Monday, December 26, 2011

Homesteading Movement

I stumbled across this blog the other day while looking for something Broken Flowers Of the Catholic Homesteading Movement

It took me a few minutes to realize why some of it sounded so familiar, and then realized that the homestead was less than an hour away from where I grew up.  It's highly likely that somewhere I heard about it, especially the billboard they speak of.  For those unfamiliar with the homesteading movement, the idea was basically to live as close to Little House On the Prairie as possible.  We knew families who sold everything and bought as much land as they could with the proceeds, and lived in campers/barns/tents/makeshift buildings as they constructed a house debt free from the timber on the land.  They usually had animals, large gardens, fruit trees eventually, and lived off the grid.  My dad still subscribes to "Backwoods Home Magazine," which is one the bibles of this movement, though it advocates living off the grid for secular reasons.  The families we knew who fell into this craziness lifestyle usually were doing it for religiously based reasons: they believed the Bible instructed fathers to be the head of the household, raising their children(and if you are working a 9-5 job five days a week, it was reasoned, Mommy was the head of the household most of the time, and that just wouldn't do) and having a family run business or agricultural lifestyle, so that Dad could be in charge All The Time. Mom was in charge of (a) obeying Dad, (b) canning/sewing/gardening/cooking on whatever she had to cook with/not spending any money etc.  As much as possible was to be homegrown and homemade.  Children were invariably homeschooled, such as school was, and the harshness of the lifestyle often left these families struggling to survive, relying on the children to work as hard as the parents, and education often suffered.  Money was too tight to buy new textbooks or curriculum, and there was a lot of emphasis on practical skills.  The families we knew often homechurched, as well, and the kids were not involved in any extracurricular activities.  It was a very secluded, claustrophobic, family-only lifestyle.

I only wish I was exagerrating.

We are adults now.  I am not in touch with many of the people I knew, but sometimes through the grapevine I hear stories.  Stories of adult children of this movement who found that their limited education was difficult to overcome out in the real world.  Stories of anxiety disorders.  Stories of women--strong, capable women--trying to discover who they really are.  Stories of adults who may be able to cook over an open fire, build a house of trees they cut themselves, raise chickens and raise many little children, but who struggle with daily life and social skills.
It's not a pretty picture.

I find I want to talk about this movement.  Though my family lived in the middle of nowhere for several years, cramming a lot of children into a trailer, homeschooling and subsisting from paycheck to paycheck with only one vehicle, my parents never bought into the homesteading movement.  They were frugal and tried to be a self-sustaining as possible, but we were not sheltered, overworked, and education was a top priority.  It is still very different from how I am raising my children, but I was never once told that women couldn't pursue higher education or work, and my parents have never expected any of us to have large families(though my mother would never turn down grandchildren).  But I knew families for whom this wasn't true, and for those children of fifteen years ago, I want to examine this over the next couple weeks.


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  2. For so long I have been a staunch advocate of home schooling. It worked well for my family in many respects. I was happy to be in the public eye, representing home schooling to neighbors, the school board, and even once the local paper. I was rightly proud of all we were accomplishing in our home. My mistake was in assuming that all parents would always be motivated by what was best for their children.

    I just did not believe that parents would be home schooling for any other reason. 0.0

    By that logic, I understood that if home schooling was not working out in the best interests of the children (as evidenced by happy hearts, hobbies, dreams, friends and personal goals - in addition to test scores that at least kept pace with the average public school) no parent would continue down that path. Home school was ONE path through childhood that a parent could provide for their children, but each child has individual needs and circumstances could very well call for a different approach. I honestly believed that all home school parents were good parents, and so of course all home school parents would put their children's needs first.

    Was I ever naive.

    The homesteading movement might, for some very few financially secure home school families with well educated parents and internet access, be a great learning lifestyle. That's sort of what the Colfax family did. Kudos to them, by the way.

    But at this point, after meeting too many home school graduates who were not thriving in home school but the parents either didn't care or refused to see it, I am 100% in favor of greater home school regulation. I am just so sad that all parents can't be counted on to put the welfare of their children over their ideology.

    1. I think it's a very dangerous path to go down when you believe the state should regulate home schooling more because you've seen what you believe to be poor examples of it. Should we punish the rest for the mistakes of some?

      I know that not all home school parents will have the same care for their children as others, but I am convinced we must have the freedom to choose how we educate our children. There are always going to be parents with the wrong motives in both home schooling and public schooling, but you should not restrict the freedom of a nation because of it.

      I would no doubt say that there would be higher incidences of parents whose children aren't thriving in a public school environment. All the govt regulation in the world isn't helping these kids. In fact, it's what caused the problem in the first place.

      It is a mere political illusion when people think the govt is the solution to a problem. It assumes the govt has greater knowledge,wisdom and morals than the public.

      Could I suggest two books:
      Six Political Illusions by James L. Payne
      Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto

      These books will show that regulation is the last thing home schoolers need.

  3. Thanks for writing this and mentioning our blog:). I think it is important for people to see that "Homesteaders" or "Homeschoolers" may look all beautiful and happy on the outside, but in my case (and others I've known) there are often dark secrets behind the beautiful mask. It bothers me when there is a leader that people look up to and appears charming, but in reality, he is putting his children through horrific things every day. Homesteading and homeschooling are fine if it is done in the right way... children aren't slaves, and are actually given an education! I was wondering if you met our family or came to our homestead? Again, thanks for helping get the word out!

  4. The Church teaches that men and women are created in the image and likeness of God, equal in dignity. Dad should be the loving spiritual head of the home and mom the joyful heart. Children are a fruit of their love, also created in the image and likeness of God, full of dignity, worthy of respect and lots of love.
    I think hard work is good for children, but not to the point of slavery...Work is good for the soul, like prayer and throw some fun in and you have a loving family.
    It can work well, im a young 30 something Catholic mama, married to a loving man who lives this out in our life. I am so sorry that it was so warped and deformed in your home. May God grant you all healing and peace.