Back in the day when this was a Mama blog, I used to report so often on Amie’s art and drawing. There is a whole series about her early drawings on  here, somewhere  (enter “drawing” in the search engine). It caught the attention of Brent and Marjory Wilson, who wrote about Amie in the new foreword to the new edition of their classic, Teaching Children to Draw.  Amie still draws, but there so many other things in her busy seven-year-old life, like playing with her friends and the chickens in the garden, that this once-a-day occurrence/sometimes-obsession has been put on the back burner. That she still has the knack, though, became clear today, when she brought home this self-portrait from school:

I was truly blown away by it. What a kind face!

Amie’s drawings are always changing – see the Drawing As It Develops series to follow her drawings from the beginning. She is nowadays mostly interested in human figures, especially herself, and is experimenting with movement and joints, etc. And there is also always text, in invented spelling.

Amie picking up a leaf.This is a month or so old. She was getting her head around spaces, and wanted to represent them here by lines. The next drawings are more recent and she seems to have the hang of spacing now.

This one she drew in her cello book. She said it is for when she is grown up. Then we can look in this book and remember her. I said her own kid, when he or she starts cello, will see this drawing too. She thought hard about that. She is always saying “When I have a baby…”

This is a letter she typed for DH, with a drawing. Then I was very sad because I didn’t get a letter, so she added a message for me to it. She had just discovered the question mark. It reads: “satra (dad’s name) I know you love me and I love yu too do you like my drawings? Mama do you love me? Do you like my drawings? You and Baba to share”.

These are her bird dolls – the one’s you squeeze and they sing their song. The birds don’t have feet because the dolls don’t have them. This was when she had just been introduced to initials. I love that invented spelling!

Amie is at the moment in her tent, erected with sofa cushions and a sheet in our living room a couple of days ago. With the aid of a flashlight she reading aloud from an Usborne Farmyard Tales book. She has made strides reading. If she keeps it up, she’ll read fluently from, say, Henry and Mudge, in a couple of months. She is also getting better at addition and subtraction, and is “getting” the rudiments of multiplication. One of her favorite sayings these days is “seven plus seven is fourteen. That’s two times seven, you know?” She says this almost once a day. The “you know?” and “right?” are added for  emphasis, or rather coercion. They mean “don’t you disagree with me now!”

I must admit that we haven’t kept up the “bridge schedule” we had planned: 3 pages of  math (we use the average exercise book) and 3 pages of reading/writing (Explode the Code) a day. Our family life  this summer has been in a mess (in a fun way, mostly), and we’ve not been disciplined enough. Especially her writing has suffered, but I’m happy enough with the reading. She is realizing that to be able to read a book yourself is a real treasure and privilege. Now comes our task of finding good books for her.

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There has, of course, also been lots of art making. When Amie’s Dada (paternal grandfather) suggested that she become a doctor – a real doctor, not a Permanent Head Damage kind of doctor like her Mama and Baba – she immediately and vehemently protested that she was going to be an artist.

There was drawing from nature. With Thaam, the few sunflowers I managed to grow despite the squirrels and chipmunks:

The resulting drawing:

The butterfly we caught:

And Thaam (paternal grandmother) watching the fishes (love those kissy mouths):

And lots of drawing from imagination:

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and my favorite:

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Under the influence of her grandmother she has learned all the songs from The Sound of Music. I’ll try to capture her singing “Do a Deer” sometime and post it. It’s very cute, but after the fiftieth time I have ask her to sings something else.

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Amie turned five this August – we both blew out the candles because she was, of course, born on my birthday (it’s all hers now). We had a mega party (potluck). Though she was on the verge of angry tears for a moment, when I told her I had asked people not to bring presents, she bravely listened to the reasons and then agreed. Some people broke the rule anyway (grrr!), so she did get some presents, including the pottery wheel in the picture. It needed some Mama magic to make it work.

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The most important event was that magical two-week play date with her friend from New York City. One week they played and swam in Cape Cod, the next week they spent playing here at home. E. is a year and a half older than Amie and they get along so well. E at 6 is a fluent and voracious reader and that was a great model for Amie. They played intensely and when it didn’t work so well anymore they had no problem separating and finding a spot to be by themselves a bit.

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When you ask her “What will happen in September?” she’ll respond: “Pottery class with Lisa!” I enrolled her in a hand-built clay creations class with my teacher, Lisa Dolliver. Let’s see how much she will insist on working on the wheel -  wheel throwing only starts at age 11. She’ll be getting a break as it is, because the clay creations class only starts at Grade 1… Oh, and then there is, of course, also Kindergarten.

We’re all retreating into the living room around the warm fire. There’s so much to do in this contracted world.

  • Art

Not a day goes by when Amie doesn’t work at her art. She’ll often pronounce “I am practicing because I want to be an artist.” She enjoyed discovering the technique of splashing by rubbing an old toothbrush over a net. She also likes our instruction book on how to draw basic animal figures (ours is an out-of-print Usborne). She was intrigued when I drew some circles and proposed she draw the basic emotions. She got them down right without my help, contorting her face to feel the shape of her mouth, her eyes and nose.

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Lions, step by step, from How to Draw Animals

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Trying the toothbrush and net splash technique, and the result:

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Emotive faces

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Girl on a bike, from a (paused) video

The last drawing was made from a tiny video still, and Amie became very frustrated with it because it wasn’t turning out exactly the way it looked on the screen. I explained that it was a very difficult subject – the word “subject” is now her favorite – and that the example was really too small. Still, she was nearly in tears, and I cursed myself for not gently leading her away from the project. l will be conscious of  this perfectionist streak in her and help her keep it under control. I know how it can ruin the fun! (Also read Lori’s helpful advice in the current Camp Creek Blog thread).

