Friday, July 1, 2016

My Apprentice Crafters of Kid-Friendly Crafts

Most of my regular writing assignments are "lifestyle" assignments, I guess you could call it. I write about such-and-such, and maybe it's a tutorial or a project to do with children or something that we've done together, but regardless, I only photograph the kids as they are in their natural habitat. I don't pose them, or fix their hair, and you know by now that I certainly don't clean the clutter out of the frame. I just sort of follow them around, and take photos of what they're already doing as they do it.

It's the same, of course, when I write here on my personal blog. It's memories, or projects, or lesson plans, or life, but it's not staged.

Every now and then, though, I score a bigger writing assignment, in which staging is called for. When I need to do that, and I need to have the children's assistance--if I'm writing about kid crafts, for example, or something from our schooling--then I call them my assistants and I pay them.

Actually, I pay the kids for a lot of stuff around here when it's not part of their regular chores, and I pay them a kid-negotiated wage that's probably more than what most kids earn for chores, but the major benefit to that is that when I'm paying them for a job, I expect that job to be completed professionally, with an appropriate attitude, and just the way that I've specified, or the kid doesn't get paid.

Try nagging them to do that kind of job without paying them! Seriously, yesterday Will mowed over two acres of lawn, and she picked up the garden hose and extension cord and outdoor toys first, and she didn't run into any trees, AND she put the mower on the highest setting even though she deeply enjoys mowing the grass down to the bare earth, AND she did it without complaining.

More than worth the seven bucks that I paid her.

So for my latest big assignment, an article on kid-friendly crafts for the Fourth of July, my two assistants were required to put on clean clothes, wash their faces, brush their hair, and do some projects while I photographed them. They were paid a negotiated wage, quite a lot of which Will lost when she pulled a tweeny bad attitude on the job site, and had some art direction, mostly involving keeping themselves in the frame so that I didn't have to crawl around on my belly on the dirty driveway *too* much.

Here's Syd demonstrating how to make melted crayon canvas art:

The biggest challenge of this photo shoot was cutting the chickens and cats out of the frame.

I wanted some good action shots of drips and splashes, but they were so fast!
 The photo shoot for the film canister rocket project was even more challenging, because I really, really, REALLY wanted a shot of the rocket taking off, but it happens in a fraction of a second, and I just couldn't seem to luck out. I kept getting this--

--and this a quarter of a second later:


--and then this:

I finally settled on an image similar to this--

--but with a kid in the background to add interest.

Will got her salary docked during this job, but what she doesn't know is that it's all going to her, anyway, as my salary is what's making the budget for her birthday this year. She gets spoiled a little more than her sister does on her birthday, since she doesn't like parties, and that's what most of Syd's birthday budget goes towards. The kids also really don't receive anything new unless it's a holiday, so I probably enjoy the tradition of giving them two brand-new presents for their birthdays as much as they enjoy receiving two brand-new presents for their birthdays. Unfortunately, Will is the hardest child on the planet to shop for. Reading is an all-consuming passion for her, but she rarely re-reads a book, so I tend to not buy her books, preferring to inter-library loan more esoteric stuff as a treat for her. She disdains clothing. She only plays with toys when her sister can wheedle her into it. She'll immerse herself in art or engineering or robotics or anything, really, when she's encouraged to AND is in the right mood, but I'd love to find her something that she would choose to engage in all on her own, to rest her eyes from reading, if nothing else.

She has asked for (and will receive) a "real" dagger; Syd is going to do the paracord wrap on the handle, I'm going to construct--somehow!--a sheath and belt loop for it out of leather scraps, and Matt is going to burn something cool onto the leather.

Other than that, though... Maybe a LEGO-compatible programmable robot? She really enjoyed Robotics Club, until she dropped it for fencing.

A soapstone carving kit? She really enjoyed her limestone carving class a couple of years ago, but now only picks up her tools when I have a design request for her.

A ceramic skull hanging planter? She likes skulls and decorative things, but doesn't have a good track record with plants.

I had been considering a box set of the Sandman comics, but Matt doesn't think they're appropriate for children. I'd also been considering the D&D red box, but it's awfully expensive.

Ancient coins? Chemistry card game? Balancing cats?


Okay, if YOU had a hundred bucks, what would YOU buy for a tween like Will?

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