In the past, we have taken the month of December off of doing schoolwork at home, and focusing on preparation for Christmas and just taking a long break. This year, though, we didn’t do as much schoolwork in the summer as we usually do, because I pulled the kids into gardening help more than I have in the past. They’re old enough to help more, and most of the time, they enjoyed it. I struggle sometimes in labeling a gardening day “non-school” as well, though, as there is much learning done in the garden. So much so, that many large, and even urban schools are using gardens to teach the kids.
So we’re still doing schoolwork, but I decided at the very least, during this month I can mix up the prioritization of subjects during this month. There are some subjects that we usually prioritize (reading, writing, arithmetic) but some subjects (koine greek, poetry) if we don’t get to them, it’s okay. We’ll try again the next day. So this month, since we are trying to encourage the kids to make most of their gifts, we are going to prioritize art. Not only have we been studying some artists’ works, but we are learning a new appreciation to how much energy and thought, not to mention skill goes into that work.
For awhile now, Knut and I have talked about getting some of our kids some woodworking tools, as we have a nice little wilderness behind our house to find some wood to whittle, and it requires a lot of patience and focus from the child…both skills we wish our kids would develop more.
Ironically, this month’s issue of Taproot magazine, had an article talking about teaching kids to whittle wood, and which whittling knives are recommended for kids, and how to teach them basic safety with woodworking knives. That’s all I needed to push me over the edge, so recently our kids’ knives (the 3 older ones got some) arrived and wood chips seem to be continually on my kitchen floor now.
We spent some time in the beginning going over safety rules, and talking about the dangers of knives. We set up some house rules with the knives, and let the kids pick out some wood from the woodbox next to the fireplace. They want to whittle some Christmas presents, and they each had an idea of what they wanted to make. Knut promises to take them for a walk to show them some wood he thinks they’d really like to use out in the woods. Knut loves carpentry, as a hobby, so he knows more about what kinds of wood there is, and different characteristics of that wood than I do.
Elias and I had some 1 on 1 training time as the 2 older kids were at piano lessons. He was so excited. He is truly the most artistic of my kids, and with this element of danger added, he was completely on board. You should have seen the concentration on his face, and the time he took to think. We talked about how to find the grain of the wood, and examined different parts of the stick he chose, and talked about what made it a good piece, or a bad piece. I’ve never whittled wood, but we just talked. We talked about thinking where the knife would go if it slipped. We always wanted it to hit air if it slipped. He worked so hard.
When Silje and David got home, they were so excited to get to it. Silje claimed she couldn’t do it about 15 seconds into whittling. She excels at almost everything she tries, and if she’s not good immediately, she normally walks away or claims that she doesn’t like it. She’s brilliant, but we’re really trying to help her learn to work through hard things that actually don’t come easily. I made her stay and try. After complaining for about 5 minutes, she ended up getting sucked in for about an hour, and learned a few tricks along the way through trial and error. This morning she was whittling with Knut before breakfast before I got up. I think she wishes it would go faster, but she can’t help but keep shaving off more pieces either. It’s hard to stop.
David of course, plans on whittling a whole chess set, which I think is a tad too ambitious as a starter project, but I won’t tell him. He’s working so hard at it.
I can’t believe I’m turning into the mother who is letting her kids play with knives, but there you have it. Right now they can only whittle in the kitchen when I’m working in there, and turn in their knives to me when they want a break. While Silje and Elias love painting and drawing, David hates art…yet he loves this. There’s something about the hardness of it, and the element of danger that draws him in. It’s sitting and concentrating, and yet he’s completely on board.
What’s more, is after our whittling lesson, we returned to the pictures of Michelangelo’s marble sculptures, and the kids have a completely new appreciation for the detail work, and the difficulty level of what was actually accomplished. They stare at the picture for ages, and talk about how on earth did he make marble look like draping fabric, and what sort of tools do you think he used? The sheer number of questions they have have increased ten-fold since we saw the exact same pictures 2 weeks ago.
Sometimes the best way to appreciate art is to roll your sleeves up and get to work!