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Jan 17

Weekly Wrap-Up

Posted on Friday, January 17, 2014


This week all of our outside activities began and vastly changed our days compared to last week.  Our learning time at home was more rushed, our afternoons busy, and this Mama was beat.

Still, we had some highlights from the week.

Sketch Tuesday

Our four-year-old joined us for Sketch Tuesday this week.  I’m hoping to keep this tradition each Tuesday, as a way to spend relaxed time together as a family after a full day out of the house on Mondays.  Also, I’ve already seen the change in my son’s fear of drawing after sketching through various assignments over the past two weeks.  Slowly, but surely, with the regular practice of drawing, he’s gaining confidence. This week’s theme was “sketch something in a bottle”.







Creative Writing

My two older girls started their writing class with author and friend, Jennifer Trafton.  This is their second year working with Jennifer for creative writing.  In their class this week they talked about the heart of a story, the important elements of a story, how to keep an idea box for stories, and then began filling up their idea box. They were overflowing with energy and imagination after class.

Jennifer offers local classes, but she’s also started online writing classes as well.

Here’s a sample piece of writing from their class last year, written by our 13-year-old:

The Shape of Me

I am a rugged silhouette
of the one whom I long
to be like.
I am a feathery column of compassion,
threatening to fall.
I am an interlaced tangle,
trying to find my way
out of the dark.
I am an eager blob,
exploring the boundaries,
trying to find
my true shape.

 A Ted Talk

We watched a Ted Talk, presented by a thirteen-year-old who calls himself a “Hackschooler”. The kids agreed with his approach to learning and it stimulated us to examine how our family is learning this year and what we want to change immediately or next Fall. But his message that our main goal in life is to “be happy” didn’t sit quite right with them.  They recognized from recent family discussions and sermons at church that our main goal is to glorify God and that can mean hardships and sacrifices.  I was glad to see that message taking root in their hearts.  As for our learning practices, there are some areas that we are happy with, and some that we’d like to tweak or overhaul altogether.


Fueled by the desire to change up our learning a bit, I downloaded a trial of Animation-ish, a program created by Peter Reynold’s company.  We tried this program last year and loved how easy it was to use, even for our  (then) seven-year-old.  This week for history our eldest is reading about an American artist from the 1800′s and instead of writing a notebooking page, she’s going to try animating what she learned instead.  I’ll post some samples next week.

Have a great weekend,

Jan 12

Weekly Wrap-up

Posted on Sunday, January 12, 2014


The Gift of Snow

We had a surprisingly slow start back to school this past week.  I usually love a soft start to school, but since joining a new homeschool co-op this year, many aspects of our day have been out of my hands.

Our first day back to our homeschool co-op  was canceled due to winter weather, along with the first day back to choir and the first day back to Boy Scouts.  From my perspective, it was a beautiful thing and gave us the chance to ease back into school and experience the relaxed learning of our old days (before getting so busy).

Sketch Tuesday

For the first time this year, we participated in Sketch Tuesday together (the assignment was to draw hot cocoa or tea, we added in the cookies):






LEGO School

My eight-year-old son jumped into Lego-themed Language Arts Worksheets. He liked them as much as the Lego Writing Prompts from last semester.


 After he designed the Alien Minifig, he had to write ten adjectives to describe the creature.  I pulled out a handy source for interesting word choices and this is what he came up with (remember, he’s an eight-year old boy, what did I expect?)

My alien is(has):

  • gross

  • bloody

  • giant

  • powerful

  • fast

  • clever

  • green

  • leathery skin

  • evil

  • putrefied

The next worksheet was about verbs and he had to write five things his Alien could do and then draw a picture.  This week he’s supposed to write a short story about the Minifig.

Our four-year old enjoyed Signing Time while I taught her brother math, and when we ran into a deaf gentleman working at the grocery store, she remembered a few signs from the videos.

Extra Time for our Favorite Part

Along with adding in a bit of daily math, grammar, and copywork, we enjoyed the luxury of not having a destination to rush off to after lunch and instead I read Little Women while the kids made Rainbow Loom bracelets, created with beads, and built with Legos.  They were quite spoiled this week since their Dad read an hour of the first Harry Potter every night, too.

The week was not without challenges.  And next week the hectic schedule will more than make-up for the slower start this week, but I’m still thankful for how one snow day changed the course of our week.

