Autodidacts Creating Culture

7 years of beekeeping with 3 kids: what they learned

It’s ideal for children to learn beekeeping with their parent or a mentor.

In 2009, I wrote a Honeybee Curriculum post.  I developed it because I couldn’t find much on the Internet related to kids and beekeeping.  At the time, our homeschooled son, who would have been in high school, was willing and interested to learn about beekeeping.  It turned out that the information I compiled became our ‘science’ curriculum not only for him, but for our other two children as well.  


Our two boys, who are four years apart, and who are both in college now, helped with the hives when they were teenagers.  Our daughter began helping me at age seven, and now at twelve, she continues.

I’ve never pushed beekeeping on them.  I’ve invited them to help, to see, or to listen to me talk about bees.  By doing most of the work and explaining what I’ve done, somehow I’ve managed to keep them involved.

The truth is, having an urban apiary has been:  an experiment; a source of observation; a hobby; and a craft for all of our family.  I started beekeeping as a fluke.  But what I’ve realized is that my interest sparked theirs.

Sometimes a parent’s interest can spark a desire in their children to learn the same thing.  

In looking back at that curriculum and thinking about what we actually used from it, I realized we didn’t follow it in any particular order.  We adapted parts of it to meet our needs, when it suited us.  

But what I recently wanted to figure out was, what did they learn from beekeeping?  

The following list about what my kids did related to honeybees is meant to encourage readers to begin backyard beekeeping and get kids involved too.


  • read about the basic bee (insect) anatomy
  • studied honeybee diseases
  • learned the different roles of the bees and their use of pheromones
  • read chapters or all of Beekeeping for Dummies

It’s useful for kids to learn the age-old skill of  beekeeping.  In this photo, the bees were dusted with powdered sugar by our daughter to control Varroa Mites.

Hive Activities

Activities Related to Honeybees

  • used a store-bought pheromone to attract a swarm
  • helped me with an experiment about water sources for honeybees (part one and the results in part two
  • photographed me catching a swarm, etc.
  • helped me catch a swarm
  • observed honeybees in every season
  • noted a flower’s color, shape and scent that attracted honeybees
  • discovered how temperature, humidity and the ratio of water to sugar effected the honey product
  • counted the frequency of bees visiting particular plants, Echium vs. Lavender
  • learned about other pollinators including native bees, yellow jackets and birds
  • listened to talk endlessly about what I observed going on after I inspected the hives; or to the story about how I stopped my bees from swarming
  • wrote a Kafkaesque short story about bees for a Writer’s Workshop
  • watched documentaries about honey bees such as:  “Bees:  Tales from the Hive,” and “An Introduction to Keeping Bees”
  • cleaned propolis


  • visited an apiary and learned about a beekeeping business
  • met other beekeepers (amusing and interesting people) and observed how they raise queens and keep bees
  • attended beekeeping club meetings and observed the dynamics of running a club (meetings, elections, accounting, fundraising, etc.)
  • visited me working at the bee booth at the Alameda County Fair

Honeybee by-product Activities

  • extraction methods of honey:  hand-crank, electrical machine, scraping frames, simple-drip from cheese cloth
  • wax cleaning process
  • rendering beeswax for lip balm, body butter and candles
  • honey tastings and the intricacies of the flavors of honey
  • how to bottle, label and sell honey
  • cooking with honey

As I made the list above I became nostalgic about all that’s happened.  Our two sons don’t take part as much because they aren’t around, busy.  (But they’re still interested to hear from me about what’s going on in the hives.)  

It’s funny how our eldest used his knowledge to give an oral presentation about beekeeping in his Communication class; and he used the same topic for an English paper in college.

Over seven years, the way I’ve managed the hives has changed (another post).  The creatures are just as complex, mysterious, and interesting to me as they were when I began.

I’m often confused about what is actually going on in the hive.  I never have definitive answers, only guesses, about why my bees have vanished periodically.  I rely heavily upon my experience and my intuition about how to care for them. 

Honey bees are fascinating creatures headed by a matriarch. 

And when I’ve asked my sons or daughter for their help and they agreed, without prodding, I’ve been tickled.  Maybe they’re just sweet and they’ve indulged me.

The main thing I’ve learned and I think they have too is that we can’t control everything in our lives.  In particular, we can’t control nature.  We’ve accepted the fact that we’ll never fully understand honeybees, and we’ll continue to foster their care.



8 Responses to “7 years of beekeeping with 3 kids: what they learned”

  1. Kay Rodriques

    As a kid, less than 6 years old, we had a school field trip to the farm next door to ours (in Jamaica). Because the farms were so far apart, I didn’t even know we had a neighbor. Anyway, it was one of the most memorable school events of my elementary years. We got to eat honey, dripping off the honeycomb. All the kids on the trip were happy, happy and messy. Hands on is the best way, for kids to remember and to become interested. Your kids remember the way I did, how special the creatures are.Good job!

    • Kristin

      I think you should write a book about your life in Jamaica. Your stories are wonderful. I agree that ‘hands on’ is ‘hands down’ a great way to learn.

  2. Jennifer P Briffa

    When I read this I again felt so strongly how homeschooling is such an organic and wonderful way to educate our kids. The richness of the life helps prepare them in so many ways that I believe have long lasting benefit. It feeds their thirst for knowledge and is so rewarding. This bee learning in your family is a wonderful example of this. I loved reading this thanks.

    • Kristin

      Dear Jenny,

      What a heartfelt comment. Thank you.

      I agree with your words that homeschooling can be “an organic and wonderful way to educate our kids.”

      Our involvement with beekeeping has been ongoing and irregular. Not every kid did all of the things I mentioned. Some did more than others.

      I think that it’s natural for learning to be a progression. And really, we just figured out how to do all the tasks on an as-needed basis, or because I/we wanted to try something new.

      It’s funny how my act of listing all the things they’ve done makes their accomplishments concrete; somehow it validates beekeeping as being an authentic way to explore science. That’s because it is.

      I’m grateful we have the option in CA for alternative and self-directed learning at-home.

    • Kristin

      Hi Lumar,

      It would be fun if you’d write a poem about your memories of your Grandfather’s beekeeping–and if you do, I’d love to share it here. Your poems are an example of a self-directed learning activity–and that’s what I’m really trying to promote here–people’s interests.


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