boy holding pomelo
Because I like to have a photo with each post. Because I thought I could make one more contribution to yellow week. Because the pomelo looks like a planet. And because the image itself could be a metaphor for the words below.
Our homeschool group sponsors a history fair each spring. Kids display exhibits on an interest related to history. We encourage them to include an interactive element–something to do, or taste, or try. Kids take turns visiting exhibits, and staying at their own exhibits to answer questions. They also create stamps or stickers related to their topic, which they use to mark visitors’ passports. It’s always a fun, inspiring morning.
I try to help my kids come up with a display idea a couple months before the fair. Since we’re studying India these days, I figured I’d help them come up with projects related to that country. Lulu quickly came up with her idea of making an Indian dollhouse–although her interest is flagging a bit, not helped by the fact that she made a set of Fimo pots and utensils for her kitchen, which I inadvertently burned while preheating the oven to make pizza on Friday night. Doh!
Mr. T has been playing with options for a few weeks. First he said he wanted to make some sort of forest sculpture, so we researched Indian trees–mangroves and banyans. I was especially excited about the idea of him making a banyan tree out of Model Magic, because he loves that material, and because we read In the Heart of the Village: The World of the Indian Banyan Tree. It’s a beautiful book about a small Indian village and how life revolves around the old banyan tree in the village center. Mr. T could make animals to go in the tree! He could make shrines to Hindu deities at its trunk! He could talk about how banyan trees factor into so many traditional Indian tales!
But no. Mr. T decided he didn’t want to do that. So we shifted gears–me feeling a little disappointed. We talked about doing a project about Hindu deities. Mr. T has always loved deity legends, which began when he first listened to the wonderful D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths on disc when he was four. He’s gone on to listen to them again and again and again. Last year he learned about Norse gods for the history fair, this time using D’Aulaires’Book of Norse Myths, and The Adventures of Thor the Thunder God, among others.
We’ve been reading the fun Little Book of Hindu Deities, written and charmingly illustrated by Sanjay Patel, an Indian-American animator at Pixar. We played with the idea of making a comic book about Hindu deities. This seemed like an intriguing idea, given Mr. T’s love of drawing fanciful characters.
But again, no. Mr. T just wasn’t excited about these ideas, nor any of the many others we discussed.
I knew what the problem was.
As interested as he is in India, in the tales we’re reading, and the food, and the photos and the videos we’ve seen, what’s he’s really excited about right now is–space.
It started when he watched Wall-E once again, and started asking questions about galaxies. Then he started inventing his own galaxies, and journaling about the moon. When I was too busy to constantly read him books about the planets, he pulled out the books himself and started studying charts and using his budding reading skills to learn about moons and rings and orbits. I’m amazed what he’s picked up on his own.
I knew what I needed to do: I needed to let go of my idea of an India project. So I asked, Hey, Buddy. What would you think about doing your history project about the history of the planets?
His eyes grew wide.
If you want to, you could make papier-mache models like your brother did when he was your age. Now his eyes were as wide as his brother’s old scale model of Mars. Yes! he said. Yes!
So we’ll do it. We’ll whip up some flour paste and rip up some newspaper. He’ll make a mess with paste and paint and I’m sure he’ll love it. Since he’s doing this for a history fair, not a science fair, I’ll help him focus on how people have interacted with the planets: how they discovered them, how they named them. Which will bring us back to those gods–we’ll work Hindu deities into his project yet.
But in the end, it’s his project. One of my biggest challenges as a parent is knowing how much to support; how much to let go. It’s an art, really, offering just the right amount of enthusiasm and help to make their ideas come to life. It’s an art that I make a mess of constantly; luckily I have three fabulous teachers, trying to help me get it right. Trying to help me leave things in their hands.