Sep 5

Putting My life Together

Posted on Thursday, September 5, 2013

Hello friends.

Tonight I sat down to write my first post in a while and it occured to me that I’d like to simplify by only writing new posts on my other blog, instead of choosing between my “homeschool blog” and  ”the rest of my life” blog.

As life moves along, I find things I care to take the time to write about have less to do with those separate categories and actually fall under the same umbrella of creativity and the journey we have as mothers, creators, and children of an amazing God.

Thanks for reading this blog and I’ll keep it up for perusal. And who knows, maybe I’ll occasionally post here.

But if you’d like to read about our brush with art today, click here, and keep clicking here every time.



Dec 13

Christmas Resources

Posted on Thursday, December 13, 2012

Here are some links to past posts that include favorite books, resources and traditions we’ve enjoyed these past few years. I hope to be back in the coming weeks and months with updates on our homeschool life.

Merry Christmas,


Counting Down Advent with Books

Late Start Christmas Idea

Christmas Devotional-It’s not too late

Thoughts about Christmas

A new tradition

Sep 5

It’s in the (Library) Bag

Posted on Wednesday, September 5, 2012

As I cautiously wield my way through the library with books piled to almost disaster, my friend (and favorite librarian) stops me. She speaks to me through the precariously stacked books so that all I hear is a mumble, and then my weight shifts quickly as I feel one more book added to the top of my pile.

She must have just recommended a book to me, I think to myself.

“Thanks!” I say through my wall of words and stories and continue on the path to the checkout counter.

The book turned out to be Press Here by Herve Tullet.  Press Here invites young and old to interact with what seems to be a few simple circles of color.  I don’t mean that it has flaps to lift or tags to pull.  It’s just you and the book.  As you press, tap, and blow on the colors, the circles multiply, get tossed about, and even get lost in the dark.

When my husband commented, “It should be an app!”, I hit him.  With an app you expect objects to move around and lights to flicker,  the imagination behind this gem is that the author/illustrator makes those things happen with the help of a reader and some paper, no electronics necessary.

When I find an unfamiliar author, I can’t help but look to see if he/she has more books waiting for my eager hands.  This author did not disappoint.

Today, our library trip produced The Book with a Hole.  One reading led to giggles which led to a flurry of ideas, which led to LEGO sculptures, and finally a few of our own “what can we make with a hole in the middle of the page?” drawings.

“What are you going to feed it?”


“Did she eat too much too?”


“Who’s the king of the castle?”

“What is he holding?”


“What does its face look like?”


“You dare put your hand through the hole?”


“Make his tongue.”

“Make the tallest building.”


“Make the statue.”


“You could put your own picture here.”


“Can you put on a play?”

Activities you could do with this book:

  • Only read a few pages a day, savoring each new activity.
  • Create you own black and white drawing with sharpie and cardstock centered around a hole (it doesn’t have to be a circle, it could be a different shape).
  • Create your own book with card stock and a whole in the middle (make the whole a square for a different challenge).
  • Bring the book to a group of friends and enjoy together!


“What sad song is she singing?”

Jul 6

Imaginary Creatures with Carla Sonheim

Posted on Friday, July 6, 2012

We might as well start an official Carla Sonheim fan club at our house.  Her book, Drawing Lab, along with her online art classes, have been instrumental is loosening our pen and our imagination.

We just finished an online class called Imaginary Creatures and you can see some of the step-by-step work on my other blog.

Here is a gallery of some of the work the kids and I created during the class.

(the 7 year old, a brave week of art making for the boy)

(the 9 year old, below)

(the 11 year old, below)

(my blobby guy, along with my bird at the top)


For a  glance into the day to day of this class, click over to my other blog.

We would love to have you join us for her next class, which starts this monday.  It’s entitled faces 101, entitled so because we’ll make one hundred and one faces in one week!  Each day includes 1 warm-up sheet, 1 drawing assignment, 1 painting assignment, and 2 instructional videos.  The cost is only $35 and the entire family can participate.

Or you might like one of her other upcoming online classes:

Watercolor Transfer Paintings

Cereal Box Paper Dolls

She also has three books available through Amazon (two are pre-order):

Drawing Lab

Drawing and Painting Imaginary Creatures

The Art of Silliness


Jun 28

Leave This Space Blank, Continued

Posted on Thursday, June 28, 2012

Last week I shared my fears sheer panic about the summer that loomed ahead. It’s a habitual terror about the loneliness of summer and the potential for a house of bored, quarrelsome children.

