Can We Do Better Than Millet?

“The world is too much with us; late and soon,

getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;-

Little we see in Nature that is ours…”

-William Wordsworth

In the last few years my life has become louder, faster, busier. I have experienced at a new level the world being too much with me late and soon.

That Wordsworth. He was right.

That sense of the world (via the internet) being a loud place with always more requests for my time and attention has caused me to reconsider blogging at all. As I have experienced the overwhelm of all that I could do, even one new idea has sometimes caused me to go into an uncomfortable tailspin. Often I have worried that my children will not grow up properly if I do not include everything in our homeschool.

And yet. I love blogging. I love to explore this Charlotte Mason method, and I love to discuss it with my friends.

I think I’ll try to stop thinking about what this blog “should” be. Maybe I’ll even stop worrying about overwhelming others with another good idea. I thought I’d just begin telling you about a few things that I love. Things that have brought me joy and refreshment as a homeschool mom.

Naturally, the first thing that comes to mind is my love for art. Specifically, the art of Jean Francois Millet. It has been such a joy to me, that I can’t really find words to do it justice.

Several years ago, I was going along minding my own business not thinking that I would be introduced to something beautiful. Days went along as days do. Many things and people to take care of. Long to do lists that never get done.

As you all know, I have been a devoted reader of Nancy’s blog since the day I discovered it years ago. A few years back she posted about her visit to the Lake District. She began to tell of an artist named Millet. When I saw that first picture, I was struck by the beauty and simplicity of this artist. I immediately googled everything I could find about Millet, and I found many, many other beautiful paintings, drawings and sketches.

In that moment, my understanding of art study was turned on it’s head.

Sure, we had done art study in our home school. We even enjoyed some of it. But I’d never been in love with an artist’s work

Shortly after that, a book guru named Bonnie shared a biography she had enjoyed about Millet called Jean Francois Millet, Peasant and Painter by Alfred Sensier. Since the internet had varying stories of his personal life, I was interested in getting to the bottom of those details. I had to check the hundred year old book out of the library from the inter-library loan. (Apparently there are no lines for this book, so they let me renew it endlessly!)

IMG_1164

I had no idea what I was in for. Sensier’s description of Normandy and the surrounding areas in France, his loving description of Millet’s life, the way he wove phrases together was one of the most beautiful things I have ever read. I own it now, and it is one of my most treasured books. Every time I pick it up, the words thrill me. I had never imagined experiencing an author and subject like that.

So I was hooked. I ordered this book of Millet’s paintings on Amazon (adults will need to censor). I began tearing pictures out of it and putting them up around the house.

Shockingly, my husband noticed the scraps of paper around the house my love of Millet, and had this print framed at a gift. Six years later, I love to just sit and look at it.

farmyard in winter
Farmyard in Winter by Millet, 1868

In Millet’s art, and in Sensier’s writing, I was moved by the simplicity of nature and people. Millet’s subjects are not pretentious, and his view of the countryside, and the difficulty of the work are so simple, yet profound.

I noticed things I’d never thought of before. Millet himself said it best:

“So many people can’t see anything.”

He’s right. Looking at nature and people through his eyes has convinced me that I notice little of my surroundings. But thanks to Millet, worlds have opened up to me. I’ll always be grateful.

“Our first idea is that all we can do for children is to give them a correct feeling for art; to surround them, for example with the open spaces and simple, monumental figures we get in Millet’s pictures: we cannot do better…”

-Charlotte Mason

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