Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Vermeer and the Latest Twist on Picture Study

Swine flu has hit our town, shutting down one of the private schools until next week. One family is mourning the loss of their 5th grader who woke up sick on Monday and died today. I do not know them but I am praying for them. I cannot imagine their grief, and it gives me a new perspective on autism. It makes me savor little moments like folding clothes and sitting on the couch next to Pamela while she draws on her dry erase board . . .

Last week, we wrapped up our Monet picture study by looking at his water lilies. Since one goal is for Pamela to know an artist's personality through the paintings, I chose Vermeer based on the startling contrast between neoclassicism and impressionism. Before moving on, we talked about our favorite paintings. Pamela understands that Monet's lilies stand out as uniquely his and observed that the painting with the bridge looks like the one at Swan Lake.

You can see in the video that Pamela and I enjoy picture study, which puts us "in touch with the great artist minds of all ages. We try to unlock for [our] delectation the wonderful garden of Art, in which grow most lovely flowers, most wholesome fruits. We want to open [our] eyes and minds to appreciate the masterpieces of pictorial art, to lead [us] from mere fondness for a pretty picture which pleases the senses up to honest love and discriminating admiration for what is truly beautiful - a love and admiration which are the response of heart and intellect to the appeal addressed to [us] through the senses by all great works of art" (Miss Hammond).

Bringing Charlotte Mason into the digital age, I set up the screensaver on the computer to rotate through the Monet paintings that we studied, a trick I learned from other moms. Miss Hammond suggested inserting the picture in a book to enjoy on a rainy day. I printed out all the pictures we studied and placed them in a folder.

1. To start a study of Vermeer's pictures.
2. To develop interest in Vermeer's works.
3. To help Pamela learn to give enough information accurately about a painting to allow me to single it out from other choices.
4. To let her see the natural consequences of leaving out important ideas from a painting.
5. To teach her to picture something in her mind and share what she sees in her mind.
6. To reflect about the painting and how it relates to our lives.

Modifications from Charlotte Mason (Volume 1, pages 309-311):
1. Since the focus is accurately describing what she sees in her mind without the other person seeing it, we will not discuss the picture before putting it away.
2. Since we are helping her with theory of mind, I will ask questions about details to help me get a clear picture in my mind.
3. I cannot give a preview of the picture because I do not know which picture she will pick. So, I will begin the next lesson by asking her to recall the previous picture. Then, I will tell her the story behind the previous picture to link the known (the last picture talk) with the unknown (the current picture talk).

1. Select and cut out twelve pictures by Jan Vermeer. Let Pamela pick one without me knowing what it is.
2. Tell her that the new artist we will study is Vermeer.
3. Encourage her to study the picture attentively so that she can remember it after we put it away.
4. Ask her to describe the picture with the most important features that will help me select the right one.
5. Ask questions for more clarity.
6. When finished, mix up the pictures and slowly review them, letting her know why I reject the pictures that sound wrong and why I accept the picture I think she described.
7. If my guess was wrong, brainstorm together what would have helped me.
8. Look at the pictures and talk about anything we missed.
9. Talk about what the picture reminds us of or any special meaning we get from it.

My favorite part of the video was how Pamela personalized the painting. The maid in the painting was sleeping and Pamela thought she was tired from walking. Whenever we return home from our daily walks, Pamela sits on the couch and rests, recovering from her exhaustion!

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