Years ago, in my previous life, I was a journalist and one of my favorite things to write were profiles. While I do not have time to write profiles at this point in my life, I do feel strongly that so many stories are still going untold.
Introducing the Awake Mama Series, which an occassional series that features a lovely, Awesomely Awake mom (or dad) as often as possible. I’ve already done two of these interviews with Zina Harrington of Lasso the Moon , Jena Strong and Rachel Stafford of Hands Free Mama.
This week, I’m honored to help you get to know Amy Bowers, as in Amy from Mamascout. If you don’t know Amy yet, you have to check out her upcoming e-course The MamaScout Lab. It’s going to be awesome. I cannot wait!
I first got to know Amy’s blog when I heard about her Mama Merit Badges. She and I have become fast friends in the blogosphere because we both believe so strongly in family connections. I love Amy’s Monday Missions.
Let’s get started. This interview is long but if you can stick it out to the end, there’s a question for you to answer to win three Mama Merit Badges of your choice!!
1. Amy, how do you seek out meaningful moments in your everyday family life?
To me a meaningful moment is when my kids, husband and I are living slow, consciously and connected. When we are overbooked and under deadlines, that connection seems to fray. With three very active home schooled kids and two adults who are pursuing our own passions, it happens often that we are living a frantic lifestyle. But, we try to have very mellow mornings. Everyone is able to wake up when they want (usually by 8 a.m.), play or read for awhile and then we have a good breakfast. Throughout the day, we eat our meals together, consult each other on projects, help each other, take walks, and at bed time we usually read for at least an hour.
All those touchstones through out the day keep us connected and grounded and are the most meaningful times for me. They are ordinary but very special.
2. Can you give us an example of when you’ve had to parent from your heart rather than being an authoritative parent?
Hmmm, that would probably be concerning co-sleeping. I am a huge advocate of co-sleeping and loved it when my children were babies and younger. But as they got older and started moving to their own spaces, I loved that too! All that room! And so much better sleep. But, one child in particular still needs to sleep with us sometimes. He has a very active and high functioning mind and really just needs the comfort that sleeping in our bed provides. Theoretically, I completely support this. But I went through a time when it really annoyed me and I became more focused on getting him to sleep in his own bed than understanding what his true needs were. After some struggle and guilt and anger on both of our parts, I decided that I just needed to do what makes him feel the safest. And the thing is, his episodes of anxiety have become less frequent the more I support his needs.
3. What’s your most magical family moment?
On a daily basis? Our story time at night. We read chapter books for about an hour every night and get so wrapped up in the adventures of the Ingalls family, Meg’s trip to outerpace to save her father, or Huckleberry Finn and his dead cat.
4. How do you take care of yourself so you can take great care of your family?
My husband and I love to stay up late drinking wine and talking or watching old movies. I have a crazy awesome monthly craft group I won’t miss for the world. And my husband and I are getting better (trying to) at giving each other blocks of time to work on our independent projects. We also have a great old claw foot tub that acts as a therapist. A hot soak in it and all your troubles are gone.
5. What does living fully in this world mean to you?
Saying yes as often as possible and ALWAYS questioning my assumptions, paradigms and old ways of thinking. Also, looking closely at the natural world around me. I am frequently watching the sky, trees or bodies of water and noticing the layers of activity happening concurrently in the natural world while we are slumping along to the grocery store.
6. What do you love to create and how in the world do you find the time to do it?
I love to write, make things, cook, and organize projects. It is a struggle to find the time to do everything I want to do. I have several methods of getting my stuff done. Most importantly, I set priorities and let other things slide – my laundry is not always caught up, I am horrible at sending birthday cards, and paperwork, journals and books are always threatening to consume me!
I also found the best way to get something done is just to start doing it. I used to spend a lot of time devising a plan, trying to get more organized and thinking about the most effective way to approach a project. Now, I just do it. And what gets done, gets done, and some stuff doesn’t. And that is ok.
