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The good, the bad, and the ugly.

This week, we're changing up the topic of our blog—a lot. Typically, we talk about livestock nutrition and how our diverse lineup of products can improve your operation with their simplicity and efficiency. But I thought it essential to offer a different kind of support this week. 2020 has been a weird year for all of us: no live music, no shopping, no sports, and worst of all, no agriculture conventions. What's still unclear for many of us is coming upon us soon, going back to school. That's right, I said the s-word.

Sending your children back to school this fall is a decision most parents are struggling with. Some school districts have strict rules. At some, if your kid so much as sniffles, it's self-isolation time. Not a real great option for those who suffer allergies. Some school districts seem to have no rules in place, creating worry and uncertainty in some parents.

Homeschooling, if possible, can provide parents with a chance to personally shape their child's education. But farming moms and dads both know that farming is a tough job, it feels like you're busy all the time. So how do you squeeze in school?

Well, good news, homeschooling and farming easily go hand-in-hand. On the farm you can:

  1. Develop a flexible schedule.
    • Who says you have to teach your kids from 9 to 3? Why not do some work during breakfast then break for chores? A little English at afternoon coffee? Well, why not!
    • Pro tip: While homeschooling does provide a bit of freedom in terms of scheduling, it’s still important to create a relative schedule and stick to it. If you develop a 'when we get around to it' approach, it can be easy to fall behind quickly.
  2. Incorporate learning around the farm.
    • The farm is filled with biology, chemistry, problem solving, and math. Your kids don't have to learn right from the textbook. If there's one thing 4-H has taught us, it’s that ‘learning to do by doing’ is the best way.
  3. Develop closer family relationships.
  4. Teach morals, values, and beliefs to your children.
    • This is where you have the opportunity to personally shape your child's education. Don't get me wrong, in no way am I bashing professional teachers. They are amazingly hard workers, but they're their own person and won't have the exact values or beliefs as you.

Now, obviously this isn’t the perfect solution filled with butterflies and rainbows. There are definitely challenges that you’ll have to overcome. But by doing some research before you make this decision, you’ll be better prepared when the challenge arises. By talking to some rural homeschooling parents and children that I know, here are the most common challenges to think about.

  1. Isolation

    This is maybe the most common challenge you'll deal with. Humans are naturally social creatures, and homeschooling famously removes children from the social scene. But in today's era of technology, this doesn't have to be true anymore. There are Facebook groups affiliated with almost every area meant for homeschooled children to connect and network, allowing them to arrange playdates or talk online. As parents, you should always be aware of what your children are doing online. I would highly recommend attending your child's first few play dates or skype sessions to make sure everything is safe and normal.

  2. Access to Teaching Resources

    Most homeschooling teaching resources (conferences, workshops, seminars) are usually held in big cities. With a farming schedule and the fact you likely don't live in the immediate proximity, it can be difficult and expensive to attend these. But good news! There are lots of online resources as well:

  3. Extra Education Resources Unavailable

    Probably one of the most challenging issues is the limited access to special education resources. Being distanced from an education specialist is a real challenge for any family. Still, as a homeschooling parent, it is your sole responsibility to identify any special needs for your child. If you suspect that your child does need additional help (speech issues, learning disabilities, or other developmental challenges), check with your local school board, family doctor, or public health department to ask for available resources.

  4. Limited Extracurricular Activities

    This point kind of goes hand-in-hand with challenge 1. Extracurricular activities provide kids with an opportunity to socialize and be active, so searching groups out or finding alternatives on the farm is essential. Doing some research about what’s available in your nearest town is a great place to start. Town office will usually have a list of the available groups your child can participate in such as 4-H, Girl Guides or Girl Scouts, or any community sports. However, some isolated locations don’t have easy access to community groups so it may be time to be proactive and creative. Finding things to do around the farm can be easy substitutes. Hiking, fishing, or hunting are great ways to introduce wilderness survival skills to your children while getting them active outdoors.

  5. Limited Access to Internet

    Today we are so dependent on technology that it has basically become a lifeline for homeschooling families regardless of where they live. But being in a rural location can sometimes give you a sketchy connection. Speaking to your service provider to find out what’s offered in your area is important. It may end up being that you need to use your smartphone data plan or have tablet access. You can also purchase internet or cell phone boosters, which help to boost the signal and make it stronger.

Farming and homeschooling is a wonderful way to bond with your children and shape their education to match your expectations. With a flexible schedule, you can tailor their education to what suits you and your available resources. The farm is filled with life lessons and opportunities for education. By taking this approach to battle the COVID-19 obstacles, you and your partner can be sure you’re growing the perfect crop.