SouleMama Kids: Calvin (10), Ezra (8), Adelaide (5), Harper (2), Annabel (3 months) You may have seen us feature some projects from SouleMama here and there, like this banging wall or these portrait bookmarks. It was high time we got to know Amanda better, so we chatted her up for our Big Blog Family! Amanda's site is a testament to her dedication to family, creativity, and nature. Living in Western Maine, her family of seven now runs their own farm, with lots of homegrown produce and livestock. She posts often on the fruits of their labor, adding links to great recipes she's found to use their bounty. As a family who homeschools, or unschools, she often has great ideas and advice for learning at home. And there are plenty of tutorials, recipes, and tips, and every once in a while, a fun perspective from SoulePapa. Amanda also has three books out that reflect the important topics in her life: The Creative Family: How to Encourage Imagination and Nurture Family Connections, Handmade Home: Simple Ways to Repurpose Old Materials into New Family Treasures, and her most recent publication, just out, The Rhythm of Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder through the Seasons.
You mention you started blogging in 2005 as a way to join the crafting community. How do you see your blog's growth over that time? How have the purpose and content of your blog changed? Six and a half years – oh my! The blog content has changed as our family has changed, I suppose, and as I’ve changed too. I started blogging as a young stay at home mama to two toddler boys. Six and a half years later…we have five children, have begun farming, my husband Steve and I are both working at home now, and I’m older (who knows if wiser is true, but I’m certainly happier as I’ve grown into myself). Yet, the most important things about blogging have remained constant all this time. Blogging still serves as inspiration, encouragement, connection, and a tangible daily reminder to stay on the path I’m on as a Mama. And along the way, things I never could have imagined have come about as a result of blogging – friendships that mean the world to me, books I’ve always wanted to write, and eventually a means by which our family could live, play and work together, too. Blogging is part of my “job” now, and while there are of course, moments when it truly feels like work, it’s the best work I could ever have imagined. I love my job.
You homeschool, or "unschool," your kids. Can you explain a little about why you chose that educational route? We do homeschool our children. I’m so grateful for the people – both locally and globally – whose work I stumbled on even before having children, and who greatly impacted our decision to unschool. John Holt, Howard Zinn, John Taylor Gatto, as well as family members, all led us to the path we’re on today. We love our days together as a family, and I am continually inspired by watching my children learn and discover the world around them, with a natural and beautiful curiosity. I think the essence of how that works for us comes across in my daily writing on the blog, but I don’t write specifically about our homeschooling, as I think that story really belongs to my children themselves.
With homeschooling, crafting, writing books, taking care of five kids, and keeping up your blog, how do you manage your time? Have you found certain tools indispensable? There are the essential daily tasks in our lives – farm chores and household duties (everyone must eat, mama must blog, and clean laundry is helpful!). That work acts as the anchors in our days, setting a steady rhythm for us around which everything else in our lives fits in. The things we deem most important - reading, writing, sewing, knitting, photographing, playing, drawing, walking, biking, gardening, and on and on and on. There’s a lot that happens in our days! We start most mornings as a family with a casual “meeting” at the breakfast table, where we all share what we’re hoping to do for the day, what we might need help with, etc. It’s become a really great way to ensure that everyone’s work/play/projects be treated with equal importance – from Papa building a woodshed, to Adelaide building a birdhouse. The morning meeting inspires a bit of compromise, and a lot of cooperation in the day that follows. And perhaps most importantly, I think, it helps us ‘set intention’ for the things most important to us, both individually and collectively as a family. As far as ‘tools’ that help along the way, I’d have to say that it is the absence of certain things that help us manage our time best of all. We don’t have a television, and our time spent online (ironically, for someone who works on the internet) is really quite minimal. We rarely “shop”. And we’re mindful about the classes, activities, and ‘extras’ that we add to our days. Spending our days without those things – things that we decided don’t feed or nurture us – gives us more time to do the things we love.
What's your favorite part of living in Maine? Having your own farm, the seasons, being enmeshed in nature? I love how distinct the seasons are here in the NorthEast. Even within a season, there is so much variation. Every place surely has its own beauty, and of course I’m a little biased here…but the beauty of Maine is home to me. Ocean, mountains, lakes, rivers, and so much “wild” space still. I love it here. Where do you go on the internet for inspiration? In the morning, after updating the blog and catching up on emails, there isn’t a lot of time leftover that I like to spend on the computer. I make a few stops by the blogs of friends and family for updates, browse around the beauty that lives on Flickr, and catch up on the chat of Twitter. If I pour myself a second cup of coffee, I might stay long enough to stop at Ravelry to plan my next knitting project, or head on over to Pinterest to poke around and plan my next house project. Then I try my very best to turn the computer off until evening when everyone is asleep and I head back into the studio again to play and work.
What's one great piece of parenting advice you've received? Just Love Them Say YES to hand-me-downs Nurture Yourself (Oops! That’s three…) Thanks, Amanda! Readers, be sure to check out all the crafting, farming, and enjoying family and nature on SouleMama. (Images: Amanda Blake Soule) Since our inception, we have loved hearing from all of our readers as well as reaching out to several in the blog community. You are mothers, fathers, wives, husbands all writing about your families, style and what makes you tick. To continue fostering this great blogging community, we'll now begin featuring close-ups of our favorite family and design blogs as part of our "Big Blog Family."