Monday, August 20, 2007

Picture Study

As promised, I'm going to share a bit about how and why we do Picture Study. I'll start with the why. Philippians 4:8 says, "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." In our world today, so much of what is noble and excellent has been replaced by trashy, worthless images that flash by on the TV or movie screen or on a billboard as you fly down the highway. Did you realise that when you watch TV or a movie, the scene changes an average of every 3 seconds? Even if there was something lovely or praiseworthy on the screen, you would not have nearly enough time to appreciate it. Picture study puts us in touch with some of the world's most beautiful paintings ad gives us time to appreciate and notice all the wonderful details that the artist has included. It trains our powers of attention, observation and recollection. This is just a brief overview of why we do picture study. If you are interested in learning more, you can read Charlotte Mason's thoughts on Picture Study at the Ambleside Online website.

Now that I've briefly explained the "why", I'll tell you how we put it into practice using this year's studies as an example. We're covering the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation in history this year, so I've chosen to study artists from this time period as well. I purchased a wonderful coffee table book called The Great Masters by Giorgio Vasari. It contains large color prints of the paintings and sculptures of Giotto, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Raphael and Titian. Beginning with Giotto, I've selected five paintings that will be our focus for the term. I made color photocopies of each and put them in some wood document frames that I bought at the dollar store. They hang behind the couch in our classroom so that we are constantly exposed to them. Once a week we choose one of the paintings for further study. We study it silently for a few minutes, flip the picture over and take turns narrating, usually with the youngest going first. Narration is simply telling in your own words what you saw. We will often discuss what each of us liked or disliked about the painting. If there is a bit of background information that may be helpful, I will mention it after the narration has been given. I give my narration last, pointing out anything that I noticed that they may have overlooked. However, my children have sharp eyes and they often point out things that I never noticed! This is not intended to be an art lecture; it is intended for the children to develop a relationship with the world's great works of art as they form their own ideas and examine their feelings about each painting.

We are rounding out our study with two wonderful resources. The first is Knights of the Art by Amy Steedman (see link to the left). It is a very well-written account of the lives of some of the great Gothic and Renaissance artists. We read from this once or twice a week to gain some insight into the lives of the artists we are studying. The second resource is Discovering Great Artists by Maryanne Kohl. It suggests hands-on activities to go along with the study of each artist. For instance, we will be making our own egg paints using ground up chalk and egg yolks, much like Giotto would have made his paints. Often we will copy a painting or paint one of our own "in the style of" the artist we are studying. As they study and practice the art of the great masters, their own artistic endeavors begin to grow and mature.

I hope you've enjoyed this glimpse into our adventures in art. If you think you'd like to try this in your home and would like additional information, resources and support, come join us at the Artist Study CM Yahoo group. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Back to School

It's official: school is back in session and I am so glad! The boys are also content to be back to our normal routine. In fact, the week before we started back, they kept asking, "Mom, isn't it time to start school yet?" What a blessing it is to have children who love to learn!

We started back on July 30th with no big fuss or "to-do". It was more of a comfortable settling in, kind of like coming home again after an extended absence.

I'm really looking forward to this year. Our history studies will focus on the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation which is my absolute favorite period in history. And with three boys, what could be better than the age of chivalry with its knights in shining armor? Personally, I'm looking forward to the Reformation and learning more about our Christian history and heritage.

Our Science spine is 106 Days of Creation by Sonya Shaffer. We'll be studying science in the order of Creation. For instance, Day 1 saw the creation of light so we are currently studying things like shadows, reflections, refraction, etc. We just completed a fun experiment where we traced our shadow with chalk on the driveway at 10:00 a.m. and again at 1:00 p.m. We compared their shapes, discussed why and how shadows are cast and why they changed over time. Alek then drew a picture of the experiment and wrote a brief description for his notebook. Of course we are also continuing our regular nature study. Yesterday we caught and examined a grasshopper and last week we were able to closely observe and (relatively confidently) identify a Banded Hairstreak. I'm hoping that the boys will continue to develop their powers of attention and observation this year. They still tend to miss so many of the wonders that God sends their way because they flit from one thing to the next without really attending to our observing what is in front of them. That is definitely one of Charlotte Mason's favorite habits that we will be focusing on this year. Check back for my next post where I'll tell you about another tool that we use to sharpen the powers of attention and observation: Picture Study.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

It's Finally Done!

Well Vic, you asked for it, you got it. What do you think?

O.K., so maybe it's silly to post about my bedroom being painted, but I love the way it turned out so I thought I'd share. Now I just need to do curtains and wall hangings and accessories and... Where's my interior designer sister when I need her?

We bought paint for the classroom and kitchen too, but I need a break before moving on. I was hoping to get the classroom done before school starts (which is in two weeks, yikes!) but I'm not sure that's going to happen.

