Rediscovering Low Tech

>> April 10, 2020

>> Blog Post #56

Being confined for a few weeks – and a little cash strapped lately – has been a boon.

I’ve recently cut down a lot on spending. Partly because a lot of stores are closed, partly because deliveries are taking for ages and partly because, I should just spend less.

But I’ve also been incredibly active and have jumped headfirst into my new gardening project.

This has led me to be very creative in recycling things and finding raw material that would have just been garbage before.

The kids were playing with water balloons since it was so hot yesterday afternoon. Guess what the straws used to fill the balloons are good for?

It works even better than I would have imagined!

The manual labor aspect has also given me a ton of free time to think and listen to even more music than I usually do, putting my brain to rest. I think that relaxed state of mind has helped me be “in the moment” more, be more present in what I was doing.

As a result of all of this, I’ve rediscovered through experience some very basic rules of physics but was surprised at just how much fun it was too find logic in things I was doing.

Let me give you an example.

I found these mushroom trays by a garbage behind an organic food store close by.

I grabbed all three of them as cheap ways of ordering stuff in the greenhouse I built in the yard last week. I had half a dozen shelves, but nothing to store all of my stuff so I just took them, thinking once I get better organized, I’ll just dump those trays. But I actually found another use for them after digging out a couple trees in the yard. I needed to try and take the weeds and moss out of the dirt I had moved around while uprooting those trees. The tray could be used as a cheap sieve.

Just load up the tray with the dirt and shake it above some other recipient to collect the earth you want to keep. Nice and easy.

But what was actually surprising yet obviously logical was the following.

By shaking the tray, the fine earth would fall in the below basin. However, larger lumps of dry earth would stay at the surface as they were too big to fall through the mesh-like plastic pattern. However, that part still did separate easily from the moss and weeds I was trying to get rid of as it fell to the bottom of the tray after the shake, while the weeds found their way to the top during the process. That’s gravity for you.

Green on top, brown at the bottom. Easy, and cheap.

It feels great to take a lot of satisfaction out of these very meaningless things. It means you are enjoying yourself greatly! I hope you are too.

Last thing, I said just how much time I have on my hands to listen to music these days. I am having a big older stuff revival and the name of the album I listen to the most these days is extremely appropriate: Dirt by Alice in Chains. That Album is as good as it got during the 90s. An absolute classic and SOOO heavy. Love it.

The Homeschooling Book – Part 2

>> March 24, 2020

>> Blog Post #45

Guess who is going to have 5 more weeks to work on his homeschooling project?

One of the difficult aspects of having everyone at home 24/7 is that you pretty much have to take charge of the weekly calendar for everyone. How autonomous were we when we were kids? I don’t remember. Looks like the attention span of my kids isn’t very long and they look at others for ideas of what to do quite a bit. Actually, today wasn’t too bad.

I think everyone needs to get a little more bored, to hit some kind of bottom, so that progressively the will to get genuinely excited and motivated by something comes up.

I’ve started to introduce a mandatory moment for the kids to get online and do some internet searches. I want them to be stimulated enough that then they would then start going for the DIY stuff which they really like. We’ll see how that goes.

Anyways, this is just a drill. We are practicing for later. We are learning more skills patiently while the confinement lasts. But we will probably take this mindset with us after. I hope we’ll be able to learn for years to come and maybe one day we can build a family citadel with the children.

The skills we are learning might come in handy if we want to put a roof over our heads, farm the food we need to survive or just want to change our lifestyle. They might come in handy as a way of living or as a way to earn money or trade. It will, whatever happens open up our horizons.

The Homeschooling Book – Part 1

>> March 23, 2020

>> Blog Post #44

The COVID-19 induced confinement period has been an opportunity for me so far. Of course, there are many problems because of it, and I’ve ranted enough about how afraid I am that governments are just going to seize this fine opportunity to grab more power and screw us more. But, overall, the mood has been very positive, and I’ve seen it as a chance to do more and to do things differently. Having the kids 24/7 and the weather being pretty nice have also been an underlying reason for this all.

This will probably turn into some big experiment for me and I decided to take a blank notebook and start writing down all my ideas around it and I will also probably take a journal of what I do to keep track of it all.

Being in confinement means spending all your time together. It means you have to reorganize both your time and your interactions. No more school, work, week-end rhythm punctuated by set alarm clocks and meals.

As I’ve said, I’ve taken this positively. I know I have more time to enjoy – and completely loose it – my kids, and I also know that they need to keep busy.

Mens sana in corpore sano – a healthy mind in a healthy body.

I actually like the Latin version better as it includes that notion of saneness, which for a ton of people is paramount when they are faced with spending their entire days locked up with their kids.

I am still figuring out my exact setup here, but so far, I try to have my kids work every morning and then spend some time outside in the afternoon on outdoor games or yardwork.

I am guessing that physical activity would be a better way to start the day, but thee reason I am keeping this for the afternoon is that it is still too chilly in the morning these days.

Here are some of the things we have done over the past week:

  • We’ve cleaned out an area on our lawn to grow a vegetable garden
  • We’ve recycled old wooden pallets in making a compost
  • I’ve trimmed the hedges and the kids helped me pick up the branches so that the garden is clean
  • We’ve trained the dog outside – or at least we’ve attempted too, but he’s so young the distractions are too frequent for much progress
  • We started discussing how we should proceed for the planting of the vegetables, when to do it, what to plant, where to plant seeds, etc.…
  • We’ve cut off the butt of one of the leaks we ate the other day and left it in water, as it is supposed to grow back, and we should be able to repot it in a few days’ time.
  • We’ve set aside some potatoes to sprout
  • We’ve cleared out an area to grow some fruit trees
  • We’ve played a board game every single day
  • We’ve introduced more frequent movie nights
  • We’ve let the kids “camp” in each other’s’ rooms
  • We’ve started to do half of the homework on the computer in order to start teaching them how computers work. Our hunch is it might be useful someday 🙂 We’ve maintained handwriting for the other half because I don’t want them not to know how to write with a pen properly.
  • But the most exciting, or at least the one which I was the most proud of was the 10 min race between my kids to see who would gather the most worms in the yard so that we could settle into our new compost. That was a hit and got them really excited.

What I’ve wanted to do but haven’t incorporated in the schedule yet:

All of this has taken more time than it should, as being all on top of each other does create organizational “problems”. Especially when the adults are also supposed to be working etc. So, we’ve taken it one step at a time, guessing that we will probably have a lot more time in confinement anyways. At least that’s my bet.

I want my children to read every day and to learn how to enjoy it. Reading at least 30 min a day is paramount in my opinion and this hasn’t been done every day. My plan is that it should be.

I also would like to incorporate some kind of muscular wake up routine, just to get some of the kids’ energy out in the morning or during our homeschooling breaks.

I’d like to add some elements to the school program that are more philosophical or geared towards building confidence in my children that we are all capable of pretty much anything that we set our sights on if we work hard and persevere.

And finally, I would like to have them do so internet searches on whatever we plan on doing together so that they bring ideas, get creative, start dreaming and maybe provide me with some guidance on what there is to do. This should tie in nicely with the goal above.

All in all, this should be seen as an overarching goal to develop the mind, the body, the personality of each kid in their own way.

I’ll follow up on this post regularly in the coming weeks.