A Foot in Two Worlds

G first day of school

This child was very excited on her first day of kindergarten.

In the Venn Diagram of schooling options, the overlap between school and homeschool is probably the most difficult spot to be in. I’m technically part of both groups but not really fully part of either. I am a homeschooling mom, and I also have two kids in school. This is a difficult situation, to have a foot in both worlds. Some of the best benefits of homeschooling—freedom from the school calendar and daily routine—don’t apply here. We can’t take vacations whenever we want; we have to keep the school calendar in mind. We can’t sleep until our bodies say; I need to get all three kids in the car to drive two of them to school, and then N and I get back in the car in the afternoon to pick them up. The school decided everybody would get “depot” stops this year, so I’m either driving them to a bus stop because it’s too far to walk, or driving all the way to school. For now, I’m choosing to forego the new busing, which seems inefficient, with stops in unsafe areas as well.

I’ve seen two homeschool classes that N might enjoy and that would get him some time with other homeschoolers, but both run from 1 to 4 in the afternoon, over the state line in CT, and I can’t have him there and also get my other kids home from school. I’d thought, when our 5yo wanted to try kindergarten, that at least with her seventh-grade brother on the bus, if they beat us home by a few minutes, he was capable of escorting her off the bus and into the house, getting her snack and so on. But now I need to be there to pick them up or meet the bus with the car, so those homeschooling classes are beyond our reach.

Then, there’s school. My heart is in homeschooling. Much about school in general pains me. Yet I need to honor my children’s wishes to go, and so I do my best to provide what I feel school does not. I think they both have good teachers this year, and that helps. But there’s no hiding that I feel out of place at school. I never know how to respond when parents comment that they can’t wait for summer to be over, or what on earth will they do with their kids over school vacation week. I can’t wait for summer, to have all my kids together, to be free of adhering to an external schedule, for them to have the time to pursue interests not handed down by a teacher. I often feel like I don’t speak the right language when I’m at school. Over the years I’ve learned mostly to keep to myself, because I feel I’m always in danger of saying the exact wrong thing. And I obviously don’t think the school is wonderful for everybody, or we wouldn’t have withdrawn our middle child. I think the school is okay for many kids, and really good for some, and really bad for some, too. Writing that, I realize it describes a bell curve, which is probably about right for any school.

It’s hard to be very involved at school, too, because I homeschool. I’ve never regularly volunteered in classrooms. (Even when both boys were in school, I had a baby at home.) I try to attend at least one field trip, which involves my husband taking the day off to hang out with our homeschooled kid. Early on I did try to be more involved, but let’s say that decreased as my middle child’s difficulties there increased, and finally I mostly gave up.

It’s unproductive—but sometimes tempting—to think about what it would be like, all one way or the other. There’s no point in wishing it were different; this is the reality I have, trying to honor each individual child’s wants and needs. I’d probably identify myself as a homeschooling parent first, and I wonder if that’s even legitimate, given two of three children are in school this year. But it’s where my heart is, even as I go through the daily routine of packing school lunches, sitting in the pick-up line, checking folders for notes and following up on homework. It chafes, a constant friction between what feels most right to me versus what I’m actually doing. I know I’m not the only parent negotiating both homeschooling and school, but I don’t see it talked about much. And so I write about it, to perhaps begin a conversation.

Making + Listening::15/2014

A return to the making and listening link up hosted by Jen… this past week I printed a horseshoe crab linocut I recently carved.

horseshoe crab lino print at amyhoodarts.com

We found some horseshoe crab sheds on the beach earlier this summer so we took them home and I drew them and drew them again and painted it and finally carved one. A bit of testing and refining, and these are the final prints, drying. I’m using soy-based permanent ink, so when it finally cures and sets, I’m going to experiment with adding watercolor to a few of these. It’s incredibly satisfying to see how I’m getting better with lino carving.

Beyond that, this week my kids and I returned to some of our favorite places–rock tide pools and the salt pond beach–one last time before the oldest and youngest began school today. We’ve listened to gulls and lapping water, birds and katydids (they’re so loud at night!), shrieks of fun and splashing kids. I miss it already.

Transitions

I’m not ready for summer to end. Nope, not at all. Winter here was cold and snowy and dragged on and on well into spring. My oldest didn’t get out of school until the last week of June. He starts up again tomorrow, and our youngest will be joining him, trying out kindergarten. I have all sorts of mixed feelings about this. My heart is in homeschooling and all the serendipitous connections and freedom it allows. Watching my kids learn is amazing. I am sad about the academic-looking daily schedule we received that has no block labeled “playtime,” the 20 minutes allotted for lunch, the increased demands placed upon younger and younger children. But my extroverted girl wants to try it, so I’m swallowing my tongue, practically, at times and giving it a go.

