Meet the Beyers {A Risky Kids Interview}

One of the things I hear over and over again as interact with other free-range parents is, “I wish I knew more families like us.” A community, whether virtual or out your front door, can be so empowering. It makes you feel less alone, and when you feel like others have your back, you feel more confident in your parenting choices. I thought it might be fun to seek out people and families from different backgrounds and interview them. My goal for this interview series is to introduce you to a wide range of people, all very different, but who share a common belief: that raising kids in a bubble is no way to live. And even though we might be miles apart, we can feel connected to each other, learn from each other, and support each other.

Our very first family is the Beyers! I met Leah through a group of local bloggers. What really intrigued me about Leah’s family is that they are a farming family. I was really curious about how farm life, and its tremendous responsibilities,  affects the way one parents. Please join me in welcoming the Beyers to The Risky Kids!

Leah Beyer Family Interview

Thanks for being our very first Risky Kid interview guinea pig, Leah! Tell us about your family.

My husband, Matt, and I have two children. Brady is 9 and in 4th grade. Maddie is 7 and in 2nd grade.

Tell us about where you live.

A year ago we moved away from our farm land and where we milked cows until 2009. We now live in rural Columbus, Indiana on several acres and are surrounded by corn and soybean fields.

What does a typical day in your kids’ life look like?

Our kids start the day off by getting up for school, but they have to go feed the pigs, calves, and chickens, as well as the dogs and cats, before eating breakfast. They attend a private school as well as the after-school program. Brady takes piano and guitar lessons after school 2 days a week as well. In the evenings we are pretty busy most nights. Brady is on the swim team and has practice 5-6 days a week. He also participates in short-term sports like basketball and soccer through the local parks department. Maddie is into dance and has ballet and Irish dance class two nights a week.

After any afternoon activities, or before they go to evening activities, they have chores and homework to do. They have to feed and water all the animals again, and complete any reading or homework. We usually eat dinner between 7 and 7:30 and are off to bed around 9 pm.

What are some “risky” circumstances or situations your kids face that the average suburban or city kid wouldn’t encounter?

With livestock on the farm, both kids are climbing over gates and are in pens with pigs that weigh 200 pounds. They also use pitchforks and shovels to pitch manure out of the pens. My kids both use pocket knives to help them open bags or break bales. We have several tractors and skid loaders that are also around, and the kids regularly ride on them or pretend to play on them. My son helps mow our five acres of grass that isn’t pastured with our Dixie Chopper zero radius lawn mower.

What factors of farm life do you see as having a positive impact on the way your kids will grow up?

One reason we have livestock, even if just a few head, is to help them learn how to work, learn responsibility for keeping something alive, and have an appreciation for the work raising animals for food is. The kids have really learned how to be a team. They have also become fierce negotiators with each other, brokering deals to help one another, or to get out of the chores in the morning or evening by doing them all by themselves at the other time.

We had them grow and sell sweet corn over the summer, and that adventure helped them understand basic business and financial lessons. They had a small business plan, and learned about input costs, how to determine the price to sell their product at, as well as what taxes had to be paid on what they earned.

Are all farm families essentially free-range families? Or do you encounter helicopter parents within the farming community as well?

I’m sure that helicopter parents do exist in the farm community, however we don’t have time to helicopter our kids. We have work to do! I can’t and don’t have time to hover over them while they do chores or play outside. The great thing about them being close in age, though, is they really are always together, even if they’re not playing or working together. My kids have scars, bumps and bruises. But they have also learned about cause and effect from decisions they’ve made that caused the pain.

What’s a common rule or safety issue you won’t budge on? And what are you happy to disregard? (For example, my deal-breaker is car and booster seats. My kids stayed in them probably longer than they needed to, and I wouldn’t let them ride in a car without them. On the flip side, I’m lax about bike helmets.)

The kids do have rules and boundaries. When riding motorized vehicles or bikes, they know they can’t go on the road alone. Both kids also have guns. We have the guns put up and they are not to be used without an adult being present and with them. The same goes for the tractors. There is no firing up of the tractors without mom or dad. When it comes to the animals, we don’t want them in the pens with the animal if they are out in the barn alone. We have more of a buddy system on our farm.

And I’m not sure where our bike helmets are at currently. I know we have them …

How does your childhood compare to the way your kids live today?

I would say my childhood was very similar. However, my kids have cable tv, gaming systems, and get to eat out way more than we ever did.

Can you share a favorite memory of your kids’ childhood on the farm?

Both kids spent the first year of their life sitting in a yellow Little Tikes swing in our milking parlor. They would come home splattered in poop and happy as could be. It was the truest form of my kids going to work with their dad.

What advice would you give a parent who is anxious about giving his or her kids freedom and independence?

Seeing your child accomplish something all on their own is the most rewarding thing for a parent. My kids have grown their confidence and have become hard workers in our home because they have been rewarded with freedom, especially outside. I’m not sure what they are always doing, but I know that I can open the back door and yell for them. I will take an independent child who is outdoors exploring any day over my kid in the next room playing Xbox. I hate that I ever bought that stupid Xbox!

What is your favorite thing to do as a family?

We’ve started fishing. I don’t bait or unhook, but I love to take pictures. We also love going on long bike rides into town. (Yes, without helmets. We live dangerously.)

And now for a totally random question! Your favorite junk food you’ve loved since childhood is?

My mom never let us have sugary cereal, and I always wanted Lucky Charms. So I would ask for a box for Christmas! It’s still a vice as an adult.

Leah, thank you SO much for letting us get to know your family, and sharing how you free-range parent from the farm. You can read more about the Beyers on Leah’s blog, Beyer Beware (I especially love this post: What Do Farm Kids Do All Summer?). If you’d like to be interviewed for The Risky Kids, let me know! I’d love to include you and your family. Just shoot me an email at theriskykids (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Comments

  1. Love this! I love learning more about farm families. I also agree, it’s great to meet similar minded families, especially when it comes to free-range parenting.

  2. I am in awe of Leah & Matt’s chore schedule for their kids. I should have my kids read that paragraph alone. And my kids whine when I ask them to let the dog out. Sheesh.