March 3, 2011

My Hero and Alhambra Art

This had to be a great day, with the way it started.  I told Joe not to worry about setting the alarm for me to wake up and eat before sunrise, that I would wake up on my own.  But at 6 am, the alarm went off and to my surprise Joe didn't hit snooze but got out of bed and went rummaging around the kitchen.  I dragged myself out of bed to see what had lit the fire under him and he was standing over the skillet making an omelet.

This was the sweetest thing ever.  I just love that man!  I know he's kind of opposed to the fast, but he just said, "Well, I might as well at least make sure your eating when you can."  What more can I say?  He's just so amazing!

So it was destined to be a great day.  Right?  And so far it has been.  The kids have happily done their school work with great speed, leaving time for  bonus activities.  Lately they've crabbed so much about how mean I am to make them read or how it's just so inconvenient to have to learn how to add, that the basics have drawn out and taken up the whole day with no time for what I consider the bonus features.  Those things that make learning fun, but only come once you've check the three R's off your list. 

Well, this morning they breezed through their main course work without so much as a blink, we read a story from our Troll book and one from the Magical Pony Tales (which has the most magical stories in it, by the way) and then did multiple lessons from the K-12 art program.  We've had so much fun!

We've been watching the spread of Islam through what was once the Roman Empire and then across Africa in our History lessons, and our art lessons have finally caught up to our enthusiasm for history.  Today we looked at the architecture and art of the Islamic Empire in the Middle Ages.  From the Hagia Sophia to the Alhambra, we've examined arches, fountains, and decor.  The boys were particularly impressed with the bath rooms.  Imagine such a fancy place to do your business!

Today the focus was on wall art in mosques.  No pictures of people or animals are used, so writing as art (that gorgeous calligraphy) and mosaics with repeating patterns of stars, flowers, and leaves were very popular.  So ornate that they are almost hard to look at, the walls and columns in these old building look like they must have taken life times to design and create.  Some of them did. 

 So we decided to make a mosaic using  plaster and pony beads.  I asked the kids to put their initials in their design, similar to the way the beautiful writing was in the designs in the mosques.  Well, that part didn't go so well.  I must have over emphasized the toxicity of the plaster (you know, those labels that say "Known to the state of California to cause cancer" really do freak me out!  And why just the state of California?  Has Utah not figured it out yet???) and so the boys were unbelievably concerned about accidentally touching the stuff.  Poor Haven spent the full 10 minutes placing one bead in the plaster and running to wash his hands over and over.  I tried telling them that I was pretty sure the harm was in breathing the dust and now that it was wet, they could relax a little, but they are hysterical like their mother and so we did the best we could between hand washings.

H's were difficult to discern, but present.  In the end they were all quite pleased with themselves.  This was a little more structured than our last mosaics.  Those very well have been more fun to make, but I think it's good for the kids to be able to consider for a moment just how much work went into the buildings back then.  I mean, it really is unlike anything being built today.  And in our world of throw it up as fast as you can and move on to make the next buck, we really have no comprehension of a time when building were made so elaborate that you may be working construction on a building that your father and grandfather both work on.

Anyway, by the end of this project that took us all of 20 minutes to complete, the boys were already asking if theirs were detailed enough to be considered done, so it really led to some good discussion time about the time it takes to yield such beautiful results and how much longer artisans in those times worked just to decorate a ceiling or the chair rail in a bathroom. 
The boys moved on to the play room where the pretended to hunt Nazis with light sabers (nice, huh?) but I heard them incorporate this lesson into their play time.  So funny to hear Hunter fuss at Haven saying, "Don't hit the Nazi into the wall when you get him!  Do you realize how long it took the people to make that wall?  Just be more careful!"  Ahhh...they do make me smile, those rowdy boys of mine.  Hannah Jane spent longer on hers, then without a word moved back to finishing up her math sheet.  When math was done, she asked when her mosaic would be dry and if we could somehow embed it into her wall.  I think we've done enough home improvements for the time being.

So thanks to Joe for starting my day off on the right foot!  For giving me the energy to chase my little Nazi hunters through the house and protect them from the carcinogens known to the state of California.   You're my hero!


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