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.
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”.
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,Aimee
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).
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):
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):
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.
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.
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?”
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)
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:
She also has three books available through Amazon (two are pre-order):
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?
Glancing around it’s clear that nobody else has brought their kids. Behind us is a trickling procession of what I assume to be parents and teachers filling the metal folding chairs.
Do they know who we’re about to meet? They seem to be acting so-normal.
Sure, they probably know his name if they’re here, but do they know enough to sit in the front row and make fan signs (okay, we didn’t make fan signs, hopefully our smiles and our sketchbooks convey our feelings).
We’ve been Peter H. Reynolds fans for a couple of years now. Our two favorite books, Ish and The Dot, still impact us on each new read. I’d been a recovering perfectionist for years before I began to think Ish-ly. And I’ve seen his books opens doors to art for both kids and adults, alike.
An older woman next to us turns and starts a conversation. She seems to know Peter H. Reynolds much better than us, so I ask her, “How do you know him?”
A Glimpse at His Heart
She tells her story:
“My husband and I experienced a tragedy, we lost our son.
One day my husband asked me what I needed, what I wanted and I said I wanted to go to the Blue Bunny Bookstore (a store owned by Mr. Reynolds and his twin brother, a fact I certainly didn’t know before that moment).
Right away my husband bought plane tickets and made hotel arrangements and soon after we headed to Massachusetts. I didn’t have any expectation to meet Peter, and my husband said ‘Buy anything you want’, so off I went.
While I was walking around my husband went to the front desk, ‘My wife would really like to meet Peter Reynolds.’ The person at the desk called Peter up and he offered to come and meet us at the coffee shop across the street. And so we sat and had coffee with Peter Reynolds! I told him how his books had changed my life and about our tragedy, but he didn’t know any of that before he agreed to meet with a couple of strangers. Since then we’ve all been kindred spirits.”
Then she showed me her “Dot” heart necklace, painted by Mr. Reynold’s wife, in the style of his book, The Dot.
Well, I certainly knew a little bit more about the author’s heart from that story. I already knew he loved art, and opening the doors for kids and adults to do art, but here was something-more.
She went on to talk to me about his books, more books than I ever knew he had written, particularly one that chronicled a moment in an autistic child’s life. Someone from Mr. Reynolds group had just given her a free copy of it and she handed it to me to read.
Now I knew a lot more and Mr. Reynolds hadn’t even spoken yet.
His Heart Spoke, Our Hearts Listened
When he did speak, he may have used words and shown videos, but it was his heart that spread throughout the room.
It clearly didn’t escape his notice that my kids were in the room and he regularly engaged them with eye contact and words.
“Do you think you’ll fly to the moon?” he asked my 11 year old.
And as he talked about kids changing the world he directed the end of that phrase to her.
Again and again he met the eyes of my two kiddos and they remained dedicated to him.
Through stories of his childhood, of how he named his characters, of his involvement with writing the book about autistic children, we knew him a little more.
Eventually we stood in line to get some artwork signed.
We gushed our appreciation when we finally reached him (he had earlier that day signed 300 books, a inscription and doodle in every book, so I knew he must be tired).
The Final Layer
“It seems from listening to you tonight, that you’re a Christian?”
“Yes, I am,” he smiled. ”In fact, my brother and I consider all that we do to be our ministry. When I spoke at a school once they pulled me aside and said they were a little unsure what I might say after reading my book The North Star. ’Good’, I said.”
“Well, that’s a wonderful layer that we didn’t know about, it great for my kids to see someone who is following the Lord and using their gifts fully as adults.”
Then he took a few moments to look at their artwork, and ask them what their names meant, and finally when they told him how much they loved his tiny watercolors that he had shown during the talk (about 1 by 2 inches), he paused, pulled them out, and gave the tiny set to them.
As we walked out into the dim, almost abandoned parking lot of the school you could hear my girls shouting.
“He gave us his watercolors!”
“Oh my gosh, they’re mixed, he really used these, he touched these!”
An author and artist to them is parallel to what pop bands were to me when I was 11. I felt like a grown-up kid myself as we headed to the car.
I think Mr. Reynolds would have enjoyed my 9 year old’s comment as we drove home.
“So, did you enjoy it Jellyfish?”
“Enjoy it! I loved everything that he said. It’s good for me to see an adult Christian artist who’s okay with not doing things perfect and making mistakes. I’m someone who wants to do everything just right and very realisitic. I think that’s really good for me to meet someone like him.”
She’s decided it’s okay to be perfect-ish.
Books to check out by Peter H. Reynolds
He has more than what’s listed above and a new series coming out, included a chapter book he’s working on now.
Activities Related to His Books
During his talk, he demonstrated his animation program that allows kids (and grown-up kids) to draw and the animate their drawings. All of three of us were itching to get our hands on it. You can check it out here.
The Blue Bunny Bookstore
Stop by his store The Blue Bunny the next time you get to Massachusetts.
I have a thing for art.
I’ve always had a thing for art, but sharing the experience with my kids through these homeschool years had increased my love exponentially.
Several days a week we find ourselves with sketchbooks and paints and sharpies during an assignment for Sketch Tuesday, an assignment from Artistic Pursuits, a project for art class in our little co-op, or just many hands sketching while I read.
This year the focus has been slightly narrowed down to drawing and watercolor skills, based on the Artistic Pursuit’s book were doing this year, and because the supplies for these mediums are so easy to grab and use. (We varied things up a bit more when we studied Van Gogh in the later winter/early spring).
A New Art Book
Recently my friend and local librarian sent me a recommendation for DK’s My Art Book: Amazing Art Projects Inspired by Masterpieces.
I’ve always enjoyed DK books and My Art Book contains all of the elements I expect to find in their books : crisp and colorful illustrations, step by step directions, and projects that look inviting and do-able.
Flipping through the pages got my hands itching to mix some paint with ashes and berries and make a cave painting.
Or work in 3d to create a sculptured African mask.
I wanted to think about portraits in a new way as I gazed at the work of Guiseppe Arcimboldo and imagined what we could do with food, some Legos, and a camera.
Along with the overly familiar VanGogh sunflowers(the image from the book cover, which incidentally, is not actually in the book) and Warhol pop art, here are the other artists in the book:
A Summer Art Plan
“This is the perfect book for summer,” I thought to myself. “We can shoot for one project a week (that, of course will change, because summer never goes according to schedule) and even invite different friends over to join us.“
Doing these kind of projects regularly at our house along with our daily school schedule, with four kids, including the newly curious three year old, would leave me flustered. But after a year of trying to get the shadows and shading and realism just right, this looks like a great way to play with art this summer.
What are your favorite resources for art?
For anyone who’s experienced flight through words….this short animated (oscar-nominated) film is for you. This was great viewing for our whole family-if your young one is nervous about the storm in the beginning, tell them to hold on, it’s all going to be okay. Be inspired by the film, pick up your favorite book and…fly. And then make some art, and a movie, and…
(You can download this movie for FREE on Itunes. )