Keeping children busy keeps them out of trouble

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Girl and boy petting calf

“If a kid is busy accomplishing any number of things every day, there won’t be any ambition left for getting into trouble.”

This is a statement I heard from my father over the years, and I recently heard of a study (likely a pretty costly one, right?) just completed on a group of teens that proves this out. Learning while accomplishing big things is a powerful combination that builds self-esteem, as well as awareness beyond one’s self that doesn’t come alive in the typical day of many young people.

One of my favorite stories is of a Kansas town that saved its school by turning it into a charter school with a focus on agriculture after enrollment had fallen so drastically that closing its doors was imminent.

Morning chores

Walton Rural Life Center in Walton, Kansas, population 235, was formed in 2006. Morning farm chores are part of the classwork — students gather eggs, measure out pellets and then feed the lambs and the pigs, carry hay to the calves, and begin measuring boards for a woodworking project.

Children from kindergarten to fourth grade learn math, reading, science and responsibility through their work of nurturing gardens and farm animals, then selling their goods. Students are happy to come to school, and attendance is strong.

The accomplishments, which are hard to measure, include the strengthening of bonds to their country culture the students experience each day. The school went from certain closure to growth in which parents drive 30-plus miles and quite willingly pay enrollment fees.

One of the classes requires students to calculate how much hay is needed per cow on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.

The younger students learn to count change from the sale of eggs and vegetables. The practical side of math is one of the most important over the course of a life, and it is so easily lost in the testing-centered classrooms of many schools today.

Coming to life

Science, which can and should be fun in order to engage young students, is easy to accomplish in this farm-rich environment. Science comes to life in the worm-wiggling composting bins and can be observed in the wind turbine that powers the school’s greenhouse.

Imagine the fascination of a group of children watching ordinary-looking eggs hatching into a bunch of chirping chicks.

Science is alive and well and part of the daily process of accomplishing goals. Busy to the point of real accomplishment, sometimes accompanied with physical exhaustion, has a way of nipping orneriness in the bud, while lifting a child up to the idea of learning more, doing more, being a part of the cog that makes our world go ’round.’

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.

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