Teach Your Children Well, by Vicki W.

My daughter was recently in an Earth Science class where a discussion took place.   The other students didn’t know that the dandelion with the yellow flower and the dandelion with the white seeds were one and the same.  And this is from students who have taken numerous public school science classes and will soon be out in the adult world.  As I told this to a close friend, she made the observation that this will be the level and skills of people we will be dealing with should TEOTWAWKI happen.  My heart hurts that children aren’t taught to think and how to ask appropriate questions.  Some never develop a thirst for knowledge.  They are simply unprepared to live an independent and self-sufficient lifestyle.

As a 12-year homeschooling mom, I have some thoughts and ideas to share with others concerning children and the area of preparedness.   I realize that many readers of Survival Blog may have already raised their family and would instinctively pass by this article.  But are any of you grandparents, aunts, uncles, or neighbors of younger children?   I recently spent the day with a curious youngster who asked many questions of “how” and “why” I was doing things throughout the day.  It occurred to me what an opportunity it was to engage a young mind and body into the everyday life of a prepper. 
Children can be very intelligent.  My husband’s mother loved to tell the story of when they hired a handyman to do some wiring in their home.  My husband, who was 3 or 4 and didn’t talk much, quietly said “It won’t work.”  Sure enough, when his dad got home the wiring wasn’t done correctly and the lights didn’t come on.  They were wowed at the thought that their young son could see this.
In parenting, my first thought is that a child must be involved in what the mom, dad, or perhaps another adult is doing.  Do your very best to not put the child aside to play while you “get some things done.”  At first, having the child assist you will certainly slow you down, but after a while the child can be a real asset as he learns to think and process ideas.

About a month ago I visited a friend to discuss vacuum sealing mason jars and brought various supplies to demonstrate.  The three young children in the family were fascinated by the discussion and function of vacuum sealing.  The 7-year-old boy suggested an experiment to try and it worked!  But what would he have learned or been able to contribute if he were merely told to go play?
In my own prepping journey, I have researched sun ovens.  I do intend to purchase a professionally manufactured one, but right now I am experimenting with a solar funnel cooker made from a car windshield sun shade.   I can only get the temperature inside the cooking pot to 225 degrees, but it will definitely cook food on sunny days even if the weather is chilly.
My curious young neighbor asked plenty of questions when I set the cooker up on the patio.  I was conducting an experiment to increase the temperature by putting a mirror in the funnel.  (Surprisingly, my efforts failed as I got higher temperatures without the mirror).  But it was “fuel” for me and my young friend to discuss. 

Here is a link to show you how to build your own for under ten dollars.  And it shows a father and his daughter working together to make the video and demonstrate the oven.  Awesome!   
What fun to involve a child and cook things like “baked” potatoes, brownies, or simply heat up already cooked food (for quick and impressive results).  You both learn important skills that could actually be used in emergency/disaster situations.  As your skills grow, you can research more recipes to try and build on the knowledge you have gained.
This past year I saw some videos on the StoveTec Rocket Stove.  For my birthday I asked for and received one.  It is an amazing stove that I will get many years of use from.  It will be invaluable in the event of emergency, but it’s also fun and practical to use now.  After we ordered our stove, I stumbled across a video that showed someone who made a rocket stove with a few pieces of concrete.  It’s called a Redneck Rocket Stove.  Here’s a link to show how it works and how to make it.

Although I love my StoveTec stove, I must say the “Redneck” one is cheap, EASY to set up, and with adult supervision, a child could operate and cook on it.  As you can see in the video, this is an efficient little stove fueled by sticks easily gathered in the yard.  I plan to teach some classes in disaster preparedness in our community and will demonstrate this little stove, as I think every family should know how to make and set up one of these stoves in their back yard.

In reality, an open camp fire and little ones cause me to be more than a little jumpy and nervous.   From what I have read, children in 3rd world countries have fallen into open cooking fires and
have been horribly burned.  But this technology makes a contained fire that, with supervision, is much safer.  With adult help, a child from age 7 on up could be taught fire building skills and outdoor cookery.  So whether you want to roast some hot dogs and marshmallows on a starry summer night, cook a side dish to accompany meat grilled on the BBQ, or want to cook up a fantastic chili or stew, the rocket stove provides the means to hone those outdoor cooking skills for yourself and your child.

