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Idaho Enterprise

Letter to Teachers of Ranch Kids

Sep 09, 2022 11:14AM ● By Allison Eliason

By Allison Eliason

Dear Teacher of my Ranch Kids, 

 We are trying to get in the swing of the back-to-school things and I thought I would send you a letter to explain maybe why my ranch kids might seem a little behind.  

Before you ask yourself if my kids did anything to help with their learning, know that I had the best of intentions for the summer.  We were going to read all the books and practice our writing and spelling, but it just didn’t quite happen like you might have hoped.  But I promise the summer was full of practical learning and we covered a lot of subjects.

We didn’t do any worksheets, but we worked hard on our math skills all summer long.  We had math problems like estimating if we have enough hay for our livestock this winter.  We started by counting up the bales to figure out just how many tons of hay that we had.  Then we worked to calculate how much hay we think our cows might eat over the winter.  We totaled up all the cows, multiplied that by how much a cow eats each day and multiplied that by how many days we will be feeding them.  Comparing how many tons of hay we put up this year to what we think we will need this winter, helped us to decide if we will need to buy some supplemental hay. 

This led to another lesson in business and economy when we looked at what the local hay prices are.  With hay and even straw costing more than ever, we learned that our dollars can only stretch so far.  And rather than spend haphazardly, we have to spend intentionally where we have needs, not just wants.  Sure, a new tractor or 4-wheeler would be fun, but it might not be just what we need.

The summer was full of fun science experiments, most of them not intentional at all.  Lessons on friction, heat, and the importance of using oil and grease to keep things running can be costly if not taught early in the season.  Learning how oil decreases the coefficient of friction to keep engines from overheating is best to be learned by using lubrication not by seeing the final consequence of a seized-up motor.  

We had other lessons like chemistry as we learned the right way to mix and spray chemicals to combat the ever-growing noxious weeds.  We learned about electricity, how standing in a puddle of water and grabbing the electric fence has a very different outcome than standing in rubber boots and grabbing the electric fence.  That day we also learned how electricity can pass through you to someone else, without shocking you.  That might have also been a lesson in social skills and how you SHOULDN’T treat your little brother.

The old timers took it upon themselves to teach history lessons.  They took every opportunity to tell stories of how this valley came to be how it is.  They talked about tales of wild horse rides and long cattle drives.  They shared about the drastically trying winters and burdensome long summers.  But my favorites were those that they shared, with a little gleam of satisfaction in their eyes, about how far things have come throughout the years, how they learned to persevere through the hardest of times and be thankful for everything they had.  Those history lessons are ones I will always hold dear.

We worked hard on our PE classes all summer long, definitely getting our steps in every day.  Those long fencing days especially helped us as we walked back and forth along the fence taking down old wire, stringing out new wire, pounding staples in and then having to walk back to find the wire cutters or hammers someone always leaves behind.  

Besides getting our steps in every day, we built some great muscles as we moved handlines, carried heavy toolboxes, and climbed ladders, tractors, and pivot towers.  We worked a little on running endurance when dad would send us on foot to chase that cow that always seemed to turn tail and run the wrong way.  We worked on our speed when she decided to turn around and chase us instead.  Good thing that didn’t happen all too often.

Coupled with our exercise program was a good nutrition program.  There were a lot of lessons on what it takes to have a balanced diet.  We talked about good energy sources; protein needs and how to supplement those vitamins and minerals when we can’t get enough from our diet.  Maybe I should clarify, it wasn’t our nutritional diet we were learning about, but nutrition for our cows.  We can tell you all sorts of things about good forages and bad and maybe a lot of it can crossover, but, as evident by their summer snacks, we still need to work on healthier rations for ourselves.  Although, their salt and mineral intake is pretty good as they taste tested the supplements we put out.

Don’t worry, we worked on all sorts of language skills too.  There were vocab lessons every day as the kids asked, “What is that?” over and over and over again.  I hope that they learned accurate definitions, if not, just know that I was at my wits end and any answer would suffice if they would just stop asking.  

Plenty of folks volunteered to teach them new words, even different languages altogether, although some of those words I hope they never repeat.  I did my very best to try and keep them away from their dad while working cows, so they didn’t pick up on some of the more colorful language he has in his dictionary. 

I think I have them well prepared for you to teach them proper grammar and sentence structure as all summer I taught them what ISN’T proper or correct.  Hopefully this sort of tactic, the do’s AND don’ts of correct language works out for us.

We had a strong music program all summer long.  We learned just how well our voices can be amplified when we sing into the siphon tubes or wheel line pipe.  Rather than handing out any music, I just cranked up the radio to learn a few of the classics.  We didn’t quite make it to learning the various harmonizing parts, but we did learn a lot of clashing tones.  There isn’t anything we can’t turn into some instrument because EVERYTHING makes noise, some good... some bad.  

Truth be told, on those early mornings and late nights when we could hear natures melodies of the birds singing, the quiet creak of a saddle, the small chirping of the crickets, the bellar of a cow or the constant beat of the sprinklers in the field, my soul was at peace with those sweet sounds of country living.

While I might feel the need to apologize for not spending so much time in the books, I’m beginning to realize what a great education we had on the ranch this summer here. There are all sorts of other important things we learned this summer, and maybe some of them can only be taught here.  Oh, I’m sure that there are opportunities to learn some of these lessons at school, but maybe lessons of responsibility, working until the job is done and done right, the circle of life and reaping what you sow are best learned out here.

We are going to give our darndest efforts (is that proper grammar or even a real word?) to be successful at school, but if it seems we are a little behind after the long summer, it's probably because we were busy learning life’s lessons in a different sort of classroom.  Thank you for your grace, patience, and willingness to teach my ranch kids.  They need you.  I think that between the two of us, they are really going to get the best education life can give them.



A Proud Ranch Mom