Portage & Main

| BLOG |

How to Homeschool Children Off-Grid in 2024 

Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, ‘Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out’, Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos. 

Pathfinders SChool_PortageandMainBoilers

The Rise of Off-Grid Homeschooling

In today’s fast-paced and interconnected world, the idea of homeschooling off the grid may seem unconventional, even radical to some. Yet, as the possibilities of technology expand, so too does the desire of families to seek an alternative approach to education that emphasizes self-reliance, practical skills, and a deeper connection with nature. In this blog post, we will examine the benefits and potential drawbacks of homeschooling off grid, shedding light on this unique pathway to education.

Living off grid often sparks notions of surviving in remote wilderness, completely detached from society. While this can be the case for some families, it is more commonly associated with a conscious choice to minimize technological dependencies and prioritize a sustainable lifestyle. Off grid homeschooling encourages parents and children to forge a deep connection with nature, fostering an appreciation for the environment and instilling valuable life skills.

Why Families Are Choosing Homeschooling Away from the Grid

In recent years, an increasing number of families embracing the homesteading and prepping lifestyle have made the bold decision to withdraw their children from public schools and embark on the journey of homeschooling. According to the National Home Education Research Institute, approximately 2.5 million children in the United States were homeschooling in 2019. This exponential growth can be attributed to diverse reasons such as personal philosophies, dissatisfaction with the traditional education system, or the desire for a customized education to meet individual needs.

This transformation has also been driven by a range of factors, such as concerns about safety, curriculum limitations, and a desire for a more self-sufficient and resilient lifestyle. 

  • Safety Concerns: One of the primary reasons families choose to homeschool their children within the context of homesteading and prepping is concern for their safety. This is driven by a combination of factors, including rising violence and bullying in schools, exposure to harmful influences, and the lack of control over their children’s well-being.
  • Curriculum Limitations: Another factor prompting homesteading and prepper families to opt for homeschooling is the frustration with curriculum limitations in public schools. The standardized approach fails to cater to the unique needs and interests of children, hindering their holistic development. 
  • Self-Sufficiency and Resilient Lifestyle: Homesteading and prepping families prioritize self-sufficiency and resilience as essential life skills in a rapidly changing world. By homeschooling their children, parents can instill values such as sustainability, self-reliance, and critical thinking that align with their lifestyle goals. Homeschooling complements the efforts of off grid or self-reliant parents in the raising of their children to be adaptable, resourceful, and prepared for any challenges they may face.
  • Building Strong Family Bonds: Homeschooling allows families to spend more quality time together, fostering strong relationships and deepening the parent-child bond. Research suggests that close family ties positively impact a child’s emotional well-being, academic success, and overall development.

The Core Benefits of Off-Grid Education

  • Personalized Learning: Off-grid homeschooling allows you to design an educational experience that ignites your child’s passion for learning, adapting to their unique learning styles and interests.
  • Practical Life Skills: Beyond academics, children learn invaluable skills such as gardening, cooking, and resource management, essential for a self-sufficient life.
  • Strengthened Family Bonds: This educational path brings families closer, creating a supportive and nurturing environment for growth.
  • Environmental Awareness: Living and learning off the grid instill a profound respect for nature, teaching children the importance of conservation and sustainable living.
  • Integrating Academics with Homesteading: Off-grid homeschooling seamlessly blends daily homesteading tasks with educational lessons, turning every chore into a learning opportunity. From math and science to history, the practical application of academic concepts has never been more engaging.
  • Adapting to the Seasons: With off-grid homeschooling, the curriculum evolves with the seasons, offering diverse learning opportunities throughout the year. This dynamic approach ensures that education is always relevant and connected to the natural world.
  • Creating a Vibrant Off-Grid Homeschool Community: Transitioning to off-grid homeschooling doesn’t mean going it alone. Building a community with other like-minded families can provide a supportive network, enriching your child’s educational experience through shared learning and collaboration.
Pathfinders SChool_PortageandMainBoilers

Renowned bushcraft expert Dave Canterbury from the Pathfinders School teaching children outdoor wilderness skills at Old School Survival Boot Camp. Field trips and homeschool co-ops offer wonderful interactive and hands-on learning opportunities with like-minded folks.

Is Off-Grid Homeschooling Right for You?

