September 29, 2016

Motherhood parables: observing the leaf

 How many of us say we are not artists?
 How many feel they grew up without artistic experience opportunities?

 My daughter came to me  with a leaf that was heart-shaped. "Look mom a heart-shaped leaf!"
 Then my son asked what type of plant  it was.  It was some type of a tree but I couldn't tell  which, all I knew was that we have aspen trees in the front and side yard. So I said maybe it's an aspen and told them to go get a leaf from our aspen tree so we could compare.

 Upon comparison we realized the shapes were somewhat similar, but one was a heart and the other somewhat heart shaped but not completely. We also noticed the same green and yellow colors in the leave, yet the veins of one leaf  were dark, while light on the other; and the parts that were yellow on one leaf were reversed on the other. We also noticed the textures of the leaves were completely different: one felt more like paper bordering on plastic, while the other one felt very soft (more like cloth). Then there was the outline of the leaf which matched each other...slightly rounded yet tiny jaggidies.  (Definitely not the technical terms. ). 😜 Were they different stages of the same tree or different leaves altogether? Observations which led to interesting new questions.

 So where my going with all this?

 As I sat pondering upon these two seemingly different leaves, I wondered about the art of observation. 

This is something I've been thinking a lot about the last two years as I've explored my more artistic side and try to get more in touch with  observing things around me.

 I'm sharing this because I feel if one knows the elements of art one knows the elements of observation; and to improve upon one is to improve upon the other. So if you do not feel like an artist ask yourself this question: how good am I at observing my world? Do I slow down and take time to be fully aware of the world around me?

 Sometimes life can go really fast or get really busy that we don't take time to stop and ponder and ask questions. Or sometimes we don't know what questions to ask. I think this was my problem growing up – – I just didn't know what questions to ask.

 I grew up in Alaska, surrounded by nature. And I love being in nature, but I never felt like I could fully appreciate nature… Like I could absorb it and it could become a part of me. It was always something I enjoy being out in, but couldn't feel completely satisfied that I was taking it all in as much as I wished. I needed both the right questions to ask and also time in nature with those questions. Curiosity is a powerful thing especially when empowered and equipped with the right questions or focus.

 So enough of my rambling… And back to art or the art of observation.

There are basic art elements and terms that all artists get familiar with in order to observe and create art. I never remember learning these terms specifically, though bits of them are familiar and basic enough to  all of us to understand.   The key is simplifying all these lists of art elements people throw at you into one simple breakdown  that is easy to remember and makes sense to your average person.  So here's my simple breakdown of the six or so basic art elements...summarized/grouped as just a few:

  • line, shape, form:  though typically separated as three elements, I see these as one element to be aware of, and the transformations of such . Simply put a line can transform into an outline or shape, which can then transform into a form which is The three-dimensional shape. So when you are observing something....
  1. First look for its lines what lines do you see?
  2. Then what  takes shape and outlines?
  3. Then how did the shapes and lines create a three-dimensional form? 
  • Light, color (hue), quality (value--along black and white scale--& intensity--brightness) :   Light is black and white, but light is broken down into color (aka hues), then the quality of the color can be analyzed. So when you look at something ask the following types of questions: 
  1. Where is the light?  From what source?
  2. What color appears from this light?
  3. What is the quality of the color:  is it pure or has its value been tainted by black (shades) or white (tints)?  What is its intensity: bright or dull (does it reflect or absorb light)?
  • Texture:  the physical feeling of an object. how does  an object physically  feel or appear to feel?   is it flat or bumpy? Small or large? Dainty or chunky? Soft or hard? 
  • Space:  The physical area or location of the object and it's relation to its surroundings

So next time you find yourself going too fast...slow down and look at something. Ask yourself some of these questions. And if you need help, try carrying a sketchbook around and starting just noticing basic lines and shapes. Or start paying more attention to sunsets and the autumn changing leaf colors... what colors do you see? And do you notice how they change along the color rainbow/spectrum.

September 28, 2016

Seven Habits for Kids: Leader in Me Family Focus

We like the seven Habits in our family.
I first started to enjoy them as a freshman in college after taking a time management and Foundations of LEadership course. Then I tried reading Seven Habits of Highly Effective People--and boy was that dry! So instead I read Seven Habits of Highly Effective Teens...and JACKPOT--we had a winner! I really got that book and understood the power of each principle. Throughout my years I've seen the timelessness of these great principles in simply understanding how to live a balanced life and to think about others. Once these simple seven habits are ingrained in you, you can't help but notice these principles all around.

I know it's the same for "the Golden Rule" and other habits, but I like that this sequence of seven habits is actually a sequence and is so universal in it's application.

