Life Skills & Survival Skills
As part of our Thanksgiving Unit Study, we studied some of the survival skills the settlers knew, or learned by trial and error.
Here are some of the life and survival skills we looked at:
Ability to adapt to a new environment.
Ability to find and use water.
Ability to hunt for food, both vegetation and animal.
Ability to raise food.
Ability to store food.
Ability to cook food.
Ability to make shelter that provides safety in various weather conditions.
Ability to medically treat accidents and illnesses and survive them.
Ability to defend themselves against predators.
Ability to defend themselves against enemies.
Some of these skills they learned in the previous land they came from. They brought a limited amount of basic tools with them on their journey. They were skilled at using these tools. But they faced new challenges in the new land, and needed to learn some special skills to survive there. Help came from their neighbors, the Native American Indians, who taught them many new skills or how to adapt the skills they had, to survive in the new climate and land they now lived. This opportunity and ability to learn survival skills is a big part of the story of Thanksgiving and the history of our great country. So this season, it is a perfect time of year for children to see and learn to use skills that were a part of our history, and bring the experience alive for them.
To be honest, these are all basic skills we still need today. Even though we depend mostly on the grocery system for our food, and construction workers for our shelters, and doctors for our illnesses, and the military and police for our protection, to some degree we still need to learn a lot of these skills ourself.
If a hurricane, tornado, earthquake, ice storm, power outage, quarantine, act of terror, or some other horrible event happened and interfered with our food delivery system, how would your family survive? How would you find food? How would you find water? How would you take care of yourself and your loved ones in a survival situation?
Our modern food system has only been on the scene for a short time, about 50 to 100 years, and even less for some of our modern food conveniences. It is important to help your children understand what was it like to get their food, including water, grains, produce, milk, salt, and meat 100 years ago, 300 years ago, and even 1000 years ago.
In case of emergencies, it is wise to have at least a three day survival ration set aside in your home. A survival ration would include basic food and supplies, and you should have a longer plan incase the event lasted longer than three days. Many good sources recommend a four to a six month supply. In recent history (just the past few years) whole communities ( thousands of families) have had to survive without power during ice storms, tornadoes, and earthquakes, deal with contaminated water during floods and hurricanes, and lack of basic resources. Could your family survive this winter if the power went out for a week, and the roads were frozen over making it unsafe to drive, and the stores were closed because there was no power and no customers?
Now I am not saying you would have to hunt for meat during that three days or week. However if the problem lasted longer, in the bitter cold of winter, a fresh deer could mean the difference of nourishment and going hungry in some situations. But I am saying that learning basic survival skills is a good thing to do. It helps you to have a “plan B” if normal daily life should get a “hic-up” in it and normal life became not normal for a few days.
This may sound ridiculous to folks who have only lived in the city, never experienced power outages, and had stores with in easy access all their life. But if you have ever lived in a true rural situation, where it took several miles, maybe even an hours drive, to get to a grocery store, you would understand how life can be hard if you don’t have a modern system of grocery stores, refrigerators, freezers, electricity, and so on to help you survive.
You might be asking yourself, how in the world can I teach survival skills to my kids? Well, cooking and self care skills during times of natural disaster, or economic collapse are not much different than the skills you need when you go camping. Ask yourself these questions, what would you need to have and to know If you planned to go camping for a week?
Shelter and a way to keep warm and dry.
A way to get safe water.
A way to get nourishment for your body.
A way to treat an injury if one occurred.
Survival skills are important to have. The last few generations don’t understand this, and very few have the skills needed to survive without modern conveniences if they had too. Take the time to teach your children a few survival skills to help them get through a disastrous time in life if they had too. You will need to judge for yourself when you think your children are ready to work with items such as fire, pocket knives, or other equipment that could be dangerous if used in correctly. I will post links to several sites with good information and videos at the end of this article.
How Leaning Life Skills and Survival Skills As A Child, Helped Me As An Adult:
I was privileged to have a lot of different experiences growing up. When I say privileged it wasn’t because we had any money. No, life was quite the opposite, we were poor. But life was full of a lot of different situations, and I learned a lot of survival skills to help me get through this life. Making opportunities out of tough experiences, to learn and grow through difficult situations, well I think that is a special privilege. Going through these things and surviving made me a stronger person.
Here is my two cents on living through difficult times. I see it as you have three choices:
1) You don’t survive
2) You survive, but you also break and become addicted to things to help you cope,
3) You cope and get stronger, and with God’s help, overcome the hard times to be a better person.
