Right now we’re in the midst of homeschooling and I’m teaching phonics and a bit of math to my son. So far he’s loving and understanding it. We read aloud, get outside, even in the teen temps and work on a lot of little projects that I come up with to feed their imagination and creativity. I was watching a show last night about artists and what inspires them. One of them talked about his childhood and the things he used to do while his dad and brother worked on cars. He would draw the parts that they used. Much of what the artists talked about regarding growing up and where their inspiration came from reminded me of my kids.
Oliver will often put together some outfit and explain what look he’s trying to throw together. Usually I’m blown away by the accuracy. Recently he put on a belt, put some sort of plastic tube with a string around it on his back (acting as a gun and it’s strap), put on some Indiana Jones looking leather hat and found a child’s vest in order to go ‘exploring’. He even strapped Raggedy Ann to his back because he was rescuing her and needed her attached as he ran with her through the jungle. He draws really well, for sure, but there’s something about who he is that I’m very perplexed and fascinated by. It’s how he thinks and how he sees the world. He not only remembers places that he went a year or two ago (some days I forget what I came into the kitchen for) but it’s how he interprets the sounds that he hears, things he sees and materials that he touches. It’s very interesting and unique to who he is.
I’ve seen the artist in me fade into a garden that needs weeding, a nose that needs wiping, a child needing potty training and a pile of laundry that needs hanging. Motherhood is the onset of identity crisis and I’m not the most grounded individual so at times I’m really struggling to work out, “Who am I, again?” Motherhood enhances capabilities while stagnating them simultaneously. You find you have this new side to you but you can’t always act on it right away, to put it ambiguously. You may have to wait a few years to pursue what you’ve discovered you are now good at. So in the process of being practical, how am I to cultivate the artist in my children? I think this is where I do it in them and put it on hold for me.
What I do now is watch, listen and place things in front of my little people to see how they will respond. I also allow… I allow them to be a bit bizarre and to play in bizarre ways. My daughter plays with her hands and pretends her fingers are little people. I adore it. They dance and talk to each other. At times she’ll even put rubber bands around her fingers so that her ‘friends’ have something to wear. The funny thing is that what she invents actually looks exactly like what she’s seeing. I see it to!
I know there is a lot of curriculum that you can use to teach art to your children but that’s not really what I’m looking for. I love the idea of teaching art history and exposing them to museums and pieces of art that others have created but what I’m wanting while they are so small is to make space for their own expression and communication on what they see and think about life, toys, people, air, trees and all sorts of images. I think we’re doing well with that but I really would hate for them to lose this part of them, especially since I know what it’s like to long to have it back again. Homeschooling is a great platform for letting our kids express themselves freely (although I firmly believe parents can foster this even if they have their children in school) so here we are trying to explore the little part of the world that my children know. Some of the best ways I’ve noticed that will cultivate creativity in my children are:
1. Let them play. We read, do some chores, have a lot of practical activities during the day but while they are so young they just play most of the day. It helps them develop their imagination. We have very few toys so they also have to come up with things to do, to create their toys.
2. Draw, color, write, play, sew…. do it with them. I don’t have to do it for them but I do notice when I just draw a little bit or color a tiny bit of something, they are exposed to a new way of making a tree or a car. I am not someone who draws well but what little I do my kids will try after me and it develops more ability in them. Once they have the ‘how to’ they are free to make it their own.
3. Let them get bored! This is a hard one because sometimes when they get bored they get on my nerves. They cry out for something to do. It’s often in these moments that the pressure they feel pushes them to the point of creativity. Some of the most amazing characters they have invented have come out of heavy snow days and severe boredom. That’s how I got into furniture design in my teens; lots of boredom and an introverted disposition.