How is summer school going? I'm so glad you asked because yesterday Timothy and I had a lesson that somehow incorporated love, death, forgiveness, sin, and lightsabers. The teacher became the student and the student became the teacher. It all began with an art lesson ...
Once a week I bypass regular morning schoolwork and do an art lesson. This week I selected Michelangelo and planned to cover these areas: a short biography on his life, the Pieta`, and the Sistine Chapel (specifically the ceiling and the Last Judgment).
When we sat down at the kitchen table, I could see a bad case of the reluctant student developing. So I had an idea. A terrible, horrible, but I think it could possibly work idea. I opened up one of my art books to a photo of John Paul II riding through St. Peter's Square, showed it to Timothy, and asked if he saw anything interesting.
Then I pointed out a man in the crowd holding a gun. That man was Mehmet Ali Agca and he was about to shoot the pope.
Shameless, I know, but I now had Timothy's complete and undivided attention in the palm of my hand. We talked about that day, and I reminded him that a few years ago when we were in Rome we had actually stood on the exact spot where the shooting occurred.
I then turned the page and showed him the photo of JPII visiting Agca in prison, the two of them sitting in a corner leaning toward each other.
And just like that, before Timothy even realized what was happening, I had turned to a photo of Michelangelo's Pieta`. Art lesson in progress. We discussed Michelangelo (he was only 23 when he carved this!) and I showed him how the pieta` as a subject matter is used often in religious art.
Love. Death. Sorrow.
We then looked at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I kept it simple; I showed him the creation panel and pointed out how God is reaching out his finger to bring life to Adam; I pointed out that the woman behind God is Eve, not yet created.
Then we looked at The Last Judgment, which is both beautiful and horrifying. My mother teaches a lesson on this in her Italian class, so I know a lot about this fresco (for example, in the lower right corner Michelangelo painted his nemesis, deep in the bowels of Hell with a serpent devouring his, ehem, private parts), but again I kept it simple (and no, I did not share the aforementioned fact with Timothy).
When Timothy wondered why the people going to hell all looked ugly and deformed, we talked how sin changes people inside and that Michelangelo showed this by the way he painted physical characteristics.
And this is when a wonderful, very good thing happened ... the student became the teacher. Timothy looked at Michelangelo's Last Judgment and said, "Like Anakin, in Star Wars."
I gave him a sloppy, wet kiss on the spot. How true! In the movie, as Anakin slowly gets pulled to the Dark Side, his appearance changes: his eyes become hard, his hair is disheveled, his features are harsh until, in the end, he becomes something totally unrecognizable.
John Paul II and Michelangelo, the Pieta` and the Sistine Chapel, the Creation and the Last Judgment, faith and Star Wars ... as far as art lessons go it wasn't terribly elegant, but somehow it worked.