a small shift in my thinking has happened this year. i used to not countenance hands-on activities much. did you really need to make a salt dough map in order to understand the Nile delta? or build a pyramid out of sugar cubes or (god forbid) actually mummify a chicken? read + talk about the books, look at some pictures, maybe draw a bit yourself, and call it good. i still think that’s the basic outline.
but handcrafts have a way of making space for just the sort of talk that brings the learning to life. as we set to work on our lapbooks or models or coloring sheets, we gather at the table. the work keeps us gathered long after the last bit of the story has been read. the work creates a shared experience that makes conversation easier and family culture richer.
our usual work is coloring together: the supply list is basic and the mess factor low. just now we are wending our way through redemptive history on the way to Easter with the Jesus Tree. but the children also often draw + narrate the stories again, make models, play dress-up. although i model this quieter, more contemplative side of learning for them, these are their projects. they aren’t required, but rather spring up out of their own response to the stories that we share.
a few weeks ago, Julie from Brave Writer wrote about celebrating having learned. often we are in such a rush to learn, that we can’t savor the goodness of actually learning. what’s the good of learning math facts or phonics? they’re stepping stones that make further learning possible. but that’s not all they are. creating together helps to quiet the nervous we’ve-got-to-finish-this-book-before-June part of me. it helps us celebrate our learning. it makes time for connections to be made. connections between all the facts they’re learning and connections between all of us.
:: Christ in the House of his Parents by John Everett Millais ::
I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you.
Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD.
Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.
:: Psalm 32.8-11 ::
…but you don’t know where to start. you might best try talking to someone who has already seen this process through to some sort of conclusion. but until then, here’s what i am doing.
i have been following the revision roadmap set out by Jennifer Blanchard. it was helpful for me to see her rough timeframe estimates so that i could know where i am. this is a very large problem for me, someone who regularly writes (short) poems. a novel is a lot of words. too many really for me to keep track of. hence the roadmap. there are also links to handy organizational tools to help with plotting and story structure.
i also read The Parable of You: Stories by Tony Wolk. it is a collection of very short stories, sometimes called flash fiction. normally, in my reading life, i am not really interested in short stories. i like lush, thick, expansive novels. i like them even more now that i see what beasts they are from the writer’s end! something about the form of these short-short stories captivated me. they seem almost like prose poems. ah! something i can do! so i am still revising the novel, but i have a hunch this might be a collection of short pieces.
and i am starting to work through Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew by Ursula K. Le Guin. it is a work horse of a book. i am using scenes from the novel to do the exercises. that way i don’t have to concoct new storyline. i can instead focus on the point of craft that she is teaching. the learning curve is steep. i don’t in any way think that at the end of this process i will have a readable final draft. but the upside is that this daily attention has primed the pump. my journal is full to bursting and a few poems have even come.
even though Day Two’s project was cleaning out the fridge, this picture of the inside of my refrigerator is not for the month long challenge happening at Money Saving Mom! and it’s not to show the baby getting into things…though he’s got the open container of half-n-half in hand.
it’s to record the time we had ants in our fridge! right there between the buttermilk and the leftovers. a thin foam container providing padding for a vial of 25 harvester ants. we bought our ant habitat at a garage sale last summer after having such a wonderful time watching the butterflies. you can order one here. i ordered the ants at the end of January. after waiting more than a month, i was afraid they would never arrive. but they did!
the ants are not as involved of a project–we don’t get to see an entire lifecycle. but we are enjoying watching them do their work. Nicolas has even discovered observational drawing. i heard him exclaim, “i can just sit here and look at the ants and draw them!” smart boy. even the baby likes to watch.
:: illustration by Stephen Crotts ::
last week On Being broadcast an interview with Paul Elie. he is the author of a book called The Life You Save May Be Your Own: An American Pilgrimage. it’s a book about four mid-century Catholic writers: Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Conner, Walker Percy,and Dorothy Day. it’s about reading and being converted.
we enter the story in the middle; the story precedes us. it’s the stories of our families, our parents, the story of our region, the story of our religious tradition.
we have certain expectations because of that story that we want to test with our lives. to see if they stand up, to sound them and see if they’re genuine.
the interview is 10 years old, but it sounds absolutely timely in these early days of Lent. i haven’t read his book–there are quite a few holds on it at our library…i love thinking of all of us who listened to the radio show quickly requesting a 10 year old book! but Paul Elie’s voice is one worth listening too. he keeps a blog called Everything Rises. again, worth your quiet attention. and the On Being show notes collect a wonderful lot of quotes + images + video. it’s just the sort of curation of things i aspire to myself.
You ought to be writing a book.
You are having a unique experience, and you should write about it.
Maybe this could be another project that the boy and you could work on jointly–some sort of mutual description of your work together.
–John Holt in Growing Without Schooling Issue 17
well, if you know me at all you know i have a terrible sense of humor. so you’d have to look pretty hard to find any post that i had written that could be considered funny.
instead i offer you this: Mabel Nadine at 1 week.
i like that we are wearing the same color shirt!
you can look for more funny posts over at Sarah’s place….
…i just signed up for 4 Weeks to a More Organized Home at Money Saving Mom.
and because i need to remind myself most of all,
:: a wonderful coloring sheet from Catholic Playground ::
We have also a more sure word…as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts
2 Peter 1.19
there’s still time to enroll in the Art + Inquiry class from MoMA at Coursera. smart, free teacher development. it’s a relatively small time commitment–just a few hours a week for a month. but it might be just the sort of freshening your March needs.
in other art news, Barb at Harmony Fine Arts has been publishing a free series on Intimate Impressionism each Friday. we’ve enjoyed this late winter change of pace. her Art Discussion cards are also very useful when looking + talking together. we also love her mini-units
and Julie at Brave Writer has lots of ideas about including fine art seamlessly into your days