Two Minimalisms

In the year and a half that I have been pursuing minimalism, I’ve learned that it is a growing trend in America.  However, minimalism or simplicity has been a discipline for many throughout the centuries and in all different countries and cultures. After spending a month in Eastern Europe I noticed that there seems to be two kinds of minimalism.  One that is necessary due to circumstances and one that is chosen.

Anyone who has visited Europe, or probably anywhere other than the USA has noticed that for the average person there is a smaller scale to life.  Houses, cars, meals, rooms, beds, wardrobes, etc, almost everything is smaller.  For the country I’ve been in this is paritally due to a less than stellar economy.

I know not everyone in Europe has chosen this “smaller” lifestyle and a simple life will look different for everyone whether they choose it or not.  I am not getting into economics or policies here.  What I’ve noticed in my time in another culture is that along with the minimalism so frequently found in cultures other than America, there seems to also be some of the benefits of minimalism being lived out as well.  Less clutter, less junk, less excess.  I would venture to say overall less stress.  In the culture I’ve been immersed in there is a huge value placed on family, relationships and time spent together.  If someone asks you to coffee, you better count on spending at least three hours with them.  These are values they hold highly and with good reason.

I’ve also seen this in my earlier days growing up in eastern Kentucky. But these values seem to be in decline.  The pace of just about everyone’s life seems maddening and unsustainable.  We run and we rush and we don’t even know why.

I would argue and often remind myself that the quality of life most of us long for is not found in the constant addition of stuff and commitments, but in a paring down, a simplification of our lives to enjoy the things that matter most.  To pursue the people, ideals, and creative outlets that mean the most.  And this is by no means easy.  My month away was one without a phone.  I did have access to the internet, but didn’t check in as frequently as I do here.  Upon arrival in the states and turning it on, there were immediately demands for my attention, time and money.  Some of them are good things, some of them are things I want to do.  But I cannot do everything.  I am saying no and it is hard.  Because I know what really matters most to me.  And even though there are exciting things going on and people I want to see and things I want to do.  I have figured out what I want to do most and the people I want to love on the most and I am choosing them.

Homeschool on the Go

Spending a month overseas, as romantic as it sounds, doesn’t come without a bit of planning, prepping, stressing, doubting, etc, especially when it comes to homeschooling.  I’ve had questions about the what and hows during our trip, so I thought I would share that.  I give some credit to author, blogger, adventurer, Tsh Oxenreider and her post on “world schooling” and mininmalism.  It was one of the moments that I felt like someone wrote it just for me.  Check out her blog as her family of 5 just left for a year long trip around the world!

First of all, we began school in July because I knew that this month in Minsk would be “different” than our normal homeschooling days.  I wanted to get a jump on a few things like math because as much as I would love to claim to be spontaneous, I do love routine and structure and completing my plans.

Secondly, with the kids being older now (7 & 5) the trip is extremely educational and such a valuable experience for anyone at any age.  We are being immersed in a country, culture, and language.  No matter your age, you are going to learn and grow in ways that only this can do.  My in-laws and I also planned some “educational” events and sightseeing.  So those days have been rich in history and geography.  Each child has a journal and is journaling in their own way about the days we are sightseeing.  We are also having conversations aabout the differences they are noticing.

Despite how my Instagram feed looks, we are having some pretty low key, ordinary days.   We’ve taken those days to get some of our usual language arts and math lessons completed.  We are on our second chapter book, which we are reading at night.

Lastly, there have been some products that we are using and have used in regards to the trip.  Prior to leaving we used Rosetta Stone to brush up on the language.  It is excellent!  I also checked out the free one offered by our local library and it is good as well.  We brought our Handwriting Without Tears workbooks, Math workbooks, several chapter books, Learning Wrap-Ups (which makes kids want to work on their math facts!)  There are also several apps, like Vocabulary Spelling City, iAzbuka (Russian alphabet), Letter Quiz that the kids enjoy and get a little practice in.

 

 

 

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The city of Minsk celebrated 947 years during our visit. We watched knights and archers.

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We visited Stalin’s line and learned a bit of military history.

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Enjoyed and learned about some of the natural beauty around Belarus.

