschooling. We were going all in on this family farm life thing. We consider it our big experiment in family, farming and education.
It was hard to keep Lily focused at first, and I couldn't help feeling panicky when I thought about what she was missing out on at her old school. Slowly, though, we developed a good routine for our school days and came to appreciate the freedom and flexibility of homeschooling. We attend a home school co-op less than five minutes from home that Lily loves. I'm able to help Kurt with chores most mornings, and we all have more quality time to spend with each other. Of course, there are also days when I wonder why I wanted to double my work load by going from a stay-at-home mom and chauffeur to a stay-at-home mom, farmer and teacher.
But, then we have a day like we did last week, and the extra work is worth it. Lily asked how electricity is made. Rather than tell her the answer, as soon as Kurt was done cleaning the barn, all five of us went to the Bakken Museum on Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis. With no other patrons there, we had the museum to ourselves. The kids played with all of the hands-on experiments, Lily discovered the answer to her question and we made memories as a family. Being able to go places when other families are at work/school, isn't that one of the perks of this demanding farming lifestyle? Homeschooling allows us to take advantage of that.
Pulling Lily out of school was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made, but so far homeschooling seems like the right fit for our family right now. The experiment isn't over yet, though; we'll see how I feel about it when Tate's ready for school.[[In-content Ad]]


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