Well, they have a youth Leadership emphasis on these Seven Habits that they roll-out in elementary schools throughout the world, called The Leader in Me. And I was so excited about it that I decided we'd roll it out in our family (and hopefully co-ops we are involved in too--as a slow/monthly focus).

Here are some of the elements we used, followed by the weekly focus.
Each Habit has a story/character that goes along with it. These books may be at your local library.
(there is also a game too if you really want to get into it). (The stories are short and not super amazing, but a good jump off point for parental discussion with ideas of how to talk about it too, if you'd like.)

Here's how our 8-week Family Focus worked out... 
We used our Monday evenings to spend 15 minutes each week on one habit. We picked two primary children's Songs to open and close the whole evening's activity with, that aligned with that week's habit.

We started the main lesson out by singing the Leader in Me Song and introducing the new weeks topic (review the last week's one). We did this by using a Big Family Habit Tree Poster we created together each week, by adding on the new habit each time.

This is what the official one looked like. But we drew our own and drew simple symbols of  Nephi's stories along with the habits so they could tie the two together.
Each week we chose a story about Nephi that emphasized that week's habit focus. Then we chose a simple activity or had them re-enact the story so they could more easily remember that story with that habit.
Use these bullet points as you explain the weekly/monthly habit focus, to point out the different aspects of the principle, as mentioned in this great sumamry list.
 Ex: Nephi was proactive when he made his own bow because he...a) took initiative, b) was responsible since he was a good hunter and people trusted his he made the bow, c)  chose to seek the Lord's help through prayer and didn't blame others, etc.
At the end of the lesson/activity we had them each fill in their own Leader in Me Mini-Book that they used each page for a habit that they'd write/cut-and-paste the habit/title on...with room to draw what they wanted about the Nephi story that went along that week. (there are 8 one could have the tree on it also. This diagram shows you how).
Image result for minibook

Then during the week we'd try to have books on hand that we knew emphasized those principles, like the two stories from the Seven Habits from Kids Story Book Series/Collections. Or other childrens' Books we knew that went along. These would be great bedtime books, and I've listed some below with each habit.
So here's the at-a-glance version of what we did...

Week/Habit 1: Be Proactive

  • Leader in Me Song (introduce this youtube video--words and actions--lyrics posted at bottom of this post)

  • 7 Habit Book Series Stories: "Just the Way I Am", or "Bored, Bored, Bored"
  • Other Books: The Little Engine that Could, A Fly Goes By, Horton Hears a Who, etc.
  • Nephi's Story/Activity: Story of the Bow and making his own, then prayer to know where to get food (so we had them make bows and act out the story)
  • Mini-Book: we cut and paste the principle icon (see above sheet) on a page and then drew something about the lesson they remembered
  • Primary Song: Nephi's Courage (p.120), Faith (p.96)

Week/Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
  • Leader in Me Song
  • 7 Habit Book Series Stories: "When I Grow Up" or "Goob and the Bug-collecting Kit"
  • Other Books: Ant and the Grasshopper Fable, The Very Busy Spider (Eric Carle)
  • Nephi's Story/Activity: Knew he had to get to the Promise land...needed a plan to get there (followed God's plan/instructions/liahona. So we drew a map and had kids try to follow the map around the house to get to the "promise land"). 
  • Mini-Book: we cut and paste the principle icon (see above sheet) on a page and then drew something about the lesson they remembered
  • Primary Song: I Will Follow God's Plan (p.164), I Lived in Heaven (p.4)

Week/Habit 3: Put First Things First
  • Leader in Me Song
  • 7 Habit Book Series Stories: "A Place for Everything" or "Pokey and the Spelling Test"
  • Other Stories: The Little Red Hen
  • Nephi's Story/Activity: We talked about Lehi's family having to leave the promise land and prioritizing what they needed, so they wouldnt take too much. A great activity would be to practice what to pack for camping or making 72-hr kits. OR doing the rocks in the jar activity (have them try to get everything in a jar, and then try again in the proper order: big rocks, medium rocks, sand, and then water--make sure you've done it first to make the quantity is right). Then point out after FHE when you have treats that you had to do the lesson first and the treat is the ultimate reward.
  • Mini-Book: we cut and paste the principle icon (see above sheet) on a page and then drew something about the lesson they remembered
  • Primary Song: Faith (p.96), Nephi's Courage (p.120)

Week/Habit 4: Think Win-Win
  • Leader in Me Song
  • 7 Habit Book Series Stories: "Sammy and the Pecan Pie" or "Lily Plants a Garden
  • Other Stories: Have You Filled a Bucket?, Rainbow Fish
  • Nephi's Story/Activity: We talked about Nephi and his brothers trying to trade their treasures for the brass plates...a win-win idea (though Laban was selfish and didnt accept that alternative). Then we played hot potato with a beanbag singing "Happy Family" (I help you and you help me...). whoever it landed on by the end of the song gets to toss the beanbag into the bucket (reminding of the fill-their bucket=fill-your-bucket book's principle)
  • Mini-Book: we cut and paste the principle icon (see above sheet) on a page and then drew something about the lesson they remembered
  • Primary Song: We're All Together Again (p259), Here We Are Together (p261), We Are a Happy Family--or Any Family song

