I may be certifiably insane.
When my eleven-year-old told me that she would like to raise dairy goats for showing and for family milk, I didn’t blink. Never mind that we knew nothing about dairy goats. Never mind that we lived in the middle of suburbia. Never mind that she was…um…a child.
The Reverend Jesse says that the universe shops all great ideas. It’s up to you to respond. Do you latch on and bring it to fruition, or tell yourself, “No one would want to read about a boy who goes to wizarding school anyway.” So we sold our house and bought a little property outside of town. For her twelfth birthday, Madeleine got two little Nigerian Dwarf doelings.
While we may not have known anything about raising dairy goats when we started, we learned quickly enough. The universe provided, when we befriended one of the foundational breeders of Nigerian Dwarf goats. I could not have envisioned it when Madeleine first came to me with her idea, but she was soon being mentored by the definitive expert of the breed. Little did we know when she was advising us on our first goats, that she would continue helping us with every facet of our little enterprise to this day, eight years later.
You can imagine what happened next.
The does had babies and their babies had babies and those two goats increased to thirty. She now had a proper herd, and the feed bill to go with it. Using some of our excess goat milk, we made our first batch of soap which was a big hit with friends and family.
My dad believed in dreams too, so he took Madeleine to the bank and handed her a $100 bill to open a company bank account. Now she had a product, but where could she sell it?
You might think that the Texas Renaissance Festival is an unlikely answer to that question. We have a history with the place. I grew up there, passing the hat while my dad played music, and swimming in the lake after hours. When I got older, my father built a booth (mainly so that he would have more freedom to play instead of keeping the tight schedule that festival musicians adhered to.) I’m not sure he ever sold a single item, but it was a great triumph when his three-story booth was declared “the tallest building in the kingdom.”
Soon, that victory paled in comparison to his new dream. The dream of being king.
Well, not the actual king responsible for the actual kingdom. That would be FAR too much work. But a gypsy king…
Therefore, I was not surprised when Madeleine informed me that she was applying for her own booth at the festival. “It’s not like it was when we were growing up.” “It’s so competitive to get in now.” My friends warned me not to get my hopes up.
Once again, the universe provided. Madeleine teamed up with her mentor to devise new products and to present them in the most appealing manner. I didn’t think anything would come of it, but since she was only sixteen, I told myself that the application and proposal process was a great homeschool project.
Two days after turning this in, she received an ecstatic phone call, “You’re in! You’re in! We loved your samples, you’re in!” I tried not to panic.
Homeschooling provided a perfect environment for the work ahead. We still needed to produce 10,000 bars of soap, and staff our booth… with children? Madeleine’s mentor and her daughter joined our paltry workforce and helped with everything from ideas to sales. Everybody pulled together and worked hard to make this happen.
Well, some kids worked harder than others…
When Madeleine first decided to apply, we had no idea that the festival had recently acquired a new general manager. The universe provided again, giving us an ally with a vision of a festival with Dancing Dog Dairy right smack in the middle of it (both literally and figuratively).
But the universe didn’t stop there. Unbeknowst to us all, the manager assigned us the exact location that my dad had reigned over as gypsy king so many years before.
Looking back at the past nine years from the first glimmer of an idea, to our fourth year at TRF, the benefits become clear.
All of the children have gained poise and confidence in the show ring.
They’ve learned new skills.
They’ve developed strong work ethics,
and made good friends,
in high places.
Homeschooling allowed my children to start fulfilling their dreams while continuing their education, instead of having to wait until after college graduation. Just as we had no idea what was in store for us when we started this journey, we are equally unclear on how it will end; but one thing I’ve learned about childrearing, homeschooling and running a business is that it really helps if you’re insane,
and I know exactly who I inherited it from.
Genevieve–is a former public and private school teacher who has five children and has been homeschooling for the past thirteen years. In her free time she provides slave labor to Dancing Dog Dairy, making goat milk soap and handspun yarn, which can be seen on Our Facebook Page and at Dancing Dog Dairy .