You, too, can draw a cake, a horse and a cow

Thorin has always drawn. I have always wanted to. When we came up with the idea for our book and characters (including a cow, cake and horse) I simply Googled: “how to draw a cow”, etc.

The cake and horse are the best videos for us because it is this guy named, Rob, from Art for Kids Hub. He draws with his own kids in the videos and he totally accepts however they draw which is good role modeling for me. Expect to stop the video and go back over some of it. No time limit. Only rule: ENJOY!

Thorin and I both learn by doing and we are visual learners. YouTube is perfect for us.

Make something today!

 

 

Who the teacher?

We started homeschooling or unschooling or what you might call practicing loving and respectful learning in September.

This is the beginning of the next chapter in our lives. How we got to THAT is a whole other story I have not wanted to write about. Expect a post on that soon entitled something like:  It Was Not Just One Reason.

When I explained to Thorin we were homeschooling he had two questions. The first was easy to answer:

“I call you Kari?”

“If that’s important to you, sure you can” I said.

“Thanks you, Mom.”

The second question was difficult and painful and probably at the heart of learning at home:

“Who the teacher?” he asked

“No one is the teacher” I said.

“No! Who the teacher?”

“We could both be the teacher?”

“No!”

“We are both the student?” I offered

“No! Who the teacher!” he screamed.

“You need to learn reading, writing and math. I have to figure out how to help you by learning how to help you. Confusing, right?”

Silence

“Thorin, I am not sure what I am doing, yet.”

“No!!!!!!!!”

“I am your mom. I am learning, too. I don’t want to be a teacher. I want us to be a team.”

Silence

“Can we be a team? See if that is okay?”

Long silence

“Can we try?” I asked

“Okay, Kari.”

THEY say start with what your child loves. So, Thorin and I are writing a book together. My co-author and illustrator does not want to share anything but the central characters in our story although we have a title, character names and a plot. As a team member I have to honor his request.

Thorin’s word use has quadrupled, reading and math levels have increased more in two months than entire first grade. Most importantly he is happy again.

I have learned that the greatest teacher is: belief.

Expect more on all of IT.

Drawings by Thorin:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Portrait of an Artist as a Young Boy –

“We learn to do something by doing it. There is no other way

                                                                                 - John Holt

Our son is photographer. I say that with some confidence because he started taking photos on his own without our knowledge and therefore without our prodding. He likes to take pictures. He takes photographs when he wants to. He does not like to be asked to take a photo of a particular thing or person. He will on occasion but I chalk that up to the fact he does have kindly feelings toward me.

I don’t think you can make an artist but you can support one evolving their craft—mostly by staying out of the way. I have posted his photographs here before: POV, Shutter Bug, Warholian Selfies, T’s Photos of Sally’s Garden and Picture This.

Thorin stopped taking photographs for several months. Much, much more on that later in another post. The second hardest thing during that time was not making a thing of it but respecting his decision. The first hardest thing was I knew it was because he was unhappy.

He started up again the same way he did the first time—privately. I found some photos on his iPad. I kept my mouth shut.

He said I could post these. No, he does not want to talk about them. I suspect because it would redundant.

Random selections from a walk including Coco poop using Playskool camera:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

This series of self-portraits started at the end of a walk and continued alone in our bathroom using iPad.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

Not All History is Remembered Equally: Why You Must See the Film Menschen –

In September of this year, the first victims of the Nazis were the last to be acknowledged with their own memorial in Berlin Menschen-Poster-300x463almost seventy years after their deaths. It is estimated 200,000 individuals with mental illness and cognitive disabilities were killed under Hitler’s Operation T4 Project, which assessed those individuals as worthless in contributing to the agenda of the Third Reich.

Like the long over-due memorial in Berlin, a film has finally been made about this important and neglected subject. Sarah R. Lotfi, director and writer of the award winning short film Menschen (German for ‘human beings’), explores the Operation T4 Project through the lens of a small, personal story set in the final days of World War II.

I discovered Menschen (U.S., 28 minutes, 2013) through the film’s partner The Arc of the United States, a national entity of nearly 700 chapters advocating for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. I was also lucky enough to speak to Sarah R. Lotfi the film’s director.

