Emma does Michelangelo

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As I witness my granddaughter’s preschool learning curve, I am amazed at the advances in early childhood education. Things have come a long way from when my own kids came home with macaroni pieces glued to the lid of an old box and then spray painted gold.

Emma’s preschool has a curriculum – the kids learn about science, geology, math and art. So far, in the Year Four program, she has studied the work of Emily Carr, George Seurat, Vincent Van Gogh and now, Michelangelo. If Emma is to be any yardstick of learning, what the children take away from their exposure to the artists in question can be summarized in one word – hilarious. OK – maybe more than one word – rolling on the floor laughter.

seurat1[1]None of us will ever forget Emma’s dramatic lecture describing the founder of the school of pointillism – Georges Seurat. Standing by the fridge with a cheese stick in her hand, she explained to us in a very serious voice that all George Seurat did was paint – point by point by point. (I defy you to picture the cheese stick being used to illustrate this message without doubling over in laughter.) But there was more. He didn’t eat and he didn’t sleep and he didn’t even go out and play with his friends – just point, by point, by point. (If you could get through that display without rolling on the floor you are a more poker-faced person than I am.)

Let us fast forward to the month of February. Her class is to study the work of Michelangelo. Emma was having her hair washed in the bathtub the other night when her images[6]mom asked her, “How did you get all this paint behind your ears?” Emma said, “Well (You have to understand how she draws out the word well and then pauses for dramatic effect to really get how funny this sounds) – we aren’t doing George Seurat anymore – now we’re doing Michelangelo.”

(If you haven’t already dissolved into peals of laughter at the imagery provoked by the thought of a group of twenty preschoolers doing Georges Seurat then as I said before – you are in better control of your emotions than I.)

 

Emma went on to say, “Michelangelo painted ceilings. We went under the tables to paint over our heads.” OK, that explains the paint behind the ears. It was quiet for a moment and then she announced, “Michelangelo was a renaissance man.” (A four-year old in the bathtub saying the words renaissance man – I mean seriously – if you aren’t cracking up yet I’m getting a bit worried about you.)

The other day on the telephone, I thought I would follow up on the whole artist subject – scaffold and reinforce some important learning. I asked Emma to tell me what she knew about Leonardo da Vinci. There was a long pause and then her famous, “Well – I don’t know him. Maybe Papa does. I’ll ask him.” (Because of course her grandfather does know everyone!)

Not to be put off, I said, “I thought you were studying him in school. Didn’t he paint ceilings?” Her response was quick, “Do you mean Michelangelo, Grandma?” Oh silly me – corrected on who painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by a preschooler. Shades of dementia may be creeping in or it is possible that I have entered an alternative universe.

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Emma told me, “He was a sculptor, Grandma. He sculpted hearts and they looked so good you could eat them and he stuck them on the roof and one fell off and hit his dog.” This interesting little tidbit of information sent me running to the computer to do some Michelangelo research of my own. After all, I refuse to be outwitted by a four-year old – even if she is incredibly cute.

Michelangelo did indeed have a dog – an early breed of Pomeranian, this dog apparently watched him paint. I could find no mention of sculpted hearts that looked so good you could eat them or of a dog getting hit by anything falling from the ceiling. I did read that Michelangelo fell of a scaffold. It was unclear as to whether he landed on his dog or not. (Oh please – you have to be rolling on the floor laughing now.)

Emily Carr swirled greens and blues and Georges Seurat was a point by pointer. Vincent Van Gogh was stuck on the colour yellow and awash in stars. I am looking forward to seeing what Emma came up with when she was painting in the style of Michelangelo. But maybe it isn’t a painting at all – maybe it will be a sculpture of a heart that looks good enough to eat.

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(all pictures – except for my beautifully pensive granddaughter – are courtesy of Google images)

Happy Birthday, Emma!

Today is my beautiful little granddaughter, Emma’s, fourth birthday. Amazing how fast the time has gone by. She’s the kid I’ve cut my grandma teeth on – she’s the one who has taught me the amazing wonder of being a grandma. Brit, Emma’s little sister, gets to reap the benefits of all I’ve learned.

Being a grandparent is wildly different from being a parent but it still contains a huge similarity – a child comes into your life and very quickly you wonder how on earth you could go on without his or her presence. The major difference is that the overwhelming responsibility for this child is not yours. That can be amazingly nice and unbearably painful as you bite your tongue and mind your own business – you don’t get off the responsibility hook and still get to weigh in with your two-cents-worth opinion all the time. Being a grandparent doesn’t work like that. And I get to see a daughter I respect and love stretch her boundaries to grow as a mother and a person. That’s a wonderful privilege, for sure.

This photo is courtesy of Glenda Monsen Photography

I get to notice all kinds of things I never noticed when my own kids were growing up. Being a parent usually comes at a time in life when one is quite busy – work and life and relationships get in the way of being able to just sit and listen and watch. I have the great good fortune to pursue work that allows me to take blocks of time off and I live at a distance from my granddaughters. At first glance the distance part seems like a negative, but it gives me the opportunity to visit and stay for a couple of weeks at a time. No use travelling that far for anything less. So I get to be on hand when the kids get up and when they go to bed and for everything in between. I don’t get to see them every day but when I am there, I am all there.

I’ve shared Emma stories in this blog before – here is the latest. It can be a real challenge to get information out of little kids – at least when you question them. Sometimes gems do pop out without any solicitation at all. Emma was standing in the kitchen the other day when she quite suddenly said, “George Sewer didn’t sleep . . .  and he didn’t eat for two whole days . . .  and he didn’t even play with his friends. He just painted – dot by dot.” Each of these statements was accompanied by a dramatic gesture with her hands and the dot part was emphasized by a jabbing finger.

Who the hell was George Sewer? Off to Google, we discovered that Georges-Pierre Seurat was a French impressionist painter and draftsman who developed a particular style of painting in softly flickering, small strokes or dots of colour called pointillism. Emma scanned the Google images page and thoughtfully pointed out two of Seurat’s paintings that the preschool teacher had shown them.

                                                 

Always being one to stir the pot, I said, “Maybe next month you’ll study Jackson Pollock.” Emma stared at me with interest – I think the reason being that the name Pollock is sort of catchy. Anyway, I added, “He would stand in his garage and put paint on his brush and throw it at a huge canvas on the wall.” (My knowledge of Jackson Pollock comes from what I remember of the movie that starred Ed Harris)

Emma asked, “Did he not eat for two days or play with his friends?” Closing the computer and moving quickly to prevent Brit from crawling under the hide-a-bed, I said, “Not sure about that but he sure did drink a lot.”

Later on that day, I heard Emma telling Bruce that when she went to preschool she was going to learn about Jackson Pollock and that he sure did drink a lot. I noticed that her preschool schedule says they are going to learn about Van Gogh in January – I wonder if they’ll cover the whole cutting the ear off episode. I don’t think I’ll bring it up.

I’ll end this blog with one of Bruce’s amazing portrait shots of our beautiful granddaughter, taken when she was not quite two.