October 19, 2014

Grade Four :: { Week Six }


Have I mentioned before how much I enjoy spending time with Benjamin?  You know when I began to think about Grade Four I sensed it would require very little in the way of planning. Having been provided the freedom to always pursue his interests void of outside influences (i.e. peers, media or consumerism), he has a lot of personal recreations.

Something he enjoys above all else is creating scenes.  Our living room has been designated Medieval times - complete with the Playmobil Falcon Knights castle, the Medieval bakery, museum and barn.  For over a year we had a 'dark forest' and a 'light forest' set up beneath the table and sofa - separating the Lion Knight's village and the Falcon Knight's castle.  On the second floor, Benjamin has created what he calls, "Ninja Town."  Ninja Town is so named after the original LEGO Ninjago figures.  He loved his little Ninjago figures -- and in 2011, had never seen the animated series.  Once he saw the series he no longer liked the 'franchise,' but Sensei Wu, Cole, Kai, Jay and Zane are still considered the virtual Mayor and City Council members of his Ninja Town.

Ninja Town encompasses encompassed the entire 2nd floor landing of our home. That is, until earlier this week.  I finally had enough.  The LEGO police station, bank and the ongoing Playmobil/Bruder 'construction' scenes not only encompassed the 2nd floor landing but had begun to fill the entrances to the schoolroom and Benjamin's bedroom.  Our 2nd floor was becoming a trip hazard.  Honestly, for several years my 2nd floor has been a trip hazard for anyone visiting who isn't aware of the Ninja Town schematics.  Since I have noticed in his maturity, Benjamin is becoming increasingly methodical in his play, I take great care in approaching him about 'tearing down his scenes.'  In a sense, to tell Benjamin to destroy his scenes would be like telling Michael to tear up a drawing or slash apart a painting.

Here is an example of what I mean:  Last Christmas Nana bought him his very own Miniature Greenleaf Village (exactly like the one he admires at her house, that she painted when Michael was growing up).  Well, he did not wish to simply construct and paint each building.  He has set up a small construction scene in his bedroom, a scene he changes daily. Ninja Town is building a church.  So, at any given moment one can visit his bedroom and see the stages of a church being built.  Trucks deliver supplies (the wall boards, the windows, the steeple), Playmobil workers are found on site, and he even (using pink construction paper) made PINKWRAP housewrap!  So you can imagine how difficult it was for me to tell him to stop monopolizing all of our floor space.  But, I did.  
Parents who choose not to set limits usually do so because they believe that limits will stifle their child's creativity, or that limits for smart children are unnecessary because they can handle themselves with good judgement.  However bright children are still children and have much to learn about getting along in the world. 
A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children (Webb, Gore, Amend, DeVries, 2007)
Benjamin is mature and his ability to reason and to thoroughly discuss a problem is a blessing; he is quite capable of understanding that his dear mother (I, of weakening bone density) cannot fall victim to a poorly placed LEGO dump truck.  Nonetheless, it disappointed him.  So, although it was not on our schedule for this week -- I lovingly helped him relocate Ninja Town.  When finished, he was giddy.  He reconfigured his construction scene, splitting it into two smaller scenes.  He moved the bank and added a bus stop.  And, revamped the Poodunk's house.  I happily pulled my vacuum around the 2nd floor without fear of toppling miniature construction cones or breaking a hip.  It was pure bliss, I tell ya!

Now remember...way back when I began this post I mentioned Benjamin's personal recreations. Well, I am seeing so much hustle-bustle this year -- lots and lots of ideas and all free of parental coercion.  His plans are instead, inspired. He finds inspiration all around him -- and we believe he thrives, in part, because of a lack of outside interruptions or intrusions.

There are a couple of projects he is working on right now that I find fascinating. One, a Small Book of Kind Gestures, he began writing and illustrating a couple of months ago.  One evening, just before bed, he pulled out paper and wrote, A Small Book of Cind Gestures.  I didn't stop him, correct his spelling or bother to ask him what he was doing...I just smiled to myself and continued on.  When we began our Language Arts block and consequently, he learned more about sentence structure and was reminded of English spelling rules, he returned to his little book and corrected his spelling of kind.

Since our Language Arts block ended, I've also noticed a big return to letter-writing.  He has written two letters to Grandma, sent a postcard to his friend Johanna and, he would like to write to Norm Abram (if only I could find his address!).

Benjamin is also building a cave.  When I asked, "Why are you building a cave?" he replied, "Because I sometimes need a cave."  Good reason.  When I asked him a bit more about his decision to build a cave, he clarified some things.  For the most part, he just "needs a cave," but he also wants a cave for, "when we watch documentaries and then I want to go play 'cave.'" So, he built a wooden frame and attached cardboard to it.  He used Crayola clay to build stalagmites (over wooden skewers he'd cut to size) and is now in the process of adding the layers of paper/glue to 'build up' the cave's interior.

