Window Painting

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Jasper and I love painting together.  He used to love mixing all the paints together on the page, marveling at the different patterns, colours and shapes he could make.  Recently though, he is keen that everything “is” something.  His pictures are a dragon, Grandma in bed, Daddy underwater.  He’s really into story-telling and quite often, his drawings or paintings will reflect his play.  It’s simply a joy to see.

However, this desire for his art to represent other things has spread over to other areas and it’s in those areas, he has started to become even more of a worrier and perfectionist than he already is.  He wants to write so we (and only because he wants to) have been working on forming letters and numerals.  I am very aware that he is only 3 and that there is absolutely no need whatsoever for him to be doing this yet.  No need of course, except that he wants to.  To me, that’s the beauty of home ed.  You can do things with your children not just when “they’re ready” which seems to be the current jargon used in the EYFS, but when they want to.

Although he wants to write and is so proud of his efforts, he becomes very agitated when he writes a letter that in his eyes in “wrong.” He will often point out that one letter isn’t “as good” as another.  A week or so ago, my husband returned from work and enquired as to the nature of Jasper’s day.  Jasper replied that although he’d had a fun time and done lots of playing he was “a bit worried because one of the letter ts wasn’t very good!”  It broke my heart.

I thought about not letting him write until he was a little older but the more I reasoned, the more ridiculous it seemed.  In essence, I would be saying, “No, you can’t learn to write until you’re older, even though you want to, because the time isn’t right.” Much of my problem, of course, with the school system.  I constantly praise him for his efforts, we play, have fun, giggle and explore but still the perfectionism seeps in.  Needless to say I’ve been looking for a way to help him to have fun with his letters; to allow him to have a go at the writing he so craves to do but without the pressure he puts on himself to be “right.”

I was delighted when I discovered this wonderful post on laughingkidslearn.com.  Kate, the writer, suggests you use a large sealable bag, fill it with paint before sticking it to the window to allow children to manipulate the paint inside the bag.  In addition to all the sensory learning that goes on, there are all those wonderful opportunities for mixing colours especially with the light from outside shining through the paint.  For me though, the idea was that Jasper could practise forming letters in the paint and just slide his hand across to rub them out and try again.

I couldn’t find a bag large enough, so instead, Jasper and I covered our french windows in clingfilm, squirted the paint all over it and then covered with another layer.

For the first few minutes, he was content to play.  He made hand prints, described the texture as “gloopy” and pointed out to me that he had made purple paint using red and blue.  He loved it.  The rain was pounding on the conservatory roof, so we put Debussy’s ‘Reverie’ on because it reminds us on the rain and pitter-pattered with our fingers all over the painted window.

ImageI didn’t suggest he did any writing but sure enough, after a few minutes, he drew the letter a on the window and explained what it was.  “Fantastic,” I said.  “I think I will have a go too.” I drew mine next to his.  Now of course, mine was and I use this term simply for want of a better word “correctly” formed whereas his, although it was clearly the letter a, was a little lopsided and had a rather long tail.  I’m not being pushy here, I know he is 3 and to me any interest in learning is great but him having fun is the priority, but my intention was to help him get over his worry.  Jasper then did what he always does when we write on paper.  He traced my letter with his finger before having another go himself.  This time his letter looked more like mine but instead of pointing out that his first attempt was “not very fine” as he usually does, he just slid his hand over his first attempt, laughed at the funny feeling of the cold paint through the cling film and tried again.

Now, I don’t know why this happened.  Maybe it was because there wasn’t the pressure of having a written recording forever.  Maybe it was because he didn’t think he was “writing” and so hadn’t put that pressure on himself because he was playing and enjoying himself.  I really can’t explain it.  But it was fantastic.

Even when we cleaned up afterwards, rolling the clingfilm into a snake-like shape all the way down the window, he wanted to turn it into a letter s.  It wasn’t quite long enough but instead of worrying that it didn’t look quite like the letter he just threw his head back, laughed again and exclaimed, “That’s just a funny type of s, isn’t it Mummy?”

So thank you Kate, for such a wonderful activity.  I enjoyed it as much as Jasper.

 

 

 

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This morning I learnt….

 

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When we returned yesterday from our few days away, I was elated to find husband had started the decorating.  I have never been involved in decorating; I mean, I’ve “project managed” (husband’s sarcastic phrasing!) the decorating but I’ve never actually really been involved.  Mainly because I have severe asthma and paint fumes send me spiralling into attacks of wheeziness.  But also because I hate it!

Anyway, this time, I managed to persuade husband (who was very against the idea!) that we needed lots of beautiful, ornate wallpaper and just the odd wall painted.  We also managed to find some paint I wasn’t allergic too.  For both of these reasons, I supposed the decent thing for me to do would be to help.

J was already really excited about it; he’d picked his own paint pad out in B&Q last week and was jumping for joy this morning when the two of us joined husband in the task.  We helped with the landing.

J and husband spent ages stirring the paint and investigating the swirly lines the old stair spindle made in the paint; they worked out exactly how to get the right amount of paint on the pad and enjoyed seeing the gloops of paint drop back into the tray.  J enjoyed himself immensely.  He was responsible for a particular part of the wall and chatted away about why he thought the white paint looked blue on top of the plum colour underneath! Husband and I both noted again that he was learning so much and he wasn’t in school sitting yawning his head off behind a desk.

After watching this exchange (I didn’t actually do any painting during this time) I decided it was time for me to get involved.  My learning experience wasn’t nearly as enjoyable or successful as J’s.  First off, I was nervous having never decorated before and that made me scared about – getting the right amount of paint on my pad, dripping it on the floor (even though the carpet is destined for the tip so it doesn’t matter a jot), not painting evenly.  You name it, I was worried about it!

I was so worried that I couldn’t remember which  part of the wall I’d painted (and this was the second coat – husband had done the first yesterday) and ended up missing half of it and covering part of it about 3 times! Husband was cross.

“What they hell is wrong with you?  Start in one corner and work logically.”

This in turn made me cross.  I had spent so much time being smug about how much our little home learner had picked up this morning that I was really in tune to the language and experience of learning.  This attitude, I informed him, wasn’t conducive to me learning anything. Nor was it conducive to me being in a good mood so to “punish” him for shouting at me, I painted him with my paint pad.  Needless to say, I found this hilarious.  He did not.

I then decided to have a go with a paintbrush.  I was just as nervous about this as the last time I had picked up a brush was at school to have a go at copying Van Gogh’s sunflowers.  I remember this vividly because the teacher pointed out that my sunflowers, if they were indeed sunflowers at all, looked wilted and dead.  I’ve been put off art ever since.  But to return to this morning.  Husband informed me that I couldn’t use the paint pad to paint little fiddly bits and would have to use a brush.

“Ok.” I said, as sweetly as I could.  “Is there a prescribed method for doing this too?  I wouldn’t want to be inefficient!”

“Yes.” He replied, my sarcasm flying right across his paint speckled head. “You go up and down in a straight line and you don’t put too much on.”

I am now bored of painting and am perched on the bed writing this.  J and husband are still engrossed in their work; they are currently chatting about the noise the roller makes on the ceiling, why the paint flicks off the roller onto the floor and why the landing looks bigger now it is white rather than plum.

I didn’t mention earlier that, even though I was nervous about decorating due to my school art experience and my never having done it before, I did intentionally wind husband up to see how much of a difference the “teacher’s” attitude might make to learning.  And I found out exactly what I thought I would – when the teacher/facilitator is happy and engaged, the learner is motivated and engaged.  I learnt nothing and was bored silly.  J learnt loads and is still engaged.

If only this happened in schools!