One of the things I discovered this summer was the beauty of coupling daily narration with watercolor painting. It has become one of our favorite times of day.
I typically don’t incorporate painting in our daily routine, but I was greatly inspired by some Waldorf and Charlotte Mason blogs. (Although… type “Waldorf watercolor painting” into Pinterest and you’ll see our table-scape is much simpler than theirs, and good-grief, some kids out there can paint. But we’re doing our best, and growing each day. I adore the idea of lighting the table with beeswax candles like the Waldorfs, but I cannot imagine adding flames to our elbow-bumping, water-swashling, reaching-across-the-table-to-swirl-a-paintbrush-in-another-person’s-perfect-shade-of-teal experience.)
When the littles are napping, I gather the three older children at the table and read to them: this year, our stack of books contains history, a read-aloud, poetry, and fables.
This is a joy to each of us! I could not foresee what a peaceful pleasure this would be to each one of us. Our sixth grader is the one who is really loving it: we’re reading aloud from Sonlight Core C, which is geared more toward our third grader, so the added challenge of water-colors appeals to her very much and challenges her to apply the text in a deeper way.
Here are a couple of tips that have given us a smooth start and (I think) a promising future.
The Key: Make the process as simple and easy as possible.
Organize your supplies: With just a few weeks under our belt, we’ve figured out which supplies we need to store right by the table. We have a cabinet that holds it all: brushes, pencils, and paints sit on top; paper is stacked inside; and plastic placemats are tucked underneath. That way, while I bring the stack of books to the table, one child distributes the placemats, another fills the water bowls, and a third grabs the paints and paintbrushes. Clean-up is just as easy.
Simplify your system: At first, I turned the children loose on their blank paper while I plowed ahead with the reading. But then I noticed that while I was in the midst of reading Window to the World’s heart-rending description of homeless children, the painters were digging out pencils to write their narration for Red Sails to Capri next to their freshly painted seascape. Instead of learning how they could pray for the millions of children who have no home, they were wondering how to spell “Monsieur Jacques”.
So, we recognized that we need to follow an intentional order of operations:
- Listen to the first reading that I’d like you to narrate and paint today. I select the portion that I want the children to narrate and paint, and read that first while they have a little non-messy afternoon snack.
- Narrate aloud. (Malachi starts things off since he’s the youngest. We add details as we move up the ranks to the 6th grader.)
- Write down the narration or a quotation on watercolor or card-stock paper. (I write Malachi’s for him and help the girls with questions in spelling or syntax. As often as possible, I model searching the text for the answers. For example, when Lia wanted to paint a picture of Monsieur Jacques’ funny daydream about an entire family named “Capri,” we found the passage in the book so she could copy the names precisely.)
- Paint! (We’re off! The kids begin painting an illustration to their narration, and I continue reading aloud…)
At the end of the hour, we lay the day’s paintings on the kitchen counter to dry (it really doesn’t take very long), and we clean up the paints. So far, I’ve been stacking the paintings in my ever-growing “finished assignments” tray. I plan to laminate them back-to-back or stick them in page protectors, then add them to their portfolios.
As with almost anything, I recommend scouting out a “this works for us” system asap. This will increase your pleasure as well as your odds of continuing. Here’s to creating favorite times of day…