I’ve been enjoying reading about the family, farm and parenting life of Amanda Owen of ‘The Yorkshire Shepherdess’ fame.
She tells the story of how she worked hard to become a sheep farmer, despite her city routes, and how she lives and works on the farm with her nine children.
She sounds like an amazing woman. And I love her descriptions of how her family works, her no-fuss approach to everything, to her parenting, to her children and the way they all live in a remote farmhouse miles from anywhere.
Although her children go to school, she has that down-to-earth approach to her children’s lives that many home educating families have. One that sees the true educative value in everyday, real life experiences, how the children are involved in their very tough life on the farm, and how much they learn from it.
This question of ‘real’ life is something that’s often thrown at home educators. Like we should send them to school because it’s a taste of ‘real’ life – which of course it isn’t! ‘Real’ life is nothing like school. But most people don’t see that.
Amanda has the the same accusation thrown at her with her children being so isolated on the farm.
“You can’t keep the children cooped up here, this isn’t the real world” she was once told!
Sound familiar – I think someone once said the same thing to us about home schooling.
I loved her response. She was understandably indignant because that was their real world, and that statement devalued it. Home educating was our real world and it was often devalued too. But some people can’t acknowledge a life that is different from theirs. Many people want everyone to be all the same, do the same, follow the same path. And get really twitchy at those who choose a different one.
Amanada says her children have a good work ethic – many home educators do too, because they’ve been working in an independent way for so long. She goes on to say that living where they do they understand that if they want something they have to put the work in. They become more self sufficient, consequently learn that nothing must faze you. It’s about building mental strength as well as physical strength and the willingness to have a go at anything.
A great philosophy she’s built through her farming life and one that will serve her kids well when they move on. A great philosophy I also witnessed many home educating families adopt.
She goes on to say that she gets a lot of people telling her what she should be doing with her children (sounds familiar)! But she believes they’re having a good childhood involved in the farm, it’s just different. And her only hope is that they’ll look back on their childhood as a happy one.
I think most home educators feel the same!
But as for which world’s real – that’s an ongoing philosophical debate that will never be answered.
The more important question is – which world works?
Home educating works for some. Life in alternative places work for others. City life works for many.
But whether people live in cities, or farm in remote places, or home educate, the children can see all sorts of other worlds now via the internet. They have opportunities to explore and learn about other worlds different from their own. And Amanda says, like most home educating parents say, that the children may well move away and choose their own different worlds one day and that’s fine. However, no single world is more ‘real’ (or valuable – which is the hidden meaning of the expression) than another.
And no one should be criticised for choosing a way of life that is different from mainstream.
I leave you with Amanda’s words from the end of her book; “We get such pleasure out of the children and take a pride in bringing them up in a free and natural way”. I think many of you will identify with that!