Week/Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
  • Leader in Me Song
  • 7 Habit Book Series Stories: "Lily and the Yucky Cookies" or "Jumper and the Lost Butterfly Net"
  • Other Stories: Blind Men and the Elephant, And to Think That I Thought We'd Never Be Friends, Little Miss, Big Sis., Runaway Bunny
  • Nephi's Story/Activity: Ethan mentioned the opposite of this principle, so we went with it--Laman and Lemuel hitting Nephi with sticks, and the angel appearing. That wa a good chance to discuss bully behavior being not taking time to understand each other. So we also decided to re-enact some common happenings at our house, using stuffed animals, so we could stop and ask questions about how to stop and think about why meaness was happening to siblings sometimes.
  • Mini-Book: we cut and paste the principle icon (see above sheet) on a page and then drew something about the lesson they remembered
  • Primary Song: Kindness Begins with Me (p145), I'm Trying to Be Like Jesus (p78)

Week/Habit 6: Synergize
  • Leader in Me Song
  • 7 Habit Book Series Stories: "Sophie and the Perfect Poem" or " The Big Bad Badgers"
  • Other Stories: Blind Men and the Elephant, Little Swimmy
  • Nephi's Story/Activity: We talked about Nephi on the boat and how Laman and Lemuel tied Nephi up and the storm came and they were driven back; but, if they were to all work together and trust the Lord then that wouldn't have happened and they wouldve made their way to the Promised Land sooner.  For the activity I drew a simple black and white outline picture of our family holding hands in a circle, and cut it into puzzle pieces. The I gave everyone some and told them to make their puzzle by themselves. No one could finish their puzzle until they worked together to create the final picture. Then we taped it on construction paper and colored it all together.
  • Mini-Book: we cut and paste the principle icon (see above sheet) on a page and then drew something about the lesson they remembered
  • Primary Song: Here We Are Together (p261), We Are a Happy Family

Week/Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
  • Leader in Me Song
  • 7 Habit Book Series Stories: "Goob and His Grandpa" or "Sleepy Sophie"
  • Other Stories: Snowy Day, or personal journals?
  • Nephi's Story/Activity: We discussed Nephi taking time to ponder on the things his Father saw and delighting in the scriptures. We asked what everyone delighted in doing and did one of them--something we don't normally do together as a family. Nellie wanted to paint, so we did. OR you could write a family journal entry or put on some nice music and have everyone journal something.
  • Mini-Book: we cut and paste the principle icon (see above sheet) on a page and then drew something about the lesson they remembered
  • Primary Song: For HEalth and Strength (p21), Smiles (p267), Fun to Do (p253), Thankful to be Me (p11), 

Week 8: Review & Celebrate!!!
  • Leader in Me Song

Leader in Me Lyrics
We are the future leaders—
   That’s what they say.
But if we wait until the future—
   We’ll be too late.
So we won’t wait until tomorrow—
   Our time is now.
And with these seven habits
   We’ll show you how:

You gotta Be Proactive.
Begin with the end in mind.
Put first things first.
Think Win-win, all the time.
Seek first to understand, then to be understood.
Synergize with eachother—together is better.
You gotta Sharpen the saw
   So I can see, the best I can be….

There’s a Leader in me--
   There’s a Leader in Me-eee.
I can lead myself,
I can lead my friends;
I can do anything!

There’s a Leader in Me.
   There’s a Leader in Me-ee.
The seven Habits help me to see—
  There’s  Leader in me,
  A Leader in me-eeeeee.

Christlike Attribute Cards

It's great to focus on helping kids learn good values...but which ones? 

Sometimes it can seem overwhelming with the list of values: hard worker, responsible, etc. But what about being gentle and kind and others? There are tons! 

So it has been a goal of mine to gather and organize "good values" into the Christlike Attributes. Preach My Gospel, the missionary manual, lists nine main attributes. Using those definitions and content as a base, and adding gratitude and prayer as attributes also, I've created some basic cards to check how I'm doing in each area.

My next goal is to break them down into Child-friendly versions. (since these are all-inclusive and would be overwhelming to kids)
Then I hope to make value cards to go along with it. I've got a lot made, but haven't finalized exactly which values to include. So I've got a few in each attribute started, to give you a glimpse.

(If anyone wants to help me finish..I need mental brain power to aid in my thinking and to edit what I've got into something more complete and finished.  See the end for the list of values to organize into the attributes)