Lastly, I now embrace restrictions. I understand that limitations (on anything: time, money, materials) is really a gift that allows for even more creativity and big thinking. So, instead of moaning about the problem, I realize that it just became more interesting.
7. We believe that being proud of EFFORT is the key to success. Give us an example of a time when you praised effort over achievement.
Always. I talk to my kids frequently about showing up, trying and being very willing to make mistakes. I especially point out all the risks, mistakes and even failures I have going on in my own creative life. Just today, my daughter parroted back my words. I was trying to help her set up her bead loom and just had the warp loaded up perfectly and then my hand slipped and it all fell apart. I was so mad. I pushed the whole thing away and took a deep breath. She said, “You always tell me not to give up, we can try it again.” And we did, together. And it worked! She made an amazing bracelet.
I try to model an attitude where process and grit trump product.
8. Something that you are so happy you said YES to in your life.
The big yes things like extended vacations or moving or having children are profound. But I think what I am happiest about saying “yes” to are the millions of little things are so simple and ordinary. Letting kids: wear what they want, use what materials they need for their creations, read what they want, bring home weird stuff from the alley, raise a squirrel, camp in a fort in the living room… you get the idea.
I think these little moments will add up to something big when they grow up and remember their childhood.
9. How is your family living authentically?
By consciously choosing to create the life we want. It is not perfect and there are many areas we want to improve. But we accept that it is our responsibility to create the life we want. I love the line from the Billy Collins poem, “What scene would I want to be enveloped in more than this one…” That is how I feel, there is no need to escape, because we are making the life we want right here.
10. Tell me about unschooling and how it works for your family?
I am not a fan of labels, and so am not sure unschooling is even the label for us. Maybe we are organic learners or open source learners or life learners. Basically, we learn all day, everyday, all year long. How do we do this? By talking, and reading and making all the time. As the kids have gotten older we do a little more structured skills work, but on the whole they are so curious and passionate about learning, I really try not to muddle up their intrinsic drive by usurping their enthusiasm with stale lesson plans. Our lifestyle takes a full time parent (me) who is also passionately curious to model and guide them. I do not have a lazy mind and I do not expect them to either. We are constantly wondering, researching, connecting and thinking about everything.
My husband is very supportive and is lucky enough to have a job where he has long stretches of time off, so we can travel and spend a lot of time together as a family. Our families live in the same town too, so the kids are able to learn from their extended family. It goes back to the question about living authentically. We make our lives. We are not victims of consequence or living a default life. This is it, so we are trying to make it the best we can with the resources and interests we have.
11. And, as unschoolers, how do your days flow? Does your family have its own rhythm and how do you stick to it?
I gave hint of of rhythm earlier but the truth is our days are pretty varied with co-ops, classes, family field trips and social engagements. A typical day (where we are not going on a big adventure) includes everyone waking up on their own, usually with the sun, hot breakfast, morning reading and playing, then we come together for learning lab (the most traditional part of the day, I suppose). That is where we work on projects and basic skills together. One son wants to learn to read, so he eagerly works though an Explode the Code book. The other kids are working on some math with me now.
They are very interested in word problems and we are having alot of fun with that. Frequently, we will go on a walk in our neighborhood as part of a bigger project. We live in a great neighborhood with many things within walking distance; a library, art museum, college campus, lakes, restaurants, and alleys. After lunch, the afternoon is spent reading or working on independent projects. My kids play games together, invent paracosms, sew stuffed creatures, solder electronics, build animal habitats, care for their animals, cook, write in their journals, make art, and sometimes are just bored. Some kid will usually help with dinner. We eat together and then take a walk if we can.
Everyone is pretty eager to go to bed around 8:30 because we have our big out-loud reading in the evening.
Thank you, Amy! It’s so wonderful getting to know you better.
OK, Awake Readers, to win your three highly deserved merit badges, please leave a comment telling us which of Amy’s badges you deserve to earn. A random winner will be selected and notified by email — so make sure to leave your email address! Deadline: August 22, 2012. I will draw the random winner on Thursday, August 23. Good luck!