May 31, 2014

Letting Go

Over the course of the year, as my oldest has developed a better sense of what she wants to do when she grows up, which may involve living far, far away from home, I have been getting a sense that my homeschooling journey will not be taking her all the way through high school.   It is time to release her and test her wings while she is still has the safety net of home, with family and other mentors to help her as she learns to fly.  So we started checking out different schools.  And the one we have really liked is New School for the Arts and Academics, a charter school.  It is a smaller school, which Elizabeth prefers to the big regular high school.  And the English teacher only gives essays on tests, which is what I like.  And most importantly, she will be taking classes in all kinds of art, including ceramics and some art-based computer programs.  Because the school is so small, they have a rigorous application process, asking for two letters of recommendation and requiring the student to write an essay, which is also preparing her for college admissions in a few years (gulp).  Below is her essay to get her into school, which was edited by a friend.

The Influence of the Arts On My Life
By Elizabeth Overtoom

Art has been an essential part of my entire life experience. As I have matured, I have progressed from basic stick figures to more complex drawings that come with increasing skill. When I am listening to a sermon or a lecture for school, I often doodle to help me focus. I also use drawing to pass the time as I listen to audiobooks or music. I find those outside factors influence the way I draw and my artistic abilities. When I am having trouble thinking of an answer to a question, drawing helps me focus on the solution I am searching for. I have always loved to draw, and I would not be the person I am today without art.

From the time I was five, I have had four different art teachers. My first art teacher, Teri Rueckert, taught me pottery and introduced me to mixed mediums, such as using vibrant colors from chalk and the graceful beauty of oil pastels to create a work of art. Ms. Rueckert made her lessons entertaining and instructive, and set the cornerstone for my love of the arts. Russell Taylor taught me oil painting. He made the lessons amusing. Many of my lessons ended with us getting covered paint, mostly from projects that involved me splattering paint on cardboard. He showed me the power of the random, and also showed how to not follow the picture I was painting down to the exact detail, but instead put in the elements I thought would fit with the overall tone of the picture. Carol Brown, is currently teaching me watercolor painting. One of the special talents she includes in her instruction is incorporating lessons about the masters into her teaching. My other current art teacher, Sherri Redman, is teaching me how to sketch.

These early experiences brought together a love and passion in storytelling. I see fundamentals of art and language in movies and literature. Through my lessons, I have come to notice the artistic details and elements in movies. I am fascinated with the processes of coming up with how elements in the story should look, and with the artwork displayed in the finished films. It has inspired me to pursue a career in the line of cinematic arts.

I have researched cinematic arts through watching and reading about the artists who think up the marvelous movie sets and the look of the characters for films such as The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. I am mainly interested in Alan Lee and John Howe, who are both famous book illustrators, and movie conceptual designers. They are well known for their artistic interpretations of J. R. R. Tolkien's works. I love learning about their techniques and how they thought up the ideas for their beautiful paintings and sketches. I also enjoy reading up on how the ideas for the CGI scenes and how the movie sets were designed, as well as seeing the different ideas for the characters' appearance. I am fascinated with the processes and the artwork displayed in their work.

I believe art has helped me progress as a scholar. Knowing and understanding art has trained me to explore history and literature in detail, just like, as an artist, I need to see the specific parts of an object to draw it properly. For example, while studying the middle ages, I could appreciate the affect on the Eastern European culture and had a better appreciation for the architectural intricacies found in some of the early orthodox churches. Art has improved my ability to focus and taught me to persevere. I have become more disciplined as I have repeatedly practiced techniques. I see the parallel of this kind of exercise transitioning into my studies: I need to repeat a math concept to understand it completely. Therefore, art has helped me progress as a scholar.

As a natural compliment to visual art, storytelling- especially creative writing- is my new present interest. I love reading, and over the past school year I have been studying a more in-depth view of the classics, such as John Milton's Paradise Lost and Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility. I enjoy learning abut the different literary techniques and how authors use them to create their masterpieces. Someday I hope to be one of those authors.

I am excited to go to the New School for the Arts and Academics for a multitude of reasons. First and foremost, I wish to advance my artistic talents further, by being taught by some excellent artists, as well as learning more and different methods of art. Coming from a home schooled environment, I loved the look of the hands-on classes. They are unlike anything I have experienced before. I believe coming to this school will be beneficial artistically and academically, giving me a strong foundation for my career. The New School for the Arts and Academics will challenge me, and I recognize it will require more concentration and dedication than a normal public school offers. It will push me to work harder for good grades. As a home schooled student, I am in my house for most of the day. I only interact with the people in the co-ops I attend and in my extracurricular activities. Overall, I believe going to this school will be a wonderful event in my life, and will help me when I graduate and go to college. It will also allow me to meet new people, make new friends, and generally have new experiences and opportunities I would not have otherwise experienced.  

May 1, 2014

I want to be a Tsaddaqim

As part of my church discipleship program, I am reading Amy Sherman's book called Kingdom Calling:  Vocational  Stewardship for the Common Good.  It has been so convicting to me, as have all the books I have had to read as part of this program.  Tsaddaqim is Hebrew translated as "the righteous."  The book takes Proverbs 11:10 and explores it in depth:

"When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices;
    when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy."

Why should a city rejoice when the  tsaddaqim prosper?  Because the tsaddaqim, because of their righteousness, share their blessings in every aspect of their lives and work towards justice and peace to bless their community and their world.  It is not just about bringing God's love into the world, but also His justice, and His peace--all aspects of his kingdom, in little bits and pieces.  

This is one of the books that has inspired my church to join other churches in calling its congregation to B.L.E.S.S. God, family and our community--Bless, Listen, Eat with, Speak and Sabbath/Celebrate.

I haven't even completed the book and feel so totally un-tsaddaqim.  But I know the first step I can make:  get out from behind my computer.   Blogging so far hasn't taken up as much time as Facebook and certain computer games.  How can I bless others as a tsaddaqim when I am tethered and distracted?  I am not even living out my goal of being fully present for my family and kids.

The next step?  Pray and ask God to give me the One place where He wants me to serve the community.  This will be very challenging because my kids' activities seem to take a lot out of me and have both my husband and I running around town like bees.  But I know that whatever God has planned for me and my family, He will give us what we need as long as we keep our eyes fixed on Him.

"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."  Matthew 6:33