So, you're thinking about going off the grid -- saying goodbye to public utilities and creating your own energy. Whether you're doing it to be "greener," to save money or out of a general desire to be less beholden to utility companies and the government, there are endless variations to living this type of lifestyle. It doesn't necessarily mean building a yurt in a forest and homeschooling your children by candlelight; plenty of people keep their flat-screen TVs and Internet access and go off the grid by adding solar panels and installing water and septic systems to their existing homes.
Regardless of how you're planning to do it, going off the grid is a huge step -- it'll mean major changes, even if you're staying in your own home. And if you are moving the whole family to a one-room cabin in the desert, your new lifestyle will produce lots of quality family time, which is probably one of the reasons you're going off the grid in the first place. No matter what, it'll be an amazing learning opportunity for everyone.
Although you're gung-ho about going off the grid, your kids might be a different story. Little ones might not blink an eye, but older kids will be a harder sell. You'll need to convince them that they'll be able to survive without 20-minute hot showers and unlimited Facebook access. Here are five tips on how to get your kids on board with going off the grid.
5: Talk About It
Obviously, going off the grid isn't something you can just spring on your kids -- it's not exactly fair to suddenly herd them into a solar-powered RV one day and drive to the middle of nowhere without an explanation. Discuss the decision with them first and make sure they understand the entire concept, your reasons for doing it and the changes that'll be involved. Be sure to emphasize that it'll be a positive experience that will benefit the whole family.
4: Make it Fun
Computer-addicted teenagers will assume that going off the grid means the end of life as they know it. That might be true in some ways, but that doesn't have to be a bad thing -- even if you're not moving to some exotic location, frame the whole thing as an adventure. You'll be creating your own energy, after all!
3: Put Them to Work
One ingenious way to get the kids more invested in the off-the-grid process is to use them for manual labor. The littlest kids can help plant a garden and learn about conserving water, and older ones can work on installing solar panels, placing rain barrels and digging wells. This way, they'll get to discover how your new systems work and hopefully get excited about everything -- and you'll get the job done a lot faster, too!
2: Get Them Outside
If your kids are convinced they'll be miserable off the grid, it'll only be worse if they're moping around inside, staring at the wall where the TV used to be. They need to get outside, and not just to work. Whether it's exploring the new area you've moved to or becoming reacquainted with the old 'hood, some time in the great outdoors might be just what the doctor ordered to get the kids excited about your family's new life.
1: Home School
Home schooling doesn't necessarily go hand-in-hand with going off the grid, but many off-the-grid families do choose it. It fits with the goals of quality family time and not relying on outside resources -- and it could be a necessity if you're relocating to a remote area. Leaving school might be traumatic for some kids, but it usually turns out to be an amazing experience -- and the prospect of home schooling can be a great selling point for kids who might not thrive in traditional schools.
Lots More Information
- 5 Things You Should Know: Homeschooling
- Living Off-Grid: Working with the Sun
- Living Off-Grid: Without a Trash Pickup Day
- Living Off-Grid: How to Cook Pasta without Pre-Heating or Pre-Boiling
- Barksdale, Martha. "Where's the highest concentration of people living off-grid?" (Feb. 25, 2012) http://curiosity.discovery.com/question/living-off-grid
- Cathlene. "Home Alone--Living off the Grid." Homeenergy.org, 2008. (Feb. 22, 2012) http://www.homeenergy.org/archive/hem.dis.anl.gov/eehem/93/930509.html
- Frugal Dad. "Living off the Grid in Stages." April 5, 2009. (Feb. 22, 2012) http://frugaldad.com/2009/04/05/living-off-the-grid/
- Frugal Dad. "Living off the Grid with Kids." July 24, 2009. (Feb. 22, 2012) http://frugaldad.com/2009/07/24/living-off-the-grid-with-kids/
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- Off-Grid Living. "Living off Grid: Our Early Years." Jan. 20, 2011. (Feb. 22, 2012) http://off-grid-living.com/living-off-grid-our-early-years/
- Seaman, Greg. "What It's Like Living Off-Grid." Eartheasy.com, April 9, 2009. (Feb. 22, 2012) http://eartheasy.com/blog/2009/06/what-its-like-living-off-grid/