The answer to that question is quite simple… YES! You need neither access to high-speed internet nor a whole room dedicated to homeschooling to offer a rich and inspiring learning experience for your children. A few shelves or storage tubs are all that is needed to house learning supplies in an organized manner.

Space for books somewhere in the house, storybooks, living books, history books, any kind of book your children are inspired by and want to sink their teeth into are worthy of a spot in even a limited space home. Borrowing books from the local library can be a great way to open up the joys and wonders of reading to your children when home space or the family budget will not allow the development of an extensive home library.

Reading books will not be a drain on your off-grid energy system – nor will it cause the brain drain far too many children who are addicted to video games or cellphones are sadly experiencing it on a global scale.

“Gameschooling” is another superb way to educate your children at home without taxing your off-grid energy system. You can purchase or make printable learning games for your children to use, but old-fashioned board and card games can be infused into your off the grid homeschool too. When playing any type of board games, the children are reading, comprehending, following directions, developing analytical skills, predicting, inferring, and quite often counting too!

If you’re contemplating an educational path that breaks free from conventional norms, off-grid homeschooling offers a compelling alternative. With its focus on personalized education, life skills, and a connection with nature, this approach could be the key to unlocking your child’s full potential. Don’t let your child miss out on this transformative experience—consider the path less traveled and embrace the wonders of off-grid homeschooling.

Vocational Skills and Academics

Off-grid living pairs superbly with teaching useful vocational skills and life skills – and even blending them in with academics! Not only can you successfully homeschool right at your kitchen table with multiple children, but you can (and should) also let the outdoors be your classroom. Sitting in a chair is neither necessary nor conducive to true learning. In addition to using the outdoors, nature, off-grid homesteading chores, and livestock husbandry as part of your child’s academic studies. You can actually use the off-grid home infrastructure as part of your weekly lesson plans.

Life skills learning opportunities abound in your off-grid home. Teaching your children how the water collection system or off-grid well pump works involves science, some math, and most definitely vocabulary comprehension. Learning about water works on your off-the-grid homestead can also be turned into a reading (plans, history, instruction, etc.) and writing lesson to detail how the system works, how to fix a problem, detailing a hand-drawn diagram, or how to expand the system. The child will be learning valuable life skills along with honing their academic abilities.

How Can The Portage Maine Boiler Be Used In My Off-Grid Homeschool?

Using tools, systems, and infrastructure provide functional learning that will enable your children to develop life-long useful skills. The outdoor boiler can be used as a homeschooling teaching tool in your off-grid homeschool. The Portage Main Boiler brings a science lab right into your own home. Children can also keep a log and track how much wood is used throughout each season, compare and contrast their findings, estimated, track, and compare how much wood is used versus heat output and temperature during a day and or week, track the time it takes to chop and split the wood needed to provide energy for the off-grid house, and estimate savings the family has enjoyed by not being connected to a conventional heat or energy source.


Homeschooling during the colder, off-grid winter months can challenge your creativity, but keeping your family warm with activities like insulating projects or studying the physics of heat can become both practical and educational. Just as the grid fades into the background, traditional school walls give way to the boundless classroom of nature. Your off-grid curriculum can adapt to integrate environmental science through tracking snowfall patterns, understanding animal adaptations, or even astronomy during the long, clear nights.

Living off-grid doesn’t mean compromising on education; it’s about enriching it with real-world experiences and survival skills that books can’t teach. Embrace the off-grid homeschooling journey as a profound way to connect with your children and the world around you, preparing them for a sustainable future in harmony with nature.

Offgrid Living

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What if I don’t have a green thumb? Can I still garden?

Absolutely! Just remember that plants grow naturally and do not need your help to do what they naturally do. To boost your confidence, spend some time helping a friend weed their garden and ask for tips at the local farmer’s market.