I’m here to confess that in the days following my call to embrace this season, I only fell deeper into a place of boredom, lack of purpose, and patience with the inevitable squabbles that came about last week.

I’ve been pondering why these open days arrive as a challenge instead of  an opportunity to relax, and a few thoughts come to mind.

Eight of the eleven years that I’ve been a Mama have included our homeschool life.  Which means, in addition to changing a lot of diapers and laundry, we’ve been engaged in a range of purposes throughout our day.  Learning about art, crying through math, experiencing stories-my purpose in the day has reached beyond maintaining the house and being a driver for the kids. Having a sense of purpose hasn’t made life easier, but it has influenced and partially defined my role since it’s been part of my mama life for so long.

These June days have me feeling like a babysitter, letting myself believe that my only jobs in life are to clean the house and keep the kids happy.  It’s left me feeling, to be honest, unfulfilled.

Quickly that feeling leads to a view of my selfish heart, which leads to guilt, which eventually leads me back to “This is really my whole job for the summer?”

Okay, the confession part is over.

Here are a few things that have led me to a more hopeful place this tepid afternoon.

A Patient Husband

My husband doesn’t do guilt.  He doesn’t ask “Why do you have to make things so difficult?”.  He doesn’t ignore me and watch a ball game.  He’s a guy, so he’s a fixer, but after I turn down enough suggestions he’ll move to the next stage. “How can I help?”. He took an early day friday afternoon and spent a lot of time over the weekend loving on our kids and giving me some rest.

I borrowed a book to remind me of my purpose.

I know that being a mama is so much more than the day to day, it’s why I chose this career over any other.  I get to share the Word of God, guide young hearts, love through the disappointments, prepare these kids for life beyond our house.  I know that.  But mamahood doesn’t always feel like that, does it?  Most days are a series of mundane moments.

It’s been years since I’ve read Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson but I called out to friends for a copy this week because I need a reminder of how my mission mixes with the mundane.  What intention is hidden in the folds of making sandwiches and planning play dates?  I’ll let you know if I regain that sense after I’ve read the book.

I planned something for myself this week.

There are three areas I long to spend more time exploring-art, writing, and theater.  The luxury of having the summer off as the teacher is that I can build in some time for my passions-right in the middle of the day.  I signed up for an online art class by one of our favorite artists and for just $35 dollars the kids and I have spent several hours a day with our hands in charcoal and watercolors.  It’s a gift to myself to be the student instead of the teacher.  Art is extremely therapeutic and refuels me with energy to turn around and share back with the family. I’m signing up for another week long class in July and I’m planning a theater class that I’m going to teach in the fall.

We’ve been intentionally pursuing friends.

I can easily fall back into this line of thinking, “Well, none of our friends are calling or asking to get together so they must be having super fun summers and they don’t care if they see us.”  Instead, I’ve pursued a group of our co-op friends, offering up my house the first week and gathering us all together.  We’ve had two extended mornings of pancakes, playtime, and mama talk.

And finally this e-book renewed my desire to find the fun in summer, and allow for some loose scheduling.

Twice in the last week friends have mentioned making a big list of fun activities to check off over the summer.  Then I read the same suggestion in this e-book and the planner side of me has kicked back in as we fill in a calender of fun.  The Summer Survival Guide is packed with planning sheets, suggested activities, family movie and book suggestions, summer meal plan tips, travel tips, weeks of themed activities, and more.

After fighting the initial instinct to super-plan my summer in order to keep it under control, this ebook reminds me that I can put things on our calender, not to control, but to have a sense of anticipation for fun, myself included. It was absolutely worth the 9 dollars to renew my hopes for summer.  (The author of this ebook has never heard of me, I found the book on my own and I’m suggesting it to you only because it helped me.)

Now I’ve got to go do my art class assignment while the little one with the fever is sleeping!



To read the first part of this two-part blog, click here.

Jun 18

Leave This Space Blank

Posted on Monday, June 18, 2012

I can panic with the best of them.

