Saturday, November 26, 2011

Avoiding a Culture of Overload

"More is better" thinking is everywhere. When making calls to set up wireless Internet at Steve's apartment, I stunned sales peeps by declining bundles. How could anyone turn down all those channels at such low prices? They laughed when I suggested calling me back when they offer the few channels that I really want for a lot less.

It is so hard to avoid "More is better" thinking. We stuff ourselves on Thanksgiving and follow it up shopping until we drop on Black Friday. Our textbooks are getting heavier and curriculum, more extensive because every topic a student could possible learn must be covered during the K-12 years. We even feel guilty if we do not hit every single ride, attraction, or exhibit when on vacation or touring a museum.

That is why the "more is less" thinking behind a Charlotte Mason philosophy of education is so liberating.

Yesterday was Black Friday. Except for books, I am neither browser or shopper. When I buy clothes, I go in like a SEAL team. I know my mission, and I get in and out of the store as fast as humanly possible. Black Friday doesn't tempt me in the least. So, how did Pamela, Steve, and I spend the day? We spent our Black Friday bucks on lunch at an authentic Thai food restaurant, two McCoffees, parking and a donation at an art museum, four postcards, notecards, a can of whole cranberry sauce, and a can of fruit cocktail. We even applied "more is less" thinking at the museum, skipping outdoor sculptures and the exhibits upstairs.

So, how does one avoid overload at a museum in which it just wouldn't feel right if one didn't hit each and every room? We focused on the science of relations, or the relationships that we already have with items in the gallery. I scouted the website for artists we have already studied through picture study. Our top priority was to see the works of people we know well (Monet and Millet). We strolled from room to room until we found three paintings by the former and one by the latter: Boulevard des Capucines, View of Argenteuil—Snow, Mill at Limetz, and Waiting. Pamela's favorite was Monet's Boulevard des Capucines, but mine was Millet's Waiting. I loved the story behind Waiting, illustrated by Tobit's blind father with his walking stick and his mother Anna, eagerly waiting for their son. I admired the details of rural life: a beautiful sky, the perching crows, the sheep poking their heads out of the pen, etc. I kept looking at the ginger cat, wondering what was causing it to hiss and arch its back. Will we ever learn the source of the cat's discomfort?

As Pamela has not been formally introduced to van Gogh, our artist for the next term, I opted for a picture study in reverse. I described to her the picture of interest (Olive Orchard) and let her find it from all the ones in the room. I managed to record this digitally and I love how carefully Pamela listens and looks for the painting I'm narrating. After she spotted it, we sat on a bench and enjoyed the view.

This picture of Pamela cracks me up for it reminds me of Rodin's The Thinker. And, whose exhibition do you think is visiting Kansas City? Rodin! One Facebook friend asked if Pamela's mirror neurons kicked in, but I couldn't recall seeing The Thinker. But, indeed, it was there and somehow we missed it!

"True painting is only an image of the perfection of God, a shadow of the pencil with which he paints, a melody, a striving after harmony." Michelangelo


Di said...

I only learnt of Black Friday on Black Friday ~ thanks to facebook!! Sounds like a nightmare!
Your day sounds a lot more relaxed. I also love Monet. Less is more, works for me!

walking said...

I don't do Black Friday. I would rather get nothing for Christmas than to face that madness. :-) Besides, one cannot buy or manufacture the true joy of the season.

Stephanie said...

I agree wholeheartedly with what you said about this being a culture of overload -- having 3 kids with sensory issues has made me so much more aware of this! I'm also with you on avoiding Black Friday, by the way. I'm not masochistic enough to go through that.

The museum pictures are terrific and I love the way you introduced a painting in reverse, letting Pamela guess which one you were describing. I never cease to be amazed at the myriad ways you foster dynamic thinking.

walking said...

I wish I could take credit for being Johnny on the spot. The idea came to me when I realized the museum was too crowded for Pamela to do the picture study. She would have needed more time. If I did the picture study, we could stand in a corner away from the bustle. Necessity is the mother of invention in this case.