While my oldest was away at tutoring, I spent some at-elbow time, that is what I call time spent together at the table, one on one, with my middle child today, doing a simple drawing exercise using the five elements of shape from Mona Brookes’ Drawing With Children. I did some of the same drawing exercises with my oldest daughter years and years ago. I bet you and I can find them on this blog if you go back far enough. Those drawings are still hanging up downstairs. It will be nice to add another child’s drawings to our walls. It is very satisfying to be going through everything a second time with my middle child: drawing, writing, counting, phonics. And I noticed again today how much more laid back and confident I feel this time ’round. Hindsight is twenty-twenty indeed.
My nine almost ten year old is using the American History Prescripts book this year.
Each week, she will copy a history sentence twice and then complete an art lesson/ drawing activity to illustrate and go along with that sentence.
This first week of Classical Conversations, she copied a sentence about Columbus and completed a drawing of a sailing vessel at sea.
This book is a good fit for my particular daughter for three, particular reasons:
- She is enrolled in Classical Conversations
- She already knows how to write in cursive and
- She likes to draw
The history sentences in this book are the same history sentences my daughter is learning and memorizing through Classical Conversations each week. If she were not a part of a Classical Conversations group, the sentences might not be meaningful to her and they probably would not be timed with what we were doing in history, so I probably would not choose to use this book if we were not a part of Classical Conversations. I would just find another source for copy work ideas.
My daughter has already completed Zanier Bloser Handwriting workbooks K, 1, 2, and is almost done with workbook 3, so she knows how to write in cursive well enough and does not need much instruction, review, or practice in forming each letter and then putting those letters together to make words. This book provides only one page of review for cursive letters a-z, so it is a more advanced book and kids really should have a firm grasp on forming their cursive letters and making words before using this book.
My daughter also loves to draw and is very confident when given a pencil, pen, paper, paints, etc. She can copy and even customize just about any image. When she chose peregrine falcons for her presentation this week, she was able to draw a peregrine falcon from a image I found on the computer. That is something she does with regularity and enthusiasm. If she were not that confident of an artist, I might hesitate to give her this book because the drawings students are asked to reproduce are complicated.
There is a good reason for this. The drawings in the book are based on real artwork done by real artists. For instance, a drawing lesson on Point of View that my daughter will do in two weeks shows Native Americans watching colonists build a fort from where they are standing in the woods.
Apparently, this drawing is based on a real piece of artwork by Sidney E. King. I did a quick search on Google and I found a painting that is almost identical to the drawing.
I like this because it follows the classical model: teach kids how to draw by letting them model great drawings. Don’t expect them to just know how to make a good piece of artwork innately. Teach kids to write by letting them model great pieces of writing. Don’t expect small children to be capable of writing amazing stories innately.
But if my daughter were less confident and more apt to stress because she could not reproduce the drawings in this book, I might choose something else or tell her to skip the drawing exercises all together. I sit next to her and tutor her at elbow for many, many subjects that often stress her out like math and spelling and writing, etc. so drawing is not another subject I, personally, would want to have to sit and walk her through step by step. I like the fact that this copy work book provides her with meaningful, yet independent practice. But if my daughter couldn’t do this book independently, I am not sure it would be worth the trouble of adding it to our home school day.
That said, as it is, it is a perfect fit for my daughter, so this book is a blessing to us. It provides some review of the history sentences we want to memorize, it provides practice in cursive handwriting, and it models lessons in drawing from real works of art- all good things that work for us.
My nine year old makes some of the coolest stuff with modeling clay (the kind you can bake and harden) and she comes up with the ideas all on her own. This is a tooth jar for the tooth fairy. I usually collect her crafts on a little shelf that sits on the back of our stove and then when there are enough of them, I bake them all at once. Isn’t this adorable?
I have a love/ hate relationship with the weekly presentations for Classical Conversations. The day I’m helping my kids prepare their presentations (like today), I hate presentations. Every other day of the week, I love them, absolutely love them.
This week, my kids (nine and four), will be doing a presentation about a famous artist. They will have to give their class details about the artist’s life and works and the class will try and guess which artist they are talking about. My nine year old chose her own artist and she’s highlighting facts in a book about him as we speak. My four year old… well, it’s going to be a lot more difficult (for me) to help her prepare. That said, whatever she ends up doing will be adorable and hysterical. It always is.
Classical Conversations is forcing us (me) to do a much better job in a lot of ways. If it weren’t for Classical Conversations, my kids would never have to add final polish any of their work. But CC forces us to try and master the basics of at least one topic each week well enough so that my kids can present that to their peers. I see my kids getting better and better at standing still and speaking to a group of people with confidence. This is especially true for my shy four year old. Well, she used to be shy, but since we started Classical Conversations, I haven’t seen much evidence of that. And that’s my point.
My kids are also creating some terrific artwork to go along with their presentations each week, artwork we will treasure for years to come. I tend to avoid messes, but on the day we are preparing presentations, anything goes because we have to do what’s necessary to make the whole thing come off. Presentations are tough on me (and messy and a little stressful), particularly on the day when I am helping my kids prepare them. As a homeschooler, it would be easy enough for me to avoid all stress (and mess). But, in the end, I always end up so glad that we are forcing ourselves to submit to the rigors of CC. In the end we find we are getting so much from our effort.
Here’s a shout out to my big brother for sending art supplies. We came home to a box at the door and the girls rightly assumed it was from “Uncle Donnie!” Last time, it was markers. This time, it was colored pencils. Thanks Donnie (and Mom and Dad and Sissy). I know you all will often coordinate to do this kind of thing for us. We appreciate it. Every supply we don’t have to buy makes our home school (private school at home) endeavor much easier to manage.
I keep this and a few other “how-to” type books with Norah’s art supplies.
The other day, Norah brought me this book and asked if she could paint this parrot. I said, “Yes. But if you really want to paint a parrot that looks like this parrot, you know that you have to follow the directions.” To this, she cringed a little. I told her, “You should follow them at least once… until you have some real experience and you are sure you can paint a parrot… Once you’ve done it once their way, you will probably come up with another way to do it.” To this, she brightened.
Note: Up to this point, Norah has told me she wants to paint this or that… but once she is confronted with paint and an empty page, she has never had the patience necessary to draw the picture in her head before painting it and if she draws it, she will paint everything so fast that her colors blend and the whole thing becomes a brown-grey mess. This has always been frustrating to her.
She had to draw the parrot a few times before it was the one she wanted. Then she had to paint one color, wait for it to dry, go back, mix paints and paint more colors and then wait for those to dry, etc. It took her three days to do this project. But, she followed directions and did this entirely on her own. I only helped to keep her space neat. I am very proud of the patience she showed. I think she’s learned the important lesson that some projects take longer than one day to complete, but they are worth the wait.
Norah did a narration of the Magic Tree House book Knight at Dawn today. I wrote down her words as she retold the story and I’ll type it out and print it some other day. (It’s really long.) Narrating stories back to me like this gives her practice writing book reports before she’s actually old enough to physically write her own book reports.
Next, Norah drew a scene from the story using a book I bought her at the thrift store 1-2-3 Draw: Knights, Castles and Dragons. This helped her draw the knight on horseback and the castle. She was thrilled to be able to draw the pictures in her head.
Knight at Dawn is one of almost thirty Magic Tree House books that Norah has collected and the she reads over and over and over again. I am thinking of asking Norah is she wants to make a “collection” of these “book reports.” She could do a narration of each story, draw a scene from each one and collect all her work in a binder. If we end up doing this, I’ll take pictures of Norah’s work and let you see how the collection goes.