“Mom, can I please do my math down at the barn?”
My eight-year-old daughter is so over doing school work at the kitchen table…especially now that there are goats in the barn.
The chickens were a hard enough distraction, but now we have goats that beg for neck scratches, and jump and kick off heights in the most amusing manor. We’ve all seen funny goat videos on You Tube, and now we have it 100 yards from our house!
How could I say no?
Of course math is important. Of course it is. School work is important. Getting the laundry and the dishes done is important. Building self-discipline and a sense of responsibility is part of my job as a mother.
We will never again have goats for the first time. Never again will we have the first baby goat born on our homestead frolicking and jumping around. Never again will we have our first barn swallows darting in and out of the rafters like fighter pilots.
So math in the barn it is.When I check in with my children later on in the day, I don’t hear how riveting that day’s long division was. Yes it got done…and yes correctly…but what I hear about is the shapes they saw in the clouds. I feel the boys’ muscles that are getting “soooo big Mom!” from moving hay and digging in the garden.
As a homeschooler, I have worked to broaden my idea of what “counts” as learning. We do math, English and history…but we also do cooking, gardening and animal husbandry. We read together and make up stories about the creatures that live in the shapes in the trees. Last week, I was regaled by stories of their adventures at “mud suck pond.”
It sounds frivolous, but let’s stop and unpack it for a minute. They are learning to see the beauty around them, and appreciate how nature works when we stay out of the way. They are learning to be less self-centered because the animals need to be fed whether the children feel like it or not. They are learning to gauge whether the biscuit recipe needs to be doubled for our family of 7, and they are learning that proper care of the animals leads to healthier food for our family. Eggs don’t just come from the store like magic. Even though we don’t raise beef cattle, they make the connection that someone worked hard to care for that animal before it came to our table, and we need to make sure it was cared for in the healthiest and most humane way possible. We want our food to only have “one bad day.”
The job is hard, but the reward is great…and frankly, I’m not above a little bit of a bribe now and then. If you do your chores quickly and without complaint, and your chosen reward is math atop the straw bales with your turkey feather pencil? That’s an easy joy to grant you.