Parents of young eager-learners--Wisdom and input please : )

Hello all! I’m here to ask for the input of all you wonderful forum members about a project my husband and I are considering.

We’ve been blessed to live on a 250-acre Central Texas ranch. It’s an amazing place with meadows, creeks, ponds, woods, trails, and incredible wildlife. But the best feature by far is the amazing dark night sky which reveals the majesty of the Milky Way and thousands upon thousands of stars!

It’s been our pleasure and privilege to invite friends and family to this peaceful place and we’ve always enjoyed sharing our knowledge of the plants, animals, and night sky here. Children especially seem wrapped by my discussion of the Native Americans who once lived on this ranch while showing them the arrowheads we’ve found.

Recent world events have created a situation for us in which it’s time to “pivot” with regard to our careers. We’d like to build an Airbnb type cabin and invite homeschool families to stay on the ranch for a fee. The idea is that they would enjoy the serenity and solitude of this big, beautiful place and I would offer nature walks, guided stargazing, and lessons in botany, geology, astrology, and the history of this land. The focus would be elementary aged kids but everyone would be welcome of course.

Truth-seeking families with eager learners could collect their own farm fresh eggs, see a calf nursing, fish and cook their catch over an open fire, participate in photo scavenger hunts, and other outdoorsy fun and learning activities. Also, within an hour of here are excellent museums, zoos, state parks, planetariums, sports venues, and many other educational enrichment opportunities.

So, my question for you all…. (before we spend a small fortune creating the cabin and learning pavilion), does this sound like something you, as a homeschooling family, would spend time and money on? Do you think there is a market for this idea?

A sincere thanks in advance to those who’ve take the time to read and respond! (Edited to make clear that all-belief homeschool families would be welcomed)

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Welcome to the forum! Nice to have fellow Central Texan here! ( I live near Marble Falls). I think you have a great idea, but wonder if the homeschool market is too narrow. I would think the opportunity would be appreciated perhaps even more by urban city public school,kids whose families wish to enrich their education. Home schoolers tend to already have more outdoor experiences, especially in rural,areas. Of course, you would also want to market to the broader public looking for a rural retreat.

On thing you might also consider if you develop a site, is to put a couple of RV hookups in as that seems to be a popular thing, and might increase traffic at minimal cost.

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I think it sounds like a great idea and there would definitely be demand from homeschool families. I also think that Phil has a point that there would be a tremendous draw for urban churches/ministries who work with kids who do not get the chance to experience nature much.

When it is ready, you should promote it in Charlotte Mason focused groups, because it sounds right up their alley.

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Thanks for the kind welcome Phil. The RV hook-ups are a great idea! I’ll have to check into our ability to run that level or power to an appropriate location. I appreciate the suggestion to market to the broader public and certainly want all children, homeschooled or otherwise, to have great experiences in nature. Our thinking with targeting homeschool families is that we know of some unfortunate stories about rural airbnb type hosts who disallow guns but still have had out of season hunting, poaching, and even one neighbor who was in her garden and had a bullet whiz past her by a guest shooting at a coyote through a grove of trees (not considering what was beyond them). Inviting strangers to your property, especially in a very isolated area, can be risky. Our thought was that it’s been our experience that homeschooling families, in general, tend to be more respectful of others than the general public. That said, my own children attended public school so I am not saying there aren’t wonderful, decent, law-abiding and respectful families with kids in public school. We just thought inviting home school families might serve as somewhat of a first line screening of sorts. Perhaps if we market heavily as a children’s learning enrichment situation, that would serve the same purpose. Not many poachers would pay to bring their kids to learn about nature. Ha ha Thanks again!

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Hi Christy. Thanks for the encouragement and suggestion. I really love the idea of urban churches and ministries working with kids to have a chance to experience our ranch. If we had more to invest in the project, our dream would be to develop a full retreat center of some sort. If we are blessed further financially, we will certainly make that dream come true. On a smaller scale, do you think there is additional liability having children who are chaperoned but not by their own parents? This ranch is the “real deal” with the occasional venomous snake, poison ivy, bull nettle, wild hogs, open water, etc.

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I think you could probably have parents sign permission slips or liability waivers like any outdoor adventure type facility would do. It would be something to ask a lawyer about and maybe understand better your home owner’s insurance coverage.

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Good points all, though in Texas most homeschoolers will bring their own guns. :wink:

My grandkids homeschool so appreciate where you are coming from.
On the RV hookups, about all you need is a water tap and a 30 or 50 amp service plug. An RV might be a way to start out less expensively also, as you can get a travel trailer, move it in and be in business. And if it doesn’t work out, pull it out and sell it. Septic is the biggest problem and expense, as if a permanent site rather than a transient bring your own trailer, you can’t take to a dump station.

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I think it’s a great idea! As others have pointed out, a lot of groups beyond homeschool would be interested. Many possibilities.

Instead of a cabin, check this place out. I bet you could do something like this and not spend more than building a decent cabin would cost.

Camp Congress Airstream Park

Edit: I should add that my niece rented this place for three days to celebrate my sister’s 50th wedding anniversary. It was great!

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A couple of suggestions . . .

As a young eager-learner from decades ago, one of the greatest things I discovered was turning rocks over. You might have to careful in snake country, but the sight of strange critters scurrying about will certainly capture the attention of some kids. A few collection jars and nets might be worth the time.

The second best thing I discovered was pond water under the microscope I got for Christmas. Can also make for some awkward family moments when you start looking at your cousin’s hair lice and want to show everyone. You might be able to track down some really inexpesive microscopes on Craig’s list, or even ask around for some free ones. People might be willing to donate to a good cause.

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T_aquaticus, thanks for the chuckle and for the suggestions! I’ve already begun to collect and clean empty plastic wide mouth “jars” (peanut butter jars and apple sauce seem to be best). But I hadn’t considered nets. What a great suggestion! Thank you.

I think the microscope to check out pond, creek, and even natural spring water is a wonderful suggestion as well. I remember “discovering” paramecium in pond water in a summer academic enrichment program I took part in at about age 7 or 8. I was really something! I’m sure that would add tremendously to the experience of any young visitors to the ranch. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

My mind keeps returning again and again to this idea and I’m feeling hopeful and excited at the prospect. But before I invest in the infrastructure required, I’d love to hear from any parents of young home schoolers. Is this an experience (as described in my original post above) that you’d be willing to partake of as a family?

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