Want to move off the grid, but not sure how to bring your family along for the ride. Building a homestead is a fun, but challenging experience that has the power to bring families together like almost nothing else, if approach correctly. Here are 9 tips to help make your family in to a homesteading family, and have a blast doing it.
Dream Big & Make Homesteading an Adventure
A big mistake that many homesteaders make is to be too modest with their dreams. While we need to be pragmatic and realistic with our expectations, stifling big asks makes the off grid life seem boring and too safe.
Having sky high hopes gives you a story to tell about yourself that is exciting and fun to take part in. Children in particular need this to feel motivated an to be proud of their place in your family.
As the leader of your family, it is your responsibility to build a narrative that makes you all hero in an adventure. This is not frivolous.
The human mind operates in terms of stories and anecdotes. Humans are much more likely to forget or gloss over factual information that doesn’t fit in the stories they tell themselves about how the world works.
While you are redefining yourself as homesteaders, you need to consciously build a new story around yourselves. Which serves as a new basis for reality and makes the whole thing exciting and fun.
Find Special Moments in Every Accomplishment
Part of telling a great story is making memorable events.
Whenever something new or different happens, mark it with a minor event. This event should —
- Bring the family physically together
- Share in the benefits of the accomplishment
- Make a special meal
- Talk and tell stories with each other
Our ancestors and people all over the world have such events built in to their culture and communities. We new homesteaders must make our own.
Some ideas for special homestead events —
- Make a feast to recognize the harvest once all the crops are harvested and saved
- Have a celebration for the first bird or flower of spring
- Picnic in the house the first day the roof is on
- Decorate a new house or building, even a shed, and “christen” it for good luck
- Invite friends over when you harvest pigs or chickens
- “Play house” for an afternoon when you lay out a foundation
The more fun and playful these can be the better, although some events like a pig harvest, have to be solemn for a time.
Make harvesting a game. The person who collects the most stones when they harvest get a special dessert. Who ever spots and brings is the first flower becomes the king or queen of the spring.
Most importantly, be creative and play off the things that people enjoy. You will adjust what you do to your family’s tastes as they manifest.
Make your Loved Ones Feel Valuable
Everyone should have a responsibility, and way in which they contribute to the homestead which is theirs alone.
This is mom’s kitchen. This is dad’s barn. These are you’re son’s pigs or you daughter’s chickens.
Family members feel invested when they have control over something, and they feel they are making a positive difference in their family’s life.
Too often nowadays we impoverish a children by not allowing them to work with us. Or by making it so they cannot fail and their actions have no real work consequences. Give everyone as much room rope as you can, where they feel comfortable and have a good possibility for success. Then, give them just a little more to allow them to grow past their comfort zone.
Reward success with more responsibility. Respond to failure by giving them another chance to learn, and a second chance to redeem themselves.
Be observant, and take every opportunity to praise your family for their successes. When your kids bring in a good load of eggs, let them know they are doing a good job with the chickens. When you eat them, say to the whole family, “Sally’s eggs are very good today!”
Even better is when you find and acknowledge good behavior and talented execution when they weren’t expected to be observed.
Ensure You Are Having Fun
Don’t make the mistake of being a martyr, or “putting your family first.”
Being scarified for is a heavy burden that no one should have to bear. While you may love your family, and work your hardest to provide for them, if you forget to have fun yourself, you are doing more harm than good.
You don’t have to be rich or successful to have fun. To clown around. Or to enjoy your life.
Take time to find the good things. And, never stop having fun yourself!
Being excited, motivated, and in a good mood is contagious and makes your whole family happy to be alive.
Make the Homestead a Collaboration
Give every member of your family a seat at the table. Every person should feel in part that this homestead is their own creation.
I liken a healthy family to a great couple of dancers. In ballroom dancing, the lead sets the direction, and keeps a look out for other dancers. The follow must walk backwards, trusting their lead’s directions, but also filling in the dance and making it beautiful. Without both lead and follow, a dance would be boring to watch and not the beautiful. Together, they can make it magic.
As the leader of a homestead, I find it best to paint in broad brush strokes. Set a long term direction, and trust your family to fill in better than you ever could alone. Let each person discover their own skills and talents, and contribute in their own way. And, don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
In some way, this is linked to dreaming big. Everyone should be allowed to develop an own image in their mind, a dream, for the future of the homestead.
This happens through talking, sharing, and collaborating. Be open to every suggestion. Ultimately, the homestead will begin to develop almost organically, and exceed any particular vision. Becoming a thing of it’s own developed by the super intelligence of the combined brain power of the group rather than the authoritarian design of one individual.
Compare Your Life to the Alternatives
Take time to reflect on what your life could have been like if you hadn’t taken thin route.
I like to say to my family, “We could have been sitting in traffic right now, driving to the store, instead of harvesting fresh fruit.” When you hear an owl at night breaking the silence, say “Better music than a neighbor kid with a drum set in a suburbs.”
Making observations like this reinforces what your family values, and why you made the choice and sacrifices you did. This is good for everyone, even yourself.
With children, it is especially important to help teach them by showing them reality, rather than preaching to them over the dinner table. Point out observations and sharing experience as relevant are the moments that stick with children for life.
And, while your children will eventually have to make their own choices. And, they may make the opposite choice that you did. The best you can do for them is be 100% real and open with them about what made you live the way you do.
Develop a Routine
All people, and especially children, feel safe and happy when they have a routine. Something to look foreword too.
Too often on the homestead, we fail to build a rhythm and let work dictate our ever move. Building a homestead can be a lot of work, but make sure you balance that out right.
Every day should, work and play should proceed at set times —
If your children home school or study at home, make sure that happens at the some time. They can do nothing else until that day’s work is complete.
Have meals at the same time everyday. No one misses meals. Work stops no matter what, unless it is a huge emergency.
Everyone gets up at the same time. Everyone has chores.
If a child tests you, and they will, be stubborn about it. You being firm is what gives them confidence and security in your strength.
You may also have yearly or seasonal routines that you through. Make the days that things change very clear. Today is the first day of school. No exceptions.
Today is the last day of school (make it a special event as above).
Harvest starts on Monday. This means a special schedule and work for everyone. Harvest lasts until all the fields are clear and the crops are stored.
Break Up Your Routine
As alluded to above, routine should not last forever. And, you shouldn’t let every day blend in to the last.
Routines should be broken occasionally with special events. Holidays, special occasions, hunting trips, harvests.
For children, you also need to establish rights of passage. Birthdays are a good time for this. Another good thing to do is set ability goals for your children to strive for. And every right of passage should come with more rights and responsibilities.
When you are 7 you can stay up an hour latter, but you also put away and choose your own clothes.
When you can lift and carry a large basket of produce for the harvest, you will get to sit at the adult table.
When you can ride your bike with training wheels, you are allowed to ride alone after you complete your homework in the evenings.
Changes like this should be stark and noticeable. One day, they did not meet the mark, and did not have the rights / responsibilities that go with it. The next, they have achieved. They get praised and everyone in the family should see their accomplishment. Then, immediately they are living a slightly different life than before. No vacillation. No flip flopping.
Share Your Lifestyle with Others
Lastly, share your lifestyle with other people.
Invite over extended family members and friends. Make YouTube videos or write blogs. And, include your family in doing so.
Sharing your experiences with others teaches you and your family how to talk about their life. When we describe ourselves we find our place in greater society. By doing so willingly and consciously, we are not only developing or image of ourselves, but teaching our family by showing them how it is done. And, we allow them to do the same for themselves.
Learning to develop and express who we are in the world is vital to your family feeling proud of being homesteaders, and finding their own self-worth.