Good Learning Makes for Bad Pictures

Earlier this week, we had to run an errand to an art store to pick up a mat for a picture we wanted to hang up. While we were there, (6 yo) Z found some plasticine that she decided to buy with her allowance money. On the drive home, she noticed a note on the box mentioning a stop motion app that can be used to make animated movies.

Over the next two days, Z and (9 yo) A worked together to make two stop motion movies. Above is a picture of them working. And learning. They are basically the Wachowski sisters.

Other than periodically offering advice, pointing out resources, or troubleshooting a tiny bit (it was the first time they had heard of “green screen” and so I helped them figure out how to create a green backdrop), Eric and I had very little to do with their process and their end products, which are charming and delightful, unlike the photograph that I took of them working above. Which brings me to the title of this blog post. Authentic, good, real work, learning, and play make for really bad photographs. They aren’t looking at the camera. If I had asked them to, I would have disrupted their flow. In fact, they didn’t even know I had taken any pictures until they saw them later on. The composition is a mess in this picture. They lighting is a disaster because they were trying to light the claymation figures and had I tried to light them, it would have created shadows on what they were doing. There’s no real “subject” at the center and it’s impossible to tell where the viewer is supposed to be looking. In short, this photographer is very much not one of the Wachowski sisters. But maybe this is a picture that their mother would have taken of them working?

So part of the point is this: I’m wary of any institutions of learning that use high-gloss, well composed, beautiful pictures that claim to show students (or anyone) learning or working. But also: we aren’t trying to sell you anything here at this blog or trying to sell you on anything. Yes, we do homeschool our children and we have spent a lot of time figuring out how to do this successfully and we’ve found some resources and ideas and ways of thinking about it that are helpful. And we’d like to share some of those here. But we don’t necessarily think that homeschooling is for everyone in every context. It’s not a cure-all.

In short: it ain’t pretty, but it sure can be beautiful.