What Happened When I Strewed a Painting on the Wall…

The other week I had a new strewing idea. I tried it out and it was a huge success. Don’t you just love it when that happens?

So what did I strew? I printed off a famous painting,
using a high resolution file downloaded from the Internet. I then displayed it
at my children’s eye-level in a high traffic area of our home. I hoped my kids
would walk past, see the painting, stop and look, and then want to talk about it.
Well, they did all of that and now we are having some great discussions!
I began with a painting by Vermeer, the Dutch artist, because
I love his work. I hoped the girls would love it too. I found another source of
high resolution image files: WikiMedia Commons Images. Using one of these files, I printed off a
copy of Vermeer’s Young Woman with a Water Pitcher, onto a sheet of A4 Matte photographic paper, using the ‘best
photo’ option.  I framed the picture,
hung it on the wall, added a label with the artist’s and painting’s names, and
then waited…
“I like that picture.”
“What nationality is Vermeer?”
“He’s Dutch? That means he lived in Holland, doesn’t it?”
The Winged Watchman
( a book we are currently reading) is also set in Holland.”
This week I printed off a copy of Vermeer’s Young Woman with a Pearl Necklace.
“You’ve changed the painting!”
“Look! Vermeer has painted another woman standing in the
corner of a room. There’s a window on the left hand side in this picture too.”
I found a book about Vermeer on our bookshelf. The girls were
eager to find out more details about the paintings.
“Vermeer composed many of his paintings in the same way: a
window to the left with sunlight pouring in, a table and a chair or two, a
woman in the corner…”
At dinner last night, the younger girls wanted to share
their knowledge with their older sisters.
“Can you see the yellow jacket that woman is wearing in Young Woman with a Pearl Necklace? It’s made
of yellow satin and edged with ermine. It’s Vermeer’s wife’s jacket.”
“Do you think Vermeer’s wife minded her husband borrowing
the jacket so his models could wear it?”
“Do you think she ever said, “Johannes, I want to wear my
jacket on Sunday. Please make sure your model returns it by then.”
Everyone giggled.
“The yellow jacket appears in a number of Vermeer’s paintings,” I added.
“Do you think that jacket was one of his props? Photographers
have props.”
Then someone wanted to know what ermine is. Charlotte’s
guess was ferret. Imogen hurried off to get her tablet so she could do some
instant research.
“Ermine is the pelt of the stoat which belongs to the weasel
family. The stoat is similar to a ferret.”

We know all about ferrets. A few years ago, I let Callum have one as a pet. That was a big mistake.

“Weren’t there bad weasels in The Wind in the Willows books?” I asked. The girls nodded. “Do we have those books?”
It seems we do. We have the original story by Kenneth Grahame. We also have the sequels written by William Horwood. Now Sophie wants
to read them all.
I hung a painting on the wall. My children noticed. They
started talking and asking questions. We did some research and began discussing. One
thing led to another… I think that was a very successful strewing operation.
What do you think? 
I already have next week’s print ready: The Milkmaid. Will the girls like it? What will we discover? I can’t wait to find out.

PS If you’d like to read about our huge ferret mistake, please share my story The Big Crunch. That was definitely a memorable learning experience!

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    • Vicky
    • February 22, 2013

    I really like Vermeer, Sue. It's funny how your strewing posts so often lead to strewing for me! I like the second picture best but I think the light is amazing in the first one. Did you notice the reflections of the curtain on the girl's face, arms and jacket? Oops, I meant second and third pictures – I can't edit properly, today, so the mistakes will have to stay. The light on the third picture is white instead of yellow – I like this one, too. Apparently, Vermeer was once of the first artists to use reflected light in his colours.

    I found out more, too, but I'm in danger of becoming an annoying know-it-all so I'll spare you the rest!

    Love this post.
    God bless, Sue:-)

    1. Reply


      You comment is so interesting! You look at paintings as an artist which is no surprise! You notice the light and reflections of colour. Maybe you could share all these insights on your blog. I can't write that kind of specialist post but I'd love to read more.

      We don't really understand technique and how an artist uses it to produce certain effects. We just enjoy the overall look. As storytellers, we usually pay a lot of attention to the people and objects in the paintings and what they say. We like to discover the stories behind each picture.

      Isn't it fascinating how art can be approached in different ways?

      I know you love art history. Do your children enjoy looking at paintings too? I wonder if you will strew a few of your favourite paintings like me.

      Thank you so much for your interesting comment. You are never annoying!

      God bless!

  1. What a great idea, Sue. Having caught up with your other blog, can I say how very pleased I am that you decided to continue blogging. You're a breath of fresh air and a huge inspiration to me and I'm sure many many others. Thank you!

    1. Reply


      I didn't know you read my other blog! Thank you so much for your kind words. It's really lovely of you to stop and tell me that. I do appreciate your words very much. Can you see me smiling?

      A breath of fresh air? When I started blogging I knew absolutely nothing about it. I'd never read any blogs and didn't know how posts are usually written. I just created a blog and started writing my own way. A few weeks down the track I wondered if I was doing it properly and I decided I wasn't. My blog didn't look at all like an online journal. But by then it was too late. I just kept on going. It's funny it all worked out anyway!

