People are always asking about how to get children more involved on the homestead and I have found that the answer is actually very simple: Children are very eager to spend time with their parents.
In my experience, a simple invitation for one on one time works exactly the same whether I am asking to go for ice cream or shovel manure. Children, especially 12 and under, simply crave time with their parents. If I ask a child to go do a chore they will do it because I am their father, but if I ask a child to come with me to do a chore the excitement level is much greater.
This is why we started “Dad Camp” this year. Two weeks ago we drew names from a hat to decide the order in which each child would participate and then we started building the anticipation. This year Luke drew week one, which I believe was by divine intervention. Luke’s zeal for spending one on one time with Dad is nothing short of amazing, so he is setting the stage very nicely for the other children.
Here is the “Dad Camp” agenda that we set up. I wake Luke up before all the other children, he gets ready and we meet in the living room for prayer and a daily Bible reading. After a brief discussion of the reading I offer a daily challenge. For example, if the reading is about helping the poor I would ask him to donate an old toy of his to another little boy.
After that we head out to the farm for the daily morning chores. He is learning to milk the cow, feed and water all the chickens, sheep, and pigs. He also learned to drive our farm utility vehicle, which was especially exciting for him. He can name all the different breeds of animals we have and knows exactly how much to feed them. Day 4 is the “big test” where he will get a small portion of the chores to do on his own. If he passes, which he definitely will, then we will go fishing after the chores are complete for the final day of camp.
Now I’ll tell you 3 EXTRA benefits of Dad Camp:
- I have eight children, so spending one on one time allows me to really see the personality of each child. When they are all together in a group, it can be a little crazy. But when they are alone, they really bless me with their special love.
- I get help with the chores. Some of the younger kids won’t be able to help as much, but the older kids are VERY helpful. Luke is able to lift heavier things, he can scoop feeds and it really has been a help.
- This has helped me to stay disciplined with my time. Luke expects me to wake him up at a certain time. Without Dad Camp, it’s easy to skip my Bible readings and prayer to just “get to it”. This also allows me to fully experience the joy of farming every day. The morning chores are very mundane, so to see them through a child’s eyes reminds me of the first time I milked a cow. Watching them open the chickens will never get old.
Our children do plenty of chores on the homestead, so the other answer to how to get children involved is to challenge them with their own responsibilities. This time is about more than getting chores done though. It has been a blessing for me and the kids. I am very excited to see how each week differs and what each child finds interesting.
We are always trying to find new ways to get the children involved on the homestead, but I think that this will be one tradition that continues for as long as we have the kids around. Then I can look forward to “GRANDPA CAMP”!