On the plus side, I’m hoping our middle child thrives with the focused parent time with no sibling distractions. He’ll still be home, and he’s most excited about our new microscope.

new microscope at amyhoodarts.com

After looking at a few choices for science curriculum, he decided upon R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Biology, and I’m super excited. I’m also impressed with the scope of what it covers, and how. (I have a degree in Wildlife Biology and took college courses in ecology, genetics, biology, and botany.) He’ll be using this microscope quite a bit.

at Beavertail State Park at amyhoodarts.com

He already knows a lot about ecology and habitats because of the things we like to do.

He also requested a curriculum to improve his spelling. He told me he’d enjoy writing better if he didn’t have to ask me to spell so many words for him. He had spelling lists in kindergarten and first and second grade while schooled, and predictably, he wasn’t at all interested in rote memorization of spelling words at that age. I don’t feel it’s developmentally appropriate, and felt that spelling would either come around as he gained mastery of reading, or he’d be motivated to improve it himself. And lo and behold, he is. After looking at several options, I chose Sequential Spelling.

We’ll be continuing to use Story of the World (we’re up to Volume 3) and A History of US for history, and Singapore Math for math. He reads voraciously, and writing happens organically. We’ll also be setting aside time for projects.

way up high at amyhoodarts.com

He loves to climb.

This spring and summer, we’ve been learning more about what makes our middle child tick and where he could use some extra support. Slowly, we’re building ourselves a village to help with this. It was suggested that I attend this seminar on executive functioning, and I have to say, I’m looking forward to it. Not the long drive or the long day, but getting useful information that I can implement at home, definitely. I’m glad we have the resources to send me to it.

So that’s where I’m at–sad that summer is ending, that it was so short, but trying to get in gear for a new season. I’m not happy about the shortening days, the crispness to the morning air, the signs of impending coldness and darkness. It feels like we only just emerged from winter! But I’m optimistic about what N and I can accomplish without distractions, and hopeful that my daughter enjoys kindergarten (because she is so excited about it) and that my oldest is finally challenged now that he’s in 7th grade. Transitions.

My Writing Process {Link Up}

Last week Angie asked if anyone was interested in talking about their writing process on their blogs, and I thought it sounded interesting. She posted questions and her answers; now it’s my turn to answer the same questions.

What am I working on now?

issue five title croppedI have a column due for the next issue of Home/School/Life magazine, and I’m aiming to have Issue Five of Art Together ready in late September or early October. Although the e-zine is oriented on art activities, it involves quite a bit of writing, some of which requires research. It all needs to be written clearly, in what I hope is an engaging style, and edited and proof-read.

I work out my own thoughts/problems in my journal writing. I don’t share that. Some days all I write in my journal is a brief jotting of the day’s events, something I’ve been doing daily for almost two years now. I enjoy looking back on that the most, I think.

My blog writing is mainly sharing about the surface of our lives–art and homeschooling adventures–but I occasionally go deeper.

How does my writing differ from others of its genre?

The obvious answer is that, as a unique individual–as we all are–with a unique background and personal history, my writing is different in the way all writing that comes from a place of honesty is. Nobody else can write exactly what I write.

As for my perspective as it relates to writing about art, I see lots of writing that focuses on setting up crafts for kids to do, or tutorials for adults who want to make art, but very little encouraging adults and kids to experiment together with open-ended art-making from a similar starting point of exploration and adventure. The benefits of stepping back, as an adult, and exploring together with children, rather than taking on the role as holder of knowledge that must be imparted, are huge. That’s always been my style, from before I had my own kids and I was working in what is known as “informal education.” It was instinctual; it felt right. I had no idea it was so outside the norm at the time and is still seen by many as such.

my writing process at amyhoodarts.com

Tools of the trade.

Why do I write what I do?

I write about art, process, and ways to explore both with kids because I feel so strongly that art-making is valuable for adults and kids alike. I write because I want to demystify it all–from art supplies to techniques to terms. I write because too many people seem to be peering through the window of ART, wanting to join in but having no idea how–or lacking confidence because someone, at some point, told them they weren’t artistic or creative. I want to take these folks by the hand, explain things so they don’t feel intimidated, and set them up to play. That’s why I write the zine. I heard from parents who wanted to encourage their kids’ interest in art but felt unsure, and I want to help them not only support their kids but find their own way into exploring their creative side.

