This is the fourth in our series on Creative Parenting. This post was written a little over a year ago. Insh’Allaah be sure to check in for new posts in the series weekly!
I’ve been homeschooling my children for all of their lives. There are ups and downs, times when they are excited and times when they get bored and lethargic. When we decided to return to the States recently, they seemed to feel that that meant no more homeschooling. To get their energy levels back up I decided to set them a challenge that would continue through the year, from Yemen to America.
They were told to design a largely self-sustaining, environmentally friendly, culturally appropriate village, complete with houses, businesses, gardens…in short,whatever they felt was necessary to make the village work. They had to do this from scratch, choosing a site, evaluating it, seeing what resources existed and what the climate was like, determining need and wants for the community, planning housing, looking at livelihood possibilities for the occupants, and even crops, livestock, and energy planning. In the end they will build two model homes using two different alternative systems, and will have an extensive portfolio of designs and ideas that they can apply in real situations throughout their lives.
Before we left Yemen, some of them had already made their house models. Juwairiyah and Nusaybah made their of compressed earth and cob, using stone molds and props to assist informing the walls. Hudhaifah used mud blocks in a pseudo Earthship house. The bricks were made by his little siblings, Mu’aadh and Maryam. The two of them had a little temporary business going, and made a few riyals with their brick-making enterprise; utilizing the principles of using local labor, local materials, and local building styles to make a house appropriate to the climate and geography of the area.
Juwairiyah, my thirteen-year-old daughter, is the least excited about the whole project. She has worked on her own house, but turns up her nose about some of her siblings’ “green” ideas, such as compost toilets. “If you’re going to have those,” she says, “I’ll make my own sewage treatment plant and hook my toilets up to it!” She says that Permaculture is “too complicated”- but I am hoping to wear her down on that one, as I explain how at its simplest it is observing patterns in nature and mimicking them in our own growing systems.
The land they have chosen to “build” on is in Colorado, near Boulder. Sukhailah has been studying the climate and geography of that area, and has been designing gardens and zones based on many of the principles of Permaculture. Hudhaifah is designing an alternative energy system based largely on solar, but using other methods as well. They have been reading up on composting toilets and livestock such as chickens and sheep. They record all of their ideas and observations and are working together to come up with a village that is a model of sustainability and environmental consciousness.
How will it all turn out? I’ll post progress reports as we go along. I didn’t place any time limit on their project, so that they can research and explore as many ideas and possibilities as they want to. They are gaining knowledge in so many beneficial areas. But perhaps more importantly, they are learning how they can truly make a difference in their world.