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    To Paint with Words

    September 13, 2010 by Brandy Vencel

    On that dreadful morning when Mary could not see even sunshine full in her eyes, Pa had said that Laura must see for her. He had said, “Your two eyes are quick enough, and your tongue, if you will use them for Mary.” And Laura had promised. So she tried to be eyes for Mary, and it was seldom that Mary need ask her, “See out loud for me, Laura, please.”

    By the Shores of Silver Lake

    In my lesson planning post, I mentioned I was going to go full-blown Charlotte Mason in our picture study. Charlotte says to have the child visualize the picture in their mind, that they might remember it, perhaps for life.

    I’ll be honest: I have already changed this plan.

    The short answer as to why I’ve changed it is that it is all the fault of a certain five-year-old I know. When I first told the children to close their eyes and see the picture in their minds, the eight-year-old complied and got excited that it was still there in his mind, and the three-year-old closed her eyes, but claimed to see the color red instead. The five-year-old, on the other hand, was upset.

    “I cannot see without my eyes!” she insisted.

    No matter what I did, no matter how I tried to explain it, she denied that it was possible.

    On my second attempt, I told them to close their eyes and see if they could remember the picture. I specifically failed to mention the word see. But to no avail. A. would have none of it. She claims she cannot remember the picture.

    I’ve been pondering what to do. I wanted to try something new, but I have no desire to frustrate a kindergartener.

    Thankfully, a snippet of Charlotte came to mind.

    In Volume 3: School Education, she encourages us to make sure the children become fit as citizens. One thing she emphasizes is speaking ability.

    To secure the power of speaking, I think it would be well if the habit of narration were more encouraged, in place of written composition. On the whole, it is more useful to be able to speak than to write, and the man or woman who is able to do the former can generally do the latter.

    It dawned on me that I could teach them to describe the painting.

    My third attempt went something like this…

    “Do you remember when Mary Ingalls went blind from scarlet fever? Remember that Pa told Laura that she was going to have to be Mary’s eyes, and tell her what she saw, because Mary couldn’t see it?”

    They all shook their heads vigorously, including the three-year-old, whose supposed memory is highly suspect, but I let it pass.

    “I want you to pretend that you are Laura and I am Mary. See this painting for me with your words. Tell me about it. Describe it as best you can.”

    Since this was our first time, I only had the eight-year-old do this. I told the little girls to listen and learn how to describe something. He did pretty well, and I went ahead and gave it a go as well, assuming that I should set an example. I found it was not as easy as I expected, that my powers of description ought to be refined.

    And so they shall.

    It seems that for this year, at least, we are working on learning to describe a painting. I have already planned that, for the exam week of each term, eight-year-old E. will be required to describe one painting we have studied over the term from memory. I think that he might do well at this after spending much time perfecting his descriptive abilities.

    Time will tell.

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  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts September 16, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Kimbrah: Enjoy!

    Ellen: I actually wondered about that. I want to work with her and see if it is trainable. She is so easily overwhelmed that it could just as easily be that she didn’t understand what she heard and panicked…

  • Reply Ellen September 14, 2010 at 7:24 pm

    It is possible that your child can’t conjure up a picture in her head because she doesn’t see visually. My husband has zero, and I do mean zero, visual memory. If he closes his eyes, he cannot even conjure up a picture of me. I think this is hereditary. Both his parents have very poor visual memory. They are also pretty poor at noticing things… not sure if that goes hand in hand or not. This may not be your girl’s issue at all, but I throw it out there just in case it could help…

  • Reply Kimbrah September 13, 2010 at 11:05 pm

    I really appreciated this post Brandy. What a great idea. I am totally stealing it! 🙂

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