Incorporating homeschooling and family decisions

Sitting down to dinner, my daughter suddenly asks,

Did you know that the cotton patch goose was important to people during the Great Depression?

No, honey, I didn’t. Why is that?

Her eyes light up and, closing her eyes to remember her reading she ticks off their uses.

The backyard flock was an important source of eggs, meat and grease.  And it was called the cotton patch goose because it was used to weed cotton patches!

I am glad to see her enjoying her research project so much. She is even finally talking about adding to her website again because she has gotten excited about the project.

See, we want geese and she has been given the important task of determining which breed would be best for us. I gave her a list of questions to help guide her, focusing on heritage breeds, which has spawned many interesting conversations about our relationship to the food we eat.

She finds it somewhat disconcerting that chickens and turkeys have been so selectively bred that they can no longer survive outside their climate controlled sheds, couldn’t find food if they had to, and cannot reproduce without someone’s help. She looked at our chickens wandering the property, scratching back the dead grass from last year searching out sprouts and insects and thought that was just how chickens should be raised.

Returning to her research, she discovers the Sebastopol. Delighted with their long, curly feathers, she announces that she has found her favorite goose and is pretty sure she knows what we should get. I encourage her to finish, to examine all the breeds but otherwise bite my tongue.

Because you see, I’ve already done all this research. Not intentionally, really. Just that once we decided to get geese, I couldn’t help but read everything I came across about them. I fell in love with the Pilgrim goose after reading an article in Backyard Poultry, and everything I cam across after that just served to confirm this docile little creature as a perfect fit for our family and experience level.

This is where it gets difficult. At least for me. I already know what I want, but I’ve given Mouse the responsibility of researching the best breed because I want this to be educational. I didn’t want her to pull up a chair and have me show her why we were getting Pilgrim geese. I wanted her to come up with the characteristics we desired most, research breeds and come to a decision she would then defend with her presentation.

Was I really willing to let go of my preferences for the sake of my daughter’s education?

“Oh, mom,” she whines. “The Sebastopol needs to have water to swim in all the time.”

She thinks about our old bathtub and how we could fill it and clean it. But she seems to have some sense of how much work that would be, several times a day, in order to keep her favorite goose. Disappointed, she fills out her check list and moves to the next breed.

In the end, she does a pretty nice job on her presentation. She argues nicely for heritage breeds, though they are a bit more expensive. She notes that many of these breeds are considered endangered and that we can help make sure they survive as a breed by raising them and breeding them ourselves. And she compares the geese on the main traits she has decided suit us best: lack of aggression, ability to forage, ease of differentiating the sexes and quality of meat.

She decides on the Pilgrim goose.

And I’m happy. Not because of her choice in goose, but because she was able to come up with several criteria and judge the suitability of the different breeds for our family. There were several geese which would have worked well for us, but she was able to set aside her personal preference based on looks in favor of characteristics she had already determined were more important. That isn’t the easiest skill to teach, but she seems to have learned it well.

How do you incorporate your family decisions into homeschooling?

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14 Responses

  1. Love Mouse’s presentation…very nicely laid out and thorough.

    All this talk of chickens and geese makes me very impatient for the day when I can have my own livestock…I’m so looking forward to it. 🙂

    When we were looking into buying a tent trailer for camping last year – Hubby and I are getting a little old for sleeping on the ground – we turned it into a homeschooling project that primarily focused on the mathematical logistics.

    What’s the average price of a tent trailer, how much can we afford, how long will we have to save, considering maintenance and repairs is it better to buy new or used etc…

    Once we worked all that out we let Daughter do the research to find one that was suitable. She felt very empowered by being given the responsibility and the opportunity. “You mean, I get to decide?”

    Unfortunately, in the end we didn’t find one that we could afford and we put it on the back burner. Still it was a great learning experience for all of us.

  2. That is great! I think it is a wonderful way to help family decisions be more like actual family decisions. Everyone has an important part to contribute to everyone’s benefit.

    I hope you are able to get livestock in the relatively new future. We are really enjoying them, as you can probably tell. 🙂

  3. I think that is absolutely wonderful. We also do research projects and we have weekly family meetings where we decide things.

  4. Love it Dana! One of the ways we are incorporating our homeschoolong into family decisions is to have the kids, when theyreach a certain level in math, plan a family trip with a budget we give them. If they can make the entire trip come in under budget, then we will take the trip. ( : I have an Evan-Moor book called ‘Math on a Trip’ to help guide them in knowwhat all of the expenses of a trip would be. It will be fun to see what they come up with!

  5. My parents moved to a different state the summer after my sophomore year in H.S. and they tasked me with researching different towns in the general area to which we would be moving. They gave me certain parameters within which to work, and they obviously had the final say over where we moved. But they did end up househunting in several of the towns I’d ranked at the top.

    I also learned a valuable lesson that just because something appears good on paper doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ll be a good “fit”. My family ended up hating the area to which we moved and when my dad’s new job didn’t work out as he’d initially hoped, we moved back.
    .-= Crimson Wife´s last blog ..Required Reading for Toyota Owners! =-.

    1. What a great lesson, all the way around! Sorry it didn’t work out so well, but it is good you got to move back.

  6. That’s so wonderful, Dana! Terrific learning life experience that I’m sure she’ll remember for years to come. 🙂

  7. Wow – that’s really cool! We don’t get to have geese or chickens here, but I love the way you let her take the lead like that. Neat! Enjoy your geese. =)

  8. Thanks, Dianne and Amber! We’re so looking forward to them. We’re going to be gone a day once they get here, and I’m already feeling anxious about leaving them!

  9. Great research. So much more instructive and life applicable than “Johnny has 4 friends, and 27 apples, etc etc” LOL

  10. I love all of these ideas. We need to start doing this more in our house. We are currently researching which breed of chickens we will be using to introduce new blood to our flock, but I’m not sure my husband is willing to do what you did…yet

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