Balancing Farming and Schooling

4 leaf cloverIt’s that time of year. As many of you know, I homeschool our 3 children.

We started this year’s book learning on September 1 and it’s always a bit of a juggling act in balancing farm and school. I’m sure some of you are nodding your heads right now. (Notice I said book learning, my kids are always learning and summer just means a temporary break from books, not from learning)

For now, I’ve been making school the priority. Morning in our house runs a little like this:

Wake up, get dressed, farm chores, breakfast, school.

After that each day takes on it’s own flavor. One of the beautiful things about homeschooling is that it doesn’t take the kids nearly as long to complete their work. With only 3 students, it’s undivided attention from me and most days we complete the book learning in about 3 hours. Now, all of my kids are still in elementary grades so this will most likely change in highschool, but for now this is our schedule.

We always wait to start school until September and are usually finished in May each year. The month of September and the month of May is always the trickiest but with a little extra focus it seems to work. Our growing season in Virginia is May 15 through September 15 – our frost dates. Our broiler season is March through mid-October.

I also usually wait to start school in the fall until after canning season is pretty much wrapped up. I think I may have one more batch of green beans to process, but everything else is done for the year.

One of my most favorite things about having my kids at home for school is the ability to incorporate them into every aspect of the farming life. Yes, there are days when I think, “why don’t I send these kids to school so that I can have a break?” I think that homeschooling is a bigger commitment on the part of the parent than the child. My kids have more free time because they are homeschooled. And don’t get started on the whole “they don’t get enough people interaction”. That is a fallacy. And especially for us. We have so many people around all the time, that we look forward to the winter break on the farm for a little peace. 🙂

I’m curious, how do you organize your days? Do you homeschool your children? What’s your favorite thing about it?

If you don’t homeschool your kids, but do farm, do you feel like your kids miss out on any of the farm life or is your farming season over during the school months?

I’m always looking for little tips and helpful advice on getting more out of a day and yet still enjoying life. 🙂 Aren’t we all?

Happy Friday!


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About Sheri Salatin

Sheri is married to Daniel Salatin. She is the marketing director at Polyface Farm and stay-at-home mom of three children. Sheri is passionate about clean food and is enjoying working the land along side her husband. When not farming, Sheri can be found reading, writing, sewing, baking and serving in her church family.
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16 Responses to Balancing Farming and Schooling

  1. David Morrow says:

    We used to home school and even though I have a double major in Ag and Secondary education and have many accolades in my area. We are all diagnosed and medicated Children and Adults with ADHD. (Me since I was 6) I am not talking about just not being able to sit still either :-)!!! We loved it, but at the end of the day it came down to sometimes you have to be smart enough to recognize when your not doing a good job. The proof is in the fruit. By the way everyone in my immediate family is a teacher, principal, superintendent, or education professor. I wish we were a family that could get homeschooling done, but for know we will have to settle for homeschooling about the multitude of life the schools don’t even get to.
    In Christ

  2. Homeschool about the same. Three hours s day. My oldest daughter now has a neighborhood job. We love homeschool, but the older kids struggle with the feeling of missing out …with their friends going to public school.

  3. Kim Zerkle says:

    You are right when you say the days take on their own flavor. I homeschool three in elementary on a small, but busy livestock farm. Our goal is to get all the lessons done in the morning but it is usually sprinkled with gardening, canning, and feeding. I used to stress about sticking to a schedule and worry about not getting enough book work in but the farm is our life lab and everything will be learned eventually…especially in the slow winter months. How lucky we are to have the farm outside our door!

  4. Rose says:

    I homeschool my three boys…for now. I don’t think that it will be something I do forever, but we’ll see where God leads. Right now it is our best option, but I’m open to the idea that there may be better options on down the road. My husband and I were both homeschooled our whole lives, and I have seen it done both well (husband) and badly (me…sigh). I had to laugh about your comment on people interaction – that definitely wouldn’t be a problem for you guys, would it!! I admit that socialization has been one of the hardest parts for me personally, but I think the issue is more a parenting-in-general one than solely a homeschooling one.

