Wednesday, August 20, 2008

(Almost) Free Labor

I have always wondered about making my kids work on the farm. I didn't grow up on the farm so I don't have a first hand example to follow. The dairy farmers who have all the members of the family working long hours, and the families where children have farm chores in the hours before dawn are foreign to me. (But I am also fascinated by this) One alpaca family we know has a single mom at the helm. Her teenage boys lay around on the couch while mom slaves in the fields. That doesn't seem right. Another family requires the children to have some contact with the animals each day. That sounds pretty good, but with 4 kids, I have too many other things to keep track of.

Having a farm is an excellent opportunity for us to instill a good work ethic in our children. They should work and learn the value in it. At the same time, I can't see myself making them do all the work. I don't want them to resent the farm where they are growing up. Plus we do have a full time farm manager, and I need to keep him! (For me, over 40 alpacas required a paid employee if I was ever to be able to leave the farm, even to go to the grocery store once a week.)

One example I love is a family with twin boys who have been required to help their parents on their alpaca farm in whatever way was age appropriate since they were about 5. The father of this family and I were talking this summer and he gave me an idea. His boys were working for $5/hour so they could buy a wii and games for it. The lightbulb went off in my head, and I put my son to work for $5/hour. He usually makes $35-45/week. Quite the builder, he buys legos. (You wouldn't believe the places we find tiny legos and arms of lego stormtoopers.)

This summer my seven-year-old boy has gotten to know the majority of our alpacas. He is perfecting the art of watering tummies of hot alpacas, and learning the ropes on how we run them out to graze at night and inside to sit in front of the fans during the day. To keep him from getting bored we let him do lots of different tasks rather than having to fill up 15+ water buckets day after day. He feeds, scoops poop, and helps herd the alpacas. On the weekends, he is even instructing his 5 year-old sisters how to do some of the farmwork. He is our resident expert on how to administer electrolytes. The above picture is of him and Caesar playing one summer evening.

Those of you who were raised on a farm or who are raising kids now on a farm, please leave some comments/thoughts/suggestions! How many chores are enough or too many? Should they be forced to do work or be paid? On a related note, should allowance be given or earned? I look forward to hearing from you.


sturchon said...

My kids are very active in running our farm. My husband works about 60 hours a week at his full-time job and I work part-time from home, so there is no way we could do it ourselves. From the beginning of moving to the farm, we have emphasized that this was a family effort, for the betterment of the family, so everyone is required to help out. We also have teenage foster kids and they also are required to help out. We had a good talk about how the animals depend on us for their food and water, how they can't just go to the fridge for a drink and we as humans are responsible for making sure that they have what they need to survive everyday. From the beginning we have taught ALL of them what to do, from the then 8 year old(now 10) to the 16-year old. I call our 12-year-old son my "farm manager" and he is responsible for making sure that all the chores are done if I am in the middle of working and they need to go out and do the feeding by themselves. They feed, hay and water all the animals, scoop poop, clean chicken houses and gather eggs. I make sure that if they are responsible for a morning feeding by themselves that I go out a little later and just kind of check and make sure they did everything. They have shown themselves to be very responsible. We even left our daughter when she was 15 with the neighbors one weekend when we were moving animals around so she could come over and do all the chores and she did a wonderful job. My husband and I do all the deworming, nail clipping, mating, etc., but the kids all help us round up the animals. We have alpacas, chickens, ducks, guard dogs, cats, rabbits and pigs on our farm, so there is a lot to do, but our children have proven that they could handle the farm themselves. I find that they thrive on the responsibilty and can learn from a young age to help out...(okay, we don't make the 14-month-old work the farm yet!!)We do not pay our kids for working on the farm, again, this is a family effort for the survival of the family and feel they should consider that they are doing it for the betterment of the family. They do get opportunities to go visit with friends, go the movies, the mall, skating, etc. and we gladly give them money for these things as an occaional treat. An older woman once told me that if you want to raise good kids, keep them busy...and I have found this to be true. We homeschool our kids and this farm has turned out to be our biggest teaching tool.

Anonymous said...

My primary job as a parent is to raise my kids to be able to function as a
healthy (emotionally, physically, socially, spiritually, and financially),
responsible, productive member of a free society. In order to do that,
work is required, because it is required in the "real" world. I fear our
society has become so prosperous so rapidly that we are in danger of not
instilling the values of work. Further, in this microwave age of I want it
and I want it now, I am very concerned about kids and credit. When I was
in high school, having your own car was a luxury. Nowadays, it is seen as
a right.

Kids need to work. You are on track with age-appropriate activities. Mine
did chores around the house simply because they are a member of the family,
and sometimes you just have to work without expecting to get paid every
time. However, I did pay them for work other than chores. They, like your
son, could work as much as they wanted. Mine were expected to tithe to our
church, but I did not enforce the 10/10/80 rule, which I wish I had. That
rule is 10% to the church, 10% to savings, live off the rest of the 80%.
Mine still tithe now that they have graduated high school, but they do not
save, and that is an area that I wish I had been stringent to enforce when
they were younger. I also made my kids pay for their cars--that teaches
them the value of saving and planning for a big purchase. We paid for
their gas back and forth to school, their auto insurance (until they
graduated high school) and any repairs/maintenance, etc. But they had to
pay for their cars. That was very, very tough, surprisingly for me,
because everyone else at their school got a new or very late model car,
especially BMWs, even a Mercedes. Mine drove a 10 year old sedan and a 8
year old truck, but they worked and saved and paid for it. It is so much
tougher as a parent, especially if you have the means to simply purchase
everything for your child, but that does not teach them core values. And
core values is our responsibility as parents, and one in which we will be
called into account on the day we stand before God and give an account of
how we raised each child He gave us.