Q. What does a growing zone have to do with anything?

Different regions throughout the country have designated hardiness zones that help you understand the optimal planting times for your natural season so that you can plant after frost and harvest before the cold returns. These zones are set up according to the average temperatures and last frost dates. Although they are not foolproof, they are a great way to understand growing patterns and think about how you should schedule your planting each year

Q. If I don’t have a lot of land, how many of each kind of animal should I raise?

Start small! Try raising six chickens in the spring, and then add two pigs in the fall so you can raise them over the winter and have them butchered in the spring. In general, remember that animals like to have company, so just make sure that you have at least two of each breed and they will be happy

Q. What if I don’t use animal products? Can I still be self-sufficient and live off the land?

Yes, you can! Instead of relying on animals for meat, milk, eggs, and fur, research ways to grow the right plants as substitutes. For instance, look into different types of legumes that will provide you with the protein you need. You will still want some animals for brush control and compost, but you can rethink what breeds best serve your goals

Q. How self-sufficient can I be?

This is entirely up to you and how much time and effort you want to put into it. As you expand your abilities to grow produce and raise animals, you can get to the point where you do not need to rely on the grocery store for your meats, eggs, and vegetables. Other items like rice, grains, flour, foreign spices, and fruits may be difficult to exclusively grow, but if you are determined to only eat what you grow, it is certainly possible to expand your self-sufficiency that way

Portage & Main Ultimizer


1st : First pass
2nd : Second pass
3rd : Third pass
4th : Fourth pass
A. Refractory brick lining & dry base design
B. Air from above & below
C. Full length quad-pass heat exchanger and upper baffle
D. Water – cooled rear baffle
E. Sectional, easy to repair design

A. Refractory Brick Lining

The Portage & Main Ultimizer is a refractory lined, dry base boiler. In the industry it has become known as an “updraft gasifier” because of its efficient burn. The Ultimizer is simple to use, easy to maintain and not fussy about the fuel it burns. It is very important to understand the “fire triangle” in order to fully appreciate the advantages of the Ultimizer design, and how it will save you fuel, money and time. To achieve a clean, efficient burn with complete combustion, an optimal balance of OXYGEN, HEAT & FUEL is required. The Portage & Main Ultimizer has been specifically designed to achieve this optimal balance.

Dry base design, zero ash line corrosion & no bridging 
The heat stored in the refractory lining helps ensure that a more complete combustion process occurs. I.e. fuel is reduced to charcoal in a 3-stage process.

STAGE 1: The fuel is heated to evaporate and drive out moisture. This starts at 212 degrees F

STAGE 2: It starts to break down on a chemical level at 500 degrees F. Volatile matter is vaporized. These vapors contain 50% to 60% of the heat value of the fuel, making it imperative for them to be burnt properly at a temperature in the range 1100 degrees F for maximum combustion efficiency. When all the volatile gases have been released, the remaining material is charcoal

STAGE 3: Charcoal burns at temperatures in excess of 1100 degrees F. Latent heat also helps in the re-ignition of the fire at the start of the next burn cycle. It also helps to dissipate moisture that is a result of the combustion process. The dry base boiler design gives a very hot burn. The water jacket sits above the brick line so it isn’t up against the fire, taking away the heat prematurely. This eliminates ash line corrosion and the fuel is completely burnt, resulting in considerably less ash.

Portage & Main Refractory Brick


B. Air from above & below

Exhaust gases make their 1st and 2nd pass at the top of the firebox where they move under and around a water-cooled baffle and into the heat exchanger. Gases then travel to the front of the boiler in a 3rd pass, make a 180 degree turn and move in a 4th pass to the back of the heat exchanger. In this way, all available heat is taken from exhaust gases before they exit the chimney. It gives up to 50% more heat transfer compared to other non water-cooled, non brick lined designs.

C. Full length quad-pass heat exchanger and upper baffle

The Ultimizer heat exchanger runs the full length of the boiler. It is completely surrounded by water which gives maximum heat transfer

Portage&Main Ultimizer Heat Exchanger

D. Water-cooled rear baffle

The water-cooled baffle at the rear of the Ultimizer fire pot absorbs heat and traps combustion vapors. Turbulence is created when air is introduced from below and above the fire. This turbulence provides an optimal burning environment for the vapors, leading to a hotter and more efficient burn. Also, by trapping the vapors, they are thoroughly burnt before entering the high efficiency heat exchanger. This heat exchanger is totally surrounded by water for maximum heat transfer.

E. Sectional, easy to repair design

Not a throwaway design like other brands are. The Ultimizer weighs substantially more than other brand boilers. That’s due to the heavy weight, long lasting, quality materials that go into our design. It provides a long-term, sustainable solution to your heating needs. At the end of its long life, the water jacket can be replaced. Just remove the top half of the boiler and bolt on a new top section, no welding required and your trusty boiler is good to go again. This means a very sustainable warranty, resulting in savings for the customer of several thousand dollars by rebuilding rather than replacing the entire boiler.

