The Kentucky Family Who Was “Living Off the Grid”

child with Down syndrome looks at yellow daffodils in her hands

You know what annoys the crap out of me? Posts like that one from Off The Grid News that was was going viral recently about the family in Kentucky who were living off the grid. They had their kids taken away, etc, etc and everyone was freaking out about it, like OH MY GOD! The government is going to come and take everyone’s kids away! They are unschooling! This is about the government’s quest to control homeschooling! ACK! This is about a crackdown on religion or having lots of kids!

And seriously. On. And on. And on.

What a load of hogwash.

To be clear: we have a highly imperfect government. Amen.

But there was a hell of lot more to that story than Off the Grid News – and facebook groups full of supporters – were talking about. Like the family was basically living in a tent – with SNOW, it’s Kentucky and barely out of winter – without water. I mean, that’s a pretty big deal.

What pisses me off about this kind of thing is that everyone starts thinking that “off the grid” is synonymous with some piss-poor parenting. And it’s not. It’s synonymous with independent living.

The deal with living off the grid is, you are self-sufficient. You get your own power going, you deal with your own basic needs like water, sewage, garbage and so forth. You are not tethered to companies and as such, you don’t have bills like people who live on the grid do. Or rather, you have a different set of bills.

Rather than pay for your electricity every month, you invest in a solar system and let that carry you forward. Rather than pay for your garbage to be taken out weekly by the city, you pay yourself when you haul it to the dump. And you deal with your own compost.

And you deal with your own shit. Literally. You let your waste matter decompose and you haul it out of your outhouse when the time is right.

Living off the grid isn’t an excuse to not live responsibly or to not allow your children to grow up comfortably. Living off the grid is teaching your kids how to actually do these things for themselves.

Unschooling follows similar lines. I mean, you want to let your kids just run loose and without guidance? That’s one way – and it sounds a lot like that family in Kentucky was following that path. Or there is another way, which is to really work with and nurture each child. Sans curriculum but definitely with guidance. You can raise your kids responsibly and unschool them as a way to prepare them for their future – for sure! – but stories like this give the whole lot a really bad name.

Living off the grid isn’t something that most people should or or even could do. That’s just a fact – it’s not easy getting set up, and frankly, most people in developed countries now simply lack those types of skills – people don’t know how to wash their clothes by hand anymore, or how to run water pipes from their springs to their kitchen. How to compost or how to deal with their waste. These are forgotten skills in most areas of the United States.

But the fact that some people tried it and didn’t do it responsibly while caring for their 10 dependents shouldn’t give the rest of us – who ARE doing it responsibly and doing it well – a bad name.

://end rant.

Meriah
Meriah Nichols is teacher and artist who lives in a yurt off the grid. She is deaf, has 3 kids (one with Down syndrome) and a lot of chickens. She writes about travel, disability, and getting dishes done. She likes her tea Earl Grey and hot.
Meriah

@meriahnichols

#deaf mom, teacher & #disability activist, living in a yurt #offthegrid. 3 kids (1 with #downsyndrome), a camera and a lot of chickens. Never a dull moment
5 Things You Should Know About Saying “Angel” with “Down syndrome” https://t.co/ZWIYFlLxAN https://t.co/elUKKrmVZ9 - 14 hours ago
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2 Comments

  • Insufficient or incorrect water, sheltering in a tent in snow, un-schooling in a way that people think is unsuitable. Those seem to be the primary complaints those against this off grid family have.
    Those same complaints could be leveled against the pioneers. Or poor people even in this past century. I didn’t hear how any of the children were harmed by their situation. Maybe I just missed it. So I withhold judgement against the family and watch the governments actions with a skeptical eye.
    But I find myself using the experience of this family to measure my own of grid plans with my children.
    Being able to show sufficient water for living, shelter that can be kept heated above 60 degrees F, and a clear educational progress in the major educational fields (reading, writing, math, etc). If our off grid plans neglect to address these issues we will face similar or worse scrutiny. So we should all take the lessons to heart.

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