Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Drawing with Children - Let's Draw

I love the concept of short lessons that build off one another for teaching and learning. I love a good book that can put it all together for me so I can facilitate it. This is working beautifully for reading with David. We have gotten into a good routine with that and I'd like to do the same with art lessons that will help him draw.

Emily and David both dearly love to get the art supplies out and use their creativity. I think it is important for them to do that. However, David is only just starting to want to form something other than scribbles. On his own he is starting to form letters and is especially motivated to write his name. He does a pretty good job with that but has had no interest to draw what I call the typical kid drawings of a house with stick figure people. So I think he can benefit from some drawing excercises and I think it will help him with letter formation. Emily loves to draw... like most little girls do. She likes to draw and color rainbows, houses, flowers, stick people with dresses and bows in their hair. I think she would benefit from drawing lessons too... to build upon her love for drawing that she already seems to posess.

I requested Drawing With Children by Mona Brookes for two reasons. A friend wrote an article about encouraging art with your kids that mentioned the book and I also saw it in The Well Trained Mind for teaching children. So anyway, I got it and I have just started reading it. The book appeals to me because I want to stimulate my children's brains... in as many ways as I can. This passage spoke to me:

"As brain scientists interested in the whole spectrum of human learning, we know that the trained, practiced, stimulated brain is also more efficient at new learning. If we develop the building blocks of visual perception, visual spatial organization, and visual discrimination by learning to draw, our brains cannot help but transfer these skills to such tasks as mathematics, which is at its base the organization of objects in space, or to reading and spelling, which require visual attention to detail as well as pattern and organization in space, as the eye sweeps across the line of print and down to the next line."

So, yes... I'm sold. I'm reading and doing the first excercise which is for me.

The first excercise for me, the teacher, is to draw for 30 minutes with no interruptions... (really?) I am to draw a house, a person, a tree, some bushes and flowers, and 5 other things of my choice. I am supposed to use a felt tip marker and I'm not supposed to do anything over if I don't like it. Then I get to critique it. I can do this today becasue my David is sick upstairs with a 100+ fever and requested he be put back in bed. This is the time I would be at Familia so might as well use it for something else I enjoy. Here is my drawing. My five other things were the swing, the bird feeder, the mountain, the clouds, and the sandbox. It only took me 15 minutes and I didn't feel like doing anymore. Now I am supposed to analyze my work. I'll do this as long as Lia lets me.

How did you do, compared with how you thought you would do? I think it came out better than I expected. My tree definetly came out better than I hoped it would. If I could have gone back and erased, I would have done the sand box over. I can tell I drew it from the wrong perspective and it kind of looks like it is floating in the air. I would have liked to color or paint it but the instructions did not say to do that.

While you were drawing, did your thoughts reflect any of the opinions or experiences you had while drawing as a child? What can you remember about those times? Growing up, I remember thinking I was pretty good at drawing but knew if I wanted to draw better I would have to work at it. I don't think I was ever self motivated enough to work at it... but I always felt that I had a gift for it if I wanted to develop it later. My Mom certainly has the gift and has worked on it her whole life.

Emotional reactions? I was struck by my thoughts during this process of how I wanted to draw a peaceful home scene... Sitting on the swing with a family member - one family member at a time... probably because it is only peaceful with one family member at a time. ;-) I wanted the eye pleasing mountain. Somehow the idea of a mountain is comforting. Too bad I live in the flat lands... I wanted green space for my kids to run safely, a sand box to play in, a place for birds to hang out... peace.

And last the book addresses some preconceived notions like the the ability to draw is inherited, there is a right and wrong way to draw, drawing has no practical use and other negatives. It asks if you feel influenced by these negative notions. I don't think I am influenced by these ideas about drawing. I feel some people have a natural gift for it, but I truly believe someone with a positive attitude and the right teaching methods can improve their skills.

And that is all the Mommy time I'm gonna get for this today. I am being called by sweet Lia... More later.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

David's Reading Lessons

We made it through lesson 11 today and he is doing AWESOME! I keep telling him that the lessons are really hard... and he tells me, "No Mommy, they are really easy!" I think he is doing great with the content... the lessons take about 15 minutes. He has issues sitting still and wiggles around a lot but every time I tell him I'm going to end the lesson and we can do it again the next day... he straightens up and we are always able to finish. Today the lesson introduced the silent 'a' in 'eat'.
In the book it looks like this:
e a t
The 'e' has a bar over it so he knows it is a long sound. I tell him the 'a' is very small because he isn't supposed to say it. I thought this would be tricky... but it didn't even phase him. And he sounded it out beautifully. I have to say I was very impressed.
So anyway... 11 lessons down and 89 to go!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday's Learning Game - Christmas Light Numbers

From the little preschool curriculum, I strung monkey's on a line and labeled them 1-10. It was a big hit with David... Emily too for that matter. I alternated colors (red/blue) and would have him hang all the even numbers, and then the odd ones. I would take a monkey down and then have him put it in the right spot... Unfortunately, the monkeys took kind of a long time to cut out and I made them with construction paper so they got torn pretty quickly.

