Sunday, September 30, 2012

Throughout the years we have tried several different plans regarding the length and structure of our school year, but we always seem to come back to roughly six months of school versus six months of living. Not that school isn’t living, but it certainly doesn't leave nearly as much time for the little things that make this life intensely joyful. One year we schooled through the summer, another time we tried a set number of weeks ‘on’ followed by a week or two ‘off’. None seem to work for us as beautifully as working through the fall and winter, covering tons of ground and then soaring free during the warm months of spring and summer. Although technically you couldn’t really call being tethered to a garden and animals ‘free’, it is a much needed break from textbooks, workbooks and fairly rigid structure. And despite the long break we forget very little and jump back in with enthusiasm. Bring it on Algebra!!

Today is our last day of vacation. I was getting antsy to begin school mid-September but the girls firmly held me to my original start date of October 1st. They have been very busy filling their days and didn't relish the  idea of me cutting that time short. Taylor and Riley Mae have been scribbling furiously, working on their novels. Taylor has completed The Sandcastle's Way and is in the process of rewriting and editing. I can definitely see this as published work one day, it makes my heart ache for many days after reading it. Riley Mae is wrapping up the epilogue of her story, The End of the World, The Beginning of the Earth. I have read the first half and to my delight it was extremely well written and hugely imaginative. What a couple of smarty-pants! :) Jordan rarely leaves the house without her camera and has to date created 2 stop motion videos and a music video, which are truly awesome labors of love (I'll share in my upcoming homeschool post!) She is currently working on a Halloween edition, sure to be as amazing as the others. Both Taylor and Jordan have been busy blog designing as well. They collaborate very well together, you can see all the fresh designs here ~ Inspiration Earth, My Rainbow Veins, and Perfectly Sensible Nonsense ~ aren't they lovely? Books have been devoured, a large garden lovingly tended, and many afternoons spent swimming at the local pond. It has been a magnificently restorative vacation. Exactly as I believe vacations are intended to be.  

I decided one last day trip was in order, although to be honest we’ll continue them throughout the year just because they’re such fun. This field trip was to one of my all time favorite locations ~ Old Sturbridge Village. We have a membership and visit several times each year. You’d think that since I’ve been coming here since I was a child it would get old, but really, it never does.

“A trip to Old Sturbridge Village, the largest outdoor history museum in the Northeast, is a journey through time to a rural New England town of the 1830s. Visitors are invited into more than 40 original buildings, each carefully researched, restored, and brought to the museum site from towns throughout New England. These include homes, meetinghouses, a district school, country store, bank, law office, printing office, carding mill, sawmill, gristmill, pottery, blacksmith shop, shoe shop, and cooper shop.” (source)

Each year we like to hit a Homeschool Day. Sure it’s packed with homeschoolers  (some better behaved than others), but there are tons of activities planned throughout the day and almost all of their buildings are staffed with knowledgeable and informative workers attired in costumes from this time period. They make pottery, heat and shape metal, punch tin, plow fields, cook, tend the animals and generally give you a taste of what life was like some years back. Oh, and they talk. A lot. It's wonderful all the learning that happens while doing something so utterly pleasant and relaxing. 

For many years running we also visit for Riley Mae’s birthday in April, per her request. This is the time of year when we ohh and ahh over the newborn sheep and the world is just waking up after a long and restful slumber, it’s always so refreshingly lovely. This visit is  a much more peaceful and quiet one, kind of like our adventure last week.

Jordan, Taylor and I were armed with cameras and spent much of the day looking through a lens. We did pause to listen to the blacksmith for a spell, and I always love chatting with the women working in the Freeman kitchen, seeing what's cooking for that day. They had eaten blood sausage that morning for breakfast, enough to turn a vegan’s stomach, I can assure you. Pig intestines stuffed with blood, cornmeal and bread... ummmm...yum? We spent the day meandering at a slow and easy pace. We had no special destination, it was just a day to enjoy being outside in the warm sun, at a place that we all love. 

Is it just me or can you feel the peace, the silence and the stillness that permeates this village? As a child we would visit regularly, and my mother would sigh, her eyes would go kind of hazy and she would dreamily wish that she lived in the Village. My 15 year old self scoffed at this, was she crazy? No telephones, no cars, no electricity? Let's just say that 25 years later I finally get it. Totally and completely. My bags are packed and ready Mom, when do we leave?

Freeman barn

Of course the car was packed with our snacks and lunch for the day. Even though we do a lot of walking when we visit it is at such a slow and easy pace that you wouldn't think it would exhaust us so completely. But exhaust us it does, every single time! So I make sure to have a dish that will sustain us through the day. This visit featured millet with veggies, roasted cauliflower, garlic rosemary pan bread and roasted nuts and seeds for a snack. We ate as though we hadn't been fed in a week and I think all of us could have taken a brief snooze in the warm sunshine once we finally finished stuffing our faces. 

Jordan and I used this time to snap some more photos... of each other. ;) 

There are some delightful walks through the fields and woods now that weren't there when I was a kid. The trees are beginning to turn, and in my opinion autumn is the very best time of year to hike. One of the walks crosses a bridge where we gratefully sat for a spell. This was at the end of our day and we were all pretty beat. Scott decided a quick snooze in the sun was called for. 

I discovered that I was a bit rusty with my camera, and ended up deleting more pictures than I kept. I've come to rely on Jordan for most all of my photos nowadays, she's got such talent. But it was fun to take it out and play around, it made me think I should do it more often. Although after this post, and its endless photos, you may disagree... 

The town store
The Bank
Country store
People come from all over to spend a day at the village. While we were in the blacksmith's shop we discovered visitors from Switzerland, England, West Virginia and California! How cool is that?

Where I would live...
Freeman house (look at that sky!) It was a perfectly perfect autumn day!
Freeman kitchen (the blood sausage is on that plate...)

This trip, like so many others, was exactly what I needed it to be. It's so nice to step away from the world as we know it once in awhile. While many of the technological advances that we enjoy today seem to make our lives easier, quite often they are at the expense of our health and even our happiness. We think that these time saving devices will enhance our lives, making them easier, when in fact what they often actually do is complicate it all. Yes, they worked hard here in the 1800's, admittedly harder than I want to work! But their lives were real, based firmly in the here and now. I always leave OSV feeling centered and am able to embrace the simplicity of life just a hundred or so years back. I'm take little pieces, from here and from there, and incorporate them into our modern and busier lives. If we could effectively mesh the old with the new, we could probably create something totally amazing. A necessary balance of stillness and growth.

I may pine for the days before cell phones became a permanent appendage, but I always say a little prayer of gratitude for my indoor plumbing. Imagine this outhouse on a frigid winter's morn? Brrrrrr. ;)

You know how sometimes things just strike you as funny? Not giggle funny, but bent over, can't catch your breath funny? There was something about the way that Riley Mae's face fit into these cut-outs perfectly that had Scott and I howling with laughter. Really, for a spell I couldn't catch my breath and I'm sure we drove the women at the front desk mad for about 10 minutes! We probably sounded terribly obnoxious, but it was so stinkin' hilarious I couldn't even care!

And so, there it is, the final day-trip of our extended vacation. It has been a fun break, but now I'm ready to see what the new school year has in store for us. I'm off now to fully enjoy my last day of freedom...

Have a lovely day Friends. :)