Nearly three weeks ago my wife gave birth to our fourth child, a lovely, healthy baby girl. We decided early on that we were interested in having a homebirth. The reaction has been varied but none the less interesting. In fact it created a dialogue between my wife and me in regards to family and home in general. Not only did we have a homebirth but we homeschool and have a modest homestead as well so as you can image we have been exposed to a number of stereotypes over the years.
My goal is not to call into question the lifestyle of those who may read this piece, because honestly I am comfortable with the choices of others (for the most part). Rather it is an attempt to shed some light on some good old fashioned family values that somewhere along the line have become clouded with fear and simply put a lack of knowledge on the subject.
As a country we often speak of the importance of family yet our day to day values and experience speak otherwise. Family is regularly put aside in an effort to gain a financial or social foothold. The truth is we live in a two income world for the most part. Very few families are able to live comfortably otherwise. I would suggest the cost goes far beyond our bank accounts though.
My oldest child is nine. She did attend pre-school at one point but has been homeschooled, along with her siblings ever since. Financially speaking it was and at times continues to be a very trying experience. In fact homeschooling is what lead us to homesteading. In the beginning the goal was not necessarily even healthy meals but simply providing meals on a regular basis. By taking part in the homeschooling lifestyle it has provided an avenue for our family to grow significantly stronger as a unit and to come up with some very creative and satisfying solutions.
We shop at consignment shops for clothing. We use the internet to purchase used curriculum and other educational materials. We are on a first name basis with our local librarians. We grow vegetables, fruits and berries and recently started raising rabbits and chickens. We can, freeze and dehydrate summer crops and farmers market purchases. In other words we are attempting to be responsible for our own well-being as far as circumstances will allow. This of course does not imply that we can do this alone because we cannot. In fact it is only possible by being part of a wonderful and supportive community. We have amazing neighbors and have been fortunate enough to find other like-minded families in our neck of the woods. Just like everyone else we have needed assistance from time to time.
Homeschooling was the first step. It made us reevaluate the way we looked at the world and our role in it. That is the catch; homeschooling is about being active in your community. In fact it is only successful if you are fully engaged in the day to day activities of your town. My children and the other homeschoolers I know are very happy, motivated children who thrive in social situations. Recently I heard it put best when it was said to me, “Just because my kid does not act like an asshole does not mean they are not socialized.” So I politely put the “socialization myth” to rest.
As mentioned beforehand homeschooling led to homesteading. Homesteading has created numerous financial benefits, educational opportunities and has ensured that our children will benefit from the knowledge of good stewardship. In essence you cannot separate one from the other.
Homeschooling and homesteading eventually led to us exploring a home-birth. Our second child was born via emergency C-section so we are very aware of the value of a hospital in the role of childbirth. But with that said we were fortunate enough to have one of the most empowering and beautiful experiences of our adult life. An experience that could not have happened without a knowledgeable and nurturing midwife and a patient and caring doula.
None of the above mentioned lifestyle choices were made hastily or blindly. In fact you can rest assured most people who take part in such activities are far more knowledgeable on the subjects at hand than those who simply respond out of fear and ignorance. I realize how condescending this may sound but this is the truth of the matter. In order to be successful you have to be educated. In the process of educating yourself you are in turn setting the example for your children in regards to the value of knowledge and providing the work ethic to obtain it.
Homeschooling, homesteading and even a homebirth take a certain level of sacrifice. I realize not everyone can make these sacrifices; there are a lot of variables in life. There are also those simply not willing to make these sacrifices. But with that said, walk away from this article knowing there is another choice out there. Leave knowing that your spouse and your children will be the most important opportunity to express love that will come into your life. Life is far too short. Someday we will all unfortunately realize this. Do not let it pass you by while pursuing false notions of happiness.
Tobias Whitaker also blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad .