Growing up, I thought I was quite the lucky gal. My family lived about 3 minutes from our local grocery store, and I thought that it was awesome that we could just hop in our car and shop for whatever kind of food our family needed. We didn’t have to grow our own garden or raise our own animals for meat. We were quite fortunate to be able to depend on other people to do all that hard work for us, and we could just pay the cashier at the grocery store for everyone’s services. My nana had a different idea than my mom had, and I’m glad she did, because it was her influence that helped me to grow into the person I am today.
Becoming A Self-Sufficient Family
As I got older and had a family of my own, I realized that depending on the grocery store and other businesses for what we needed wasn’t what it’s all cracked up to be. In 2015, I had enough, and decided that regardless of where we were living, we were going to start doing what we could to rely more on ourselves. We planted a garden for the first time and I began preserving what we were able to grow or buy from local farmer’s markets.
I knew that living where we were, we couldn’t be as self-sufficient as we’d like to be, but I knew we could start. Now, almost 2 years later, we are closer than ever to realizing the self-sufficient and homesteading dream we have. But, I am also aware that there are many skills that my children could be learning and practicing right now where we are. Becoming more self-sufficient is a huge accomplishment, but what is even more wonderful is when you see that you have raised your children to also be self-sufficient.
I sat with my husband and we came up with a list of the top 10 self-sufficient skills that we would like to see our children begin developing. Many of these skills can be taught to both our older and younger children, making the entire learning process a family affair!
1. Grow A Garden
How to plant, grow, and care for a garden is an essential skill for anyone wanting to teach their children to be more self-sufficient. When we planted our garden last year, I had all the kiddos out in the yard getting their hands dirty. There was so much work to be done, and having their little hands in there helping was an enormous blessing to the entire family. They began learning how to plant seeds, care for seedlings, build fencing and raised beds, care for the fruits and vegetables growing, and later they learned the best way to harvest our bounty. This year we intend to take it one step further and allow each of our children to have one small raised bed to themselves to grow whatever they’d like. I believe that this will give them a sense of responsibility and accomplishment.
2. Cook From Scratch
My nana would plop me on her kitchen table or counter, and let me help with food preparation. I’d sit there snapping beans, pouring the milk, or kneading the dough. When I turned the age of 8 or 9, she’d let me help cook the meal, with little jobs like stirring the pot, peeling potatoes, and boiling water. The entire time, she was teaching me important lessons about how brown the meat should be or how high the temperature should be.
She’d insist that her and I taste test everything we made, because if it didn’t taste good, we needed to fix it before it went on her dining room table. I learned a lot about food preparation and cooking from my nana, and I have been pretty good about doing the same with my own children. From my oldest child who is 21 down to my youngest, who is now 5, I am always involving them in whatever I’m doing in the kitchen. After a long day working or playing, there is nothing better than a healthy, home-cooked meal.
Passing this skill along to my children will ensure that they are not just able to feed themselves, but they will also adopt special family traditions that have been passed on throughout generations.
My dad and brother are avid hunters, and have been my entire life. If it wasn’t deer or turkey season, then my brother was off hiking around the woods trapping squirrels and rabbits. This is one step toward self-sufficiency that I am adamant about my children learning. Sure, you can go into any grocery store in town and pick up a small 4-pound chuck roast for about $18, but to have peace of mind that my children could not just hunt for their own food, but track the animals and clean the animals as well, if they had to, would be a blessing.
4. Be Resourceful
Living here in town, we’re given the opportunity to recycle and we are spoiled by the garbage man coming by every Tuesday to pick up our garbage and take it away. With a family of 9, there is always a lot of garbage and if we’re not careful, there’s a lot of waste, but I’m seeing that it doesn’t have to be that way.
I’ve been teaching the kiddos that by taking the time to compost or save our veggie ends and skins for bone broth, we’re able to use what would typically be considered garbage, to continue to feed our family. Instead of grabbing those plastic bags at the store that rip and fall apart, I have my older children ask for paper, and we’ve purchased a few canvas bags or we use boxes. Later, the paper bags can be used to drain grease from our bacon or fried potatoes, boxes can be broken down and used for storage, decoration or saved to take to the store at a later time.
Broken furniture doesn’t have to be scrapped, instead it can be turned into something that you can use around the house. When we began sorting through our basement, we found our daughter’s crib, my husband and 10-year-old son cut it down and used what they could to make me a new spice rack for the kitchen! This helped my son learn how to re-purpose something, and how to use basic hand tools at the same time.