So our new and improved game is called Christmas Lights and I made them out of heavier paper. It was a hit. David knows 1-10 pretty well... so you can see him lining up 11-20 here. I'm thinking we could use this concept for Counting by 10s, Days of the Week, Months of the Year, the Alphabet....

OktoberFest and more family fun - Sunday Stuff

After church, we spent the whole day at the OktoberFest festival. I only have this one picture that I took from Chris's cell phone. You can see Emily dancing... I think Alpenfest was playing - Chris loves them. As usual, German festivals are very fun. You just can't go wrong with Polka music, beer and bratwurst! Even better, this venue was less than 2 miles from our house. :-)

After a big day, the Dad's went out to get fajitas for us. While Cynthia bathed her kids, I made brownies, and Emily spent quite a bit of time setting up our table for art time with her friends. I think she did a good job! Her "projects" seem to be getting a bit more ambitious as she gets older. Take note, she organized the colored pencils by color. Side note - Emily has blue lips from her snowcone earlier in the day. There is also some leftover paint from the rainbow we had painted on her cheek. Her bath came later. ;-)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Football Game, Guests, and OktoberFest - Saturday

We had a really fun and busy weekend! Emily and her Daddy were up early on Saturday morning to drive to Austin for the UT/UTEP game. Chris was ready to go and called Emily to come downstairs so they could load up the car... she was busy dressing her penguin like this... and yes, penguin's bow is on her nose!

While Chris and Emily were in Austin for the day, I had some help getting the guest bedroom ready for our friends. We were very excited to have company this weekend. The kids are cleaning the windows... very diligently... for about 30 seconds. :-)

And yes, even though we didn't go to the game... we still dressed up for the occassion.

And look, our very special guests were dressed for the occasions too! Look very closely... the girls are holding hands and saying "Cheese!" Awfully cute.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Circle Lake Retreat - Saturday's Events

Saturday was a full day for us. Childcare was provided for the kids in the morning so the parents could listen to a wonderful speaker, Mary Ann Kuharski, talk about catholic parenting... and she should know. She raised 13 children... 6 of her own and 7 adopted children. She was very "real", very funny and gave some wonderful advice for raising a family. We enjoyed her talks very much and may check into her books at a later date.

We had some free time in the afternoon. Chris had to run out and get coffee for me because we forgot to bring our espresso maker with us... big mistake. And coffee was not provided for the speaker because food and uncovered beverages were not allowed in the hall. Next time, let's not forget the espresso maker! Anyway, we weren't in the middle of no-where so coffee was found without too much trouble. Emily and I explored the grounds and were able to take a paddle boat out. I didn't have the camera but I took this picture from the Circle Lake website... you get the idea. Emily LOVED rowing the boat and we had fun singing and exploring the "circular" lake. We had mass at 4:00 in the little chapel with Father Tom. It was nice to have mass for our group of families and felt very much like a family event.

Dinner went very smoothly. The retreat organziers had everyone bring cooked spaghetti, cooked ground beef and jarred sauce to be combined for an easy pasta dinner. Add salad and dessert and we had another great meal... for quite a crowd! After dinner, our kids played on the playground. We missed the "Amazing Race" and we'll have to find out what that was all about. It was competitive and involved families doing a lot of running around... Maybe next year. I think Emily and Lia are doing their little "I am a robot.." dance here.

Lia still loves the swing... She can sit in the big girl one now.

And here is Emily with our parish priest, Father Tom. He calls her his little buddy now. I love that she is getting comfortable enough to say hello to him now. Maybe that will make confession easier for her next year...?

And what family retreat would be complete without a bonfire and roasting marshmellos for smores? Yes, our David and Emily were very excited about this.

A little Daddy time... Emily and I were busy eating smores and singing by the bonfire. :-)

On Sunday morning, Mary Ann Kuharski gave her talk outside by the playground so the kids could play. It was hotter in the afternoon so we packed up and headed home after that. We will definetly do this again!

