March 16, 2010

Grotesques in the Middle Ages

We're still rockin' the Middle Ages over here and having a lot of fun for a family who is studying some serious gloom and doom. I set the tone by playing this long drawn out commercial for the
History Channel Series, the Dark Ages. It's pretty amazing how much more interesting a thing becomes with the right sound track, and they nailed it with this one. I didn't even have to call the kids in for school time. I just cranked up the volume and they all came running in. I'll warn you, though. There's some pretty gruesome imagery in there. I carefully made notes about the exact second of each thing I though was a little over the top for tots and then flipped past it during the kids' viewing. So if you have older student, this is an exciting way to set the stage. If they are younger you might want to pre-view and get ready to edit a bit.

Hannah Jane spotted a gargoyle (or what we then thought was a gargoyle) in the Lowe's garden department the other day and was fascinated by it, so that was a neat way to pull her interest in on the time period at hand. To capitalize on her ugly little friend in the garden center, we checked out a DVD from the library on the history of gargoyles. That was pretty cool! I learned a lot from that DVD, like it's not really a gargoyle if it isn't a water spout. The ones that are just statues are called grotesques. To think of all of those goth kids calling grotesques by the wrong name. Pitty.

For our art project for the first half of the week, we sculpted out own grotesques. We made salt dough and used pinches of it to form faces on our bases (pickle jars, lemonade canisters, and a milk jug).

Hunter took this more seriously than I expected and stuck with it for quite a bit longer than usual.

Hannah Jane tried to make her art symbolic of some great moral truth. She explained, but I'm not sure I understood the full gravity of her explanation. It was something about crosses in her grotesque's eyes and sinners being reminded that they are being watched at all times. Can ya tell she paid attention to that video? A little to much attention, if you ask me!

I just couldn't resist making one of my own. I am just a big kid learning about the Middle Ages myself, after all!

Sadly, Haven chose to throw a whoppin' 2 year old tantrum over his breakfast having been served in a pirate bowl instead of on a bunny plate, and therefore missed the group art project. This is him doing it on his own some hours later. Clearly it didn't kill the enjoyment, though. His sweet little voice kept repeating, "dis is my fery own gargoyle!" Too cute!

After a day of drying in the sunny windowsill, it was time to paint them to look a little more weathered and authentic! The rule section in the handbook for the Christison Home Academy of the Arts and Sciences dictates that all clothing be removed before commencement of painting with acrylics. We try to keep tuition low by reducing laundry costs :) But if you've been reading for a while, you probably knew that already!

Now we have a happy family of grotesques. Initially the kids concocted a plan to put these on the fence posts so that our one escape artist of a goat would be too frightened to jump the fence. But now that they are all done, each of the kids want to put theirs in their bedroom windowsill.

After reading this cool book called Castles Through Time, the kids are enamored with belfries, so we may try to build a model belfry for another craft project. They love that it could help you break into a castle! And who knows? We'll likely build a little castle for our belfry to help little soldiers to break into, as well!
Our book list for the week, as requested by Susan, is as follows:

How Would You Survive in the Middle Ages?
the Hero Beowulf (which is Hunter's new favorite!)
Castles Through Time
Dove and Sword: a novel of Joan of Arc
What Do We Know About the Middle Ages?
The Tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves
Explore and Draw Knights and Castles
If You Lived in the Days of Knights
The Silk Road
The Mongols: Facts, Stories, and Activities
50 Hands-On Activities to Experience the Middle Ages

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