A word of caution.  You know your child.  Only you can decide when they are responsible enough to do this without supervision.  I do urge you to err on the side of caution when it comes to fire safety.  When finished, make sure the fire and coals are completely out.  You wouldn’t want your carelessness to be the reason of a fire disaster.
In continuing on our preparedness journey, my husband saw a need to “get out of town” and about 8 years ago we were able to move to the country.  This by itself was invaluable as we saw and heard our first mockingbird, realized that the sunrise and sunset pattern changes with the seasons, that the moon rises almost an hour later each night, that the constellations are in different places according to time and season, and many other amazing things.  We looked and learned and discussed and learned some more.  Can you REALLY eat dandelion greens and make jelly from the flowers?  Can plantain really take the itch out of mosquito bites and poison ivy as well as take the swelling out of bee stings?  Could an old fashioned remedy of plantain and soaking in Epsom salt reverse the horrible flesh damage caused by a brown recluse spider bite?  Even when the doctor said it was the worst case he had seen and my brother would have to endure surgery to remove a large amount of damaged flesh?  Yes, we learned all this and more by simply stopping to ask questions, look and observe, and gather information when we didn’t know the answers.

Something we did in our family is to choose good books to read aloud from the time the children were little on up to the teen years.  These books have made impressions that will be with us a lifetime.  It was a time investment on my part, but I believe the returns from the information gained was well worth the effort.  Everyone loves a good story.  When you can actually learn while being entertained, so much the better.
We started with the Little House on the Prairie series.  This pleased my daughter, but my 6-year-old son said he was not going to listen to a story about girls!  I read aloud anyway and he inched his way closer as he became interested in the story.  Needless to say, we finished that series and it is a happy memory we share. 

Stories of hardship and perseverance are always good ones to read.  It was probably my fascination with pioneer life that put me on the preparedness path I am on today.
Another set of books that we especially enjoyed was the Little Britches series by Ralph Moody.  The first  book, Father and I Were Ranchers and the third book, The Home Ranch, are most enlightening.  Like the Little House books, these are also true stories. They will especially appeal to boys 10 and up, but contains information both genders can learn from.  The young boy, Ralph, tells how his family moved out west, endured hard times, and then the father dies.  Ralph becomes the man of the family and goes to work to provide for his mother and siblings.  It is an amazing example of working hard and overcoming adversity.  It is also a loving tribute to a father who knew how to think, how to solve problems, and who in turn taught his son to do the same.

The book Lost on a Mountain in Maine by Donn Fendler is a fascinating true tale of a young boy who is lost in the wilderness and almost doesn’t make it out alive.  This story is invaluable to open up discussion of what and what not to do when lost in the wilderness.

A favorite story we read aloud, Freckles , is a work of fiction by Gene Stratton Porter. “Freckles” was orphaned in the early 1900’s.  His hand had been severed from his arm and he was simply left on the steps of a building when he was a baby.  Upon turning 18, he is released from an orphanage in a large city, and must now live and provide for himself.  He ends up at a logging camp and is given an opportunity to prove himself on a job, in spite of his handicap.  The grueling days, overcoming fear of the wilderness in which he finds himself, and battling thieves has you rooting for Freckles.  It is a real page turner.  A book is great, in my opinion, when it can engage children through adult level.  My daughter recently recommended it to a guy friend to read and he loved it.   My sister borrowed our book to take on a trip with her husband.  She read it aloud while he drove.  After the first chapter her husband said his “emotions had emotions.”  They, too, were drawn into the story and learned many things about natural science as well.

Another book we enjoyed was Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham.   It tells of a young boy whose dreams of an education are dashed when his father puts him in an apprenticeship which he legally can’t break.  He works hard and then self-educates as he finishes his obligation.  His main text book was a King James Bible.  He then goes on to change nautical history.  Although I was hesitant about reading this book in the first few chapters with my teens (due to it at first being geared to a younger audience and talked about “luck” which I do not believe in), I was glad we continued on.  It transitions to when the boy gets older and decides he wants to learn and be educated more than anything.  This is based on a true story that clearly shows the need for self-education and how to do it. 
Whether we choose to homeschool or not, parents are their children’s teachers.  And as we prepare for the worst and hope for the best, we need to ask “How will children be educated in an TEOTWAWKI situation”?  Families may have no choice but to homeschool.  How do you prepare for that?

Locate good materials (even through garage sales and thrift stores) and keep them for the future. Do not only buy math books and dry text books (they DO have their place), but choose good quality books such as I have mentioned and whet their appetites for lifelong learning. 

In a lot of preparedness articles I have read, the authors caution you to know how to use your supplies.  The time to learn is not after disaster strikes.  How true this is.  So make the best of the time you have now.  Whether you have a 3-year-old, a teen, or are just a concerned friend of a family with children, start investing in the lives of young people now.  Teach them skills.  Even if you are just beginning to learn yourself, involve the kids in what you are doing.  Ask them questions and wait for the answers.  Help them think through problems.  Help them come up with solutions. Help them help themselves.  Their lives (as well as yours) may depend upon it.