Alex helps mow the grass
Tater helps plant pepper seedlings
One of the best parts about trying to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle is having the opportunity to pass on important lessons and skills to your kids. Resourcefulness, thriftiness, compassion, and the ability to think critically are all things that children gain from learning to garden and cook or having to take care of animals. Learning about food preservation instills that value of being prepared for the unexpected. Having chores or helping to fix things around the house builds self-confidence and responsibility. Considering the amount of time that most children in modern American culture spend consuming various forms of electronic media (7 hours and 38 minutes per day, according to a study done by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Stanford University), these are character traits that a lot of young people today are missing out on. My experiences in the classroom suggest to me much the same thing.
Once of my goals as a parent is to give my children as many character building opportunities as possible. I want them to have the chance to maximize their potential as intelligent, creative, responsible young people. That's not to say that other parent don't want those things for their children, but rather that I think a lot of parents today simply don't pay enough attention to actively fostering those things in them. With the hectic pace of modern life, it's easy to let things go on auto pilot. People are busy and tired, so they stop keeping tabs on how much time kids are spending online or playing xbox. Cooking from scratch and eating as a family become too much of a hassle, so they order out or heat something up in the microwave. Texting and Facebook updates replace face to face conversation. I suppose it is a time honored tradition of cranky old people to complain about younger generations, but an awful amount of my students seem to be self absorbed and completely disconnected from the world around them. They lack the ability to think and do things for themselves, and they are incapable of taking responsibility for their actions. Have kids always seemed like this? I suppose, but it doesn't mean that I have to idly sit by and accept it in my children.
Below is a short video of Erik helping me can salsa yesterday. I'm sure a lot of parents would squirm at the thought of letting an 8 year old do this. With all of that boiling water, hot jars, and bubbling salsa, there were ample opportunities for him to burn himself; and truth be told, he did burn his fingers a couple of times. But you know what? He didn't kill himself, and he learned how do it correctly in a way that he wouldn't have if he had simply watched me do it. True learning is born out of experience, and by doing it for him self, Erik learned that he is able to do much more than starring at a tv screen and pushing buttons. One of my greatest joys as a father is the look on my kids' faces when they find out what they are really capable of (look for it at the end of the clip).