But the true and short answer to why I write at all is because I often have no idea what I’m really thinking until I write it out–but that’s also another sort of writing entirely.

How does my writing process work?

I draft in my head, usually. If it’s a column, article, zine segment, or blog post, I typically know what I’m going to write by the time I sit down at the computer. Everything but blog posts generally goes through several drafts of revisions after that. I am most likely to draft in my head in the shower or while I run, although I try not to do that while running because that’s my time to clear my head. I’m not afraid of revising and never have been–I will ruthlessly cut whole swaths of text for the greater good.

my writing process at amyhoodarts.com

More tools of the trade.

Journal writing just happens–with a pen, in a Moleskine hardcover notebook. From head to hand to pen to paper, with no forethought or pre-drafting.

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I always feel awkward naming or asking individuals to participate in things like this, so instead–if these questions interest you, I encourage you to take the time to write out your answers. And then if you want to share them, please let me know and I’ll add a link to your post.

Paint Labs #4 and #11

I’m still working on the activities in Paint Lab, here and there. I full well know I have a problem focusing on just one area at a time. I’ve given up fighting it; I’ll just embrace it. So lots of things are always half done, and this month in particular it’s felt like I’ve been slogging along, mostly mired in my own head, spinning my wheels. I’ve been doing a lot of reading; dog days indeed. This also accounts for the quiet here. Days have been just sort of slipping by…

Anyway. I did paint lab #4, which involved acrylic glazing medium, a squeegee, and a canvas panel, a while ago.

paint lab #4 at amyhoodarts.com

Then I decided to add a couple of tree-ish things.

paint lab #4 with tree at amyhoodarts.com

I’m not sure about any of it, but these exercises are just that–exercises. Trying things out.

This week I did paint lab #11, “Masking Fluid Exploration,” in my sketchbook. I decided to use that day’s Spoonflower prompt, arrow, as the shape. I’ve done a few of the Spoonflower prompts; I’ve done more in my head, but as I said, August is like quicksand or something. I’m keeping track of them and I will pull them out for inspiration in the future even if I don’t get to them on the day they’re posted.

paint lab #11 at amyhoodarts.com

This was my first experimentation with proper masking fluid. I’ve heard all sorts of horror stories of destroyed paper and so on, but it peeled up easily. My sketchbook contains Strathmore 500 series mixed media paper, and I bought the Utrecht store brand of masking fluid last time we were there. Again, this was, as the lab title says, simply exploration. It will take more of it before I really get a feel for how it can be used beyond the obvious use of maintaining highlights.

I have more things and thoughts to share but we’ll have to see how long it takes given my apparent August torpor.

Postcards!

Two nights ago I sorted out all the kid postcards I’ve received. Here’s a badly lit photo of my living room floor (the cat, of course, had to plop himself in the middle of the action).

sorting postcards at amyhoodarts.com

A total of 98 postcards were made by 21 children from Connecticut, Missouri, Rhode Island, Indiana, Washington state, Virginia, California, and New York. They used collage, markers, stickers, watercolors, stamps, pastels, acrylics, and more. They were creative, they wrote notes to the recipients, they made me smile over and over. Eight adults also made postcards, which I loved to see.

postcards by kids at amyhoodarts.com

Some of the postcards made by children for the summer mail art swap.

The first batch is getting mailed today. I’m sending them out in groups, in hopes of drawing out the fun of getting mail on the other end. Much better to get your postcards spread out a little instead of all on one day, yes? I didn’t place a limit on how many postcards any one person could send in, but if a child made roughly 6 or more, he or she will most likely get more than one from the same person in return. (It’s math, folks. Had to be done.) But hopefully nobody minds, as all the postcards are fun and fabulous.

postcards by kids at amyhoodarts.com

More fabulous postcards.

Big thanks to all the families who made postcards and bundled them up with stamps and labels and got them in the mail to me, trusting a perfect stranger to sort these works of art and send them on their way. Does it sound too sappy to say that every envelope I received added happiness to my day?

Watercolor Sketches + Shop Update

The final two watercolor sketches from last week. I only missed one day, Thursday, so I ended up with six total for the week.

watercolor sketch at amyhoodarts.com

watercolor sketch at amyhoodarts.com

I thought it would be fun to show the process, so I took photos along the way while making the strawberry sketch. I did this one Saturday evening, so the lighting isn’t the best. Before I share all those photos, though, I wanted to let you know that hand-stamped blank cards and lino prints and watercolors are now available in the shop. It took a bit of self-talk (and some encouraging talk by other people) to list the prints and watercolors. It feels different from the other products. They serve no purpose other than to hang on the wall; it’s a public declaration of my belief that my artwork is worthy of offering for sale. That’s not easy to do. (Which I only share because I think it’s better for all of us creative types if we admit when we feel a bit wobbly. Everybody does, you know.)

