Friday, January 30, 2015

Tiny Houses

So, we watched this really intriguing documentary on Netflix about people who live in tiny houses.  "Tiny" meaning about 100 sq ft...some a bit more, and some a bit less.  But tiny nonetheless.  Perhaps because I am so drawn to simple living, I found it to be an amazingly interesting documentary.  My children actually got a bit concerned that I was planning to uproot them again and build a tiny house to live in!  Needless to say, I'm outnumbered, with only one child who is very interested in such a unique concept.  So, no, I'm not planning to do this, but I did very much love the simplicity of lifestyle it represented.  And, who knows...perhaps one day I will need this information (for living in a tiny apartment in a foreign country or something...ya never know what God may have planned, but if it involves a tiny house, I'm good).

Fast forward to today.  I had a meeting at a ministry in town this morning.  So, when I got back to my nest, my youngest daughter was involved in pretending under our dining table.  I peeked in to see what world she had created under there today, and she was very happy to show off her "tiny house."  Oh, I had to smile that she had grasped the idea of a tiny home and was making her own!  

So, here she is all decked out in her leopard print pants (she has a style all of her own!) inviting me to see her tiny house...

And what else is a pretty girl going to decorate her tiny house with?  Pearls and sparkly purple shoe laces, of course!  

Oh, and crayons up in the "rafters"...important to use every extra bit of space in these tiny houses, right?

She points to her "bedroom," complete with cowgirl hat, naturally (she's taken to Texas like a duck to water).  Big sister peeks in to see what's new under the table (always something new!).

And that reminds me...  The big kiddos have been working on a "tiny house" of their own making.  Here's their model of a southern plantation.  It's coming along beautifully, and they are gaining a working knowledge of the master house, slave houses and other specifics of plantation life.

 And there you have it...a brief tour of tiny houses.  Now, seriously, go check out that documentary.  You, too, may be taken with the idea.  ;)

Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Ongoing Nature of Organic Learning

I remember Christmas break when I was a kid.  It was a time to run away from school and anything having to do with school.  I suppose I was so tired of "having to learn" that I kept far from it during the much-awaited Christmas, spring and summer breaks.  

It's quite a different story with my children.  Sure, they love the breaks...the sleeping in and extra movies and special holiday treats.  But, because learning is a lifestyle, and because it's truly enjoyable, there's just a different approach to the breaks.  I found it so intriguing to see the activities they did over the Christmas holidays.  Our oldest daughter was bent over her sewing machine transforming one of my old formal dresses into a new dress for her "Roaring 20's" winter formal.  Our oldest son built a microscope and also played for hours with his snap circuits to create new contraptions.  Our youngest son was often in a closed room teaching himself the next section of Fur Elise on the keyboard, and he spent quite a bit of time building some robots.  And our youngest daughter was busy drawing, playing and forever asking to help make salads.

This is learning.  And it doesn't stop when the calendar switches to June or when the holidays dance in.  Learning is a lifestyle, and they passionately pursue their interests no matter what day of the week or month of the year.  

Think of it as breathing.  We don't get to a certain month on the calendar and then decide to breathe in a different pattern (or to stop breathing altogether!).  Learning is just as natural as breathing.  It need not be canned and artificial for nine months out of the year and then ahhhh...finally-I-can-do-what-I-enjoy for the summer or for the school breaks.  Interesting how when it's so natural and enjoyable, learning will continue on daily, monthly, yearly without anybody prodding them along.

So, school is back in session (whatever that means!), and we are digging again into our study of American history that we left off in December.  We are currently reading about the build-up to the Civil War, and tension is mounting in the United States.  The south is littered with plantations, and Eli Whitney has just invented the cotton gin, making it possible to harvest much more cotton and therefore requiring many more slaves.  

I remembered that I had purchased this wonderful Cut & Assemble book of a southern plantation.  We set up a table with the book, scissors, hot glue and eager children.  

And while they cut and folded and glued, I read.  Friday we read chapter 10 in From Sea to Shining Sea.

And as I was reading about how the "long dirt driveway circled up to the squared, white mansion with its Greek columns and manicured lawn," they looked in their hands as they were themselves right then cutting out the Greek columns to go on the plantation house they were creating.  Over and over again connections are being made.  

We followed that up with reading the final 2 chapters in Abandoned on the Wild Frontier, which also touches on the slavery issue as well as the unfair treatment of native Americans by the government. 

