Arts and Crafts
I am nothing like an artist. When we had a little art class at my house some years ago, I compared my drawings to everyone else's and saw how bad it was and gave up. It was frustrating to me because I saw in my mind how I wanted my picture to look but on paper it looked nothing like how I pictured it in my mind! But after reading A Pocketful of Pinecones by Karen Andreola, I decided to try again. I realized that I can only improve and I wanted to be an example for my children of perseverance like Heber J. Grant.
So once a week we had nature notebook or handicrafts, another thing I wanted to work on more. We tried to draw or paint from photos which we've been told is easier.
I am also not a crafty person (except for counted cross stitch), but inspired by Charlotte Mason, we also did handicrafts every other week. I don't mean the pointless crafts that kids sometimes make in school that get thrown away after a few days. I am talking about making things we can really use while developing real skills. I recently made a beautiful (if I do say so myself) macramé plant hanger. It feels good to look out my window and see it on the patio holding a beautifully draping plant with little blue flowers. The act of working and accomplishing something such as making something and having it come out looking decent or even beautiful is healing to the body and soul. I decided we need to do more of that. I need healing; you need healing; everybody needs healing.
For those that need more inspiration, I would suggest The Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden and Wild Days by Karen Rackcliffe. For those that feel a need for help learning how to draw and paint, I used this Guide to Sketching in Nature.
Too Young for Great Art?
One thing I was good at was exposing my children to great art. I took my children to dozens of art museums when they were very young and I continued to do it as they got older. Because our family had the very fortunate opportunity to live overseas for five years, we were able to include many great European museums in our vacation plans. Our children were very young, but we knew we would probably never have the chance to visit Europe again. We didn't want to miss out ourselves, so we decided we would just have to take our little ones with us. When we visited Rome, we ran into an American couple in three separate "tourist" spots. Every time we saw them, they rolled their eyes and said they couldn't believe we brought our children to Rome with us. Of course, they didn’t realize that we hadn’t flown over from America.
When we visited Paris, I was determined to go to the Louvre Museum, although my oldest child was only four years old. To accomplish this, I prepared my children ahead of time. Although this was before the advent of the Internet, I was able to obtain a book that showed the collections the Louvre obtained. I chose eight favorite pieces of art that I felt I had to see and that I thought would be interesting and suitable for my young children. For several weeks before our trip, I showed my children the pictures from the book, along with the titles of the pieces and a little about the artists. I told them that in a few weeks we would have the chance to see the pieces in person and made it sound very exciting (it was for me).
When we got to the Louvre, I looked at the museum map and found the eight pieces of art we planned to see. We decided we would try see other pieces along our way, but if the kids got disruptive, we would at least see those eight. I reminded my children of the pieces we had looked at in the book at home. I explained that the museum had a lot of rooms, so it was like a scavenger hunt. They were to look around and tell me when they saw each sculpture or painting we had seen at home. Unfortunately, the Raphael gallery was closed the day we visited, so we only got to see six of the eight pieces, but my little ones recognized all six famous works of art. You should have seen the incredulous stares we got when my 2 - 1/2 year old began screaming, "There's the Mona Lisa!" as soon as the crowd cleared enough for her to see it from her stroller. (By the way, she is 26 now and still loves to visit art museums.)
Before we visited Italy, I had read The Agony and the Ecstasy, a novel about Michelangelo Buonarotti. I knew I had to see all the Michelangelos in the country—even the ones we had to walk very far out of the way to see! Again, I showed my children pictures of many of his great works including paintings, sculptures, and architecture. We talked about how he painted murals on walls and even a ceiling. They tried painting the underside of the dining room table (covered with paper) to get a feel for what that might have been like.
We went to the Uffizi and the Academia, and other places to see specific pieces. We walked several miles to visit old churches that held some of Michelangelo’s most beautiful pieces such as the statue of Moses. When we went to the Vatican Museums, our usual plan of going straight to the most prized pieces wasn't possible. The Vatican Museums required everyone take the guided tour which took several hours. I was quite nervous, especially knowing that the thing we really wanted to see, the Sistine Chapel, was at the very end of the tour. Amazingly, they let us bring a box of crackers into the museum and the children sat in their stroller and ate them during much of the tour! But again they were very excited to see the "Judgment Day" by Michelangelo on the wall, and of course, the beautiful Sistine ceiling because they were familiar with those.
Now, you may be thinking that you will never have the opportunity to visit Italy or France. Well, you don't have to go to Italy or France to expose your family to great art or architecture. You probably have some in your own area. You may also be able to plan extended field trips (vacations to non-homeschoolers) to other states and visit art museums there. If possible, prepare your children ahead of time and you will be surprised at how much they understand and enjoy. Read a little about the artists and look at some of the works you will see. If your children are young, don't try to see everything, but do see something.
When we returned to the United States, we chose to live in an area that has many wonderful cultural resources. We are within a hundred miles of some of the most exquisite art pieces known to man. There are frequently traveling exhibits that bring national treasures to the area. It would be a shame to assume that children aren't capable of enjoying such things, especially when they may never come again.
When my youngest child was fourteen, we planned a trip to Chicago, where there are many world-class museums, including several aimed at families. We didn't have time to visit them all, so I asked my daughter which ones she would prefer to see. Her first choice was the Art Institute of Chicago. Because she was familiar with many of the classic pieces there, she was excited to lead me around to her favorite ones by following the map. We couldn't leave until we had seen the entire museum! Unfortunately, (or perhaps fortunately) one of my favorites was temporarily off display, so we will have to plan another trip in the future!
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