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.
If you have Power Point, you can take a peek at her work: Why Geese?
How do you incorporate your family decisions into homeschooling?