Sarah R. Lotfi

Sarah R. Lotfi

Menschen centers on Himmelbauer (played by actor Dan Cheatham) an Austrian Captain who leads his soldiers and Radek, a boy with Down syndrome (played by actor Connor Long), behind Russian lines to surrender to American Forces.

Earlier Himmelbauer and his men take over the home where Radek lives with his mother. During a firefight, Radek’s mother dies and Himmelbauer – protective of the boy – takes him under his wing. He tells his men they need Radek as a show of good faith to the Americans. That rings false given his obvious affinity for the boy. The truth behind why he has Radek join them is later revealed to be rooted in his own haunted past. Himmelbauer’s story is not just that of an officer in war but of a man given the opportunity of redemption.

both

Dan Cheatham and Connor Long

Lotfi has made an ambitious film that is exceedingly well-produced. The story is told in both English and German with subtitles. The editing is smart and moves the story along in an engaging manner. Cheatham and Long are both strong actors who with very little dialogue create a believable bond.

It is a unique film. Lotfi has rejected the typical WWII film narrative by challenging prejudice behind stereotypes like “enemy”, “disabled”, or even “hero”. Menschen is a WW II story never seen before — a narrative drama about the personal ramifications of the T4 Project and one told through the point of view of an Austrian officer. Its differences are so compelling I wished it was a feature length production. I wanted to see the events that shaped Himmelbauer‘s character and I wanted to know more about Radek.

In talking with Lotfi, I learned two of her siblings have Down syndrome one of who also has Autism. She wanted to make a film where she was able to relate her experience growing up with her brother and sister through the character closest to herself: Himmelbauer.

boy w Ds

Unknown boy

She shared with me, “I wanted to tell a story about humanity by reflecting things I know personally. Radek does not represent all children with Down syndrome. In my research I found a photo of a boy with Down syndrome taken by an S.S. officer. He was also part of my inspiration.”

I asked how she found Connor Long, the young actor with Down syndrome who portrays Radek. “He came in cold to a casting call we had in Colorado. He actually forgot some of his lines but his emotion was so real the woman reading with him was moved and started crying. Everyone had an emotional response to him.”

Long does a wonderful job in the film. He has garnered positive reviews as well as winning the best actor award at the Filmstock Film Festival for his performance. Lotfi shared that Long wants to pursue a career in acting. It is a goal that seems achievable given his talent. Let’s just hope there are directors who can imagine an actor with Down syndrome playing diverse characters.

As a mother with a child who has Down syndrome, I was struck by how the prejudicial thoughts expressed by some of the German officers toward Radek resonant today. Upon discovering Radek, one of the soldiers suggests they kill him: “That thing…an Untermensch…unworthy of life!” “It would be a kindness to put it out of its misery.”

This belief shows that while the gravest injustice was committed by the Nazis through their T4 Project, perceptions of people with disabilities were not that far behind. These sentiments of people with Down syndorme are almost identical to those being said  now, whether by medical professionals, prominent scientists or first person accounts by parents. Today those beliefs are shrouded under the protection of reproductive rights rather than placed in the arena of eugenics that even the Nazi’s had the audacity to acknowledge*.

When I asked Lotfi about those implications she said her “intention was not to make a political film but a personal film that explored the journey of one character’s experience given a chance to do things differently.” I think her point of view is very likely why her film is not didactic but instead an authentic story.

I wanted to see the film in part because of the limited portrayals of people with Down syndrome in film. Unfortunately these characters are often relegated to the inspiring character role. Lotfi’s Radek feels like a real person.

Connor Long

Connor Long

I am grateful to Lotfi for allowing us even a small view into this ignored part of history. This past has been so minimized the officers and doctors who committed atrocities against children and adults with disabilities were never charged with war crimes.

After watching Menschen I was reminded of the quotation by George Santayana:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

My hope is now that the victims of the T4 Project have finally been memorialized and because of filmmakers like Lotfi who believe their story is worth telling we will finally come to understand that not all history is remembered equally.

*I am pro-choice which means I think women have the right of choice. What I am not in favor of  is vilifying a group of people so we can get rid of them.

For more information on the film:

Website (includes a trailer of the film)

I hope you will support the film by:

Like on Facebook www.facebook.com/menschenmovie

Follow on Twitter: www.twitter.com/menschenmovie