I am a Mama. My life is full of ups and downs, just like yours. I prefer looking up to looking down.
I struggle with balance, my ever-growing to-do list, dust bunnies and mess in my home, and other minor inconveniences in life. More than anything, I strive to live in the moment and enjoy mothering my two young boys.
Photo from my guest post at Soulemama on Soulful Mothering.
I am a dragon mother. My youngest babe was born with half a functioning heart. Two out of three open-heart surgeries are over. He is strong and happy, and rather lucky. A Bodhisattva Baby. I worry in my dreams. But life is more or less normal. Beautiful. I wish for every moment to be as it should be. Not perfect. Real. Full of yin and yang. I am a playful parent, and I don't mind forsaking my dignity to get a laugh from a two year-old. My goal in parenting and educating my boys is not to mould them into Ivy Leaguers or thoughtful, compassionate introverts who meditate. My goal is connection - for them to know they are loved so they can, in turn, connect to other people in a meaninful way. Like everyone, I want them to be adults who are happy and curious about the world - self-motivated learners. I also want them to be resilient in the face of hardship and hospital stays.
You might have visited this space because you sew. I do, too. It's one of many ways I fill my emotional cup. In my case, it's also how I pay for groceries! Before I had my boys, I started designing sewing patterns as a hobby.
Two of my designs: The Bohemian Carpet Bag and the Sunday Picnic Blouse. Photo by Jessi Blakely
In 2007, I began selling my patterns online. While I have less time to spend sewing (that season in life will return once I don't have to change diapers and put little socks on wiggly feet) I do still design patterns. I've written two books, Sew Liberated and Growing Up Sew Liberated. I love simple, woodsy beauty in both pattern and fabric. I hope that rustic-chic aesthetic comes out in my designs.
General and Blog-related Questions
What influences your parenting and educational philosophies? I received my M.Ed and certification through Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) in 2005. I am trained to teach 3-6 year-olds.Montessori, at its core, is based on the respect for and the observation of the needs of each child. Through keen observation, the parents and teachers can offer help only when help is needed, challenges when challenges are due, and fascinating “work” when interest is piqued – all within the framework loving limits and guidance.
My own educational philosophy is highly influenced by the work of Paolo Freire, a radical educator who worked with the victims of capitalism-gone-wild in the slums of Brazil. I strongly believe that being educated has nothing to do with doing well on a test, but rather is the desire and ability to work for the greater good, coupled with an innate curiosity and a natural, life-long love of learning.
Making felted soap with my toddler.
I do not define myself as a Montessorian, though I find it a compelling philosophy. As I've grown into parenting, I would say that my approach is rather eclectic. For example, my son attends a beautiful Waldorf-based preschool two mornings a week, but I'm not a Waldorf parent, either. I believe in a low-pressure approach to academics, and an enriching home environment full of creative play and nature exploration. Mostly I concern myself with creating a loving bond with my boys. I feel the rest will just come. They'll soak up our family's love of books and story, my husband's passion for math, the pleasure we find in cooking whole foods grown from the garden in our backyard. If they struggle with something, I'll help.
Our current plan is to have the boys attend the Waldorf nursery a few mornings a week through age 5, then we would like to be able to homeschool them. We have visions of a free-flowing curriculum that consists of backpacking trips, becoming master gardeners, traveling, and becoming playwrites. Who knows.
Why were you living in Mexico? My grandfather's family is from Mexico, and while he grew up 100% American, I had always had a strong desire to rediscover my roots and learn the language and culture of my ancestors. It just so happens that I married a guy that has an affinity for the history of Latin America. (He's getting his PhD. in the subject from Duke.) We made a decision to do something about our wanderlust and interest in Mexico/Latin America before our careers got set in stone and before starting a family. I found a job through an internet ad as a Montessori teacher in rural Chihuahua, Mexico. Of course, the experience has been incredible, both personally and professionally. Most of my posts about Montessori education are from this time. You can read them by searching my archives; anything from before June, 2008 is from our time in Mexico. This is a post about my last day in the classroom. Here are photos of my sweet students; more general photos from Mexico can be found here.
Why did you switch from Montessori By Hand? Why the name Sew Liberated? When I started the blog back in February of 2007, it was intended to be a collaborative resource for Montessori teachers around the world. After a while I realized that, while the interest in the subject was there, collaboration was hard to come by. I was writing all of the posts, something that I (naively) hadn't anticipated, and after a while, I made the decision to let my own voice be heard. That meant that the creative side in me that was not necessarily related to Montessori pedagogy would be given free reign. I couldn't have been happier with the results. By "coming out" as a craft enthusiast, I am able to speak about all of my passions - education, parenting, sewing, crafting, and family life. Of course, this means that the blog is no longer exclusively Montessori-focused. Switching the name also reflects upon my own eclectic educational philosophy, one that prominently features Montessori, but has at its core a belief in child-led, discovery based learning - learning that is liberated from the traditional, top-down method of education.
One of my first attempts at designing patterns.
Sew Liberated is a name that I chose because of its many layers of meaning, and many possibilities of interpretation. For me, Sew Liberated is a way of looking at craft that is, at once, traditional and completely modern. Depending on who you are and your own preferences, you can find solace in the "traditional crafts" either as a return to a simpler, slower lifestyle, or as a fist-held-high statement of non-conformism with today's commercial culture. Personally? I identify with both reasons, and don't see them as mutually exclusive. In addition, Sew Liberated touches on the personal fulfillment we experience when we create. I know that I get such a rush when I conceive of and bring to life a project, and I'm sure you feel the same.
Can you recommend any parenting books to me? Why, sure! Here's a link to my Amazon store, which contains links to my favorites.
What kind of camera do you use? I use a Nikon D80 . I have three lenses, the 18-135 kit lens , the Nikon 50mm f/1.8D AF , and the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G ED-IF AF-S. . The 50mm f/1.8 is the lens that gives me those artsy shots with a shallow depth of field.
Can I link to your blog and use your photos? Do you exchange links? You are very welcome to link to my blog - I would be honored! It is, however, difficult for me to exchange links. I don't keep a list of other blogs in my side bar, but I will certainly link to interesting and pertinent ideas in my posts.
Please ask my permission before posting any of my content or photos. Thanks in advance!
Disclosures and Other Technical Stuff
I do accept payment from the advertisers in the right side bar of the blog - but I only feature small, mostly family-run businesses that are in-line with my own parenting philosophy and business ethics.
I also receive a small referral payment for purchases that are made through links on my blog to Amazon.com and Indiebound.com. This helps offset the cost of having a husband who is a graduate student in history, and who reads about a book a day. Seriously. Also, if I receive a book from a publisher or as a gift, I will say so in the post. Mostly, I only refer books that I have bought (or checked out) myself, and only ones that I really like! Thanks so much for your support - I'm so grateful to be able to do what I can to support my family while writing about what I love - parenting, education, sewing, etc.!
Sewing Pattern-related Questions
For sewing pattern FAQ's, please visit my store website, www.sewliberated.com/faq.html