Sunday, October 02, 2005

more Weaving

Weaving

I feel like I have found and applied plenty of information that helps me address my key questions. To recap, the most polished version of my questions looks like this:

[A] How can I make this trip fun for both the adults and the kid? If the answer to this is "balance," (which I believe it is) then how do we create that balance between the interests of each person?

[B] How can I get Liam to expand his interests beyond ancient ruins (especially how do I help him to enjoy the art of Italy)?

[C] What should we do before we go to make the trip more enjoyable and rewarding?

I have found information that has helped me form a plan to address these issues. Much of my information comes from kid-centered travel guides written by parents who have traveled extensively with their children and offer practical advice on these very topics.

So...

[A] I will plan this trip with my son as an active participant. I will realize that no matter how long we stay, I won't get to see everything in every museum. :) I will have to give up some of that to do some of what he wants to do, and in the end it will result in a more relaxing and fun trip for everyone. We will spend more time outdoors, at least a little more time on "non-educational" activities (although I do believe that travel is in and of itself educational). I will remember that Liam is going to be 12 years old and deserves to contribute to decision-making. His preferences count because it's his vacation, too.

[B] I have found some good suggestions about making museums more palatable. We'll read about art and artists beforehand, keeping it light and interesting. I think if he can place a piece of art in a historical time frame, see the references to history and mythology in artworks, and understand some of the processes of creating sculptures or frescoes, for example, then he will be more interested. We'll play games in museums, like "name that god" or "why this painting is better than the Mona Lisa." We'll spend more time on outdoor art where he can be loud and run around if he wants to. We'll seek out places with wacky art he'll appreciate, like the Stanze di Sant'Ignazio, with its perspective tricks.

[C] To prepare for the trip, I'll try to interest Liam in learning Italian phrases with me. I'm going to use a technique I've tried with great success with him before, which is to make up nonsense sentences that make him laugh. He memorizes them, and learns the vocabulary without really trying. He still remembers how to say "the cat in my bathroom plays the guitar" in Spanish. Not very useful perhaps, but he could say "bathroom?" and be understood. As we go along, though, I'll also talk to him in Italian, so he can recognize basic phrases. If he learns even just enough Italian to exchange hellos and order his own gelato, I think it will make the trip more fun for him.

We'll also do some reading beforehand. This is where the art history books for kids will come in. Other art related fiction like Chasing Vermeer will also be fun. I won't have any trouble at all getting him to read historical fiction. He already knows a lot about ancient Rome, but he has not been exposed to the Renaissance yet. I think books like A Travel Guide to Renaissance Florence will help, especially in setting up an understanding of other cities and time periods. I am going to read The Da Vinci Code with him. The role of art in solving the mystery will hook him for sure. I know he will have a lot of questions about the book, so we can look things up and discuss it together.

The key to all of this is simply going to be involving him and taking his preferences into account. He'll have his own list of "must see" sites, but we'll also have the list I've compiled to pull from. I really think this project will result in a different kind of trip for us, and it will be a better one.

One other thing I want to address is the selection of where we are going to visit. I felt that that part of the plan had to be done before I could really flesh out this project. I talked briefly with Bill and Liam about where they want to visit, but they haven't read the guidebooks as much as I have yet, so they were generally non-committal. With a little help from them, I came up with Rome (of course, thank you Liam), Florence (for me), rural Tuscany (it will be a slower pace, less of a set itinerary, and lots of spontaneous day trips, which has worked well for us before), and Cinque Terre, the less hectic small town version of the Italian Riviera where we can really sit still and soak up the culture, take walks, and swim. Bill only says he wants to stand on all seven of the hills of Rome. Other than that, he's flexible. :) I think we've struck a good balance.

These choices are of course subject to change in the next almost two years, but now I have the resources to add a kid-friendly focus to other destinations.

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