Q. My current outdoor boiler had constant issues with the water jacket, how expensive is it to repair this unit?

The water jacket comes up a lot with customers who’ve used a water boiler before as this is the most frequent point of failure on boilers. Water jackets frequently fail because of ash-line corrosion – our dry-base design has eliminated this. Further to this, ¼” thick cold-rolled steel is used to make the firebox; 2x as heavy as what some competitors use.

Most outdoor boilers are built around this water jacket in such a way that repairing is usually not offered as a warranty solution. Issues requires full dismantling of the boiler and shipping out, or waiting for someone experienced in welding and water jacket repairs to get to you. Both “solutions” often result in days of lost heating. Most warranties will mean a complete replacement of the whole unit.

At Portage & Main, our equipment is built to last, not to be tossed in the junkyard. Should problems with the water jacket arise, it has been built as a separate component within the unit’s sectional design. Simply unbolt and replace or repair on-site within just a few hours. This repair would be 1/3 – ¼ of the cost of competitors.

Furthermore, as EPA standards and levels change, it is nice to know you have rebuildable unit that you can keep, repair and next generations can use far into their futures.

Q. Is the cost of an outdoor wood boiler of this size and style really worth it?

Trying to determine whether the upfront cost of a wood boiler of the size and quality of the Portage & Main Wood Series Ultimizer is worth it will depend a lot upon the household itself and lifestyle factors. We believe the biggest point of worth is that this system offers a reliable degree of energy independence and sustainability for both residential and commercial use. For those living on farms, acreages, or off-grid locations and businesses, a wood boiler is a reliable heating solution. Even when one has access to utilities, having your own outdoor wood boiler means you don’t have to worry about the rising costs of utilities or potential disruptions from storms or other events. Rather, you get to enjoy reliable, sustainable heating by your own design and that’s a long-term benefit that many find well worth the upfront purchase and installation cost. This gives peace of mind, knowing you can run off the smallest most fuel-efficient generator.

And we do mean sustainable. In a recent interview regarding how to be greener at home, executive director of the Massachusetts Forest Alliance Chris Egan explained that while oil and gas boilers have gotten cheaper, the big benefits remain with wood boilers, stating, “you’re reducing your carbon impact and you’re saving money with a wood system.” It’s the only fuel you can harvest yourself, from your own land in many cases. It’s carbon neutral: the sun and carbon grew the tree, the carbon is released when burned, giving back to future forest growth.

Q. This is my first outdoor wood boiler, how hard is it to care for ?

The Portage & Main Ultimizer Wood Series was built to be exceptionally easy to use and maintain.

  • The control panel at the back is easy to navigate with quality components that, should they ever need to be replaced, can be readily bought around town.
  • The clean-out chamber is designed for easy disposal of ash that’s dropped through the grating.
  • The heat exchanger is easy to clean as build-up is minuscule due to the smoke burn in the upper chamber of the firebox. You pull the small amount of soot forward, then push it back into the firebox – keeping all the mess inside the unit.
  • The water float system readily and quickly identifies your water levels.

The whole unit has been thoughtfully designed to be approachable and easy to use and maintain, while likewise ensuring durability throughout all the winters it’s in use.

Transform Your Heating with the Portage & Main Ultimizer Wood Series. Are you ready to see the difference our product can offer? Contact the team at Heat Smart Plus today to learn more about the best outdoor boiler for heating homes and farms and how you can get one installed on your property!


Idaho Forest Products Commission. (n.d.). What Makes Wood Products So Green? Idaho Forests. https://www.idahoforests.org/content-item/what-makes-wood-products-so-green

Portage and Main_Logo_2024

About Portage & Main

Our head office is located in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Canada. Our dealer network spans North America and we would be glad to put you in touch with one of our knowledgeable agents. Our staff oversees the development of new products, monitors production, designs heating systems, and offers tech support for installers. All our wood furnaces are designed for installation outdoors and deliver wood heat indoors.







(306) 922-1722


Monday-Friday : 8am to 5pm CST

Mailing Address

Courier Delivery

Follow Us

Request Quote



If you are interested in becoming a dealer, please complete the form below. We look forward to speaking with you.

*Required field








Request Quote

We'd love to hear from you. Please complete the form below and we will respond within 24 business hours.

*Required field