A Sweet Friendship

My very first trip to Minsk involved speaking at an English club. I was put into a classroom with six Belarusian students, four of whom were named Tanya. It was my frirst trip out of the US and even my first trip on a plane. So young and eager and naive. I didn’t know what to do but call them Tanya 1,2,3, & 4. Now, twelve years later, I met two ladies who were both named Valya or Valentina. Valya 1, I noticed as soon as I walked into the small basement room of a church. Her bright blue eyes were shining with kindness and as my friend introduced me, she beemed a welcoming smile at me and bid me hello. I watched her as my friend shared some words of encouragement for those gathered. There were twenty of Minsk’s less fortunate who had come to eat lunch. I saw her eyes well up with tears as a passage of scripture was shared and Sasha talked of God loving and caring for us as a father does his child. I saw her wipe her friends tears and nose. Then I watched as she got up and helped serve all others bread, tea, a hot cereal with some sausage. She then helped Valya 2, eat and drink their meal. As the meal came to a close I met several of those there to eat and those helping. Then I caught her eye. She came up to me and I gave her a hug. She burst into tears and we held hands and chatted for a few minutes as I learned how Valya 2 is unable to lift her hands, which if you give it a try makes life incredibly difficult. So her friend helps with even the most basic everyday events. I don’t know about you, but that is the kind of friend that I hope to be and have. What a beautiful testimony of love. I am hoping to see these sweet friends again soon and learn more of their stories. In your prayers, won’t you remember these two precious ladies as they struggle through some of life’s hardships.

The Trenches of Parenthood

Lately there’s been some rough days in our household in the area of parenting.  Add to that the long and sometimes lonely days of homeschooling and you have a tired mom who feels like she has logged weeks in one day. If you are there, here’s a few things that have helped me through:

1) Friends.  I have one homeschooling friend, that I don’t know what I would do without her.  It is a comfort to know that she is there, she understands my rough days, and that I can text her anytime and she will offer up a word of encouragement or understanding or a prayer.

2)Prayer.  Often I don’t know what to pray because I”m angry or exhausted or so frustrated, but knowing that the source of all wisdom is available to me is such a comfort.

3) Joy.  Believe it or not, my precious children who bring me so much joy can also be the very ones that can bring it crashing down.  So, I”m choosing joy, even in the trenches of parenthood, I will not let these precious ones in their most heated tantrums steal it away.  That my friends, is probably the hardest ones, because I so often want Jesus plus well behaved, school-loving children.  But life is hard and we are all sinful.  We have a savior who is greater than all this and He gives us joy even in the trenches of whatever battle we are fighting.

#mywritingprocess Blog Tour

One of my closest friends, Lauren of www.birthisfun.com, invited me to join a recent blog tour.  I’ve “toured” part of the world with Lauren, so I jumped at the chance for a virtual one.  I first met Lauren in college and we ran off to eastern Europe to work with college kids and orphans and we both fell in love with the culture and some local boys – hence the crazy last names!  Lauren now is a wife, mom, natural birth advocate, labor nurse, blogger of all things birthing and my minimalist friend!

Being that I homeschool and have a home based business with Noonday Collection, I don’t blog as often as I want.  An idea will hit (usually in the shower!) and then life happens and I don’t get to write about it immediately, but I’m trying to make time for that!  Many friends have contacted me about my journey into minimalism so that has been much of my work lately.

With the focus on minimalism and simplicity, I address how you can apply that to a life with kids and how to simplify in this day and age of the glorification of busy.  I’m also studying the Christian focus on simplicity so that makes its way into my writings as well.  My life has changed so much in the past year and a half in this area–which conveniently spills into all other areas, that I cannot help but want to share that with others!  I want you to join me into simplicity!

I NEVER thought I would “write” in any shape or form, so the fact that I am now supposed to answer about my writing process is a bit embarrassing.  So I’ll just be honest, I am inspired when I’m outdoors.  I’ve always loved being outside.  I am desperately trying to carve more time in my day for that.  As I see how good it is for me. I’m also inspired by people.  I love seeing people live life to the full – even with the hard and messy things.  Just living!  To hear of someone doing something brave and bold or to have a conversation with someone about their hopes and dreams will get me dreaming and the creative juices flowing.  I jot down ideas as they come and then later, just write and edit.  Simple!  

Unfortunately, at the moment I have no one to pass the torch onto for the #mywritingprocess tour.  If I know you personally and you blog, I’d be happy to edit and link up to you if you’d like to join the tour!

Blessings!

Robin