Rather than random isolated tidbits found in a textbook, these are living, breathing ideas that somehow enter into us.  We see the connections...the slaves, the plantations, the mounting tension that led to the Civil War...and how it still affects our country today.  It's not just a boring chapter to read or a list of facts to memorize or meaningless preparation for a test or quiz. actually means something to us.  We live through the eyes of characters.  We seriously laugh and cry and struggle with the rights and wrongs of history.  In short, we learn.

And without any prompting, they then share what they know with others.  Here, they were telling the Asian princess about how the kitchen wing will soon be hooked up to the master house.

And, speaking of her, what do you think she was doing while the others were beginning to build the houses for the plantation?  Well, using scissors like the big kids, of course!  (I love these scissors!  She can finally have success at cutting paper!)  

She has been so interested in using her scissors, so for Christmas, I bought her 2 books with scissor activities.  She loves doing this.  (And I love when a Christmas gift is usable!)

And what else do you suppose she did after she had mastered the scissors for the day?  She pulled out the binoculars and hunted down the kitty.  

Apparently they work upside down...who knew! 

Back to the big kids...  This plantation is a long project, so we expect to be busy doing it next week also.  We hope to go to Hobby Lobby to buy a foam board to glue it all onto, and they want to find some of those fake trees and other goodies to attach to the board.  Organic learning is definitely more messy...sorta like growing  your own tomatoes in soil rather than simply buying them at the grocery store.  But, learning is oh so much more tasty!!

After our reading was finished, our youngest son disappeared into the activity room to attempt adding more onto his Fur Elise.  He's doing an awesome job.

Our oldest son got into his string games and fiddled for a long time with several configurations.  This is my child who loves mind builders, numbers, puzzles and the sort.  And he's good at it!

The littlest lady was busy playing under the table.  She was talking to Dumbo and pretending they were inside a house.  Ahh, imagination unplugged!

Our oldest daughter found her way to the kitchen to make frosting and practice with her new cake decorating kit.  Here she is trying her hand at doing the basket weaving technique.

Speaking of cakes, she made a beautiful creation over Thanksgiving holidays, when a sweet friend and cake decorator in El Paso taught her some great techniques.

And she also made a cake for both my brother and for myself last weekend for our joint birthdays.  Our birthdays are a day apart, and it had been 9 years since we had celebrated it was extra special.  She made us cakes that reflected our interests (and those tools and tape measure she made of fondant!).  

Who knew that the fruit of organic learning would be so terribly yummy?  Love it.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

About This Blog...

Ever have one of those refocusing moments in your life?  Those times when you seem to be picked up by God and set on the sidelines for watch, observe, listen, quiet down, breathe in and out.  I've had what seem to be 100 of those such moments since we moved here to Texas.  My blog has reflected this quiet sidelines position.  I've been blogging sporadically at best.  Those of you who have asked me specific questions and have been awaiting a blog post in answer...well, your patience is golden.  

I seemed to fall into the new year not quite ready for it to roll out just yet.  So here I am on the 22nd day of January pulling out my New Year's horn and finally ready to step into 2015.  Yep, slow start.  Ahh, but it does come with some improvements...including some time I've purposely set aside to keep this blog more current.  So Happy New Year, and off we go...

Let me back up before I move forward...  When I began blogging, I mainly was putting down my spiritual journey and thoughts onto screen.  Though I gave this blog address to very few people, I was utterly humbled at how many people would approach me at the park or grocery store or via email saying that so-and-so sent them a link to a certain blog post and how God spoke to them personally through it.  Other sweet moms asked me to blog specifics of our organic learning style.  And still others who visited our home wanted me to share things like how to make a house feel like a cozy home, how to organize their homes and homeschool areas, etc.  So, during my hiatus when God pulled me aside to give me time to think and observe, He showed me that He was gifting me with a very specific job in sharing these things here on this simple, off-the-beaten-path blog.  I hadn't seen this blog as a specific job assignment from Him, and I honestly wondered why y'all asked me to help you when I myself don't have all the answers and sometimes cannot even find my own cell phone!  But when God opens my eyes to follow Him, I do try to follow and do what He's calling me to do.    

All of that to say: I plan to be here in my blog spot more faithfully.

Good Lord willing, I'll start back up with journaling some organic learning as it unfolds.  And for those of you who have literally been waiting over a year for me to blog about making a house feel homey, I really do have that in the wings.  Soon, very soon.

For all of you sweet people back in the beautiful mountains of Georgia who have kept in contact with cards and email and texts since we moved, thank you, thank you, thank you.  I miss you and treasure you in my heart as special friends.  For all my Texas friends and family who have welcomed us back with open arms, you've been amazing!  And for my new friends who are just stumbling upon this blog, welcome...and I hope you find this blog spot to have some hidden treasures.