Feature

The Farmhouse

Green Lifestyle Magazine

Dropping off a child at daycare can be fraught with worry, heartache and a lot of tears. But when that daycare centre is more like a thriving farm, parental remorse and child reluctance is replaced with something much more contented.

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The Farmhouse kids enjoy the country’s simple pleasures: traversing a fallen tree during a bushwalk.

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How many childcare centre's have their own river to play in? Very few, we think!

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Children at The Farmhouse painting their new cubby house.

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There’s a workshop where children at The Farmhouse can use real hammers, nails and hot glue guns for their creations, illustrating the confidence the staff have in the children.

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A drive down the tree-lined driveway of The Farmhouse in Mansfield, Victoria – past the large dam and paddocks filled with alpacas, goats, horses, cows and sheep – makes it obvious this isn’t your ordinary childcare centre. Then there are the rabbits and guinea pigs, chooks, ducks, mice, lizards and turtles that the children look after and love. And at last you’re welcomed by an impressive vegie garden, a locally built log cabin, an amphitheatre and an eco-cubby house like no other.

“Set on over 12 and a half acres, we’re very connected to the land and the seasons and truly appreciate the daily changes around us,” says Marissa Prudden, director of The Farmhouse. “We leap into each day and immerse ourselves in what Mother Nature has given us as the sun rises – if it’s raining, we jump in puddles and play in the mud pit; if new bunnies or kid goats have been born, we become fascinated with our new arrivals; and if the vegies are ready to be harvested, we create a recipe that suits and cook it together.”

Kim Stoney, founder of The Farmhouse, says her vision was to make a childcare centre for all the people of her local town. “I’m constantly humbled by the sense of community and camaraderie in our town,” says Kim, revelling in the fact that the children and grandchildren of the local tradies who built the centre are the ones who now go there.

The kids aren’t the only ones having fun in the centre. Jade Waszkinel works there as a team member, and she tells us her job is “awesome”. “Every day is different. One day we’re cloud-watching on our backs in the grass and the next we’re collecting chooks’ eggs to make some biscuits. In between we’re catching frogs with the children and after lunch we feed our scraps to the pigs. This isn’t childcare – this is living!”

One mother of three children at the centre says that there’s no “mother-guilt” when she drops off her children. “We moved to the country to be in the country, but the cost of living means both my husband and I have to work. The Farmhouse allows our children to have more to do with the country than we do! They bottle-feed baby lambs, cuddle little ducklings and eat tomatoes straight from the vine. This really is farm life, and our children just love coming here.”

Kim Stoney says it’s because the centre was built for childhood, not childcare. “We’re not minding children until their parents come back. The Farmhouse is part of living, part of these children’s childhood, a magical layer in their fabric of life.”

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Check out the guest blog by Michelle Syme, who sends her kids to The Farmhouse.