On Helping Homesteaders: How You Can Help People and Animals Impacted by the California Fires This Thanksgiving

This Thanksgiving, my husband and I decided to do something a little different. We are homesteaders, and we had a really good year in our harvest overall. So we decided our Thanksgiving dinner this year would be a celebration of our harvest.

We haven’t raised turkeys, so we’re having one of the chickens we raised instead. And instead of the traditional Thanksgiving fare, we’re having potatoes, corn, beans, homemade bread, and berry pies frozen during summer’s harvest. It’s a celebration of what we grew and raised.

I am amazingly blessed our family is able to raise chickens, ducks, and a bountiful organic garden that helps to feed our family for much of the year. We eat well above our station thanks to the amazing work of my husband and a lot of work from myself as well. We eat healthy, delicious food, and our little homestead helps support our family all year.

I have been feeling especially blessed because I have been reading in online homesteading groups about the people who have lost their chickens, ducks, goats, pigs, horses, dogs, and more in the wildfires that have destroyed so many people’s homes in California. Their stories are powerful and devastating. I’ve seen posts of women who are distraught and in tears because she had to leave her chickens. She is thankful to be alive but devastated by her loss. I read another story about a woman who was trying shove as many animals as she could in her car as she quickly worked to escape the fire. I read the story of a woman mourning her horse so deeply. I read about a woman who was mourning her land. If your land sustains you, it is especially devastating to lose it, I would think. You can read an overview of some of the impact this fire is having on people and their animals in this news article from CNN.

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Photo Credit: Vadim Fomenok, Unsplash

These stories are heart wrenching, and reading them made me think I would like to try to help my fellow homesteaders in California in addition to donating to a general help fund.

I’ve been reading in the news about places we can go to make general donations to help those affected by the fires in California, and I have some links I can share below. I have done my best to make sure these are reliable sources, but please do your due diligence as well and only donate to organizations you feel you can trust.

But, if you can donate some, it’s a good thing to do. I have read stories of a lot of people asking for help to support local rescues operations.

I have sometimes worried that maybe I just can’t donate enough to help, but I think we all have to remember that every little bit counts. It’s what my husband and I say to each every day.

Every little bit counts.

Even if we all just did a little bit, you know it would add up fast.

Here are some links to places you can help those with animals or people working to rescue and support animals in the wild fire area:

Hold Your Horses Livestock Emergency Evacuation *This is a link to a Facebook page, so you would need a Facebook account to see this organization and their fundraisers. If you have trouble following this link, you can just search for the organization by name on Facebook.

North Valley Animal Disaster Group *As of last week, they had taken in over 1,400 animals, including alpacas, turkeys, ducks, and more.

Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control *As of last week, they had taken in 815 animals, and 550 of them were horses.

Butte County Humane Society *This organization is working to reunite people with the animals and has started a pet food and supply pantry.

And if you want to make donations to general help, this link takes you to a donation page for Public Good where you can choose from several reputable and important organizations to donate to.

 

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On Homeschooling–Even When You’re Not

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I’m a former university professor, and I spent nearly 20 years teaching freshmen in college. One of the biggest lessons I learned from my students is that something is happening somewhere in our school systems that makes many children lose their curiosity toward learning. Of course, I’m not saying this happens to every student, but it happens too often. It worries me.

But I was even more worried as a mom when my youngest son was being sent to the principal’s office in preschool and came home from school one day calling himself “the bad kid.” I knew I had to do something different.

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This is an example of how much fun we have homeschooling! Notice the decorated letters. And here’s the best part–no principal’s office.

Our family made the decision to homeschool. If you’ve been following my blog, you know this meant quitting my full-time job and learning to live much more frugally. But we decided it was worth it.

As a teacher, homeschooling was an opportunity for me to teach one of the most important people in the world to me, and I’ve enjoyed our first year doing it.

The key lesson I’ve learned from homeschooling my six year old is that everything is an educational opportunity for children—from baking scones to visiting our neighbor’s beehive. Pretty much all activities provide us with “teachable moments,” and learning is everywhere.