Of course, we are still doing all of the stuff I planned for our History block.  I have to admit though, I think he finds our study of 'the ancient world' a tad redundant.  How do I know? Well, he corrects my pronunciation of words (thank you, Jim Weiss) and the other morning he awoke saying, "I had a dream about the Sweet Track."  What nine-year-old is gleefully exclaiming he's had a dream about the Sweet Track?  We wrapped up the week with some reading in the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History and decided to skip the documentaries I'd reserved -- most of which we've already watched at one time or another.  

Instead, we watched Death on the Railroad.  It was really interesting!  In fact, we planned to do a little bit more research on the location of the incidents and, see if the PHMC has placed a Pennsylvania Historical Marker in the area.  I am going to show Benjamin how to search the archives -- he'll be excited to discover there is a marker for the Duffy's Cut Mass Grave

We're finishing up reading The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and will be moving on to Frankenstein next week.  We're also starting our Math block -- our methods are unique, as I do not believe in teaching math.  Math is manipulation of numbers.  Manipulation requires working with something.  I wish someone had just let me play around with numbers for a good while before I was made to memorize facts and formulas.  I have some things in mind...I'll share more next week. 

Brandywine Conservancy & Art Museum: Andrew Wyeth Studio Tour

Last weekend we visited Chadd's Ford.  We returned to the Brandywine River Museum and had the pleasure of seeing Lines of Thought, an exhibit of Andrew Wyeth's studies.  I was in heaven - seeing an artist's studies fascinates me.

Andrew Wyeth: Lines of Thought

In the photograph above Benjamin is looking at the collection of drawings which eventually resulted in Wyeth's well-known painting, Roasted Chestnuts.

Study for Roasted Chestnuts

You can see in the photo above...to prepare for the final painting, Wyeth sketched every seemingly minute detail, including the barrel and tire track as well as the roasting pan and hand.  Eventually, he drew the full figure...don't you love the paint splatters?

Study for Roasted Chestnuts

The first colored study is my favorite -- I think it's beautiful.  Sometimes (I will confess) I prefer the artist's study to the final product.  In the case of Roasted Chestnuts, I think I prefer...hmm, I'm not sure.

We also got a glimpse into Wyeth's process when he was inspired to capture his daydreaming son, Jamie, in the painting, Faraway.

Study for Andrew Wyeth's Faraway 
Study for Andrew Wyeth's Faraway 
Andrew Wyeth's Faraway

After spending a full day in the museum we boarded the shuttle again -- we'd visited N.C. Wyeth's home and studio earlier that morning -- and headed off to Andrew studio.  We have been enamored by Andrew and Betsy Wyeth's modest little house (known as Andy's studio after they moved to the Mill house) since we first visited in 2013.

Andrew Wyeth's Studio

N.C. Wyeth gave the home to Andrew and his wife, Betsy as a sort of wedding gift.  They added on to what was originally a schoolhouse and made it into their home.  We absolutely love it.  Everything about it -- the design, the simplicity, the wooded surroundings, the privacy. It is tiny, and perfect.

During this visit I was sure to take photographs of all the things we wish to replicate in our next home.  What we love most -- and hope to one day find in a new, older home -- is the hearth and kitchen design.  The photograph below shows you one side of the dining area/kitchen.

Andrew & Betsy's Kitchen (1950s)

The kitchen lies on the opposite side of the room.  It is PERFECT.  You see, I am not a gourmet cook by any means...so, a small, compact kitchen like this one is a dream.  I love the wood counter-tops.  And the farmhouse sink.  The cabinets and shelving are perfect -- and that sunshine coming in through the window!  Love.

Andrew & Betsy's Kitchen (1950s)
Andrew & Betsy's Kitchen (1950s)

I love the vintage stove and refrigerator.  And Oh, hey Mom...those are Betsy Wyeth's actual cookbooks (she donated them to the restoration project)!  I love the wide-planked wood flooring. And the brick entryway and 'mudroom' where Andy's coat - the one he wore in the documentary Snow Hill - hangs is so inviting.

Andrew Wyeth's Coat (Snow Hill Documentary)

Of course, a tour of Andrew Wyeth's spaces is not complete without a visit to his studio.  I shared photos of his studio last year, but I thought I would share these recent photos here (just in case you don't follow the linkback to the 2013 post).

Andrew Wyeth's Studio 
Andrew Wyeth's Studio 

Andrew Wyeth's Studio

Andrew Wyeth's Studio 

Michael and I visited the Brandywine River Museum a handful of times while we were dating and during our early years as a married couple.  It is such a special experience to now return there with Benjamin.  Visiting N.C. Wyeth's and Andrew Wyeth's homes and studios is so enjoyable - we are excited to return in the late fall/early winter for the exhibit, Enchanted Castles and Noble Knights; the exhibition will feature a model medieval castle owned by Andrew Wyeth. It was built for him in 1927 by his brother Nathaniel and painted by their father N.C. Wyeth.  Also -- our docent on this most recent studio tour tells us the museum is decorated for the holidays using all natural items and fresh greens!