Our boys are taking a few months completely off of academia (book learning) to be part of our off-grid homestead building project. I’ve written plenty before on the involvement they have had in designing our gravity fed water system and, really, all aspects of the project thus far.
It was definitely a lot to expect of them to do school for 3 hours in the morning and then head out to the property to work with their dad. Of course, Maya and I work hard, too. Just not always in the same way. Often times it is very cold and wet and that is hard on an 8 year old! Well, now she is 9. But you get the idea. Her main work should be play, and also being part of our family rhythm and learning about perseverance, systems and organization in a huge project like this, and learning to read and do her math facts, of course.
And me? I still have a 1700 square foot house to maintain and I’ve been doing all the support stuff. Although the boys in this family know how to cook and cook well, know how to do their laundry and often do, for the time being it is up to me and me alone. I want them to be well-fueled to work hard and I want them to have warm socks and clean underwear when they need it! That, along with all the running around, picking this pipes and wire and construction materials, doing the planning and ordering etc. So, my work is pretty much cut out for me on a daily basis.
For the boys, their most valuable learning point, I believe, is seeing what we can do when we work together, do a bit each day, think each process through and persevere even when we don’t really feel like it. All the while, keeping balance and time for family fun, personal fun and all the other details of life. This is a big lesson. Think of school: 50 minutes to do your lesson plus some homework. For 5 or 6 classes. It’s fractured and they may be learning quite a bit, this lesson we are excited about usually gets no attention at all!
Academically, you wouldn’t believe how long it took us and how many conversations we had about our water system. There is a rise and run to figure, there is gallons per minute, there is elevation and fall (different than the rise and run). The boys stuck with us while we learned to figure these things in real time for something as life-giving as our drinking water! We had to do similar equations for our electrical system. Then there is yardage figuring for the concrete, “Kaleb, go figure out how much concrete we need for our slab, it’s 4″ thick and 36’x48′.” He needed help but he got to see and do. Not just learn from a book. I just bet you that he remembers this mathematical equation!
That was math, but there is science in figuring soil type for our septic system, drawing up the system (which Isaac left to me and Kyler and it was super hard). We watch the weather like a hawk. We measure our water and hike up to the holding pond to see how much water there is in comparison to last week. There are solar array figuring and sun evaluation. There is learning to be thrifty by getting bids for jobs, going to the used stores like Habitat For Humanity, scouring the dump (we’ve gotten 2 sinks, a table, a grill, lots of pipe and metal d0-dads that we need and more).
Most importantly, we are working together. They are an integral part of this project. They are wanted, needed and depended upon. This gives them purpose and a sense of belonging that I think is so important for teenagers and that many miss out on.
These kids, I hope they are learning what they need to know to grow up and be a valuable asset to their families, their communities and independent on their own, when needed. I hope they are learning the skills needed to be real men and a real woman, who are strong, independent, smart, resourceful, know how to learn and love the process, and how to be kind and good to the planet and to other humans. I hope they are learning that they can take another path, a path not carved by society, or us for that matter. But a path designed by them, for them, whatever that means for each of them. I want them to be brave and courageous and loving.
We will get back to book-learning soon enough!