Mojave in my Heart

From a not-so childlike beginning in New York City to my child inspired world here and now


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art fridays

A couple Fridays a month we meet with another homeschooling family and do art! It is a loose format as this is the beginning of us mothers and children working together this way. We meet, have a leisure lunch, a little playtime and then get down to art before having the rest of the afternoon for free-play. We started with Monet and Impressionism. For our first session we read about Impressionism, looked at many paintings and then focused in on Monet’s Haystacks, 1890-1891. It was my friend’s lead and it has been wonderful!

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First the children made their own haystacks from colored paper. I did not get photos! With shredded construction paper they topped the conical base to make their own haystacks. There was a lot of hot glue involved! The next time we met, the weather was gorgeous so we picnicked and brought along our haystacks to paint them  “en plein air” –outdoors!  My friend talked about shadows, light, and one’s perspective to capture our own impression. There was also some tree climbing and woods-playing before returning back to the house–for more play.

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Arlene above, Ada below.

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Last Friday when we met, I initiated the lesson time  by asking them what did the word impression mean? They had great ideas: your first thought, your feeling, an idea, what you connect with something.  Then I pulled out a stuffed bunny. I put the bunny in front of them and asked the children: what is your impression of this bunny? White, fluffy, bunny, soft, Easter, babies, were some of their responses. No right or wrong, I emphasized, just your impression! We looked at paintings again with a focus on subject matter (landscapes, slice of life moments) and technique (unfinished, quick, thick paint, bright, pure colors, lots of light). Afterward I asked them to close their eyes and I played some music. We were to allow any and all impressions from the music fill us up to then create a painting– just from those impressions. I really wanted to get at the heart of what this style of art was about. I read all these fantastic quotes from leading Impressionists and truly this was about what was inside of them. How could I lead several children in a process of discovering their own impression?

They were so sweet — sitting around listening to the music with their eyes closed.   Don’t be thrown off by the band or odd cover picture, this song is wonderful!

We then pulled out the paints and they set to work. The tone was set so beautifully by the quiet intention of capturing our impressions. Everyone seemed to have a  good sense of what they were going to paint and interestingly, everyone painted something different. There was abstract renditions, landscapes, portraits and interior scenes. They weren’t rushed, but paced and thoroughly engrossed in their paintings. They each expressed their  impressions from the music into creative artwork. It was a special afternoon.

Ada’s Music Impression

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Arlene’s Music Impression

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Sheila’s Music Impression

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These Fridays are such a highlight of our week. I am grateful to be striking this new balance: learning with another homeschool family, maintaining our own healthy rhythm, feeling rested and ready each day.  I have often felt insecure about these  types of homeschooling steps. I haven’t wanted to rush into complicated or too big commitments with homeschoolers. I’ve wanted to slowly build relationships with other families, learning along the way what other moms (& myself) are interested in and capable of in terms of offerings and teaching. Going slow and layering is truly the way to go with these and so many matters!

Us moms have tea after our focused art time, swap recipes, talk about where we are in life and in homeschooling and completely enjoy each other’s company. It is a wonderful way to spend a day!

Lunch is ready! (Heart-shaped chapati, kale, mung beans, rice and squash).

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mirabai block – 16th century hindu mystic

Following John Muir, we dove deeply into the world of India. This block surpassed my expectations,  primarily in the tangental ways we explored the subject. What did we do in addition to learning the life story of Mirabai? We:

  • visited the art museum in Denver several more times
  • listened to beautiful classical Indian music daily
  • learned parts of an Indian folk dance (dandiya raas)
  • cooked up a lot of new Indian food and therefore visited our local Indian grocer often
  • read tales of Hindu gods, learned their epics from the Mahabharata 
  • went to a dance performance in Denver that showed the merging of modern with classical Indian dance
  • drew beautiful maps of India showing cities and states, rivers and mountains as well as spectacular information such as the origin of Indian spices and indigenous animals
  • recited classical Indian poetry
  • practiced yoga together, learned about mudras, asanas, and chanting

We had a blast TOGETHER.  When you, as a teacher tap into personal interests, the possibilities are truly endless. Having incredibly open-minded children also helps! A friend of mine from Boston, who was originally from India said to me once: “You were definitely an Indian in a past life.” I smile thinking about her comment. Laugh when I think about how incredible diving into this subject was– without much planning, but an intuitive flow.  Somewhere during this epic block I glanced at the “academic calendar” & I got a little worried given that there was just SO much we wanted to do, to cover and yet, here we were leisurely bathing in the history and culture of India –without a thought of moving on.  Their level of excitement was palpable. “Can we learn Sanskrit?” Or, “I would love to learn more about other Indian people when we finish. Maybe Ghandi?”

