As a homeschool mom I am constantly looking for real-life, hands-on ways to enrich my children’s education. I have found that keeping animals, has been a valuable teaching tool for my children to supplement their book work and to take their education outside of the classroom.
We live on a small farmette and are keepers of all kinds of creatures. At one time or another, we have owned or cared for many different representatives of Kingdom Animalia: Fish, Amphibians, Reptiles, Birds, and of course Mammals. We have had quite a variety of creatures share our home and our property. Each animal was a unique experience for us and taught us many things.
My two oldest daughters each raise rabbits. They both have a unique ARBA (American Rabbit Breeders Association) registered rabbitry. It is their very first business. Like any business, there was an initial investment: membership fees, cages, dishes, stock, etc. They had their own money to invest and I allowed them to choose their own stock. They quickly learned the importance of choosing quality stock. Unfortunately my one daughter purchased stock from a less than upright breeder. She sold my daughter three expensive rabbits that turned out to be her culls. One was a biter, one got sick very shortly after bringing her home, and one never produced viable kits. Although my daughter wasted some money and also became a little discouraged, it taught her many valuable lessons:
- Buy from a reputable breeder. Ask a lot of questions about the breeder to others in the fancy. You will quickly learn who has quality stock.
- Once you find a reputable breeder, ask a lot of questions about the breed that you are interested in. Good breeders will be happy to talk with you about their stock and you will gain valuable information about the breed that you are interested in and see if it is right for you.
- Purchase the best foundation stock that you can afford. Expensive does not always guarantee quality, however remember that you do get what you pay for.
- Become a reputable breeder. Having a good reputation is invaluable.
Good Business Skills
My daughters also have learned a lot about making wise business decisions such as purchasing breeds that increase productivity (litter size, feed conversion ratios, hardiness, and mothering abilities of their does). They have learned to make difficult choices such as culling a favorite doe because she has turned out to be a lousy mother. They have had many disappointments but also many victories and triumphs. They have learned not to give up when the going gets tough, and with animal husbandry, it is guaranteed that tough times will come. They have learned to ride out these tough times and look forward to the good. They have learned the miracle of life and the permanency of death. They have shed many tears, but also have had many smiles as they watched their “babies” grow. They have experienced the reward of their labors when they are able to save money that they have earned themselves to purchase an item that they want.
Do you remember having your math teacher tell you about how much you would be using math skills in every day life? Do you remember being skeptical of this statement? Well there is nothing more amusing than seeing my daughters gain understanding of just how true this statement is. When you consider all of the mathematics involved in animal management, from measuring food amounts to calculating profit, you can imagine that they will quickly draw a conclusion that good math skills are vital and develop an appreciation of learning this important subject.
Keeping animals, especially livestock that require expensive and sometimes intensive vet care, requires most keepers to become knowledgeable in basic veterinarian science. My children have assisted me many times in dosing meds, giving injections, trimming hooves, tattooing stock, providing obstetrical and neonatal care, and even wethering (castrating) male goats. They have learned right alongside of me about which wormers are more effective and which medications are used to treat what conditions. There are so many different variables and each species and animal is unique that sometimes it seems that your home or farm becomes a giant science lab!
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Learning How to Treat Others
Owning animals can teach even the youngest child how to treat others. We show our children from the time they are toddlers how to properly hold a small creature. They learn that it is their duty to show kindness, love and care to the creatures in their charge. We involve them in animal care and they quickly learn that animals need their needs met much like we do. Learning how to treat animals with respect and kindness will naturally transition them into treating their fellow man the same way.
So Much More
It would take me days to list all of the educational benefits to animal husbandry. I have touched on just a few. I can promise you that keeping animals, whether it is a dog or a goldfish or an entire farm of animals, will provide you and your family with ample opportunities to gain a real-life education in many areas including life lessons, morality, social,emotional and behavioral learning. Indeed, through animal husbandry we often can learn a lot about ourselves.
What is a lesson you have learned – or taught – through animal husbandry?