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How to school from the farm: Lessons we’ve learned in the past year

Krista Stauffer for Progressive Dairy Published on 14 September 2020

Editor’s note: The author began home schooling her children prior to COVID-19 and the trend of virtual learning. Perhaps some of her tips can apply to dairy farm parents who have chosen to home school or are figuring out the virtual classroom experience.

Deciding to school our kids at home was not a decision we took lightly. It is something we went back and forth on for years. We decided last school year it was time to bring our kids home. I quit my job at their school, and thus began our journey into home schooling our three oldest children.

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I can honestly say that my biggest concern was that the farm would somehow take over and we wouldn’t have time to work on their schooling. After all, isn’t that what the farm always does? We had some heart-to-heart conversations as a family about how no matter what was going on at the farm, school came first.

The barn is literally at the bottom of our driveway. This was going to be a challenge. And, it was at times, especially with our 8-year-old who thinks the only thing that matters in life is milking cows.

But, we somehow made it through the year, and not only did we survive – our kids thrived. All three kids who were behind at the beginning of the school year jumped several grade levels over the course of a year! So, how did we do it? Well, let me share some pointers:

We didn’t have a school room. When our oldest was in kindergarten, I thought I had to recreate the classroom setting. I quickly found out we didn’t need any of that. Our kids do best all sitting around the dining room table. The thing I love most about everyone sitting around the table is they help each other and glean off what the others are learning.

We woke up early. The two oldest kids still have chores regardless of how they do their schooling. Our day started at 6 a.m. Calves were fed, breakfast was eaten and school started. Honestly, all our kids learn better in the morning. We also do not like to drag things out. Our goal is to be done by noon and on to other things.

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We had a schedule. I thrive on schedules, checklists and goal setting. Each day began with the same subject, and they worked through each subject the same as they did the day before. There were no changes, and they knew what had to be done.

We learned how to just go with it. The schedule kept us on track and helped me know where each kid should be at any given moment. With that said, farm stuff absolutely came up. Something broke down; time to run to town. Herd health was on Thursdays; the kids wanted to help out. There seemed to always be something. The things the kids wanted to do most were used as incentives to get their work done in a timely manner. There were days the farm completely disrupted school, and there were other days the farm was the best classroom. We took every opportunity to learn, even if it meant reading or doing math in the car on the way to the local parts store.

I gave myself grace. Honestly, this is a hard thing to take on, especially with multiple children. Every day is not going to be perfect. They are going to have days they do not get through everything. There will be days they struggle. There were days that I struggled. It was OK. I learned really quickly when to call it a day and start over the next day. We didn’t finish every single thing for the school year, yet our kids still went from being severely behind to at or above grade level.

At the end of the year, I felt very good about our decision to school our children at home. It significantly improved our family dynamic as well as our relationships with each individual child. My only regret was not doing this sooner.  end mark

Krista Stauffer
  • Krista Stauffer

  • Dairy Producer
  • Washington
  • Email Krista Stauffer

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