January 19, 2004

The Finer Things in Life... I really want my children to grow up with an appreciation for some of the finer things in life - like good art, music and food. I would read Jane Austen and love that art, music and poetry was such an important and normal part of their lives and was sad that it seemed not to be the case for me and would it be for my kids? I've made a commitment to make it be and in the simplest way possible - make it always available to them and treat it as the norm rather than the exception. This is the way we approach healthy food and it works very well in our lives in that area and so far it seems to work nicely in art appreciation.

Just as my kids are growing up with tofu, avocado, edamame, broccoli and hummus as normal and good food in their lives (yes they actually request and love these) so I want it to be with Monet, Vivaldi, Frost, Van Gogh, Mozart and Shakespeare. They will grow up hearing, seeing and learning these things from a very early age and they already show a love of it. I don't know about you but I think Vivaldi is much more enjoyable than Barney and my kids think so as well. Rhiannon always asks to listen to classical music and she really enjoys dancing to it. Ciaran has shown a love for art already at such a young age.

And it is far more simple to accomplish than I ever thought. I read in The Charlotte Mason Companion an idea to pick an artist and a composer for a term and concentrate on only them. We decided to choose 4 artists and composers for the year and study one of each for three months at a time. We began in January with Vivaldi and Monet. I play "The Four Seasons" at each mealtime and while we have quiet play or arts and crafts time and Rhia sometimes will ask to listen to it at bedtime. We also have some other Vivaldi pieces we will listen to. My children do recognize his work and as soon as he comes on they say "that's Vivaldi". Now the true test will come after we have studied a few composers and they can discern between them - but still how many 2 and 4 year olds recognize the piece? How many adults for that matter. I was skeptical in the beginning as I thought it would get boring - but I am really enjoying it and realize I am learning as much as my children.

For art I bought some calendars on clearance at the bookstore and a cheap book stand and we pick one painting a week to study until the kids can recognize the painting and discuss it. I just put it on display in our school/playroom and they can look at it whenever they want - occasionally I will ask them what they think of the piece and who the artist is. We began with Monet and are on our third piece, so far their favorite was "The Luncheon". They have taken to this far better than I would have expected and it is so easy to do,

For poetry we listen to a sonnet a day by Shakespeare (I may not read all of them or skip a particular passage if I feel it is inappropriate for children) and I have them stand up tall with arms at their sides and recite an age appropriate poem or nursery rhyme - they think it is great fun and it is getting them used to public speaking and proper manners at an early age. We are also trying to read a chapter of proverbs each day (the corresponding day). We are reading a chapter book and try to read a chapter a day. We did The Eb White books first, then the Chronicles of Narnia and we are now doing Little House on the Prairie.

My kids really enjoy all these things and it makes me smile to know that they are being raised with a diet of good food - both for their bodies and for their minds. Kids will surprise you - they often rise up to the challenge - I wish we would all stop talking down to them and giving them such inane entertainment as if that is all they could appreciate. Then we wonder why teenagers balk at Shakespeare, Poe and Dickinson when faced with it. Not all literature, art and music is appropriate for young children - but let us give them a steady diet of the best instead of letting the media choose what is best for them.

Just my .02

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