  • Reading

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Our 100-books-a-month table, with list

Amie is reading spontaneously now, here and there. Only last week she deciphered “Reese’s Buttercup” and “travel” and “cheese,” all of her own accord. Three-letter-words are read fluently, as well as certain sight words like “the” and “and”. Four-letter-words will soon be rolling off her tongue as well.

I know that at her preschool (Montessori) she uses cards and lists of words and all kinds of reading aids, but here at home she just reads books. She has mostly stopped trying to guess what the words could be by looking at the pictures – not all “first books” are clever in that regard! – but she’s good about using the context of the story and the sentence to speed up her reading. In our 100-book-a-month challenge we are aiming for 1 out of 4 to be read by her.

  • Writing

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Amie lists another title

Writing does not come as spontaneously as reading does, but she has gone from penning nonsense words and collections of letters to spelling out real words. When I suggest she write the title of a book we’ve read in our 100-books list, she readily grabs the pen and sets to the job. She will read the words and spell them out as she writes them down, or she’ll copy the letters of the more difficult ones and wonder aloud why some are spelled the way they are. What can I say, English is a funny language! For the latter though I’d rather she use invented spelling than mere copying, which becomes automatic and then she mindlessly forgets letters.

We are now starting to pay attention to her penmanship: the size of the letters (I draw lines) and whether she wants to use capitals or small letters. She still feels more comfortable with the capitals.

  • Math

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Doing algebra

Amie will happily spend half an hour on algebra exercises, but usually only with constant encouragement or if we sell it as “homework”. She’ll also do basic exercises on DH’s Ipod. She can solve:

5+8 – _

5+_=13

13-5=_

etc.

For anything under 5 and the addition or subtraction of 1 she no longer needs her fingers, doing them in her head – though sometimes it helps her to imagine cookies. She’ll still resort to her fingers, and her toes if need be, for the higher numbers, and we usually stay under 20. We don’t use flash cards but cheapo math books, because she likes to make that mark. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but she does like a sticker as lure and reward, and it helps if the math is presented as a game, like a maze.

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It’s finally here, the book!

At the beginning of 2008 I got an email from Marjorie Wilson. She and her husband, Brent, are the authors of the seminal Teaching Children to Draw, published in 1982. Marjorie wrote that they were putting together the second edition. She was doing research on the net when she found the YouTube video of Amie drawing the three-headed person (here). From there on she made it to this blog, where she found “Drawing as it Develops,” my record of Amie’s drawing progress. She wondered if we would let her use Amie’s example in her new Introduction.

Of course!

We emailed, I sent her scans of Amie’s drawings, and we had a wonderful phone interview. Amie picture was chosen for the front cover, and her drawing of Tigger (this one) is printed, in color, on the back flap. The new Introduction tells the story of her drawing from age 1.5 to about 3 and how a lot of what she and we did corresponds with their findings and recommendations in the book. There are stills from the video and photographs of the resulting three-headed person, of Amie’s first scribbles, of DH carrying her in the backpack, and of this collaborative drawing in my journal.

Amie doesn’t quite understand – her first reaction looking at the still of the video was: “That’s not how you hold a pencil!” But she knows how happy and proud we all are.

And for me there could be no greater confirmation of the value of this blog. All those entries on Amie’s drawing are not only a record (that I would have failed to keep so orderly and punctually in my journal), but they are also of actual use to others, for their viewing pleasure as well as for information on how children draw.

So the book is finally out – Amazon says it will only be released in February 2010 but that seems to be a mistake. If you’re interested in childrens drawings, this is the book to get: full of insightful observations, great practical advice and lots and lots of fun examples. Brain food and eye candy. And our Amie, of course.

Now can you believe that I have been keeping this under my hat for over a year?!

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It’s coming down hard: thick globs of melting snow. The wood stove is giving off enough heat to dispel any gloom: it’s merely cozy, as long as I don’t need to go out there.

Which I did have to, earlier on. One of the rain barrels was overflowing, and not through the overflow tube. In this weather I would have left it but the excess water was undermining the cinder blocks the heavy barrel is sitting on, slowly eroding away the soft soil. I didn’t relish the thought of it coming down right by the side of the house and the bed with the chard.

So out I went, and shook the overflow pipe, but nothing came out but a dreadful stink. O-ow, dead animal alert! I opened the barrel’s lid and saw the hind part of a chipmunk sticking out of the overflow pipe. It must have crawled up the pipe in drier weather, landed in the water, then made it back to the pipe only to get stuck.

It had that ghostly look of a thing dead in water. That half looked well preserved in the cold water, and I only considered for a second what the other half looked like. When I tried to dislodge it with a stick its skin just came off. I un-threaded the pipe and as the excess water suddenly rushed out all over me I shook the poor dead beast out in the bushes.

I usually take a picture of any dead animal I see (here and here and here) but this one, well, it was just too gruesome.

We’re spending the rest of the day inside, drawing animal tracks in snow. Squirrels, deer, chipmunks…

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Amie is drawing like a mad woman nowadays – wanting to become an artist and all that requires lots of practice – and she was taping her drawings all over our walls, with lots and lots of tape, of course. Fearing for our paint job, I gave her a large stack of cheapo IKEA frames purchased many years ago. So she has been framing and decorating the living room. I’ll take some closer-up pictures of them soon.

The little bed is at eye level with the wood stove, which it faces directly. It’s very comfy and Amie loves it for her retreat. The intention is, on cold winter days, to all of us be together in the living room, which will be the warmest place in the house. I like that idea of life contracting to a warm, cozy core as winter takes hold of everything around us.