I know, I know. We are already halfway through November and here I am still reflecting on October.
I am still catching my breath from October. Any absence here on the blog indicates that each nanosecond of my time is being completely used up tending to more important matters. October is a busy one and I always forget about that small fact until I am right in the throes of it. In October, there were birthday celebrations, holiday events, writing deadlines, and plenty of outdoor time.
It was a last hurrah of sorts.
November came and the mood changed. My energy output in October needs to be replenished this month, hence my absence from here. Being away from here leaves me longing – a longing to write, to document, to reflect, to observe, to step back.
Today I am catching up. So here is my list of things that I learned in October…
1. October is THE busiest month of the fall. This is our big exhale month. We are out and gallivanting around. Why do I forget this fact? Some significant events in the month: my mom’s, my brother’s and my son’s birthdays; thanksgiving; and Halloween. Here we are celebrating my mom’s birthday up north – my brothers, my mom, my family (my stepfather is behind the camera):
There is connecting with family again after the back-to-school frenzy has subsided and everyone has gotten into a groove.
2. Repeating field trips annually or even bi-annually are important for continuity. They connect with familiar places. Trips to the same farms gives a comforting sense of seasonal ritual and there is an indirect relationship established. They are invested in what happens on this farm. They want to know what is different this year and they can visually see the changes that have been made.
3. Busy can be good. We are always at the top of our game with lessons in October even though we are busy in and out of the house, on weekdays and weekends. There is this burst of energy that starts building up in September and explodes in October. I need to remember that. (November is a whole other story.)
4. If I leave room for curious exploration after lessons, good things happen. I learned this especially during #2’s Physics lessons. A simple camera obscura construction led to her building a DIY projector and experimenting with different lenses, box sizes, and camera distance.
I taught Physics with experiments. Let’s try this and see what happens. No lecturing, no long-winded explanations beforehand. We explored sound, light, and colour, and a little bit of heat. Sometimes experiments didn’t go as planned but she didn’t know that. We were able to really observe and test out different variables, changing results. We focused on documenting our observations and not getting caught up in scientific terms – that will come as the phenomena is observed repeatedly through more experiments over the years. My goal for her in October was to get her curious about the world through paying attention to what we take for granted. Why does the sun turn red as it sets? She is very interested in cause and effect right now. If I do this, what happens? My job was to create an environment and the space that allowed her to explore this without fear.
5. Mapping leads to hours of fun. We ended #3’s September block in October with a map quest. I gave her a map of the neighbourhood where I marked a trail for us to follow to a “treasure.” It was up to her to lead us all to the treasure. It took us around familiar landmarks that I made sure were clear on the map. There were a couple of options she needed to choose from depending on the different routes that I marked out. She had to decide if we should take a route that was fastest or take the route that was more scenic. In the end, she led us to a new donut shop where I treated her to a yummy treasure.
6. Books can also lead to hours of fun. My friend, Lara, recommended this book:
It has been a hit with the kids. Although #3’s geography was done in September, they all continued mapping and building their own countries. They staked their land claims all through the house. (#2 claimed the upstairs hallway for her country so she can collect tolls.)
Here are a few other books I picked up from the library in October:
I highly recommend The Dictionary of Imaginary Places. It contains information and maps of many of the fictional places found in favourite books. We all had fun looking up different realms, lands, islands, and magical places. It even piqued interest in reading some books simply because the setting seemed so fascinating.
7. In months like this, sleep is pushed to the side. Each year we attend Nuit Blanche. This is a late-night affair. I went with #1 and #2 and a good friend of ours and her daughter. The spectacles of large-scale art installations make it all worth it. My kids have their worlds expanded into the realms of impossibility and wonder as they marvel at these creations. For example, here is a fun one that my eldest participated in:
And this one took our breath away:
We were out pretty late and then we were up the next morning driving two hours north for my mom’s birthday brunch.
Why do I do it? Why do I drag myself out to see these grandiose exhibits with crowds galore? Because each and every year, we have found magic. There is a delight found in play and a camaraderie with strangers. Human connection in a big city is evident on this night. Young and old have a shared experience. A city that can be sometimes wrought with pessimism suspends its jaded beliefs as we all ooh and ah together.
8. Art = Play. This month I have learned that the simple process of playing with materials engages my children in art more than completing a finished product. I have used The Art of Teaching Art to Children: In School and at Home to explore art and to develop a program that is exactly what I want for my kids. We have played with spray paint, collage materials, and are beginning to mix plasticine and paper this month. Freely playing with material without an end game. Art arising out of play.
9. Words are powerful. I had the opportunity to teach a workshop with a friend at Voices: Symposium for Girls. We wanted to have a frank discussion on race, gender, culture, and identity. And through this discussion, I wanted to show how art journalling can be a vehicle to help find the words when words were not enough to express themselves. There is something freeing about slapping down paper, stamping an image, and adding colour just because that’s what you feel like doing. There is no right or wrong with art journalling just as there is no right or wrong when trying to come up with words to describe who you are. It was an amazing experience for me. Below is a sample of my own art journalling page that I shared and some words we used to prompt the discussion:
This is the cover of one of the art journals created by one of the participants:
10. I am still learning so much from my new planning process. I love going through my daily observations and compiling a list of hits and misses for the month. I am learning constantly about what I love to do and where my kids are at in their learning styles and what engages them at this point in time.
11. Storytelling can come in many forms. Storytelling is a huge part of my teaching methods. Sometimes it can be monotonous – story, draw, re-tell the next day, summarize. I shook things up a little and I painted the story with #4. I told her a fable and we painted it out together, going through pages of painting paper. I also incorporated form drawing into the story while we painted.
I also played “Norse Mythology Charades” with #3. We reviewed some of the gods and goddesses through charades. She loves theatrics and movement so this was a perfect activity for her as we finished up her Norse Myths block.
12. Context, context, context. Teaching history has been a success with my teen because of context. Her present-day questions are being addressed as we move through historical periods which is increasing her interest in what is being taught. A trip to a play on her favourite book, To Kill A Mockingbird, opened up questions on human nature. I deepened this questioning by asking if early Rome could be compared to the virtuous side of humanity – the “Atticus Finch” in all of us. She wrote an essay analyzing the concepts of fairness, equality, and justice in terms of the deep South in the 1930s and ancient Rome at around 500 B.C. Dialogue, answered and unanswered questions, and beliefs in our collective humanity were stirred this month.
13. I am a HUGE procrastinator. (Refer back to #7.) I had deadlines in October that I met by the skin of my teeth. I am always inspired at around 11:00pm the night before a deadline. As much as I want to prepare ahead of time, I can’t plan these lightning moments when I am struck with an idea or the motivation to carry out a project. My creativity is heightened when I feel the most pressure. Very inconvenient.
14. Mullets and moustaches bring me so much joy. Halloween was great this year. I dressed up as one half of Hall and Oates this year. So. Much. Fun. Being someone or something else for an evening keeps life interesting and playful. (It also helps to a have a friend want to wear a mullet with you.)
Back to some regular blogging next week…I am going to try something new.
Any lessons you have learned thus far this Fall? Please share!