When guests previously arrived at the Yurtfarm, Mike Shepherd would take the children fishing for yabbies or teach them how to build a house.
There was no organised direction in the skills he decided to provide, instead it was a series of spontaneous requests.
A few years ago a book titled ‘100 things everybody should know how to do in their lives’ caught Shepherd’s attention.
Standing in a marketplace, he quickly realised the vast amount of skills he had accumulated over the many years of working and managing his own farm was lost on younger children who either didn’t have the opportunity or interest to learn.
“It listed mundane things like telling a story, reading the paper, having manners, lighting a fire, cooking a meal in a hurry. It gave me something to think about,” he said.
Over this month, he decided to put his ideas into practice, and for the first time run a dedicated camp to grow these skills.
The first activity is cleaning up the kitchen, a skill Shepherd feels passionately about. Next, children would light a fire, head down to the workshop and make a paddle.
This paddle would be used for the canoe, as they travelled across a pond to the games area. There they would kick a goal, grab a shovel and dig a hole adding to the already constructed fence.
After pushing a wheelbarrow to the cluster of yurts they sewed a button and finally returned to their fire to boil a cup of tea.
It was not a race Shepherd said, as a pair of children offered him a cup of tea as part of the last leg of their activities, it was about creating tasks in an enjoyable manner.
“This is honing into personal skills for the first time.”
At the end of the training, each child receives a certificate with a list of skills they have learnt.
“It’s the greatest opportunity to save people’s lives,” Shepherd says. “There will be many times where they need all of these skills, and a lot more.”
Tania Fol, who lives in Sydney, brought eight kids to the Yurtfarm over the Easter weekend. As she watched her children and their friends scurry around the farm, it brought back memories of living in her village in the Czech Republic.
“It’s amazing. It’s something we experienced when we were children and it’s good the kids can try it out as well,” she said.
“They build more confidence and independence. They do thing without parents always helping them out.”
Shepherd says the activities are also enjoyable for parents, who often walk away with new friends found around the bonfire.
“All the parents think it’s a terrific idea. There’s too much technology, too much spoiling,” he said.
“The children grow and get good manners. I think these activities have a big future.”
Around 350 people have entered the Yurtfarm over the past two weeks to join the activities.
Shepherd says there has been a diversity of families, school groups and children who live in the surrounding regions who have attended.
The program is for children under 14.
Classes will continue over the next two weeks. For more information call 4829 2114.