Back in February and March it was the depths of winter homeschooling.  Seized by worry, I yielded completely to my anxious thoughts. “How can I continue to be school and taskmaster all day long?  How can I spend time with my young children instead of just keeping them occupied so that I can work with the older kids?  How can I spend less than 3 hours on saturday preparing for each week?  How can I deal with the disrespect of my pre-teen each and every day?”

After some hair pulling weeks, prayer, and wisdom from older homeschool moms we finished off the year with an overall sense of peace and plenty of enjoyment in those last months.

Now the school work is filed away, the schedule is entirely uncluttered from demands and expectations for the day, and just like every other summer, it sends me off in a new tremor of panic.  Isn’t that bizarre? A complete flip of the situation from a few months ago and instead of relaxed appreciation for the summer, it’s “What the heck are we going to do now?!

Anyone out there familiar with this particular genre of panic?  For homeschool moms and children, the school year is spent at home and the summer is spent at home, that can be a lot of at home.  When summer arrives, suddenly daily goals which seemed so burdensome before, sound like an offering of structure and forward motion to the day.

Sure, open time can lead to creativitiy, getting out forgotten games and toys, connecting deeper with friends, it can also mean bored, grumpy kids (and a tired, grumpy mama).

I know I’m not the only momma who’s felt this way.  Just a few weeks ago a good friend and mother of five said,

So I don’t know what we’re going to do with all of this open time!  I’ve started to write down everything I can think of to fill our schedule. Library time, Regular Playdates, and anything else I can think of!

I’ll confess it felt good to know I wasn’t the only one thinking along these lines.  I had been brainstorming ideas all week and had uttered these stressed out words the previous night to my husband,

I’m going to need a few hours this weekend to plan out summer, I really need to get some things locked into place.”

At that point I was pretty convinced I could plan my way out of a potentially lonely and none-too-thrilling summer.  My brain raced with ideas-prayer groups, girls bible study, regular play dates, library storytime, adult bible study…you name it, and I thought about adding it into our summer.  (You’ll notice camps and the swimming pool aren’t on the list as out budget doesn’t allow for more expensive activities.)

My next confession is that all of this panic, both in the school year and out of it, has a whole lot to do with control, and my need for it at all times.

Think about it: I want to make sure I don’t have any chances of bored, whiny kids and to ensure that I’m going to fill up every single day for the entire summer to guarantee that it will not happen.

But I wonder what I lose when I hold tight to all of that control?

Do I lose opportunities to spontaneously jump on an art project that we would all enjoy?

Do I miss the chance to sit down on the floor and meet the grumpies straight-on by playing board games and making lego figures?  (My seven year old has been asking me to do both of these.)

Do I miss being fully present to each moment, so that I can ensure the next moment will be just the way I want it to be?

And do I miss the chance to give my kids control over their own boredom/happiness level.  Is it really my job to make sure they are happy and entertained every day of the summer, or should they own some of that for themselves?  Are they going to grow into adults thinking someone else is always responsible for their happiness? (And should shovel out large sums of money to make it happen.)

As a side note, I don’t even think it’s healthy or godly for the whole summer to be about how well entertained they can be or about how calm and controlled my own life can be.  I want my kids, and myself, to open our eyes to a world that is so much larger than ourselves and find a useful place in it.

Our kids actually like to have purpose, they feel important when they realize they can be a part of something bigger, even when they are relatively small.

I can take that side note and start planning it all out with a list of “Things to do to connect my kids to the larger world”.

Or I can leave a lot of blank spaces in our summer.

I can allow some boredom and quick conflict into their lives and then ask them how they are going to change it?  Their ideas might be cheaper and more interesting than what I could schedule myself.

I can grab them and go draw wildflowers at the nearby trail just because it’s something I want to do and I left open space to do just that.

I can ask them to pray about ways they want to impact the world and then offer suggestions and help equip them in their goals.

I’ve had the summer panic attack, now what am I going to do  (or not do) about it?

To read part two of this blog post, click here.

May 21

Reading the Bible with Multiple Ages

Posted on Monday, May 21, 2012

“And so David had to flee from Saul-” I begin, the crumbs of a hastily eaten pancake still on my fingers.

“Mommy, mommy, mommy!” calls the three year old from one seat over.

“What Squishy?” I quickly ask.

She takes a dramatic pause, then- “And so Noah and Joshua and Moses, they built a big boat and Jesus likes to read books and-”

“Squishy, Momma’s reading right now, you can have a turn to tell your story when I’m done,” I interrupt her excited run-on sentence and then turn to 11 year old Mookie, “Can you please get her sketchbook for me?”

