With three businesses, four kids and hundreds of athletes to train, life is hectic, it's crazy and hard to find a rooted existence. In the Miller family, we have Lincoln who is seven, Sanderson who is four and Seneca and Keenan, our four-month-old twins. Each kid needs their own responsibilities and their own regular duties to accomplish every day.
This is where living on a farm and appreciating the outdoors comes into play. Having a deep respect for nature is imperative and falls in line with our parenting principles. Not only does living on a farm teach our kids about responsibility, but it also teaches them how to be aware of their surroundings and to embrace the animals and birds around them.
What does it mean to live off the land?
In my young, naive mind, my goal as a young man was to grow up and have a business and to purchase a farm where I could live and raise my children. Living off the land meant we would be raising our own livestock, we would be living without a TV, we would commit to raising chickens or poultry for eggs and regularly have various animals throughout the farm to provide meat, eggs and nitrogen for the soil. We would heat our house with a wood stove and we would live in a tiny home that would keep us at bay and focusing on the things that mattered.
Who was “us?”
How did this familial growth occur? Raising kids on the farm became my focus after marriage. I dreamed of days where I could take my kids out and listen to blue jays, teaching them about splitting wood and why it was important to heat our house with energy from our property and days of feeding local grains to pigs out in our own pasture. Fortunately, this has become a reality.
The reality now is teaching the kids noises a blue jay makes, helping them identify the difference between a gray catbird and a cardinal while walking to our massive stack of firewood. The dream has slowly become a reality and living off the land with four children is what has kept me grounded as an adult. The life lessons aren’t just about listening to birds, sadly it has come to the importance around picking up fast food trash off the side of the road, why it’s important to keep trash out of our field and why invasive species like the spotted lanternfly are not productive for our local environment.
But is that all?
Living off the land has taught our kids what it means to respect their parents. Do we still have problems? Absolutely, but with a structured day based around farm duties, it makes it easier to hold them accountable. Farm responsibilities, like firewood work, has taught them a cyclical nature of doing woodwork, stacking it and then feeling the reward of the heat. It has taught them the cycles of animals how raising birds and pigs is a cyclical process, similar to nature and we must respect the love and effort that goes into raising our own food.
It even makes learning easier. We have a four-wheeler, BUT the four-wheeler is only used for work reasons. It is not a toy. But to any 7-year-old, it is cool to drive a four-wheeler no matter what! Fortunately, we need to move our chicken tractor, we need to move firewood we split and pull trees around with our four-wheeler.
Studies have shown that kids learn faster when they do things with a game or enjoyable process involved. That enjoyable process for Lincoln is riding the four-wheeler! I trick him into doing 2 hours worth of work with the geese and firewood just by letting him pull the tractor with the four-wheeler for 5 minutes!
This is incredibly positive for the development of a family. Sure, we let some stuff fall through the cracks, we have to deal with our problems as well but having this many chores and responsibilities, it makes it easier to educate and teach our children about the discipline, effort and care it takes to mature and make progress individually. We try to use these life lessons to teach them what they should expect in the future and it is all taught to us through mother nature.
Everyone has busy lives and if they have kids, their lives get even busier. Not everyone lives on a farm, nor do they want to live on a farm, BUT that does not mean there isn’t enough stuff to do around the home for children to learn responsibility and respect for nature.
Every area on the planet has living creatures and birds singing around it. Grow a small tomato plant, focus on the sounds around the house, plant a couple of flowers for your children to grow. These are simple, easy, creative ways to help kids be connected with nature, to get outside and do understand the cycles of life!