On to the strawberries.

still life set up at amyhoodarts.com

The still life set up.

initial pencil sketch at amyhoodarts.com

Initial pencil sketch.

traced over with ink at amyhoodarts.com

Traced over with ink (copic multiliner).

first wash of watercolor at amyhoodarts.com

First wash of watercolor.

more color added at amyhoodarts.com

More color added.

almost done at amyhoodarts.com

Almost done.

 

just needs to dry at amyhoodarts.com

Just needs to dry.

It takes a while to complete one because of the waiting time in between layers of color. If you add wet watercolors next to (or on top of) wet watercolor, it’ll bleed together. Sometimes that’s exactly what you want. Other times, it’s not, so it needs to dry first. You can see I have the paper taped down to a board (it’s a clipboard). I leave it that way until it dries. It helps keep it from curling too much.

In some ways this makes it a perfect type of painting for me to do. I’m always getting interrupted anyway. However, I’ve also gotten very good at telling the interrupter that I’m drawing/painting and I’ll get to them in a few minutes. All of my kids are old enough for me to be able to do this, generally. And they all respect the process, for the most part.

Two More Watercolor Sketches

Tuesday’s sketch was of a flower through a magnifying loupe. I don’t know what kind of flower it is; it’s the sort that would be in the background of an arrangement, just a nondescript spray of yellow, nothing much…until you look at it closely. Then it’s a world of tiny yellow petals, sticky sap, delicate stems.

watercolor sketch at amyhoodarts.com

Wednesday’s sketch is of black-eyed Susans rescued from a local meadow–which is supposed to be open space managed by the town–right before it was mowed right to the ground. I’m so sad about this, and curious–it’s the wrong time of year for meadow mowing for management, so what are they doing? Town hall referred me to the head of the conservation commission, who hasn’t returned my message yet.

watercolor sketch at amyhoodarts.com

These flowers look very different from the ones I bought Sunday, so either I mis-identified those, or they’re a cultivated version as opposed to the wild ones. At any rate, I like these, with their protruding center and drooping petals, better. I loved drawing them.

I didn’t manage a sketch on Thursday. We spent six hours at the beach, some of that time with friends (yay!), and after dinner I went to the market, because it’s much easier to do it with just my 12yo than with all three children. But I have a picture of a feisty blue crab to share with you, found by my 10yo at the salt pond.

blue crab at amyhoodarts.com

I hope your week is ending on a good note! Enjoy the weekend!

Odds + Ends

I wanted to share some neat things we’ve found in the yard lately. This is one wing from, I’m pretty sure, an io moth.

io moth wing

That’s all I found. I don’t know what happened to the rest of it. Eaten?

This luna moth was hanging out on the screen of our slider one night. I’d never gotten a good look at the underneath bits of a luna moth before. Its legs and body are so…leggy, and fat!

luna moth

I was hoping it would still be there in the morning so the kids could see more than just this underexposed picture, but it was gone.

This is a super cool plant, and it’s growing in our backyard! What a treat.

monotropa uniflora

It’s Monotropa uniflora, and it’s a plant, not a fungus. It has no chlorophyll, however, so lives in conditions in which it can absorb nutrients right from rotting things in the soil. We have rich soil! My 10yo was impressed that I knew what this was, but it’s the sort of thing, once you learn this, you don’t forget it.

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I’ve slowly worked up to being able to run between 3 and 5 miles, no more often than every other day. My mantra since I was cleared to begin running again after the whole shin splint thing has been, Not too far, not too fast, not too often. So I’m not running every day like I was last summer, but it’s okay. I don’t need it every day like I did last summer. I want to make sure it’s there when I do need it, though, which is why I’m not pushing it. Ok, this isn’t totally true. I’m not dogging it, either. I’m incapable of not trying to get faster. I’m not as fast as I was right before I got shin splints, but I’m faster than I was at the same time last summer. I like running. I like what my body can do. I like the feeling of working hard. And I like the head-clearing. I’m too mindful of the benefits of running, though, to push it to the point where I can’t do it again.

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I’m keeping up, so far, with my goal of one watercolor sketch per day this week. By yesterday I was looking forward to drawing time the way I usually look forward to coffee–in other words, a strong yearning with a bit of desperation thrown in. I’ll show you more sketches in a bit. We’re having a busy week–busy doing, seeing, going; meeting with friends; playing and making art. Not so much time for blogging.