That is the choice I made as a young girl. I made a decision around age 8 years old, that with God’s help, I was going to overcome every situation in life, and use it as a challenge to become smarter, stronger, and survive.
There have been times in my life where I was in a survival situation. Having provisions set aside, and knowing basic skills such as how to start a fire and cook on it and keep warm, meant a huge difference in our comfort level.
Many times as a child and as an adult, I have survived in tornadoes and had to stay in cellars, basements, and storm shelters, with no power or water at times.
I have been in ice storms that left us with no power, no heat, no water, the roads were shut down, and the local stores were closed. This has happened to me several times, and one of those times my husband was out of town and I was pregnant and had three young children. No family to rely on, just pregnant me and the young kids. Could have been a disaster, had it not been for a little know how, and a little preparation ahead of time. That time, thankfully, we did have an emergency generator for our barn. So the kids and I had to sleep ( I promise I did not sleep as I was to scared of spiders in the dark) on the ground, huddled together, barely warmed by an emergency generator powering a little heat to the barn, and it gave me one outlet to use an electric skillet to make something warm to eat.
But other times, when I didn’t have such a luxury, I have cooked over an open fire, or on an outdoor grill ( be sure to have a full propane tank for the grill, even though its winter and you don’t plan to cook on it), and to keep warm we used either a fire (dangerous with young children) or a portable gas heater (can be dangerous from carbon monoxide, but when it is zero degrees outside, you have to weigh your options and your risks). I have taken water from streams before and had to use it for necessities when we had no power to our well pump. I have had to pull food from the pantry and cupboards to survive for a week, when there was no working stove and no open store available to get food. I have prepared a fire outside to boil water or cook food. Again, I just want to drive this point home, it is wise to always keep your gas grill or charcoal grill with plenty fuel on hand in case of an emergency power outage.
A great skill I learned as a child, how to raise and butcher meat, was carried into adulthood. On our farm in Indiana, a big part of the fall season for us and most of our neighbors, was to harvest meat for the coming year. We butchered meat ourselves and we also hired the local usda butcher to do our cows. We had several of our cows butchered each fall and sold the extra meat we did not need for our family. We had a great reputation and lots of orders for our beef.
My husband, Mike, also hunted, especially over the Thanksgiving weekend, when those days were set aside special just for hunting. Most of the men we knew hunted during this time of year. Here is a picture of a deer he shot in the heart, and then gutted before taking it to the butcher to be processed for freezer storage. The butcher would process the meat into 1 lb frozen packages for our freezer. We would have several cuts of steaks made, ground meat, sausage, smoked sausage, and ham. We would also later make our own jerky from some of the meat. I would ask for the heart and liver to be put into 1lb packages also. I would have some of the bones saved for making broth.
Mike has hunted in both Kansas and Indiana and always hunted with a rifle, a shotgun and a muzzle loader. He used to harvest one to two deer a year. He would have the local butcher process the meat into 1lb packages for the freezer. We ate this meat once or twice a week all year long. The ground meat made the best taco’s. We had the whole deer ground except for the tenderloin we had cut into steaks and we had 4 rolls of deer summer sausage made each season too. I would never let them add pork or lard to the mix. Just straight deer. Oh it was the best you have ever tasted, so lean and delicious. We always took a plate of this to holiday dinners.
Here is a picture of deer summer sausage, honey comb, and bottles of our favorite flavors of Black Cherry and Tangerine Knudson Spritzers.
This is me around 20 years of age with my catch of fresh fish. Fishing was another skill I learned as a young girl. Wish I still looked 20, ha, ha.
Passing Life Skills On To This Generation:
Well it has been both easy and hard to teach some of these life skills to our children. Our years on the farm till 2008, was a good start. The kids learned to milk goats and cows, to raise beef cows, chickens, sheep and goats, for food, and how to help in the garden. In the garden they learned to help till the soil, plant the seeds, weed, water, and harvest. Three of the children were old enough to learn to mow the grass. One son learned to help operate the tractor. The older three rode in the cab of the tractor while baling fields of hay and while feeding bales of hay to cattle in the pasture. The children learned to collect fresh eggs everyday, and what happens if you collect one from a spot you forgot to look in for a while, Pee-U! They learned to feed and water the animals and give them hay each day. They learned to help build and repair fence and pens too.
When they weren’t learning during chores, they were learning and practicing during play. They learned to jump hay bales and play king of the mountain. They played on their fort and swing set. They practiced digging for China in the garden. They loved to look for fishing worms and get them ready for dad to take everyone fishing.
