Hands-On Homeschool: A Backyard Farm?

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Last year I wrote about expanding our backyard garden and involving the girls in every step of the process, from choosing what to grow and starting seeds in the house, to transplanting and harvesting. What I left out of the story is the fact that we’d also decided to try raising a few chickens for fresh eggs. A backyard garden isn’t very uncommon, but a backyard farm? I wanted to see if this endeavor would actually work out before writing about it.

Turns out I had good reason to hesitate: Phase One was a complete failure. Our first three chicks did not survive: One chick was DOA, and the remaining two were killed by foxes that broke into our coop before we realized that foxes were smart enough to work unlocked latches. My husband was out of town that night, so I was the one to discover the remains, clean up the evidence, and console our three daughters. I was ready to throw in the towel.

ChicksRIP

However, a couple of months later, our neighbors, who’d purchased chicks at the same time we did, had done so well with theirs that they decided to add a few more and asked if we wanted to join in. I hesitated, but the girls had bounced back from our first experience and really wanted to fill the empty hand-crafted coop with new chicks. So we welcomed four new chicks into the family.

Phase Two was off to a much better start: The coop had received security upgrades, and my husband created a secure grazing area for the chickens using our unoccupied raised garden beds. The girls named our new chickens after egg dishes instead of chicken dishes (which had obviously “jinxed” the first set of chicks). With more research and preparation done, we were ready to make it happen this time.

BackyardFarm

Today was a celebration for Phase Two: We found two eggs in the nesting box! After a day of snow, I went outside to check on the snow-melt situation around the coop, opened the nesting box, and there they were — two beautiful brown eggs next to the prop golf ball we’d placed there as a hint. Success!

Now comes Phase Three: Managing egg production and distribution, aka the “fun part” — eating fresh eggs! We’ll keep you posted…

Do you grow a garden or raise “farm” animals? If so, how do you incorporate the experience into your homeschooling? What other ways can you give your children a hands-on experience with gardening and farming if you can’t DIY in your backyard? We’d love to hear your own stories and ideas in the comments below.

Renée Gotcher is a wife, writer, editorial consultant, and home-educating mother of three daughters. She has been married for 26 years to her best friend Kenny, whom she met while attending Oral Roberts University in the early 90s. Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. A former journalist, she is currently editor of NextGen Homeschool and blogs on personal topics at A New Chapter. Her family lives in Castle Rock, Colorado.

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