Epidemic Essentials:  Education

by Tami Sanders

For most farm and ranch kids, staying on the place for weeks at a time and “social distancing” is not a new phenomenon.  It’s more commonly known as haying, harvesting, calving, lambing, the list goes on for pages.

But this time is different.

This time we’ve been “volun-told” that while keeping our kids at home, we’ll also educate them.  If you’re as new to this homeschooling thing as I am, that’s a bit of a challenge.  Following is a journal of the “educational lessons” we’ve had this week.


Monday, March 16


Today we’re “schooling” in the theater arts.  Last I heard, “Cow Cow” the puppet was giving birth to a puppy, but it was a difficult delivery and required “assistance.”  I didn’t ask for details.

We’re also learning basic life skills like, “how to clean your room.”  And, we’ve found that yes, there is really that much dust under the bed.

Animal Science 101: Diligently checking the sheep on the off chance one decides to lamb a month early (this is a better choice than last week when one child decided she and the dog would pretend to be horses and chase the chickens).

We integrated math and P.E. by walking a mile and doing farm math.  For example, 13 sheep get 5 pounds of hay per day.  How much hay do I feed per day?  Or, we have 18 chickens, the dog eats three.  How many are left?  Turns out, they loved this approach and couldn’t wait to get back to “their turn.”  But next time, I’m taking a calculator.  My mental math is slower now than when I was 11.


Tuesday, March 17


Evidently my kids do not agree that picking up sticks and large branches, raking hay, or shoveling gravel in any way, shape, or form qualify as gym class.

“Why?” I asked.

“Gym’s supposed to be fun,” they said.

We’ll see if these jobs start to look fun when “Manure Monday” makes an appearance next week.

An impromptu science lesson came up with the 7-year-old when I was asked, “why is that rooster being so mean to that hen?”  Mating rituals was not a planned topic, so I quickly changed the subject.

The end of day gym class involved kid and dog chasing a rabbit with a homemade spear.  Gym class may require safety goggles.  We do not need to clutter up emergency medical services at this point.


Wednesday, March 18


The two girls have headed out on a scavenger hunt and adventure.  They’re taking backpacks and I’m not certain they intend to return.  We’ve been reading a book about Daniel Boone and he was very self-sufficient at a young age.  Maybe they’re trying to tell me they’re over this homeschool thing.

Update: They came back.

They took a hike around and created their own science lesson – they documented birds, trees, rocks, streams, etc.  Later, we investigated several fox or badger dens (my animal home identification skills need some work).  Sticks were involved to probe the dens… until I questioned what they’d do if they stirred up an animal.  They tossed the sticks like a bad habit.


Thursday, March 19


Well, today brought exactly what every mom hoped for – mud.  There’s a math problem: 3 kids x 2 doors x 100 trips in and out = mud everywhere.

The oldest helped his dad split wood (P.E.), learned the intricate art of backing up a bumper pull (geometry), and finally the physics of a teeter totter.  I wasn’t there for the teeter totter lesson, but one never knows how it’s going to turn out when the story starts with, “Dad and I had this huge log.  We put another log under the middle and he sat on one end and I jumped up and down on the other end to break it in half.”  They both came in drenched and covered in mud.  They’d considered waving at me in the kitchen, but decided against it when my son wisely said, “We’d better not, she might cry.”

The littlest got an education in wind currents and lift.  She was stomping in puddles, with an umbrella, in 40 mile per hour wind gusts.  She animatedly told me, “the wind is so strong it picked my feet off the ground and nearly carried me away like Mary Poppins.”  I’m just glad she didn’t end up in Nebraska.


Friday, March 20


The girls headed out to feed the sheep, who were certain they had been forgotten.  On the path was a dismembered chicken.  The chicken chasing child was summoned (reference the dog and kid earlier in the week).

I thought she’d be devastated.  The victim was “her” chicken, Debby – named in honor of grandma – that she’d claimed when we hatched them out last summer.  Not so.  Her response was, “That’s fine, I’ll pick a different one.  Cool!  Hey M, come look, you can see all of her insides!”  So, we had an impromptu science lesson on the inner workings of a chicken.

She hauled it (P.E. credit) to the burn barrel and when I brought the head on the pitchfork she hollered, “did you get her heart, too?”  Her brother was horrified and saddened by the loss.  Suffice it to say we have a pretty clear picture of which child should not be placed in charge of end of life decisions for her parents.

It also made a great cause and effect lesson for language arts and science.  “Because we acted like horses and chased the chickens, the dog’s basic instinct kicked in and now he’s eating the chickens.”  I made the comment to my son that his sister and the dog had completely lost their heads and made poor decisions.  He looked at me and said, “No, the chicken literally lost its head.”

The P.E. teacher (dad) is currently out pulling them in the sled behind the four-wheeler, teaching them the finer points of centrifugal force.  Someone is bound to come in crying…

The real teachers are sending rescue packets next week for their school education, but we’ll still have plenty of opportunity for real farm life learning.



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