Today was a good day.
We had our annual co-op end of year picnic. It’s 5 hours of field games, friends, and food that ends with a giant water gun fight that goes on for about 2 hours. It was a beautiful day, not to hot and with a great breeze. The storms that had been threatening all morning held off. The food was good.
I don’t worry a lot about socialization. But I do worry about it a little bit. Especially as my 9 year old is getting older. It’s not so much that he doesn’t have a chance to be with other kids. Between baseball and swimming and church and co-op and Scouts we’ve got that covered. It’s more that as he gets older I sense that he needs more independence. He needs to navigate his way in a group of boys, figuring out if he’s a leader or a follower. He needs to have secrets from me. He needs to run with a pack.
He gets that from time to time. But today he got it all day. I barely saw him from the time we got to the park until the time I rounded him and a gang of boys up to bring them all home to continue the fun at our house. I didn’t see what he ate, although he did wave at me as he carried a full plate of food off to the “fort” so he and his gang could do some pre-water gun fight strategizing.
What I appreciate about homeschooling is that while John still has the occasional chance to be part of a pack of boys, it also creates a lifestyle where he is used to those boys being all ages. I say I barely saw John. I saw David only slightly more since he chose to eat lunch with me. John’s friends fully welcome David into their play, today and on other occasions. David told me when we got home that one older boy didn’t know his name but knew John so decided to call David “little John”. David thought that was awesome. (Understand that this was probably a 12 or 13 year old boy who was including a 6 year old in the game. Awesome indeed.) I like that I saw boys shepherding their toddler brothers across the field. I like that the teenagers both helped the adults with the set-up and ran around like lunatics dumping buckets of water on each other.
As John has gotten older there have been days when he’s away for much of the day, similar to the hours he’d be gone for traditional school. Every time we have one of those days I miss him. Maybe to a non-homeschooler that sounds weird, like I’m an over-involved or helicopter mother. But the truth is I like spending time with him. I enjoy him. I’m glad that right now we spend most of our time together as a family. But I’m also glad that we’ve found a place where we can all have our own space.
I asked John and David to prepare lunch today while I finished up some yard work. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was more than pleasantly surprised to find this table set. There was tuna salad and crackers for me and John and crackers and peanut butter for David and Ruth. Sliced apples for everyone to share. They even made lemonade on their own.
But perhaps even more surprising was that the kitchen was remarkably clean.
We’re adjusting to school this week after a week of vacation (that followed many busy weeks of lighter than normal school). I’m thinking that no matter what else we get done I can call today at least a success.
David loves birds. After the success of Swordbird and the sequels as read-alouds, I thought The High Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate would be a great choice for his special bedtime book. It was a good choice; both he and his brother really liked the story. For the past month or so they have taken on the roles of various birds into the ever changing backyard war games they play together and with friends.
The story is fairly reminiscent of other adventure tales. Blue Jay is the captain of the Grosbeak, the most feared pirate ship of the skies. (Yes, the ships fly.) He’s kind of like the Dread Pirate Roberts in The Princess Bride. He isn’t really all that fierce but he knows he has to keep up his reputation in order to have other ships fear him and surrender to him more easily. He also likes collecting unusual objects, especially unusual eggs, and the book begins with the acquisition of a large unusual egg. The egg eventually hatches to reveal a gosling. There is some controversy over whether or not to keep the gosling. It’s huge and some of the crew are concerned that it’s geese family will come looking for it. However, Blue Jay and the ship’s navigator, Junco, insist that the gosling should stay. Junco has a maternal bond with Gabriel the gosling and Blue Jay believes that it will bring them adventure of some kind. Adventure really begins when the Grosbeak crashes and the crew is attacked by a local gang of crows. The pirate crew enlists the help of a local village of sparrows and Hilary, a star-nosed mole, to battle the crows and win back their ship.
The boys did really enjoy the book. They liked all the battles and the bird heroes. I’m glad we read it but I thought it was just ok. Scott Nash does a good job of creating his fantasy world and many of the characters are appealing and interesting. However, in many ways the book is kind of a muddle of different storylines. There is a whole political backstory about the sparrows and the ruling class of thrushes, some semi-religious overtones about geese and ducks (the goose is somehow seen as a god like figure) and a whole lot of characters. I had a hard time keeping some of the characters and minor plot points straight. (For example, the birds aren’t allowed to migrate but Gabriel wants to migrate at the end and the other birds are going with him. I think this loophole might have been explained earlier but I couldn’t remember and didn’t really care enough to spend the time looking it up. I think if the author could have figured out what the core of his story is (coming of age story? adventure story? political allegory?) it would have made for a tighter, better book.
