Celebrating a Simple Life
“The Shire at this time had hardly any ‘government’. Families for the most part managed their own affairs. Growing food and eating it occupied most of their time. In other matters they were, as a rule, generous and not greedy, but contented and moderate, so that estates, farms, workshops, and small trades tended to remain unchanged for generations.” J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
We live in a digital age. Today’s children spend an average of 8 hours a day engaging with technology. This level of media exposure - including television, movies, video games, and the Internet - has been associated with increased violence, obsessive-compulsive behavior, depression, generalized and social anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, introversion, and many other disorders. (International Center for Media & the Public Agenda)
All this screen time means that kids are becoming more and more isolated from the natural world and the wonder of engaging with living things (both human and animal). Creative play and free time to “just be a kid” is sadly becoming a thing of the past.
I grew up in a rural community attending a “farm” school. Every morning the bus meandered through the back roads picking up local farm kids. Our school was surrounded by farm land and classes were taught by real people who were engaged in our lives, not a face on a computer monitor.
As parents we placed very strict limits on our children’s screen time. As a result, when they weren’t in school, our kids were either engaging with the outdoors (hiking, biking, or climbing), reading books, playing board games, or outside making up wild games. From setting reeds alight and firing the flaming arrows at targets, to putting together a circus with a high wire act – these shenanigans may have added to my gray hairs (and believe me they did!), but I am so glad that our kids got to use their imaginations and explore the world around them, instead of sitting for hours gazing at a screen.
As I look at the state of education today, one of my dreams, here on the farm is to create a farm school rooted in the rich heritage of our past that would equip students with the knowledge they needed to face today’s challenges. Learning occurs best in a supportive community. What would it look like to create a community that shaped our young people into ethical, hardworking, compassionate adults with a love of the land, and the skills to work and protect it.
As yet this remains but a dream. However, in the meantime, we love to host groups of students here on the farm, exposing them in a small quiet way to a life that is slowly being lost to the grinding wheels of “technological progress.” It never ceases to give me joy watching the kids level of engagement and wonder as they interact with the various aspects of farming and discover the truth that, “It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.” ― J.R.R Tolkien