    All in all, I really like it for this stage in our lives. My oldest is only in Kindergarten, so I probably don’t have any good tips, lol. Kind of a noob here! Right now, since we live in town, I’ve decided the most important thing is to get them out and running around in the mornings. So we’ve been taking the morning either for long walks/bike/scooter rides, or going to the park (hopefully with friends – there’s that social thing again). After that we spend probably an hour to two hours on typical table/book work. Then they play while I make food. Hopefully at some point I’ll get good enough at this to actually have the food done and the house cleaned before bedtime, lol.

  5. My oldest is only 4, but we plan to homeschool when the time arrives. (We have, in fact, started “school” with basic writing practice and learning letters, numbers, addition, etc.) I don’t know what our day will look like, but since we also farm (we’ve got 185 acres in East Texas), I imagine each day will look a bit different. I look forward to homeschooling because I want to make learning real for my kids–to show them how things like math and physics and reading and writing and history all help them to accomplish the tasks before them. I’m sure it’s naive, but I also have a secret hope that I can learn some of the things that I missed out on when I went to public school. I want their schooling to be practical and help them to make a living and serve God faithfully. Today’s educational system treats school like something that has to be checked off to get the diploma or degree, but that has no real practical use or application. Hopefully we’ll help change it!

  6. Katrina says:

    I love this post. I always wondered how you guys got the homeschooling done with the farming. I have been homeschooling my kids for 12 years and out of those years we have been farming for 7 years. My first will graduate at the end of this year. I am always looking for ways to get better at balancing homeschooling with life. The struggle to do your best at what your doing is a constant battle. I want my kids to feel confident enough to succeed in whatever they decide to do and I don’t want them to feel like I have held them back because the way we homeschooled. We homeschool year round because we always have interruptions with baby animals, vet issues, taking care and helping out family, reorganizing where animals are going to be, and just cleaning, taking care, and feeding animals. I have come to realize that the most important gift I can send my kids out into the world with, is having a relationship with Christ. I can see that they have the seed that can continue to grow and I will never regret homeschooling them if that is the only thing I have accomplished.

  7. Sarah says:

    We homeschool three out of four of our children. Our oldest wants to experience public high school. We have a very similar schedule and our canning and freezer food is almost done. Balance is not always easy but we do what’s right for our family. With having 4 children with varying forms of Dyslexia, it takes most time to get it onto paper (The bookwork portion) which for us is only approximately 4 hours, 4 days per week.That’s just a small technicality compared to the amount of free learning as we call it.

    My children have excelled since homeschooling and we are so thankful. There are definitely the days where I feel as if I need a break, but when I feel that way, I do my best to find support and ease off book work for a bit then go back to it when we’re back into the swing of things 🙂 When I read your blog it brought me comfort, that there is someone else who is going through something similar.

    I love spending quality time with my children and that they get to spend time while gaining experiences from positive and influential peers. Also that it has brought our family closer in a good way. We don’t live on a farm, but wish we did 🙂 Presently we use various forms of Capital including work with our local organic farms, it has been wonderful and my children haven’t been happier 🙂 One of our favorite things to do is we have a suggestion box where all of the kids put a piece of paper with something they want to learn, then we brainstorm together about an activity that would like to do, then we do the activity within 2 weeks. I love our mornings, we care for the animals and food, our physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health before we start our day. It has made such a difference in our family. HAPPY FRIDAY!!! 🙂

  8. Cheryl says:

    We have homeschooled for over 20 years now and still have 3 left to finish. Our farming season starts the 1st of March and we FINALLY finish picking the middle of October. Years ago I stressed over getting all the book work done in the winter but I have learned first hand that everything gets finished (learned, retained) by the time they graduate. There is always review built into the books and if something is not grasped the first time it eventually “sticks” later. We usually do school in the mornings unless it looks like the weather won’t let us in the garden or fields in the afternoon, then it get interesting around here to get it all done. And it does, maybe not that day, but alll in His time. Keep persevering! After this long at it – school, life, the farm all just blend together and it becomes second nature!

  9. Gretchen R says:

    My oldest is 10 and we are starting our 5th year of homeschooling. Some changes I have made over the years is opening up the definition of schooling to: something that builds a skill, something that builds knowledge, or something that builds character. We still have a curriculum, but if what we are doing that day falls into one of those 3 categories, it’s school. Gardening is school. Canning is school. Taking care of animals is school. For that matter we do school year round. We live in a spot school kids visit for educational purposes. Isn’t it for our kids as well? We do more sit down work in some months, and more active, hands on work in other months. I’m no afraid to pull out math on a rainy day in July, and I have no problem taking the month of December off so we can all prepare handmade gifts for under the Christmas tree. Don’t me school be defined by your curriculum.