Stop by Read-Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word!
Art is one of those things that I always want to do more of in our homeschool but somehow it seems to get pushed to the back burner. I think one reason is my perfectionist tendencies. Ideally I’d love to follow some kind of plan, studying artists by time period or by style or in some kind of logical way. But what that means is we never do it because I never seem to get it planned out. In reality what works for us is to find good books, read them and talk about the artist and their work. It’s kind of haphazard but it works ok for now.
I’m not sure where I heard about Georgia in Hawaii: When Georgia O’Keefe Painted What She Pleased, a newish book by Amy Novesby but it tells about an interesting episode in the life of Georgia O’Keefe when she was invited to Hawaii by The Hawaiian Pineapple Company to paint two paintings for them. O’Keefe was already a well-known artist at this point and the company (which would later become Dole) wanted her to paint a pineapple and provided her with a pineapple picked from the tree. They refused to allow her to go to the pineapple fields to paint in a more natural setting and she became angry. Instead of painting what they wanted she toured the Hawaiian artists, creating beautiful paintings of everything but pineapples.
The story is quirky, and a fun addition to a study on O’Keefe. It’s also a good way to see that she painted more than desert scenes. It definitely gives a particular impression of her personality: strong, independent and slightly stubborn. However, for more of a complete study of the artist you would want to include other books as this one doesn’t really talk much about O’Keefe’s life or show much of the paintings most typical of her style.
We enjoyed several other books to flesh out her life a bit more:
Georgia Rises: A Day in the Life of Georgia O’Keefe by Kathyrn Lasky
My Name is Georgia by Jeanette Winter
Through Georgia’s Eyes by Rachel Victoria Rodriguez
Georgia O’Keefe: Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists by Mike Venezia
We also did an art project to go along with the books. Because O’Keefe is so well known for her flower paintings I chose to have the kids try their hands at something similar. I gave them each a piece of posterboard and instructed them to draw a flower taking up most of the space. We then painted the flowers using liquid watercolors.
Our flower model.
Ruth’s flower painting.
My flower painting.
I don’t have a painting from John because as usual he ended up more interested in “experimenting” with mixing colors. For some reason he was really really determined to figure out a way to get the watercolors to make a dark black. He used a lot of paint and a lot of water and ended up tearing through his posterboard. But he was happy, he sees art as more of a science experiment anyway.
David’s flower painting, which I think turned out really well. The thing I was most impressed with was that he kept doing things that weren’t what he wanted to do but then he’d quickly adapt and figure out how to change it. He thought he was using a red color that ended up being orange, then when he went to wipe it off with a paper towel he smeared it across the page. He decided then that he’d use the paper towel to “paint” the entire background orange and said it was the desert. He then used a brush and different orange and red paint to do the petals.
As we did this project it struck me that in some ways art projects are like science experiments. One of the things I hear homeschoolers say all the time about science experiments is that they don’t like doing them “because they don’t work”. It drives me batty because not working is part of the experiment. If you don’t get the “right” results (meaning the results you expect) part of science is figuring out why. That’s the interesting part for me. I realized though that often I shy away from art projects because “they don’t work”. Meaning that I don’t get the results I expect, or the results that I imagine in my head.
David is our most artistic child and it was interesting to see him do this painting. I think he didn’t mind it not turning out “right” because for him that was when it got fun.
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Image from National Gallery of Art website.
We went this weekend to the Albrecht Durer: Master Drawings, Watercolors and Prints from the Albertina exhibit at the National Gallery of Art. It was fantastic. The print above was one of our favorites, especially for bird-lover David. My personal favorite was the drawing Hand with Book. Photos weren’t allowed in the exhibit but if you have a chance to go I’d highly recommend it.
Since I don’t have photos of the artwork I’ll leave you with a photo of David’s purchase from the giftshop. It’s a straw kit that enables you to construct elaborate straw structures. In the photo above, they are all three drinking at once from two cups containing different beverages. They had a blast using it, drank an enormous amount of liquids that evening, and probably satisfied some kind of science and engineering learning objectives in the process.