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on a painted life

I turned off the lights and had all of the kids lay on their backs under their desks.  I asked them to close their eyes.  The room was filled with the scent of the cinnamon candles I had burning.

I asked them to be silent and relax.  They were second graders so this took a while.  I played an audio clip of the life of Michelangelo and his work on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  Although they may have seen photos or even visited, I held off on visuals.

When the audio was done I turned the lights back on and put on background classical music.  I had taped art paper underneath each desk and supplied each of them with paint.  I told them to spend a few minutes envisioning their masterpiece and then asked them to make it come to life, to paint while on their backs.

Some chattered in excitement, some went straight to work and a few found it a very difficult task to embark upon.  It was not how they were used to painting. One girl in particular stood out to me.

After she began she came over to me and told me she wanted new paper because she had made a mistake.  So, we took it down and she began again.  Ten minutes went by and she asked to start over.  So, we took it down and she began again.  At the end of class when I asked everyone to begin clean-up, she lost it.  She ran over to me and started crying.  I took her to the back of the class and sat down with her to understand what was wrong.  She said she couldn’t paint, that her art was awful and stupid.  It broke my heart but I smiled at her and told her to wait while I went to grab her art.

When I returned I sat with her to explain how her use of color and lines formed together to create her own unique and beautiful expression and that I was impressed with her determination to make her art speak as clearly as possible.  I told her that art was like cooking and that she had freedom to make whatever she wanted and that it was okay to start from scratch or use different ‘ingredients’ if she didn’t like what she made.  She calmed a bit but she was still upset.

I looked up at the students as the bell rang.  The room was a mess.  I had tarped the floor but saw that paint had landed on the rug.  This would take several hours to clean up.  Some kids had paint on their face, in their hair and on their clothes.  I sighed.  Surely some parents were going to be angry with me, maybe the janitor too.  I reassured myself it was okay since it was all washable.

In the next class they would share their art and we would discuss Michelangelo in more depth. We would look at pictures of his artwork and I would bring in a mini Pieta so we could head next into clay…

What am I grateful for?

~ Taking child development classes with emphasis in art.  Childhood creativity is often killed early and sometimes unintentionally by teachers and parents alike.  It starts with asking them to color in the lines and expands to school artwork that is modeled to look the same.  Think cut out pumpkins taped to classroom windows in the fall. 

~ Knowing that art is an experience that should not be confined to neatness.  We were born to explore and create.

~ Homeschooling as a freedom to allow a child’s true creative self flourish unencumbered by the institutional constraints of “another brick in the wall” instruction.


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