All the women in my family used to own the same old Singer sewing machine. All of them also crocheted, embroidered, and quilted, but yet, somehow, none of that was ever passed along to me. So, it’s not a skill I’ve been able to pass along to my children.
My older kiddos have learned some basic sewing in school, but nothing beyond mending a rip in a pair of pants. My goal for this year is for all of us to start learning how to do some basic sewing, and eventually graduate to making our own afghans and maybe quilts.
Having the ability to repair a rip in a pair of pants that would otherwise be thrown away, or being able to take scraps of clothing and fabric and make a beautiful quilt out of it, is just another way to not waste what you have and re-purpose items that still have a lot of life left in them.
We have a small pond up the road from us. If you aren’t a local to the area, you probably don’t even know the pond is there. Which is a good thing, because it’s an awesome fishing spot! We don’t need a boat to fish there and there are plenty of fish for all of us to just sit back and enjoy the day. As much as I could blabber about how much fun everyone in my family has fishing, it really is a very important self-sufficiency skill for my children to have. If my children can combine the ability to hunt for their own food and fish for their own food, then I can rest knowing that no matter what, they will always be able to provide meat for their families.
Having a large family has forced me to prioritize and fine-tune my time management skills. If your family is like mine, there are always a million and one projects going on at any given time. No matter how self-sufficient I want my children to be, if I don’t teach them how to prioritize projects and have good time management skills, then my children may opt for the easy way out and give up on being self-reliant. For them to be successful, it’s up to me to teach them how to do that.
If I get caught up home-canning and didn’t get the rest of the tomatoes off the vine before they rot, then I’m not sending a clear message to the kiddos about priorities and time-management. By involving my children in everything, from meal planning to homestead management, then I’m offered the opportunity to teach them a little about how they should manage their time to be more successful at this self-sufficient life.
A family camping trip is way over-due for us, and if things go according to plan, it’ll be one of the first vacations we take this year. Camping may be loads of fun, but it’s also an opportunity to rough it for a while and teach the kiddos a little bit about survival in the wild. Taking this time to teach them important survival skills like building a fire, fire safety, building a shelter, finding, storing and purifying water, will make any camping, hunting, or fishing trip they have in the future a lot more enjoyable. It will also teach them what they need to do to survive in case they ever get lost.
9. Basic First Aid and Holistic Treatments
Learning basic first aid and what natural, medicinal plants and herbs are available in our area, has proven to be invaluable. My older children have been taught CPR and basic first aid, like how to stop the bleeding on a cut finger, how to apply a tourniquet, and what they should do if someone has fallen on their back or hit their heads. I’ve also begun teaching them that honey is a super food, and is a wonderful antibiotic.
They’ve learned that we don’t need to run to the pharmacy for cough syrup because we can make our own elderberry syrup or pour a cup of tea with a little honey in it. Even though we live in a very populated area, and it only takes an ambulance a few minutes to get to our home, those few minutes could mean the difference between life and death.
Living a self-sufficient lifestyle is stressful and at times can be extremely overwhelming. There is no way I could even begin to embark on this journey if I didn’t have faith in the Lord, and if I didn’t strive to have a positive attitude. It is so hard to see the bright side of things when the tomatoes have blight, a load of jars blew up in the canner, and the tractor isn’t running. It can feel like the roof is caving in and it’s time to give up.
My goal has been to teach my children that every experience we have, whether good or bad, is a learning experience, and we should take what has been given to us and learn how to be sure we don’t make the same mistake again. We can look at our overwhelming lifestyle as a burden, or we can look at it as a blessing, in the fact that we can learn from our mistakes and we can be sure that we don’t have to rely on other people to provide for our needs or our wants.
There are so many self-sufficiency skills that our children can be learning, it’s up to us to set them on the right path and offer them the little bits of information here and there to help them along the way. Growing up with a nana who raised a family through the Great Depression gave me the head start I needed to pass along the same invaluable skills to my own children.
Becca is a homesteading wife and mama to 7 children. Becca and her family have embarked on a journey from living in the city to eventually moving to the country, where they plan to grow most of their own food and raise chickens, goats and a dairy cow. She strives to help her family live a more prepared and self-sufficient lifestyle and she’s dedicated to encouraging others to live out their homesteading dreams as well. Becca writes at The Well-Prepared Mama, sharing her family’s journey in creating their homestead and offering information for those that are seeking to live a more self-sufficient and prepared lifestyle. You can follow Becca along on her blog, The Well Prepared Mama, join The Well-Prepared Mama’s Facebook Page and join her Women’s Only Preparedness Group.