Raising a self-reliant child is a priority for prepping families, as it should be for all American families. There are multiple educational choices open to parents in most states. Prepper parents are typically focused on the same academic goals as non-survivalist parents — we just also want out children to learn self-reliant skills, and garner a greater sense of independence and responsibility in the process. The number of homeschooling families has increased exponentially in recent years. The amount of charter schools across the country have also grown at a surprising rate. Parents opt out of mainstream schools for a vast array of reasons: safety, academic quality and concern about indoctrination are usually near the top of the list.
There is the traditional public school, or government school, as those us who have grown disgruntled with the institution often call it. Nearly my entire family worked in public education, both in paid and elected positions. I worked in a rural public school for a decade and left once I began to feel like a factory worker and saw the joy of learning evaporating from the academic process.
Charter schools and private schools
Private schools and charter schools are both good alternatives to government schools, but both types of educational facilities have drawbacks from a self-reliance and prepper family perspective. Few charter or public schools exist in rural areas, making geographic limitations the first checkmark in the negative column for those education options. Cost is also a drawback as both charter school and private school tuition can come with a hefty price tag.
Online charter schools
Online charter schools do exist tuition-free in some states, but such educational choices are still not commonplace. In Ohio, taxpayers’ dollars follow the student when parents choose to enroll their child into an online charter school like TRECA Digital Academy. From my personal experience, the online charter school my daughter was enrolled in did offer a better education and stiffer graduation requirements than any public school in the region. The online charter school offered student-guided (or parent-guided) educational hours that allowed us to incorporate hands-on learning and field trips, as is typical of a homeschool environment.
Taking post-secondary courses for free, either online or a local brick-and-mortar college for dual credit, were also allowed via the online charter school. This aspect of the program was a definite plus from both a self-reliance and future career choice aspect. My daughter Brea was interested in working with horses and took several classes in equine science at a local community college in addition to online course to complete academic requirements for her college degree. She also took a leatherwork course to learn how to work with leather and gained the skills necessary to make and repair various types of leather items.
The college course offerings, which would allow a teenager to garner self-reliance skills through the online charter school program, were nearly limitless. The rural community college, which was within a short driving distance, offered professional certificates and degrees for firefighters, paramedics, police sciences, nursing, natural resources, mechanics, engineering, timber harvesting, fish management, forest management, wildlife resources, physical therapy, heavy equipment management, carpentry, advanced energy and baking. Any one of those degree fields offers an abundance of preparedness skills, which would prove extremely handy during a long-term disaster.
We moved Brea from a government school to an online charter school in January of her junior year. Working at her own pace, she was able to complete all of the state’s high school requirements by March and began taking college courses, earning credits toward a degree and, perhaps, most importantly, learning skills which would make her a vital part of our preparedness group before she was even old enough to vote.
Unfortunately, free post-secondary classes are not currently offered in all states, but that does not mean a self-reliance focused family cannot find free or affordable training to occupy a child’s afternoon hours after spending the morning online taking classes via the online charter school’s program. Going old-school and setting up an apprenticeship with local skilled craftsman or even spending more time out in the woods or working on the farm with friends and relatives increases your child’s essential skill set.
Parents are a child’s first teacher. The idea of homeschooling can be intimidating, but it shouldn’t be. Mommy and daddy begin teaching their little bundles of joy from the very moment they are born. A myriad of educational resources, curriculum supplies, social activities and support for homeschooling parents exist in all states where the at-home learning model is legal.
When there’s a crisis or disaster and you are anchored at your bug out/bug in location, your children’s education will become your sole responsibility. Many homesteading and off-grid families have already opted to teach their children in a home classroom and will have at least some materials stockpiled for standard use. Online homeschool opportunities thankfully abound, but access to the Internet will not be possible during a grid-down scenario. Depending upon the severity of a civil unrest, economic collapse, or natural disaster, cyber learning may also be interrupted for an extended period of time.
Hands-on technical learning will be a big part of any crisis classroom education process. Networking with a local homeschool league may also enable prepper parents with the skills and resources necessary to help educate their children when the school buses stop running and the Internet no longer works. Dollar stores are excellent sources for educational supplies.
There is no need to purchase expensive workbooks and stacks of paper. Make a chalkboard on a wall or door and allow the children to do their spelling and math lessons with a bit of Little House on the Prairie flair. Brea is now grown and she and her husband have started a family of their own. Although little Colt Remington Miller (Brea and James love both horses and guns) is only 5 months old, plans are already being made for his education.
Brea is considering a homeschool group-style of education. Such a scenario would be ideal for any mutual assistance group — or “tribe” as I have deemed our group. Several of her close friends have children around the same age as Colt. She has envisioned a team teaching environment where the children learn together in one home and work on self-reliance and preparedness projects together, while gearing their field trips to match what the kiddos are learning during their morning seatwork. Learning how to grow seeds, harvest the crops, can and dehydrate produce, and prepare meals will involve reading, math and science skills — and cost very little money in the process.
Unschooling is a form of homeschooling that places the motivation and responsibility of learning into the hands of the students themselves. The process is created through interdependency between parent (along with other adults offering an opportunity for learning) and the student. Children are given the freedom to navigate toward their own interests and to discover what roles and responsibilities they actually play in their own lives and in the lives of those around them.
The Unschooling website describes the non-traditional form of education this way:
“Unschooling children are supported to pursue, or self direct, the myriad of things that are of interest to them, eat foods they enjoy and in quantities that are satisfying, sleep and rest according to their individual needs, choose friends of all ages or none at all, engage in the world in unique and powerful and self directed ways.”
Unschooling students learn based on their own interests. Activities such as “free play, inventing, experimenting scientifically, video gaming, role modeling through friendship, spiritual development through inquiry of self and others, athletics,” are commonplace.