Revealing the joys of raising country kids
THERE is nothing better than being a country kid. That’s the belief of St Lawrence grazier Ainsley McArthur, and she should know as she is in the midst of raising six of her own country children.
Ainsley shares her passion about the advantages of young people growing up on a farm on her aesthetic and trendy blog, From the Verandah.
The blog has a core group of readers visiting the website as well as more than 2400 followers on Instagram and 1400 followers on Facebook.
“I think sometimes people think that growing up as a country person means you are disadvantaged because of the lack of communication and the isolation,” she said.
“I just don’t see it like that. I want to help people feel good about raising their children while living on the land – my blog is sort of like celebrating the life of a country kid.”
Although Ainsley’s children are growing up remotely, living on a 12,000-hectare cattle property situated roughly between Mackay and Rockhampton, she believes they have had endless opportunities to learn and develop.
Problem-solving skills, a sense of responsibility, resilience and team work were among the skills her brood had learnt simply from growing up as hard-working farm kids, she said.
The family all live and work on Mystery Park, which is owned and run by Ainsley and her husband Rob, who are both fourth-generation graziers.
Tess, their eldest daughter has graduated university and is currently working and living in Brisbane, and Andrew, the second eldest, is away at boarding school.
That just leaves Lachlan, Hamish, Adelaide and Eliza to be taught through distance education by Ainsley.
“It’s really easy to fall into the trap where you worry that your kids aren’t doing piano lessons or ballet lessons or tennis lessons,” she said.
“However, my experience is that what our kids get in the afternoons here is equally as beneficial as what the kids get in town.”
When the Rural Weekly caught up with Ainsley, she had just wrapped up the kids’ final lesson for the day.
She said after school was finished, they would all saddle up and head out with their dad to shift a mob of cattle.
“When they go out to the cattle, I know they will cross the creek and Rob will give them 15 minutes to splash in the water – so it’s not all hard work,” she said.
The kids start riding horses around the age of two, and by the time they are seven they are already manning gates in the round yard while drafting cattle or working slide gates when branding calves.
“They all participate at their different ability levels. Safety is always our biggest focus. But for us, child minding isn’t an option,” she said.
“I actually feel really privileged that we don’t have that option because the kids have learnt to work with us.”
Starting the blog
Ainsley started the blog in 2012 because she thought it was an easy way to store her family photos.
“I had a young baby that I was breastfeeding at the time and I would read lots of blogs while I was breastfeeding,” she said.
“I just thought it was a great way to capture moments of our life. So, at first, it was just a way of remembering the things that were important to us.”
Over the years the blog has grown its following and now Ainsley has embraced the role of being an agricultural advocate. Her posts show the everyday life on the farm, from mustering cattle and feeding the pigs to what they are having for ‘smoko’. Her blogging style seems to have a special way of making simple moments seem as though they are being treasured by the family.
There is no doubt Ainsley has a passion for working on the land, and it’s a zest that’s infectious.
Ainsley is always honest with her followers and is not afraid to admit that teaching six children through distance education is no “walk in the park”.
“I think education in the bush is challenging. I have been in distance education for a long time but I have had friends where distance education was just not for them,” she said.
“There is a lot of pressure on the parent to be the home tutor or find a governess to fill that role. There are lots of families I have seen, where the mothers move to town to educate their children.
“While it’s pretty hard work educating kids in the bush, there are so many advantages.”
On Mystery Park, classes are sometimes held on the veranda of the family’s home so the kids can sprawl out with their craft projects. In the classroom, however, they have access to the headsets and computers they need to fulfil their curriculum. Ainsley wrote this on From the Verandah about teaching through distance education: “Some days are diamonds and some days are stones but I sure do believe I’m very lucky to be able to nurture and guide the learning, both formal and informal, of my little tribe.”
Ainsley said she is often asked how she manages to help run a cattle property, raise and teach six kids and keep her blog up to date.
But she said the trick was just in the numbers.
“After you have your third child it really does start to get easier,” she said.
“That’s my trade secret. People stop having kids once they have had three because it’s so hard, but it actually does get easier after the third one.
“You have the older ones to help, and the youngest bring themselves up as they have so many brothers and sisters showing them what to do.”
This seems to be the case for the McArthur family, as Ainsley’s blog has many pictures of older siblings helping their younger family members climb on horses or do their daily chores.
To read Ainsley’s blog, visit www.mcarthurteam. com.au or search From the Verandah on Facebook or Instagram.