Tuesday, December 31, 2013

This is Why My Daughter is a Better Artist Than Me

So at the library a few weeks ago, we found a stack of drawing books. 

RJ has taken to sleeping on them, her little body wedged between stacks of sketchbooks, boxes of pencils, and anime how-tos. One of the books is a real art course, called Art for Kids, by Kathryn Temple. It reminds me of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, for kids. It is methodical, step by step, with exercises and warm ups and lessons. I love it. I've been reading it to RJ. She's really liked the rules: things like, Don't compare your art to other peoples. Draw more. There is no right way to draw something. And she's really liked the idea of seeing like an artist.

Last night we began some of the exercises. This first one was a fun scribbling drawing, and we worked together and found interesting shapes and filled in all the white spaces. It was soothing. MP said of the finished product, "this kinda looks like my brain is talking to me." And as we were quietly filling in the loops and swoops she said, "this feels like that I'm asleep." It did. It was lovely.

I thought, "this works! we could have our own, step-by-step art class! I could give my kids real art skills in an overtly methodical way, and brush up on my own at the same time! It's a foolproof plan!"

This morning, RJ was eager to do more. The next exercise in the book was to make continuous line drawings-- choose an object to draw, don't lift your pen, and don't look at your paper. The point is to practice connecting your eye directly to your hand, and to work on seeing lines and shapes and the way they connect without interference from your left brain and it's over enthusiasm to interpret, label and decode.

RJ made two noble attempts, before descending into a regal grump. She hated the results: nonsensical, messy, disordered.

I was irritated with her irritation. I may have nagged: "Just try just stretch your brain, just try new things even if it's not perfect."

She drew a picture of a butt farting.

"Fine," I said. "You do what you want. I'm going to do a workbook with MP."

RJ got out a how-to draw Disney book and I ignored her. Twenty minutes later, after MP's patience wore out with phonics, RJ had produced a perfect copy of Bambi. Colors and everything. No tracing. Perfect.

She skipped right over the "practicing seeing like an artist" thing, and went right to the, "producing art she is happy with" thing.

A light bulb went on over my soggy old brain. I've spent all my time as an aspiring artist, writer, gardener, wife, parent, person-- just warming up. Learning the theory. Mastering micro-skills.

She, at six, skipped right to Making Something Good, process be darned.

And that is why my six year old is a better artist that I am. Do I need to say how pleased I am that she is? I am. So pleased. Wish I could take ANY of the credit, but I can't. I can just try and imitate her, and Do Good Work, without waiting to rehearse first.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

First day of Summer!

Today was the first real day of summer-- I had my last day at work (till August) yesterday-- turning in keys, lugging home summer reading, sweating through year-end-reviews.

We started our day with a little Summer Homeschool routine. Yes, I'm a psycho tiger mom, I admit it. The girls chose Plants, Greek Myths, and Yoga for our summer topics, and brainstormed questions and I raided the library.

We started with our morning Yoga:

And read about The Olympians:

And read about plants from this book, which I have accepted as my new Scriptural Canon, it is so unbelievably beautiful. And plus it explained to my six year old, in a few simple sentences,  the whole relationship of the sun, to plants, to life on earth. It was so lovely and clear that she was able to assemble H20 molecules out of blocks, then disassemble them into Hydrogen and Oxygen via photosynthesis. It was COOL.

The little one is still three so I won't freak out that she's lagging on her life science-- we stuck with chemistry and made chocolate chip cookies with Aunty Katie's unbearably delicious recipe, and since we were on the floor with mixing bowls anyway, I whipped up a tub of Boule dough from:
After our milk and cookies snack, we put on our garden shoes and ventured out into the mud puddles. We bushwacked through the tall grass to say hi to the chickens (only one egg today!) in the backyard. Rosie got to carry the lone egg in the little egg basket and both girls dragged sticks through the "rivers" along the path out to the goats. I pulled red-stemmed Cassava and cracked off bunches of Ti leaves to woo our three (someday) Dairy goats, and then we tramped out to say howdy to the 32 young skittish goats that Matt procured for his PhD experiments. 

The day felt like coming home to myself-- remembering, oh RIGHT. THIS is what my life is actually like. It's as if I've been absent from my own life for months, and it was just waiting for me to find it again. 

Friday, May 03, 2013

Fishing Trip Huaka'i

So the real advantage to teaching at RJ's school is that I can spy on my kid. I can eavesdrop on her conversations at recess ("Um, I'm actually a REAL nature girl...") and pop in to her classroom any day and watch the cute idiocy of the kindergarteners as they tumble over each other, chew on their hair, and pat each other. 

It's delightful seeing her thrive and adapt in this new environment-- All Hawaiian language, all the time. At first she only complained about it, but now she delights in showing off her language, and making sure I know when I sound like an idiot.

"NO, Mom. It's loa'a not aia." I hear a tinny distant echo of my own 6 year old self, making fun of my dad's accent in Dutch. I'm happy for the cosmic come-around.

A few weeks ago I took the high schoolers and went with the K-2nd graders for a fishing trip. They first learned all the parts of the fish, learned a song about the fishes, then they made their own bamboo fish poles, complete with real tiny hooks, and then sat in a precarious long line of wiggly little kids on a pier and tried to snag some actual fishes with wads of stale white bread. 

 Rosie was very impressed with my big students' knotting and tying skills. The big kids are so protective of the little ones-- bossy and demanding, too. The teenagers policed the teeny-tinies much better than I could have...

 Where are all the darn fish? Nobody caught anything. But it was still fun.
For me, anyway.