Homeschooling Homesteaders: Teaching Self-Reliance Skills

I’m planning to be at the Self-Reliance Expo in Dallas on Februrary 10-11, 2012 to speak on homeschooling and micro-business topics, so I’ve been thinking about self-reliance as it fits into the homeschool world.

One of the busiest booths in a homeschool conference is usually the booth with wheat grinders and other aids to feeding your family with fresh, wholesome, homemade goodies. Stop beside that booth for a few moments, and you’ll hear moms, dads, and teens, talking about gardening organically, baking, canning and dehydrating, and more.

Learning to become more self-reliant by developing these old-fashioned skills is one way many home-school families manage to live well on a single income. As a family becomes more self-reliant, it provides students with a living laboratory for learning that will provide them a head start on life. Although it takes work to reach a comfortable state of self-reliance, there is creativity, comfort, and peace in working with the rhythms of nature.

What are the skills of self reliance?

According to the National Self-Reliance Organization (NSRO), self reliance has three basic parts:

1. Emergency preparedness in case of job loss, natural disaster, or family emergency. This includes having a garden, generator, water filtration system, and the ability to preserve the food you grow.

2. Sustainable living, including the practice of frugality and debt-free living, and possibly including alternative energy sources.

3. Entrepreneurship, including building micro-businesses and multiple streams of income.

These self-reliance skills used to be conventional wisdom. Just think of your great-grandmother’s pantry, with shining rows of beautifully canned produce and delicious home-baked goodies. Remember visiting great-grandfather’s handy tool shed where he could fix or build almost anything?

Many of my happiest childhood hours were spent in my grandfather's organic garden, where roses mingled with lemons, limes, oranges, tomatoes, bell peppers, squash, corn, peaches and kumquats — all in an sliver of urban land left over from freeway construction.

In my grandfather’s garden.

If your great-grandparents were anything like mine, they combined practical frugality with the skills it took to run a home and family without any of the conveniences we take for granted (running water, indoor plumbing, close grocery stores, refrigeration, to name just a few). Their summer gardens provided meals for the dark, cold months of winter, and they occupied those months with indoor pastimes that helped to make their homes cozier and more secure.

Self-reliance didn’t mean that people weren’t trusting God– it simply meant that individual families took the responsibility of looking ahead, anticipating potential dangers, and setting aside resources to care for their families in the event of an emergency.

The importance of learning to provide for your family during difficult times was particularly apparent during the Great Depression. That was a hard time for almost everyone, but according to many old-timers who lived through it, self-reliant farm families had one significant advantage over city dwellers — the ability to produce much of their own food.

According to an Iowa Pathways article, “Almost all farm families raised large gardens with vegetables, and canned fruit from their orchards. They had milk and cream from their dairy cattle. Chickens supplied meat and eggs. They bought flour and sugar in 50-pound sacks and baked their own bread. In some families the farm wife made clothing out of the cloth from flour and feed sacks. They learned how to get by with very little money.”

It’s not necessary to live on a farm to be more self-reliant.

You can accomplish much with an urban homestead. Consider the skills your grandparents had and start learning them, and you’ll be on your way. As a homeschooler, you even have some built-in advantages for becoming self reliant:

  1. You’re already accustomed to looking to the past for wisdom and inspiration.
  2. You’ve already found that keeping up with the Jones’s is pointless.
  3. You’re accustomed to taking the road less traveled.
  4. Homeschooling allows teaching and learning the skills of self-reliance to be a natural part of living.
  5. You can even grant credit for the homesteading skills your students learn!

There’s no question that many homeschool families are already living at least a partially self-reliant homestead life. Some of us enjoy just a few aspects of the self-reliant lifestyle such as organic gardening, cooking, and entrepreneurship, while others embrace the whole enchilada.

If you weren’t fortunate enough to learn basic homesteading skills when you were growing up, there are an increasing number of resources to help. The award-winning Self-Reliance Expo is one of the major places you can go to learn what you need to know. You’ll learn about:

  • Emergency preparedness
  • Food and water storage
  • Natural health care
  • Home security
  • Self defense
  • Microbusiness and financial independence
  • Homeschooling
  • Solar power
  • Cooking competitions with organic and home storage foodsIf you enjoy any aspect of homesteading, just imagine being at a conference entirely devoted to the skills you need! I hope you’ll join me at the upcoming Expo in Dallas, Texas on February 10-11, 2011. It will be my first visit to a Self-Reliance Expo, and I’m looking forward to it (and I’d love to see you there). 

NOTE: This post is scheduled to appear in the Sixth Anniversary issue of the Carnival of Homeschooling. If you’d like to submit an article for the Carnival, please visit “Why Homeschool” for instructions. Thanks to the Cate family for creating and managing this excellent blog carnival for so long. It’s a wonderful resource!

3 Responses

  1. Janice,
    Sounds like a very interesting Expo. I agree a lot of homeschoolers are also very self reliant people.

    I hope you inspire a lot of people!

  2. Great post! We are diving into these practices, too. It has been very rewarding to learn skills like making our own yogurt and cooking with locally grown/raised foods. I’ve learned to take it one skill at a time, and I’m really enjoying each step in the process of learning to do things sustainably.

    • I love the idea of learning to become more self-reliant in a sensible, sustainable way. It makes so much sense to ease into it one thing at a time rather than suddenly trying to do it all. That’s what has worked for us, too, which means that we do some things well and other things not at all;-). But definitely–fresh yogurt every week. Yum!

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