What Every Farmer's Child Was Expected to Know

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Old-Fashioned Advice


Some things can be learned from experience, while others just need to be taught. Here's what a farmer's child was expected to know in the year 1867—with a boy's list and a girl's list. Growing up on farm is still like nothing else, so we've added some more handy and unusual things you might not know if you didn't grow up on a farm!

Judging from these tips from 1867, the expectations of children between then and now have certainly changed quite a bit!

What Every Farmer's Boy Should Know

  • To dress himself, black his own shoes, cut his brother's hair, wind a watch, sew on a button, make a bed, and keep all his clothes in perfect order and neatly in place
  • To harness a horse, grease a wagon, and drive a team
  • To milk cows, shear sheep, and dress veal or mutton
  • To reckon money and keep accounts accurately and according to good bookkeeping rules
  • To write a neat, appropriate, briefly expressed business letter, in a good hand, and fold and superscribe it properly, and to write contracts
  • To plow, sow grain and grass seed, drive a mowing machine, swing a scythe, build a neat stack, and pitch hay
  • To put up a package, build a fire, whitewash a wall, mend broken tools, and regulate a clock

​What Every Farmer's Girl Should Know

  • To sew and knit
  • To mend clothes neatly
  • To dress her own hair
  • To wash dishes and sweep carpets
  • To trim lamps
  • To make good bread and perform all plain cooking
  • To keep her room, closets, and drawers neatly in order
  • To make good butter and cheese
  • To keep accounts and calculate interest
  • To write, fold, and superscribe letters properly
  • To nurse the sick efficiently and not faint at the sight of a drop of blood
  • To be ready to render efficient aid and comfort to those in trouble, in an unostentatious way
  • To receive and entertain visitors when her mother is sick or absent

Talk about responsibilities! What did children of your day need to know? Tell us in the comments below!

Learn more about old-fashioned etiquette: Victorian Era Etiquette and Manners



Nancy Janzen (not verified)

2 months 3 weeks ago

To mow the lawn in summer and shovel the snow in winter. To cross streets safely. Parents didnt chauffer us to school.

Catherine Sanders (not verified)

2 months 3 weeks ago

Growing up in the 50’s and early 60’s in a large family, responsibilities were given before the age of 5, watching over younger siblings and light house chores such as clearing the table after each meal. As I got older, by the time I reached the age of 12, I was able to sew all of my dresses and sewed for you younger sisters, wash and iron the clothes, cook a complete meal, bake bread for each day of the week and clean the whole house, help keep the yard swept.

Cheryel Lemley… (not verified)

2 months 3 weeks ago

I'm a quilter. I have read that at the age of 5 a girl was taught how to piece a simple nine patch square. She was to complete a quilt a year because in ten years she would be of marigable age and would need her own linens. And there was no Walmart then.

Joanna Smith (not verified)

1 year 5 months ago

I grew up in the city, but ran to the country when I was 20 years old, and married a Farmer. My only sibling was a Girly Girl and I was the Tomboy. Before I was 9 years old I could drive, change a tire, re-wire my mother's vacuum cleaner that she yanked all the plugs off of, shoot a gun with amazing accuracy, paint buildings neatly, and do basic woodworking projects. My father taught me everything HE knew, and told me to never be dependent on my future husband. My first REAL job was as an Auto Mechanic for Sears Auto Centers while I went to school to become a Police Officer, which I DID. Now, as a Senior Citizen, I can still do all those things and all the wife and mom stuff as well. NO ONE should rely on others to do what they can do for themselves, even today, with technology and automatic everything. It's up to Parents to turn off the electronics and teach your kids to be self-sufficient. We could lose the Grid at any time, then what?

CNY Disney Girl (not verified)

2 years 2 months ago

Because of the huge change in technology in the last 150 years, it's understandable that times and chores have greatly changed. We have a blended family full of adult millennials. They are of both genders, both political parties and all in their 20's and 30's. They are all hard workers who have chosen different careers, some own homes and some don't, some have children and some don't, some live near us and some don't. t of nine kids, only the youngest still lives with us but has a full-time job and pays his own bills. I'll never understand the term, 'snowflake,' and why people feel the need to somehow insult another person simply because they have made different choices or be held responsible for what parents have or have not taught them. Every generation has worked hard for what they have and that continues with this generation. It's just the kind of work that coincides with the current times. People need to relax.