She is a wife, mother, photographer and teacher among other titles I’m sure. So honored to be featuring Sharon McKeeman on the blog today!
I first came across Sharon’s work through checking out her self-paced online class through The Define School “Lessons From The Masters.” Since then, I have fallen in love with her writing and storytelling through photography. She shoots digital but I absolutely love the way she captures the perfectly imperfect moments with film. Being a mother to only boys like me, I feel like we have this silent camaraderie. She gets it. The wild, adventurous, never standing still life of raising boys.
Welcome Sharon to Childhood Unplugged!
I know that your photography revolves around capturing your story. Tell me a bit about your unique story.
I first fell in love with images while exploring my Grandparents’ basket of old National Geographics and Life magazines and watching slideshows and super-eight video of their adventures. As a child I imagined and created as a way to enter a more exciting world. Then in college I studied drawing and painting, and became an art teacher.
I picked up a digital camera for the first time as a young mom and long time artist. My hours spent painting were quickly becoming a foggy memory as all my time poured into my new life as a mother. When I did make images, I wanted to document this baffling, exhilarating new experience of motherhood in real time.
As my children grew, I explored and learned this new medium of photography. Then after losing a son during birth I didn’t want to waste one minute of precious life doing anything other than what filled my heart and made my artwork feel powerful and alive to me. I spent my time photographing what was in my soul and before my eyes, eventually beginning a business where I capture the art of my client’s story right in the midst of the beautiful mess of everyday life. Recently I lost another baby during my second trimester. These losses have been so difficult, but our family is healing through time spent outdoors adventuring, exploring books, and discovering together as we homeschool.
What are some of your boys favorite activities to do unplugged?
We spend countless hours at the beach, read books together daily, build science projects and forts, re-enact scenes from our history lessons, visit our friends in the mountains, ride bikes to the abandoned field to search for ‘treasures’, nature journal, make crazy art projects, build Lego empires, and the list could go on, and on…
You wear many hats; mom, teacher, photographer, wife… What do you do to unplug and refuel. What inspires you?
Constant exploration in image making energizes me! If my artistic journey begins to feel static or predictable I search for something that will inspire me, instinctively looking for a ‘rule’ to break. My boys keep me adventuring and I love new experiences, but I also need quiet time at home in the routine of our daily lives to refuel. Reading fills my heart with the inspiration to keep my image making fresh and invest into my children’s lives. And writing is a form of prayer to me, spilling out my thoughts and feelings to my Creator, and sharing these words with others in order to connect with community. I also love teaching. Homeschooling is filled with magic and difficulty every single day. Teaching and writing classes for The Define School is an incredible outlet for me as someone who is passionate about art and loves to teach.
If you had an entire day to spend with your family unplugged, what would that look like?
Well, we spend many days unplugged so I will describe one… On the weekends we start off with my husband making pancakes and scrambled eggs or we grab donuts at our favorite shop. Then we head to the beach for an early surf sesh. The older boys surf with Dad while my four year old and I play in the whitewater. Afterwards we eat lunch at an outdoor coffee shop or have a picnic at a local garden or park. Then we head home where the kids build crazy contraptions in the garage and play games with the neighborhood kids while I edit images or write. If it’s warm enough we spend some time doing belly flop contests at the pool. And then everyone pitches in to grill dinner or sometimes we grab pizza or burritos, and head back to the beach to watch the sunset. We end the day snuggled up reading books before we tuck the boys in with goodnight songs and a tickle fest. I’m so thankful for all these magical times with my kids, but just to keep it real if that description sounded picturesque – The day is also sprinkled generously with kid’s arguments, complaints and grouchiness, but that’s real life lived and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Share with us a recent unplugged experience that you and your family shared.
Another special unplugged experience that we have somewhat frequently is when we drive up to visit our friends who live on a mountain about two hours away. Those days are filled with the kids making forts, climbing trees, playing in their hammock and tipi, shooting bows and arrows, hiking, finding pinecones and animal bones, building Legos, craft projects, visiting lookout spots, lakes and nature centers, and riding scooters and bikes. My oldest two boys also go on a campout every month with their Dad and hundreds of other Dads and their boys through a YMCA program. These campouts are epic and I’m so thankful that their memories will be flooded with these adventures with their Dad.
Share with us one of your favorite images of all times and why?
On one of our trips up the mountain with our friends, we drove up a dirt rode as a thunderstorm was approaching. I’m not a fan of heights, but the drive was worth the view as the storm approached us at the top of the tree line. My oldest is stoic, a man of the wild already. He doesn’t like to have his picture taken, but in this moment he was in his element and wanted me to document it.
Unplugging is so important and I know you do a lot of that with your boys, but electronics are awesome too! They are a vital part of our life. What rules do you have for watching television, playing on the computer, etc.? How do you find balance in both worlds.
We don’t have strict rules about time spent on electronics because my boys honestly want to be outside and spending time creating more than they want to be in front of a screen. I’m so thankful for this. I think a big reason they feel this way is that we spend SO much time outside exploring, that it’s in their heart. Also we just don’t have devices at home for them to play on.
We only have one TV, and we don’t have cable. Our kids are allowed to watch good movies and they love the Discovery channel on Netflix. We have an iMac that they use for code.org, a few reading programs and Keyboarding without Tears. These programs teach the kids so much and also feel like fun video games to them. The rest of their schoolwork we complete using pencil, paper, books and hands on activities. I often find my oldest using the computer to look up designs for his current building projects or to watching tutorials on making origami animals.
I think we may be the only homeschool family that doesn’t own an iPad for our kids to use. We have the oldest Xbox made and only have one game for it. My kids are allowed to play video games at their friends’ houses, but they honestly want to spend our resources on surfboards, skateboards and campouts more than they want video games. We try to find a balance where they understand and appreciate computers and good media, but the only way I personally know to keep them playing make believe and exploring outside is to not have an abundance of screens in our home.
handle on Instagram is @sharonmckeeman