Applying Conscious Process Through Watercoloring

In order to bring our children to a point of focus, we as parents/home teachers, must recognize an important principle in the learning process. At Oak Meadow, we call it conscious process. Conscious process simply means doing an activity consciously. This is quite different from an activity which is done unconsciously, or without having full attention upon it.

As home teachers, we might find that leading our children through a process is a new experience. It is sometimes difficult to understand and perhaps somewhat frightening. Because some of us are uncomfortable with the art processes, I have chosen to share with you step-by-step instructions on how to consciously direct a watercolor or wet-on-wet painting activity. 

If you facilitate an activity in a conscious manner, your inner and outer intentions for the activity must be clear and consistent. Let us look at a specific example. It is that time of year when we are encouraging our children to share their gifts and talents with loved ones, and there is nothing better than painting a lovely picture for a grandparent or favorite aunt and uncle. So you tell them to get out the paints and make a picture while you do the laundry. In this case, your intentions would be neither clear nor consistent, and your children would most likely not be very pleased with their end result.

2However, if you prepare a special place with the paints, brushes and paper, you are consciously creating a space that provides optimum opportunity for your children to express something beautiful through their watercoloring experiences. You might even find that preparing the space together would add a special touch! 

Now suppose your children sit down alone at the table, takes the paintbrush in hand, mixes the paints together on the page until it turns into a muddy brown, and then announces they are bored and do not want to paint anymore. Or perhaps they hurriedly paint several pictures without putting conscious effort into any of them. In this case, they would probably not be pleased with the process or with the final product.

4To avoid situations like these, the best approach would be to consciously enter into the activity with them and bring more of your intention and awareness to bear upon the activity. For example, after you have prepared a space for all of you, then you might begin by wetting the papers with your sponge. This process will help draw their attention to a greater focus, thus preparing them for the next step. Now introduce one of the colors, such as yellow. Talk about the brilliance and warmth and cheerfulness of the sun. Or you might tell a special story about the sun that would set the mood for the watercoloring activity. Perhaps even playing, singing or humming some complementary music during the exercise would also enhance the experience.

Now you can begin to paint. Show your children how to carefully dip the brush into the paint, how to stroke the paint on the paper, and how to wash the brush and gently remove the excess water. Doing these extra steps brings about an even greater focus on the process. Then introduce the next color – perhaps a bright, vibrant red. When the project is over, your children will have completed a beautiful painting and experienced a full happy feeling that comes from a satisfying activity.

5Please remember that one of the most essential factors for a successful experience in conscious process is sharing your guidance and direction with love. Sitting and working with your children, acknowledging and giving positive feedback, and engaging in friendly communication are also important keys in allowing a focused process to harmonize with free creative expression.

A conscious activity also does not mean controlling every aspect of the process. Leading children into and through any activity, whether it be artistic or academic, is a delicate balance of simply showing the unlimited possibilities and trusting them to explore these possibilities further. So when you do guide your children in a process, help them to focus on that process and show them the possibilities present, but then trust in their initiative and creativity to complete the process. Trusting their abilities encourages them to complete projects on their own without your input and aids in the development of their creative faculties and inner strength. Therefore, conscious directing of the process does not hinder free creative expression. It actually enhances it by providing a safe, loving space within which children can express more clearly who they truly are.

1

YES! National Student Writing Competition

“Think about the things you worry about. What is one worry you’d like to throw away? What would you replace your worry with, and what would you—and possibly those around you— gain by not having that worry in your life?”

from the Yes! Magazine writing competition website

 

Yes! Magazine invites you to enter an essay competition. To begin you first read the selected essay, then read and think about the writing prompt, and then write your own essay.

If you are an enrolled Oak Meadow student and you are interested in entering this contest, please email me your first essay before December 1, 2014. I will edit it and get back to you within a week. In that way we can meet the deadline of January 14, 2015.

Have fun with this and let go of a worry!