Mookie runs off to get the sketchbook and I search for my place on the page.

“Then he came to the Phillistines and-” I see a  7 year old  wander from his chair in search of more food.

“Drummer boy, remember, sit down and wait until we’re finished reading.”

Turning back to my page, I hear strange, unappetizing sounds and find the source to be the 9 year old’s nose.

“Eeww, Jellybean, go blow your nose,” I insist and find my place again just as Mookie slides back into her chair with the sketchbook.

“As I was saying, David fled the palace…,” and Bible time at breakfast begins.

Getting an uninterrupted ten minutes to read the Bible together is only one of the challenges of including God’s Word in our daily plan.  I also have to consider the best time of day and the best translation to suit four children, ages ranging from three to eleven years old.

The Story Bible at Breakfast

A friend at church recently mentioned that their family reads the Bible together threes times a day, at each meal.  We may not catch each meal and we may use some variations in the form of the Bible that we choose, but I do try hard to share scripture with the kids several times a day.

With particular thoughts toward my six year old, this year I pulled out The Story Bible by Catherine F. Vos to read each morning at the breakfast table (over and around the noisy toddler).

We’ve read Vos before but I have been surprised by how our morning reading of The Story Bible has led our hearts toward a truer understanding of God’s character.

We started in Genesis and I worried about the ho-hum reaction to hearing the stories the olders have heard so many times before, but instead all of us found ourselves saying, “Oh, I had forgotten about that,” or “I didn’t know that detail.”

The Story of God engaged each of us.

As we wind up the school year, we’re entering the story of Esther and plan to keep reading into the New Testament stories this summer.  ”Read the Bible!” the kids call out most days.

Narrating the Bible Plus Two Questions

After I read a short section, I ask one of the children to narrate what she heard in the story. Sometimes I’m tempted to skip over the 7 year old, not wanting to frustrate him (or, more honestly, not wanting to cause me to deal with any frustration) but I’m always rewarded when I ask. He may need me to lead him along a bit with questions to get him started, but I’m always amazed by what he’s retained.

Next I ask everybody: “What do we learn about _______ ‘s character (fill in David, Joshua, etc)?”

Then I ask: “What do we learn about God’s character in this story?”  For younger children, you might need to be more specific by naming the character trait, “How do we see God’s love in this story?”

I also read extra historical information from Journey through the Bible.

God’s Character through the Big Picture

By moving more quickly through the stories then we would in a regular Bible, we’ve been able to see the firm and unchanging character of God.  We’ve gathered stories of His power and might, which we’ve recalled regularly during prayers for sick friends and family members and other challenges our family has faced this past year.

Here’s are a few truths about God we’ve seen consistently through the Old Testament stories:

God hates sin (the flood, Adam and Eve, the Israelites, Jacob and Esau, Saul, idolatry of the Israelites).

God often chooses the man least fit for the job and works through him, so that God’s glory and power and not man’s power can be seen (Moses, Gideon, Moses, Joshua, Samson, David).

His patience and mercy, as with the Israelites.

His plans cannot be thwarted. (Balaam, Samson, Daniel, Nebuchadnezzar, Jonah).

Study the Bible, so that you can be discerning with an adaptation.

In case you decide to try a story bible, do remember that you will get less of God’s actual words and more of someone’s else-so choose carefully. Look at reviews and find the story bible with a good reputation for adhering to scripture.

You need to be a student of God’s word yourself, knowing the truth and being able to discern when the words of your story Bible don’t align with scripture. In those cases I read it aloud and then point out to the kids, “This is one person’s idea, she’s just sharing her opinion. What do we know about God to be true?” Or sometimes my olders will interrupt and voice a concern and share some scripture that keeps us on the right track.

We may have the Story Bible for breakfast, bit we also  read and memorize scripture almost every evening together and my 9 and 11 year old do their own Bible Studies during their rest time in the afternoon. The Story Bible is one part of a larger plan for studying God’s Word.

The lessons of The Story Bible are not just for kids.