      I just realised I hadn't caught up with your blog for a long time. I am very disorganised and tend to do things when I think about them, and not in an organised manner. But I have bookmarked your blog so maybe I will do better in the future! I love to read your posts. You always find so many interesting resources. You seem so good at the practical hands-on stuff. This is where I fall down. I am sure I'm a 'head' person and not a practical person!

      God bless!

    2. Oh how funny that I come across as practical – my family would laugh! (In fact Cordie just came in and DID laugh.)

      I am also pretty disorganised (or as I like to say, "right-brained" – in my fanciful moments I see myself as absent-minded professor-like with flashes of inspired brilliance. It makes me feel better when I get lost walking the dog in the woods and arrive late to collect the children from their French class!)

      I think having the blog has helped me get round to doing some of the hands-on stuff because I look forward to the creative process of sharing it online. I would like to write more "stories" about what we do, because I love reading other people's. More learning… [contented sigh]

      Luckily both my children are both pretty random too, so things work out fine – as long as I can keep my fears of not giving them a "proper" education at bay. And that's where you are my inspiration.

      I hadn't seen your other blog before, but I'm glad I found it 🙂


    3. Reply


      We might both not be practical, but you seem to make more effort than me. If my girls want to do experiments with magnets I'll probably point them towards an online gizmo for a simulated experiment. You would take the time to get all the equipment, and then when your children have experimented with it all, you write up everything as a record. I call that very organised!

      Blogging is an incentive to get things done, I agree. I don't share a lot of hands-on stuff but I do like to think about the learning process and what my children are doing. Writing it all down in a post helps me to get my thoughts in order. It's also a good record of our educational journey!

      I guess most people have to deal with the fear that accompanies doing something other than 'proper' education. Why do we fear so much? Maybe people feel it's safer to stick with the traditional approach just in case of failure. If our children do fail no one will blame us. If unschooling fails, people will be quick to criticise our choices. I don't really think our children will fail. It's just a matter of letting go of worry and getting on with it.

      It's been good to share!

  2. Reply

    Well I never! I didn't realise you had another blog … jeepers, where have I been! I SOOOO know how I am going to spending my next week … playing catch up on all your wonderful postings.

    I am already going to print a picture and put it up for the girls. LOVE this idea and they will too, you clever lady.

    1. Reply


      Welcome to my homeschooling blog! I've had this blog for quite some time now. I used to post all my homeschooling stories on my Sue Elvis Writes blog but then I decided it was easier to have a separate blog for them. Not everyone who reads the other blog homeschools. Anyway, I always have so much to say, I can easily fill two blogs!!

      I am glad you like this idea. It's really simple but we are all enjoying the paintings very much. I love looking at art!

      Thank you for wanting to read my posts. Some of them were imported from the other blog, but there's loads of new stories too.

      God bless!

    • Wendy
    • February 24, 2013

    This is so fun! I definitely want to try this. I also wanted to tell you how much I appreciate your blog and your book. I know (IRL) a lot of great Catholic homeschoolers, but none on the unschooling side of things.

    I know God has lead me in a more unschooled direction, and it has been very helpful to see some one who is doing it, having fun, AND has grown kids who turned out great! I also really appreciate that you are willing to answer questions.

    Thank you also for your other blog, especially the grief section. I lost four little ones in a row, and while they were all before birth, reading your posts really helped me to process and heal from my grief. Thank you and God bless you for being willing to go there.

    1. Reply


      Thank you for stopping by! It's always lovely to meet people who are reading my blogs. I do appreciate your kind words. Thank you.

      It is funny. I don't know any Catholic unschoolers in my life away from the computer either! Yes, lots of great homeschoolers, but no one seems to have gone down the same pathway as us. Actually, I kept what we were doing quiet for a long time! I love how the Internet connects us all up and we can share from opposite sides of the world.

      I am so sorry to hear you know grief too. Losing so many babies in a row is a great suffering. I know I lost confidence in the future. The pain grew larger with each miscarriage. I haven't written many stories about my miscarriages though I'd like to, but grief is grief. It doesn't really matter about the circumstances, we can still understand each other's pain. Thank you for sharing my blog stories and my book.

      I don't get many comments on this blog (though a few very kind people have stopped by in the last few days!) so I really appreciate yours. I look forward to popping over to your blog and getting to know you a little.

      May God bless you!

    • Diane
    • February 24, 2013

    Great post. Thanks for sharing how the whole process went down in your family with strewing. I think we might try this in our home also.

    1. Reply


      It was so lovely to see your comment. Thank you!

      Years ago, I read some articles about unschooling and even after devouring them, I still wondered what the unschooling families DID. So I guess that's why I share all the little details of our learning: unschooling in action. I suppose I like to tell stories too! It's also fun to look back and relive all those special moments and interesting conversations. Some good memories!

      This is such a simple idea but one that's sparked off lots of good conversations. I am sure if I continue changing the paintings and the artists we shall have limitless things to discover and talk about. Don't you just love how one thing leads to another?

      God bless!

  3. Reply

    This is such a genius idea!! I will have to start thinking of paintings the boys would like.

    1. Reply


      It's such a simple idea but it's working for us. We've had so many great conversations about the paintings I'm hanging on the wall. I hope your strewing is just as successful. Maybe your boys would like Pieter Brugel's paintings. There is so much going on in them. They are a bit like 'Search and Find' pictures. I love them!

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