  10. susan says:

    I am jealous of all you ladies still homeschooling! My youngest finished homeschool high school in May. I now watch a 4 year old after her morning public school pre-k. I do letters and numbers with her, and have taught her how to write her name (you’d think she’d learn that in school!). But it still isn’t the same. I think in the beginning you do worry about getting all the chores done and making sure the kids got all their schooling done for that day. But as the years go on, you become more relaxed and realize sometimes you do take more time with the chickens and farm animals and less in the books. My boys always scored at least 4 grades ahead on their CAT test, and even in 8th grade got “above high school level”. So no worries ladies, I encourage you to keep up the good work. Having two boys was never a challenge, they got lots of outdoor playtime and weren’t stuck in a four walled room for 7 hours. Before you know it your children will be out of the house (and what a sad day it is!)

  11. penniespen says:

    How very envious I would have been raising my children by me, today, instead of the me that lived just to get by, back when. . . I wish every young family had an opportunity to at least, have a small garden and a couple of “farm” animals to raise. Combined with book learning it truly is creating self sufficient humans in the least. . . . I see more and more the possibilities of gardening in apartments, schools and front lawns. I will continue to watch the growth of sustainability within the local realm from my own hometown to everyone’s hometown across the globe!
    Thank you for sharing!

  12. Rachael Oren says:

    Hi. I just came across your blog! Great article. We live in a 100 year old schoolhouse that we are restoring and live on a hobby farm. Our goal would be to become self-sustaining and my husband would love nothing more than to work from home farming every day. Your line about “they don’t get enough people interaction” made me laugh. We get that all the time. I actually just posted an entire blog post arguing that point that many homeschool skeptics throw at me! It’s here if you are interested in reading it!

  13. Annie says:

    I love the freedom to school or not depending on what the day will hold. We don’t school on chicken processing days, for example. But then we will school on Saturdays and other public school holidays. Last Christmas Day, my daughter asked what time we were leaving for a relative’s house. When I told her she said, “Great! Then we can do school before we leave!” Sure! Why not?

  14. Adele says:

    We started our year earlier so that the pressure is less in ‘the official’ school year. I do not ‘wake up’ completely when it is cold and gray outside and because dad has more free time in the winter and NONE during the summer, I hope we could have more family fun days in the winter. We are also looking forward to the winter! We started back in mid June, so we will actually be doing year round school, with only a month off during the summer… But doing this makes it possible for me to do a 4 days schedule when it is too hot to play outside, and then cut back to 3 days when it is nice outside and even some weeks with a two day schedule when it is really cold. I want the flexibility without compromising their education. I follow the Sue Partick Workbox system and even my Kindergartener is working independently already. They know when to call me… I have one early riser who completes half of his ‘school’ before dad gets up to do farm chores. He has tons of free time and basically works and plays all day long…

  15. Ms. Daisy says:

    We start around 7:30 and end around 3:30, depending on the day – but I don’t have a farm. 🙁 I have a garden…? 🙂 And a German shepherd dog? 😉 We have chores from about 7-7:30 and then after school from 3:30-4. We start out with their Bible study (really like it – it’s the Kids for Truth clubs books) and then they write out their weekly verse for memorization, then it’s off to the races with math, writing, spelling, grammar, Latin, history, literature, science, individual reading (5 minutes per year of the child’s age). On Monday and Wednesday we have art (learning about artists and their work on one day, doing art on the other), Tuesday and Thursday is P.E. (which usually entails them riding their bikes while I run a few miles or I take them to the track and they run too) and Friday is music (listening to a piece or a few of classical music and reading about the composer’s life). I prep on the weekends and we start it all up again.

    We hope to one day be able to get out of where we live and get our own land so we can join the farming “party”. 🙂 Teaching your children at home is difficult but rewarding work. (And yes, the socialization comments are always entertaining, aren’t they?!) Kudos to all of you who balance school and farm!! <3

  16. Marcie McBee says:

    I am homeschooling 3. We take more of an unschooled approach. That said yes we still sit down for some book work, especially Math, Reading and English, but we are not on much of a schedule. This allows our kids to be incorporated in all of our lives. We love it. They love being able to go out and focus on the things God has put in front of them.