 

Crafting Your Homeschooling Rhythm – Part Two

Here is Part Two of Crafting Your Homeschooling Rhythm, written by k-4 Oak Meadow teacher, Amy Fredland. Read Part One here.Amy with child

Now, here comes the fun part!  There are so many ways to create a physical representation of your weekly rhythm. For the youngest children (kindergarten and grade 1), it’s wonderful to make a picture based chart that they can refer to each day. When I was teaching in the classroom, I made pictures for each subject/activity (ex: a book for reading time, numbers for math time, a jump rope for outdoor time) which I drew upon large circles that I then covered with contact paper. I kept all the circles in a folder and each day I’d help the children arrange them in the correct sequence for that particular day (based on the schedule I had written down in my planning book.) We hung them on a clothesline using clothes pins, but there are numerous other ways to display yours.

My students LOVED putting up this morning schedule; it was one of the most sought after chores of the day. Not only did it give them practice with sequencing and tracking, but it allowed them to gain connection with the rhythm of the day and of each week, thereby supporting their growing awareness of time.

chores1For older children, you may decide to have them paint or color a piece of poster board upon which they could help you write out a weekly schedule. This would then be displayed in an area of your home that allows it to be viewed and referred to easily throughout the day. If you have a chalkboard in your home, maybe you could write the schedule there. As the children learn cursive, they could be invited to do the writing on the board themselves.

Including the children in this process will allow them to begin taking more responsibility for the course of their days, and this goes very far in helping them know what is coming next. For many children this “knowing” allows them to relax into the activity at hand, thus offering them the chance to explore their learning deeply.

When crafting your weekly and daily rhythms, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Children tend to be supported when their activities alternate between things that require them to bring very focused intention and attention to a task, and those that are more relaxed.

AmySome describe this as a rhythm of “breathing in” and then “breathing out.” Placing an art activity or time spent outside between a math lesson and a reading lesson is an example of a rhythm that allows a student to “breathe out” between the more intellectual/cognitive experiences (math and reading.)

  • Activities that require concentration are not the same for all children.

For instance, for some children learning to knit would not be seen as relaxed at all, and can require an immense amount of concentration and focus. For this student, knitting might be an experience of “breathing in” and might need to be supported by following the knitting session with something that allows the student to literally and figuratively exhale. Perhaps reading or listening to a story would offer this chance.

  • The art of education has much to do with how we can meet our children each day both with the fruits of our preparation AND with a flexibility to let go of our plans and do what seems necessary to meet our children in each moment.

Although children thrive when surrounded by a predictable rhythm to their days, there are times when all your senses tell you that what your child needs is something other than what you have planned. In these moments, I encourage you to listen to that instinct and let the freedom of homeschooling support you and your child as you find out, together, what your day needs to look like.

  • Each child is different!

I encourage you to spend time observing your child and how is activity is received. Over time you will become much more in tune with what allows the out-breath, and what offers the chance to breath in. (Both are necessary, right!?) Using this information you can further sculpt your homeschooling rhythm, and in doing so you are creating something quite unique for your child. Enjoy!

creative_homeschooling

 

Count Birds for Science

This time of year I start thinking about the birds in my area. The temperatures are dropping close to freezing. I see birds in great flocks swooping into the bird bath and landing on the feeder. Last week there were about 15 Common Grackles splashing and crowding into my bird bath. The winter is upon us here in New Hampshire. The birds need to eat quite a bit of food to keep up their energy for traveling south. Those that stay will need food all winter. I often look out the kitchen window in the winter to see a little black -capped chickadee at the feeder, and I wonder how it can keep warm. The tiny little feet and the skinny little legs look so vulnerable. They need high energy foods and lots of it! I know there are Oak Meadow students that enjoy watching and feeding the birds. If you do also, then you might like to join the Project FeederWatch that is a program of the Cornell University Lab of Orinthology.

“Project FeederWatch is a winter-long survey of birds that visit feeders at backyards, nature centers, community areas, and other locales in North America. FeederWatchers periodically count the birds they see at their feeders from November through early April and send their counts to Project FeederWatch. FeederWatch data help scientists track broadscale movements of winter bird populations and long-term trends in bird distribution and abundance.” Project Overview, FeederWatch.org

Interesting bird facts can be found at: http://www.bio.brandeis.edu/fieldbio/Birds_Kamm_Kuss/Pages/PAGE_HOME.html

Here’s one! The Common Grackle often allows ants to crawl over its body so that they may secrete formic acid, which is thought to kill parasites, a practice called anting. Besides formic acid from ants, the Common Grackle has been observed using various other substances, such as walnut juice, mothballs, lemons, limes, and choke cherries in similar ways.