The Mirabai block was a HUGE success. Using resources from my friend’s curriculum, I told the girls stories of Mirabai and then we a) re-inacted them together b) drew pictures c) wrote out summaries to form a book by the block’s end. I was not as satisfied with these summaries as I was with the John Muir materials. However, I can appreciate the research challenges– the biographical information is scant on this 16th century mystic who went behind her “defined destiny” in life to follow God, her own intuition, love, and joy. She broke with tradition of caste, of gender and like John Muir listened deeply, consciously to what she knew was true and right. These are the role models worthy of our time. John Muir fearlessly heard the mountains calling him and he journeyed onward. Mirabai heard Krishna’s flute and she shone like the sun– sharing with others her love and joy. As a homeschooling family, we do have a lot of influence on our children. However, peers, current day culture, media are there. The more I thoughtfully select content to enrich our learning, whether it is part of our lessons or leisure, the greater positive impact I have.

Once again, I’ve been reminded that I need to listen to my inner voice. It is always there, if I listen closely. I told the girls I could not take on Ghandi next since it will take a few weeks to research. The biographies on him are hefty. I did say though that we could stay in India, relatively speaking.

Yes, so THIS is why I homeschool. To LIVE together and to LOVE learning.

Click on the first photo to view each.

We have continued to bake sourdough bread every few days. Arlene and I had fun taking pictures of scenes from around our home and those are included below. It has taken time to call here, HOME. Like anything in life, it is about coming to a place of acceptance  and living with gratitude w/ what one has rather than what one doesn’t have. We don’t have a yard, but an incredibly enlightened city to live in! We do have a patio 🙂 Gorgeous mountains out our door, & public transportation. No large scale gardens like in NC, but we do have community gardening and somehow we were offered the largest plot! I had not ever envisioned living back in a city and while this isn’t NYC, our home is smaller and on a busy road. We live very close to our neighbors.  It is quite urban! A couple of these “scenes” have brought me immense joy and peace. This is our home. Now.

Continuing with the theme of reading fiction on the topic we are studying, I’m reading one of the most incredible books I have ever read!  It is called Sea of Poppies by  Amitav Ghosh. It is not a light read by any stretch of the imagination. It is layered and rich with varied language and history.

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sunrise hike

What is it that we always want more of? Or, less of? As we approached the holidays this year, I felt a strong desire to just BE together. Freedom to BE together. Perhaps Santa could arrange time together rather than things?  Perhaps we could remind ourselves that this time of the year is a gift to be free. To not feel the yoke of commercial obligation, but to take that moment and breath deep and remind yourself that YOU are FREE. I had an inspiring thought in the fall about the Sabbath in this regard– that truly the gift is freedom.

One of our favorite 12 Days this year was our sunrise hike day. Santa left warm undershirts, hot cocoa powder, and a map…a beguiling map that we were to follow the next morning to experience the beauty of the sunrise together as a family.

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Stephen and I were very tired during the holidays and honestly, it was challenging to gather the mental and physical, as well as emotional energy to follow through on this and some of the other 12 Days. Nonetheless, we set the alarm and went to bed early, unbeknownst to us, we were to receive an incredible gift the next day!

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Arlene and Ada? Amazingly excited to hit the trails at 6 am on a chilly, Colorado, winter morning. It was truly exhilarating to begin the hike. The mountains, black and silhouetted against a dark, but lighter background. The air was refreshing and almost nourishing. The quiet. The solitude. It was truly incredible and we were only 100 feet into the hike.

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We followed the map and landed at the star. What a spectacular spot to await the rising of the sun! We poured hot cocoa, settled in and waited. Suddenly everything was okay out there. Serenity and peace washed over me. There was no where else I’d rather be.  Within minutes it seemed everyone had found their own space and quiet, both physically and internally.

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What a miracle to experience the sunrise. Awaiting something so special, so simple was  at the heart of that morning. The season, too. It was dark, then it was slowly light.  It was just us and then there were animals. It was cold and then slowly, warm all the way through. It was quiet and then there were birds.

I did indeed get what I wanted for Christmas. A priceless experience– seemingly extravagant in how greatly it filled me up, yet completely free.