Specializing vs Cross-training

You have probably noticed that Joe and I tend to write about different topics.  What interests me the most, I absorb more quickly, have a greater depth of knowledge, and am more passionate to share with others.  The same is true for Joe.  Our complementary hobbies have given us the opportunities to focus on different things.

ying yang

Our Separate Interests

If you want to know about pressure canning soup or have a question about why your chicken laid an egg without a shell, I’d be the one more likely to be able to help you.  If you want to know the comparative differences between a Ruger LCP .380 and a Kel-tec, you’d better ask Joe.  I carry the former, am a competent shot with it, but I had to get it out and look at it to remember what model it was- it’s just “not my thing.”

So, is that okay?

Hmmmm….  for a while maybe.


Ideally, everyone in your group should be cross-trained in all aspects, but in reality, that is hard to do for several reasons.

  1. Time is running out.  Do you feel the same sense of urgency that I do?  There is SO MUCH to learn and I feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day to absorb it all.
  2. Not everyone will.  You may have some people that will be part of your group that are unwilling to do some things (butcher the meat for dinner) or are just not gifted in an area (you don’t want the nervous klutz on guard duty).
  3.  Situations change over time.  It’s hard to anticipate right now all the needs you may have later on.  It’s a good idea to identify people with varying knowledge and skills now and build a good relationship.  You may come to rely on each other heavily in the future.  (I wish we had a nurse or doctor really close.  I would like to get training, but that goes back to #1).
  4. You may be the only in your family preparing at all.  It can be mighty hard to convince loved ones of their need.
  5. You don’t know who all may end up with you when the time comes.  In theory, we probably all plan to limit who we will take in for reasons of space and resources, but we all probably also know on some level, that we would be hard pressed to turn away someone just because we didn’t anticipate them (for example, are you going to tell your daughter, when she shows up with her roommate, that her friend can just hike back across country to her own family?).

The Bigger Plan

So far, Joe and I have pretty much tried to “divide and conquer” the knowledge and skills that need to be acquired so that at least one of us can do/find/identify etc what needs to be done.  But we also know that we need to be teaching each other more as we go (I need to learn how to tie all those knots he is trying to teach you too).

We should also be passing these skills and information on to our children as part of their training.  We aren’t talking about diagramming sentences- these are life skills.  Every child should be learning how to cook, what to do if they are lost, and how to grow or find food.

Practical Examples
  1. What if Joe needs to make a several day hunting trip?  I will still need to know how to operate all our weapons so I can defend the home while he is gone.
  2. What if I am sick or injured?  Joe will need to know how to convert the staples in mylar bags into edible, palatable meals.
  3. And, we don’t like to think about it, but what if you or your spouse passes away?  At least one other person needs to know what each of you knows.

How are you managing the acquisition of knowledge and skills within your own family or group?  Are you being systematic about it?  This may be a good time to sit down and list your needs and try to get at least one person to commit to first, specialize in it and, second, teach the rest.

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12 Comments on “Specializing vs Cross-training”

  1. millenniumfly Says:

    I feel you. Remembering to pass on the info I learn is difficult especially when I’m doing everything I can think of to learn as fast as possible for myself. To make matters worse I’m really the only one doing much of anything to prep long term in my realm. Ugh!


    • Laura Says:


      I understand that frustration. It is very hard for me to understand how those I love, whom I have gently but firmly shown the signs to over and over, can continue to ignore the risk. It does place a feeling of overwhelming responsibility on the shoulders of those who do prep if they feel they have to plan for everyone they love who won’t take care of themselves. We’ll just keep encouraging each other!


  2. MommySetFree Says:

    Great Post! (Hmmm I see a pattern or great posts here!) 😉

    I think it is very very helpful to devide and concour in the beginning because there is so much to learn, but I also agree, once we get to a place of competancy it is very important to share it with the rest of the family. For us… We do both with our sons and daughters. First, the mother teaching the daughters by having them by my side then passing on duties (and the Father also). These skills are not sex exclusive as if there were only “girls jobs and boys jobs” but it is where it starts in our home…then we branch out as those things are mastered. All the while we “cross train” them. So my husband and oldest son are very hand in the kitchen although not nearly as skilled as the girls, just because they don’t have the experiance we do. Likewise, they usually do the butchering, hunting, building, bushcrafting, etc. but my oldest daughter and I have learned how to do many of these things as we help at their side or get the after-lesson as they show off what they have done. 🙂 We shoot and will learn how to hunt more in the coming seasons. We are not as skilled as they are in these areas – but we could get it done in a pinch. And so on…. We could do this for the next 20 years (if we have that luxury) and we would still have so much to learn! 🙂 I am very excited that my kids get to learn these things right from the start – it will be second nature for them. Unlike us late bloomers, who are making up for lost time. 🙂


    • Laura Says:


      You are so right! I should have elaborated more about passing that knowledge on to the children, regardless of gender.

      As you mentioned, in our household we ladies tend to do and become proficient at home-making skills and do less hunting and shooting. We have to be intentional about teaching our boys to cook and our girls to become accurate markswomen because both are very important.

      I too am so grateful God has given us the opportunity to raise our children in this way. I grew up as a city girl, so even though I believed in the importance of raising our own healthy meat and understanding the entire life cycle, it was still very hard for me to get over my Disneyfied image of animals as an adult. Our children have no such issues.

      While they don’t take for granted an animal’s sacrifice, they are not unduly upset either. We never pressed them to participate, but the older ones began asking a few years ago and now they are nearly as skilled as their Daddy. I feel better knowing that my children would not go hungry now just because neatly wrapped meat on styrofoam plates stopped being available in the grocery store.

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment!



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