God has used these stories not only for me to remind the kids of His power and might but also to constantly remind myself.  We are now in our 7th year of a turbulent health decline with my Dad.  Currently in a battle for quality care and dignity, I seem to face giants, but the Lord reminds me of story after story when He defeated the most impossible enemies.  He reminds me that He often strips back the power and army surrounding a man so that His glory can be seen.  He used the Story Bible to remind me of these truths and point me back to His scripture:

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  And He is not served by human hands as if He needed anything because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.” (Acts 17:24-25-this is a verse we memorized together with the help of Seeds)

More Resources for reading and studying the Bible

If your children are not ready for a Story Bible with mostly words and hardly any pictures (probably age 5 or 6 and younger) don’t miss The Jesus Storybook Bible, the author and illustrator have  the gospel through every story and picture.

Other resources for bringing the Word of God into your home:


May 6

Encouraging the Heart of the Young Artist

Posted on Sunday, May 6, 2012

I sit in the Sunday School class, in a chair much too small for me, but perfectly suited to the five 3- year olds also at the table.

Crayons in fists, with a coloring sheet in front of each child, their hands hover, uncertain.

Another teacher has just instructed them to draw the boat that Jesus slept in during the savage storm at sea.  I’m just the volunteer for the week, so I watch, wondering what they’ll do with these instructions.

“I can’t draw a boat. Can you draw me a boat?” One frustrated girl asks her regular teacher.

“Sure, I’ll draw you a boat.”  He draws a boat on her picture, and she’s done.  She lays her crayon down.

Requests spring up like popcorn around the table until almost all of the boats are drawn by the teacher.

Only the girl beside me is silent, hard at work with her chubby, broken blue crayon.

“You’re a great artist.” I tell her.

“What’s a artist?” she asks, startled for a moment by this new name.

“An artist is someone who paints or draws,” I offer my simplified definition.

“Then I’m an artist,” she declares and returns to her art.

“I’m an artist,” the boy beside her says and picks up his blunt, peeled orange crayon and a magnificent array of dots appear across his page. “Rain!” he almost shouts.

“I’m an artist too,” announces the next child, a girl with serious eyes and freckles. Then she looks around skeptically, “And so are the other kids at this table, but not that one or that one,” she points to the the two adults in the room.

“Oh, they are artists too,” I nod my head, “God is an artist.  He painted the sky and the trees and the animals, and we’re made like God, so we’re all artists.”

My own three-year old daughter chimes in, “I paint.  I’m an artist too!”

Crayons dip, drag, and dance, led by little artists.

I remember the joy of creating as a child.  The magic of combining words to make stories, the first line I ever spoke on stage, and yes, crayons let loose on paper.

Other memories play in my head, intertwined with the good, adults dropping critical words on my hopeful creations like stones dropping on glass.  As the words replay, I understand why it took me until my thirties to find again that freedom and confidence in making art that I first had as a young child.

I’m now on a mission to encourage and sustain the artist hearts of children.  It’s been a learning process over the last 11 years to find out what that means for my own kids and more recently, other kids, when I taught at our co-op.

Here are some guidelines to consider when talking to kids about their art:

It starts with you.

“I can’t draw,” you apologize as you push the paper back over to your four-year old when he asks you to draw a car. You just effectively planted the seed in your child that some people can draw and some people can’t. Maybe he falls into the category of “can’t”.

First of all, the car you draw is going to seem like a Picasso painting to your little boy, even your stick figures will impress him. If you want to instill an “I can do anything” attitude then model one!

“Well, I don’t draw very much honey, but I’ll try.”  And then draw the car.  (This is much harder for me to do when it comes to singing or fixing toilets, I need this reminder for myself all the time).

If still seems hard to think of saying those words “I can draw”, go ahead and check out the book Ish by Peter Reynolds.  When you read it with your child you’ll find out you can at least draw a car-ish.

“What is it?”

When your child approaches you with his masterpiece, don’t start with “What is it?” or “That’s a great ______”. Your child is absolutely sure that his squiggles and dots look as much like a horse chasing a lion to you as they did to him when he drew it.  As soon as you ask, “What is it?” that confidence is shattered, and the seed of doubt is planted.  It’s the same thing if you name his picture, and get it wrong.

Instead say, “Tell me about you picture.” It works with toddlers all the up through the ages, and you’ll most likely hear details you never would have heard with those other questions and statements.  You’ll get a window right into the heart of the child, because art is a window. And you’ll see the glow of pride at his accomplishments brighten as he talks about his work.

