Museums are fascinating collections of valuable or interesting content usually focused around a particular theme – art, natural history, written works, or particular memorabilia. Within the museum, this valuable content is typically displayed in a strategic theme-oriented manner, often with precise lighting and architectural structure that maximizes the effect of the display. Quiet music plays in the background and uniformed guides stand at sentinel post throughout the museum ready to answer any questions visitors may have. In recent years, many museums have become more interactive, creating more friendly environments for children, but still museums nonetheless.
As I strolled through my kitchen, dining room and family room this morning, observing the line-up of debris and chaos, these words rolled through my mind, “Well, my house is certainly not a museum.” So what is my house, besides walls, a roof, beds to sleep on, two bathrooms, four people, and a dog?
My house, among other things, is a laboratory, “a place providing opportunity for experimentation, or practice in a field of study” (www.merriam-webster.com). What experimentation occurs here? All kinds. Currently a Social Studies project is occupying the dining room table, including fake fur that sheds, glue, felt, permanent fabric markers, sewing needles, yarn and more. We ate dinner on plastic plates sitting in the family room last night. The dishes aren’t done because I was busy helping my daughter bring the mental picture of her project into real life. Other experimentation here involves two large bags of felted wool from upcycled sweaters I am attempting to make into wearable art. My husband is in the midst of writing a portion of his doctoral project, involving research from multiple books and papers. My son is developing his art interest in his spare time. Is this process of learning messy? Yes. Valuable? Immensely.
According to the definition above, in addition to being a place of experimentation, a laboratory is a place for practice in a field of study. So what field of study do we practice in our home? We are practicing how to be successful in the field of Life. How do we practice? We practice by making room for each other to try new things, even if it requires adjustment on everyone’s part. We practice by being honest with each other, complimenting both successes and attempts that weren’t so successful and critiquing when needful (or sometimes even not so needful). We practice by making room for each person to be his/her own self while still functioning in a healthy family environment. Want to have your friends over? We can make that happen. Want to paint your bedroom a very bright teal-and-raspberry color? We can make that happen. Want to attempt to grow potatoes in the back yard, even if we only get a few? We can make that happen. Want to have a family reunion in our house, with people sleeping on every bed and mattress available, just so we can all be together? We can make that happen too. All this so we can practice how to be successful in the field of study called Life. For after all, is there really any field of study more important than this?
So if you come to visit me, I cannot promise everything will be spotless and in its place. I cannot promise we won’t use paper plates or that there won’t be dog hair on the couch. But I can promise we will warmly welcome you and draw you into our home as we continue to love and learn in our little laboratory on Heights Avenue.