I guess you can stay tuned for more "Home Makeover" pictures!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Our Day at the Creek

What a wonderful day we had yesterday! Some friends of ours mentioned that they had been fishing at Holly Creek on July 4th and that it would be a great place to take the kids and let them swim and play. So we decided to spend the day exploring that part of our great state.

Holly Creek is part of the Cohutta Wilderness Area in the Chattahoochee National Forest. It's about an hour and a half northeast of our house, just past Chatsworth, GA. It was beautiful and made me feel a bit like I was home in Oregon. I have such wonderful memories of my parents taking my sister and I to areas just like this one. There were plenty of shallow areas so even Nathan was able to get in and play. We saw a lot of little fish, big tadpoles, and even a crawdad! The boys had such a fantastic time wading around and throwing rocks in the river!

We had a picnic lunch right there by the creek and then decided to venture on and check out some of the other sights in the area. We travelled up the mountain to Fort Mountain State Park and on the way we were able to stop and take in the amazing view. The mountains just roll for miles. It's a very different mountain view than what we are used to. The mountains here are smaller and gently rolling, but they are beautiful none the less. We stopped at the information center when we reached the park and collected some information on camping and the cottages they have for rent. What a fun time that would be when Nana and Poppa come. There's a beautiful mountain lake up there with swimming, hiking and even miniature golf. It's a lot like Red Top Mountain and we would definitely like to go back and visit.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Moments of Bliss

Last night was one of those idyllic evenings that I long for but that don't materialize very often. We all gathered in the living room with Shawn Macdonald playing in the background. (If you don't know him, check him out! I highly recommend his album Simply Nothing!) Andrew was playing Tetris, Noah and Alek were taking turns playing chess on the computer, Alek was reading Left Behind Kids in between turns, and Nathan and I played together on the floor. Best of all, no TV! It was so cozy and peaceful; exactly what I needed after a busy weekend. I pray that my whole family was blessed by it and that we spend more evenings like that; snuggled up together and just enjoying each other. Thank You, Lord, for those moments of bliss that sustain us through trials and the "dailyness" of life. They are truly a precious gift.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Our Bird Neighbors

We have had some amazing opportunities for nature study this year. Our focus this year is birds and God has provided some "up close and personal" views of our bird neighbors. Alek noticed a nest in the holly bush next to our porch while he was playing baseball in the yard. I went and checked it out and found three, beautiful blue eggs. We were careful to observe that area over the next couple weeks. The mommy bird was pretty skittish and flew off every time we were in the yard. When she flew off, we would check the progress of the eggs. It wasn't long before there were three, tiny, naked little birds in the nest. We watched them as they grew and we often saw the daddy bird bringing food for his family. If we were in the front yard, he would fly behind the bushes and walk under the porch to the back of the holly bush and up to the nest. One day I walked over to check on the babies and I scared them so badly that they jumped out of the nest. I felt awful! They were pretty grown up by then and crowding each other out of the nest, but I'm not sure they were quite ready to leave. Andrew and our friend Donna and I tried to catch them and put them back in. We actually managed to put a couple of them back, but they jumped right back out. Of course, the mommy and daddy were squalling and flying all over. We eventually left the parents to take care of their babies. They never did come back to the nest. Hopefully all three of them are living happy little birdie lives.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ahoy, Mateys

Noah's 5th birthday party was a success! The kids all received pirate names when they came in the door, along with a headscarf, eyepatch and earring. Noah's pirate name was Barnacle Breath Gus. I was Sharkbait Jade Sparrow. I was so busy running around that I don't think I ever saw Andrew's or Alek's. We had a great day playing, going on a treasure hunt, opening presents and eating cake.

Speaking of cake, I actually made one that looked good! For those of you that don't know, cake and I just don't get along. Every time I try to make a decorated cake it ends up looking completely awful, and every time I swear I will never make one again. But this time I was pretty happy with it. What do you think?

All in all, it was a wonderful day. I wish our family could have been there for the fun, but we enjoyed talking to everyone as they called to wish Noah a happy birthday.

The Adventure Begins

Here I go, diving into the world of the weblog. I've thought about doing it for a while, and now that we've stepped into the 21st century and got DSL, it's a little more feasible. I'm hoping this will be a good way to help friends and family feel connected to what's going on in our family.

The title of my blog comes from Psalm 144. David prayed "Let our sons in their youth be as grown-up plants, And our daughters as corner pillars fashioned as for a palace; Let our garners be full, furnishing every kind of produce, And our flocks bring forth thousands and ten thousands in our fields; Let our cattle bear without mishap and without loss, Let there be no outcry in our streets! How blessed are the people who are so situated; How blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!"

We have been very richly blessed, especially with our three amazing boys. Our purpose and prayer for them is that they would be as plants grown up in their youth, producing fruit for the Lord at a young age. This is a huge part of why we homeschool and we're seeing the desired results already.

I hope this blog is a blessing to all who visit and I can't wait to see where it goes!