Coloring inside the lines is over-rated.

Coloring inside the lines is a skill that has gotten way too much attention!  Everyone can eventually learn how to color inside the lines, but will a child learn how to draw (or paint or write) the world as he sees it (different from every other child in the world).

Set aside those coloring books, and give your child a blank sketchbook.  My mom gave my now 11 year old a blank sketchbook when she was 2 and we’ve never looked back.  We still watch the video of her delightfully making her marks all over the page and telling us the details about the pictures.  Also try tools other than crayons.  For the last three years crayons have been out of vogue in our house, the youngest only wants pencils.  Every child is different.

Give Specific Feedback.

The child has just spent forty five minutes working on their drawing and she runs to you and flashes her treasure.  ”That’s really great” and “That’s good, honey” aren’t equal to the effort she’s just expended.

Start with, “Tell me about it.” Really pay attention to the details and comment on the specific aspects of the drawing. You’re not trying to come up with something that sounds good, your looking attentively and telling the truth.  And you don’t have to know art vocabulary to make meaningful comments.

“I really like…”

…the colors you chose, they really make me feel the sunset.”

…the facial expression on the boy, I can tell he loves riding his bike.”

…how you made her legs, she looks like she’s really running.”

…the shading on your trees, I can see the light flooding in and it’s makes the trees pop of the page.”

My 11 year old showed me a sketch yesterday and before she showed it to me she said, “Now I want to hear more than, ‘That’s good.’ I want more feedback, tell me exactly what you like.”

Don’t force a compliment when your child is frustrated.

We deal plenty of frustration around here.  From the artist who has needed to draw perfectly since she was four to the younger brother who doesn’t think he can draw at all compared to his sisters.

When a child says his drawing is awful and you say, “No, it’s great, I love it.”, you’re trying to offer encouragement and build his confidence.  But you’re actually implying that his feelings about his artwork aren’t true.  It’s tempting to think you can talk your child out of being unsatisfied with his art, but I haven’t found that to be the case.

Instead, if you truly do like it, but also want to help your child through the process try, “Well, I like it a lot (generic, I know) but tell me what your unsatisfied with.” Listen to the child and try to narrow down why he/she isn’t happy with it. Ask questions.  ”What do you wish was different?” Sometimes it’s just one detail.

If you feel comfortable, try offering some suggestions.

If your child is early in the drawing process and is stuck on one part of his work, encourage him to continue on with the rest of the picture and come back to the trouble spot at the end.  Often times, the area that seemed “so wrong” doesn’t seem as important once the rest of the work is finished.  In the “I love 2 Bake” picture below, my daughter was very frustrated with the hands, but once she moved on to the arms, apron, and filled in the color, the hands seemed less important and she was pleased with her artwork.

This is not a guaranteed or easy process. There might be a continued period of frustration, in which you have to try your best to remain the calm half.  A younger child may need to take a break and come back to it later. But I’ve found as the kids grow, if we can stay the course and arrive at something the child feels at least mildly happy with, we’ve both succeeded, and the child slowly gains the ability to narrow down what he’s disatisfied with, work on it a bit, and finish successfully.

“Successfully” doesn’t mean the product is beautiful in your eyes, it means your child didn’t give up in the throes of frustration but persevered, and that’s a life skill that will eventually also lead to better artistic skill.

(The area of frustration is one that really needs an entire blog post unto itself).

Focus on the process, not the product.

Because my girls have come quite a long way in their artwork, I’m tempted to get more “product” focused then “process” focused. I forget what their work looked like when they were younger (and so do they) and my expectations for my 7 year old land way over the mark.

As I listened to Peter H. Reynolds a few weeks ago, I realized I needed to start hanging up more of my son’s work, not just the best (in my eyes) of his work.  His enjoyment of the process, and willingness to stay in it and believe he’s an artist is so much more important than the final product.

There’s a chance you’ll need to lower your standards and cheer for your child’s artwork a lot more than you’ve been doing.  Maybe his work doesn’t seem nearly as impressive as that other kid in your co-op, but that doesn’t matter. He has a life of creating ahead of him, if you help sustain his artist heart.

If you haven’t done so, read The Dot with your children then tell them to sign their most recent art work and hang it in a beautiful frame!

Is this an area of struggle for you?  Have you learned any lessons in your own creative life, or in guiding your child?