Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Slice of Life - The House That Built Me

I've been participating in Slice of Life, started by Two Writing Teachers. I love the challenge of composing a piece of writing at least once a week about life or teaching.
     My fifth graders are at the beginning of a FAMILY/HOME literacy contract and are reading realistic fiction small group books with family and home themes, along with memoirs.  As an introduction to creating a concept map for the theme topics, I showed them Miranda Lambert's music video, "The House That Built Me" on Monday.
     We first reflected over what the narrator of the song felt she needed by visiting her childhood home and what might have happened to her; then we wrote about what home means to us.  Granted, fifth graders probably can't fathom that their childhood or childhood home may some day feel like a distant memory, but they do have the reflective ability to look back on what their home and family mean to them so far in their young lives.
     One of the most touching parts of the video to me is when she looks fondly at her younger self playing guitar in her old room.  I thought about what it would be like if  I saw myself as a child in the house I grew up in on Brewer Road.  What scenarios made me who I am?  What would I have most likely been doing?  When I was the age young Miranda in the video is, I certainly wouldn't have been in my room writing music (although I do remember singing in the mirror with a hairbrush a time or two). 
      She would have been outside.  She would have been feeding chickens or collecting eggs.  Riding her horse or mucking out a stall.  Or maybe she would've been out by the pond, fishing with her dad, or in the woods playing "Little House on the Prairie."  She would've been Laura Ingalls Wilder or an Indian girl, living in her makeshift home made from stringing branches together around a copse of trees with twine.  It's possible she would have been nestled in the gnarled roots of a giant oak leaning gently over the creek, engrossed in a book.  If she was in the barn, I might catch a glimpse of my child self playing hide and seek with her little black and white cat or fending off our crazy rooster. Jumping back with a surprised yelp when a mouse ran up her arm after reaching into the feed bag in the plastic bin.  Maybe she would've been chasing her goat, Nibbles, away from the thorny hedge line (did anything hurt that goat's mouth?).  If I wandered over to the back field, I might be able to see her and her dad shooting clay pigeons or eating fresh peas right off the plants in the garden.  Maybe I would've seen her walking with her dog, ready to put the ducks in the pen for the night, dreaming about a trophy at the fair.  There she might have been, stacking wood with her dad, or trying to catch escaped pheasant chicks, laughing.
     I would have to pull myself away from seeing that girl, that only child, completely at home in the outdoors. Rarely lonely - her animals and imagination keeping her company.  I remember her joys, her sorrows, her hopes.  Fortunately, unlike the narrator of  the song, I haven't lost my way, and I don't need to visit that home in order to restore anything.  I can just remember what it was.  The house, and 7 acres, that built me.
                              Skating on the pond - 1975            Champion duck (yes, duck) at fair - 1979
Purriece, who really did play hide & seek        Trap-shooting w/Dad

                      In the woods w/Dad, dogs, & horses              New batch of chicks!          

                          Dad & I with champion ducks!1979    And Nibbles, Champion Pet Goat-1979

                     Dad and I riding our horses - 1973          Fishing w/Dad & cousins - 1977

                             I don't understand the knee-
                             socks.  Those are chicks in                Riding with a neighbor - 1977
                             front of me.

                           Playing cowgirls with Michelle.
                  Yes, we've tied our wrists together with    More chickens! With friend, Chrissy
                           rope.  Ha. 1976

                          Riding my pony, Missy 1973            Under the backyard Maple, reading.

                                                            All my childhood dogs - 1974



  1. What a fun writing exercise. I am going to be thinking about this topic now. What are some of the books your students are reading?

    1. Our read aloud is Barbara O'Connor's How to Steal a Dog. Our small group books include Eight Keys, Bigger Than a Bread Box, Walk Two Moons, Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of LIfe, Hound Dog True, Ida B., One for the Murphys, and Home of the Brave. The kids are reading memoirs for independent nonfiction. :-)

  2. wow, would I have loved to have grown up on a farm...my favorite part because of the descriptive words and also part I could connect with would be...It's possible I would have been nestled in the gnarled roots of a giant oak leaning gently over the creek, engrossed in a book....minus the creek...this was my scene also...I love this idea. Thank you Holly! xo

  3. This is so lovely. I also absolutely want to use this video with my students. The third person switch when observing your younger self, that was perfect. -Priscilla

  4. We drive by our old house from time to time, and I always catch my children (when they happen to be with me) looking it over with just the emotion in Lambert's song and your post. Many memories. This would be wonderful writing exercise for my sixth graders, Holly.

  5. What a beautifully written remembrance of your childhood.

  6. It is as if we talked… we also posted about home today! We cannot wait to see the pictures and we loved the video. Thank you
    Clare and Tammy

  7. I love this slice! This is something I would love to revisit in my own writing. Thanks for the idea and for the lovely post today. It's got me thinking...

  8. I loved reading your childhood memories, Holly. The photos are priceless. Thanks for sharing!

  9. I loved seeing the glimpses of your home and childhood. I would love to use this idea (and the video) with my students. Now I'm thinking about all the places from my childhood.

  10. Oh, I love it, Holly! I so dearly remember learning to ice skate on your pond those cold, cold winters in the late 70's! :-) Kinda like now! ;-)

  11. I loved this post. It broke back a flood of memories from my childhood home- which my mom just moved out of after 34 years. Never knew moving from that house would be so emotional! But I have years of memories to keep! I also loved your book list for your groups!

  12. Holly - this is so beautiful Holly! I had tears in my eyes when I read it and looked through all your childhood photos. I, too, have such fond memories of my childhood and the house that built me. I love that this is the theme for your class book circles. What a wonderful start to your unit. Thanks for sharing this!