When my children were in public school, I had the notion that they were learning at school, so if I could get in some extra learning at home, that would be great but not necessary. I now understand just how necessary it truly is, and it’s not as time consuming as you might think.

It’s just about seeing everyday activities, things that are a part of everyday life, as “teachable moments.” The former university professor in me wants to tell you how important these kinds of things are for helping your child grow into a curious adult. The mom in me wants to tell you how much fun this approach is and how much you’ll learn as well.

 

So I created a Top 5 “Homeschooling When You’re Not” list to get interested parents thinking along these lines.

  1. Cooking

Cooking with your child is a great opportunity to learn math, reading, and an important life skill. It’s just about emphasizing these things while you do it. Talk about what you’re doing with each step. It can be tough when you’re busy, but if you can take the time to slow down for this a couple of times a week, it’s totally worth it.

  1. Animals

At our house, we have lots of animals—chickens, ducks, fish, cats, a dog—and we have wildlife that visit us, everything from wild turkeys to chipmunks to crows. I’ll write more later about the “kindness lessons” animals can help teach our children, but animals also provide amazing educational opportunities for learning about the lives and habits of different species.

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We try to find learning opportunities everywhere, so when we saw we had crows visiting our yard, we researched just how brilliant and interesting they are!

“Why do crows like shiny things?” and “Why do ducks whistle?” are just a few things we have researched, but you can teach your children about habitat, the environment, and animal behavior just by talking about animals in and around your home or the ones that visit your bird feeders. I know our chickie girls have taught us more about the amazing personalities, intelligence, and resourcefulness of animals than I ever could have imagined.

  1. Reading

Just read. I’m a literacy teacher. I can’t tell you what a difference this makes. Take 20 minutes every day, maybe every night before bed. And don’t worry about making sure you’re reading “great literature.” You want reading to be fun. Once you get that, the rest will work itself out. Comics, graphic novels, we even sometimes just read short articles in the National Geographic magazines on space because my son loves anything related to space.

I know parents are busy beyond on all reason, but taking 20 minutes a day makes all the difference.

  1. Outdoor Exploration

When I was a kid, our parents just sent us outside to play, and we played all day. While I often hear adults from my generation romanticize those “good old days” and while I do think outdoor play and even a little boredom is very important, I’m talking about outdoor exploration together. For homeschool geometry, we measured the circumference of the trees in our yard. We found we had one that was 88 inches in circumference! This is great stuff, and you don’t have to be officially homeschooling to do it. If you know your child is studying something at school, see if you can find a connection in your yard. Talk about it. Explore it.

If you’re fortunate enough to live in place like Maine, there are parks, hiking trails, the ocean, the mountains. Take a day trip when you can. Our family has some day-trip goals for this summer, but more on that in a future post!

  1. The Internet

While I know screen time gets a really bad wrap these days, there are some amazing educational videos and games out there. And, when you take 30 minutes and play the game with your child, it’s all the better. Ted Ed has some amazing YouTube videos on everything from the size of an atom to narrative structures in literature, and they are so much fun.

I’ll write more about free online educational resources in future posts, but one great idea I wanted to share now is “Question of the Day.” We started this in our family, and I’m learning a ton of stuff as well. I mean, I’m here to tell you. If you’re in your 40’s like me, the field of science has way more information than it did when we were in school.

 

Homeschooling my youngest son has been one of the greatest experiences of my life so far. I’ve learned about how he learns, how he thinks, what works for him, what doesn’t, and what inspires him. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything, and I’m looking forward to our second year together. But I know not everyone can do this. Not everyone can quit their full-time jobs, and not everyone feels comfortable as a teacher.

But, if you’re a parent, you’re a teacher. You don’t have to be a formal homeschooling family to bring homeschooling into your home. It’s going to do great things for your children, and, ultimately, it’s going to do great things for the bond you have with your children. It’s just about taking advantage of even the smallest opportunities.