Circle Lake Retreat - Friday Check In

We were very lucky to be able to attend the St. Anthony family retreat at Circle Lake this year. 18 families with 65 children were in attendance... what a turn out! While our kids are still young, we didn't participate in everything offered, but we did get to meet new families and get to know others a little better. The retreat center is in Pinehurst and only 30 min. away. The grounds were beautiful and it really felt like we "got away" for a few days.

The kids were very excited. Emily and I checked everything out online and were very excited to find out we would be in St. Monica's cabin. The cabin's were really nice with 3 bedrooms, sleeping 9. From the picture below, you can guess how excited David and Emily were to discover their room had bunk beds!

And a porch swing...

And to top it all off, the 12 cabins made a semi cirle around a tremendous amount of green space and this playground!
Not bad...

We arrived around 5:30 and got checked in. The retreat organizers had a fried chicken dinner for all the families in the dining hall where we brought the sides and the desserts. It was great to see so many families dining together and
I'll have to admit... I had not had fried chicken in a long time and I had forgotten how good it is!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Art in the Park - Fri Sept 18

I was frantically preparing for our weekend retreat but was able to squeeze in an outing with the little ones. Our local homeschooling group has fine arts in the park once a month. They study a famous artist and composer. September had us listening to Vivaldi and viewing Leonardo Da Vinci's masterpieces. I took this pretty seriously and we did our homework... we checked out CDs from the library and got lots of books so we'd be familiar with the material. I couldn't believe the turn out and was so impressed with the kids and their moms.
You can see the preschool group above. They listened to this great story by James Mayhew - Katie and the Mona Lisa. David was absolutely captivated by the story about a little girl who goes to the museum and admires the Mona Lisa and other famous works of art... the book is fun because the characters all come out of their frames to help the little girl learn more about them.
The older kids do their own picture study. After looking at the artists paintings, they try to copy his style in their own sketches.

Some of the older kids put on a presentation and had show and tell about art projects they did at home. It was a fun morning and we were disappointed to miss Nature Club - they do that after lunch. We had to head home to prepare for our family retreat. I'll post more on that later.

Friday, September 18, 2009

More Sweet Lia

I haven't posted in a while so here are a couple shots of my baby. She looks sweet in her Longhorn gear just like the rest of the family.
And, she really likes to put on this hat. She is finally talking... and saying a lot of words. Hat is one she can say pretty well.

And here is a little game we call... Daddy Tackle!

My Little Helpers

A very personal project of mine is to have a well-run household where everybody helps out. We are pretty lucky that our kids are generally enthusiastic about chores they can do themselves. I really hope we can continue to encourage them and keep up the theme that we are a family and we all have to work together.

Here are my sweet little ones going to fetch the paper. This started out to be David's chore and he is very good at it. Little Lia always wants to be part of the action so now big brother takes her to get the paper. It's a good thing we get two! The Wall Street Journal is usually lighter than the Chronicle so he gives that one to her. Aren't they sweet?

I love seeing them come up the driveway. And no, I haven't gotten to the point where I trust they won't run in the street. So I still watch.

To brag on David, he can sort my clean laundry like a champ. He makes 5 piles, one for each family member, and sorts the clothes to each pile. He even encourages Lia to deliver to her pile... usually on the couch. Do we have upper management in the making? He can also push around the Swiffer vacume sweeper and do a pretty decent job with the Swiffer wet jet.

Emily can do all these chores too but her jobs have been putting away the kiddie cups and plates from the dishwasher. We keep them all on the shelves in the island so the kids can get what they need. She is a lot like her Daddy because if I put them away while she's gone... I will hear about how it isn't organized the way she likes it and that now she'll have to fix it! So since it is her domain, she also takes pride (most of the time) in her ability to set the table properly.

We are off to a family retreat this weekend. I will take pictures and document our adventures. It has been a lot of work for me to prepare for it but I am hoping it will be good family time. I'll write soon.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Mike and Pat's Wedding

Congratulations to Mike and Pat! Married on August 21, 2009. Manny many blessings to them!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

David's 1st Football Game

Chris took David to his first UT football game today. Our lucky boy got a new burnt orange t-shirt, a hook-em horns cheering hand, a hot dog and a rainbow snow cone. Chris sent these pictures from his cell phone. I think he had a good time!

Texas Longhorns vs. Lousiana Monroe. I heard it was a win.