They practiced casting their fishing rods in the driveway. Look out!! They rode their bikes up and down the drive way and surrounding hills. They built ramps to ride their bikes on too. They would throw a rope over a tree branch to swing on it or to climb the tree. They rode the goats like a horse. They chased chickens. They would lay down in the sheep and goat pen and play with them. They would run and race the baby cows in their pasture. They stole mom’s ripe berries off the berry bushes before she could harvest them. They even played with dad’s mower with supervision. Dad let them race the mower, and do donuts in the driveway. We also took them fishing in our pond when we had time to sit back for a while. They all love to fish as much as I do.
Since moving to North Carolina, we have been able to fish several times at Lake Lure and a couple times at Orchard Lake Campground. Mike has really wanted to go hunting, but we know no-one to let him go on their ground. He misses it like crazy. He has been to the local shooting range a few times to practice with his gun, and he has recently taken the oldest, James to teach him gun safety and practice hitting the target.
He has also been wanting to learn to shoot a bow and arrow. It is a life long dream of Mike’s to hunt with a bow and arrow, though he always found the concept a bit intimidating in the past. He hadn’t been around anyone to learn the skill as they used one, and from all his friends had told him it was very difficult. But deep in his heart he still wanted to learn it and master it.
Our son James has asked for almost three years if we could get him a bow and arrow set and teach him how to use it. He too, wants to hunt a deer with it. For his 9th birthday, we got him a plastic learning set from Back To Basics. It had suction cups instead of arrow tips on the ends. This was a good place to start, but it was a little young for him, and he eventually lost interest in the set.
In part of our reading for homeschool, James read a book about two brothers from the 1860’s who learned how to hunt for food and used different survival skills. They had to survive in a new land for eight months alone, with out their family. They learned to fish, make fish traps, hunt for food, make small animal traps, use a spear, use plants as medicine and food, and defend themselves from a bear. The book is a great read for kids and adults. It is called “Cabin On Trouble Creek”. This story really motivated James again to want to learn survival skills and renewed his interest in wanting to know how to shoot with a bow and arrow.
This fall, Mike began to research using a bow and arrows and details about buying a good starter set. He bought James a real bow and arrow set, and a target block to practice. Here are pictures of their first time to use it. James’ arm was so sore after a few times that he could hardly continue to retract the bow. Right off the bat, James had very good aim, he just needs to build up endurance and the strength in his arms to repeatedly pull back on the bow. Mike also worked with the younger brothers, John and Joseph, in helping them learn the basics of holding the bow and aiming the shot.
Mike plans to work with the boys a half hour several times a week after work. This will be a good activity for all of them to do together as they learn about a survival skill and learn about becoming young men. I hope once they master it in practice, they will have the opportunity at some point to use it to hunt a deer. I know the joy Mike would feel to achieve this childhood dream.
Here are several links to help you teach survival and life skills to your children.
Bow And Arrow / What it is and its history
How To Shoot A Bow and Arrow
Spears / What it is and its history
How To Hunt With A Spear
Here are some e-how survival videos by a guy who was a boy scout and now teaches wilderness survival skills. These are great for kids to watch (how to make a spear stick, how to cook with hot rocks, and much more)
How to build a Camp Fire
How To Cook With A Camp Fire and How To Use Safe Water
How To Go Camping In Your Back Yard
A little funny, but gives you a simple idea of how you could practice setting up for an emergency if you needed to. Keep all your camping or emergency gear in one place and that will help to minimize frustration on where stuff is located. I heard one person say they easily can move everything they need in less than 15 minutes because they have it all in one place. Wow, in an emergency like a power outage, that could save you loads of time and headache.
Here is a beginners guide to go camping. Use this list to make your own list of what items you would want or need in your emergency supplies
Governement List to Make an Emergency Kit
Where to buy tools and supplies
What to do if the power goes out in the winter
How To Make A Power Outage Bearable
Here is another good article written by Possum Hill Farms, called Homesteading in America. The article is about why it is important to know survival skills and reduce our dependence on commercialism.
Scripture passages are from Biblegateway.com
God blessed Ishmael, and as the boy grew older, he became an expert with his bow and arrows. He lived in the Paran Desert, and his mother chose an Egyptian woman for him to marry.
So take your bow and arrows, then go out in the fields, and kill a wild animal.
Having a lot of children to take care of you in your old age is like a warrior with a lot of arrows.
What are some ways you are teaching life skills and survival skills to your children?
Please leave a comment and let us know.