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In my sixth grade art class, my teacher gifted me with a C. I truly only earned that C because of my over the top effort not to be truly terrible. I was a slightly above mediocre student in all areas except Art, Reading and Religion.
I loved (and still do) to study my faith. Religion class came naturally to me and I am certain that several of my teachers (Sisters of St. Paul of Chartes) thought that I had a religious vocation – I know that I did for a long time. Apparently in Reading class, I was “gifted and talented”. I am still not sure what that means. I just loved to read and would read with comprehension anything you put in front of me from a phone book to encyclopedias to classics. As such, I was removed from my class and put into an “accelerated” class that met in the library. It was probably one of the only places in the building that I truly felt comfortable.
In things like Math, Science, PE, Social Studies, Handwriting, Health, etc. I was just a solid B student. Nothing impressive. Nothing special. Nothing inspiring.
My art class, however, was quite special – my near failure was very impressive. I was, without question, the least talented student who ever walked through those doors. My C was earned by constant hard work and acceptance of total failure. There was just no other way to slice it. I had no talent.
Now I am a homeschooling mom…
Not surprisingly, I grew up avoiding art (except ironically when I made the quizbowl team in highschool because I have a love for Renaissance art and knew the stories of many of the great artists…. remember, I love to read and I did read a lot of art books laying around the house… I just didn’t know how to duplicate what I saw). However, I knew next to nothing about technique, supplies, materials and mediums. Mercifully, my kids have heard few if any negative messages about their artistic skill and so like normal kids, they are eager to play with paint, markers, origami and clay.
One of the reasons that we homeschool is because we believe that every child is created with genius and unique potential. We also know that each child will get to their personal mission in life by taking the road that the Lord laid out for them – no matter how many twists and turns it takes. I may have nearly failed art but I can still learn enough about it to inspire my kids. It is my sense that as long as the activity is wholesome and creative, I should try to give my kids the very best that I have to explore any interest that they have.
How Can You Give What You Don’t Have?
Did you read the part where I said that I lacked artistic skill? No. Not lacked. Am completely devoid of. How can I encourage my kids in art if I am completely clueless?
I have spent hours upon hours watching videos online about how to use watercolor paint to it’s best advantage. How to use biocolor paint to do amazing things like “xray painting” (more on this in a future post). How to sponge paint and dye Easter eggs and cut snowflakes, etc. etc. etc. If they wanted to do it, I tried to learn how. It really is amazing what you can find on Youtube!
The problem is that play doh is my nemesis. It is messy. It leaves little bits and pieces all over the floor which end up getting tracked into the carpeting. It ends up in the kids hair and their pockets and goes through the wash. I hate the stuff. I probably hate glitter more but play doh is pretty much one of the worst inventions in the history of world for me. Ok, the nuclear bomb is definitely worse, but I know that there are folks who are nodding along with me here.
My kids love dough/clay. Love it. And since they do not get on a big yellow bus every day and get to play with it in a classroom (which it is really designed for), they are missing out and remind me of that fact constantly.
A few weeks ago we got a ton of rain. My kids tipped their playhouse on to its side so that they could jump in the mud puddle underneath. When I came outside and discovered them using the mud to make “clay” creations, I surrendered. There was no way that I was going to let Play Doh into my house but there had to be a way to get my kids access to some kind of clay.
Mom School Begins…
Enter: Mom School. One of the ingredients in a Leadership Education is Mom School. In a Mom School (or Dad School), a parent sees a need for their child and pursues a way to meet that need and invites others to join them along the way. I approached this clay issue as though it was a foreign language that I was totally incapable of teaching.
My best girl friend has a family who is the total opposite of mine in all ways except our values. We share faith and principles but we express them in really different (but exciting) ways. I have a small clan of just three – she has eight. I hate art – she and her kids love it! My kids are young and some of hers are nearly in their teens. In this case, opposites sure did attract. I approached my friend and asked about the basics of clay. She gave me some insight into clays that were less messy than playdoh – and easier to be successful with. Fimo or Sculpey clay are firm, moist and baked when the project is done so that the final product is something worth keeping.
As we talked, one of us suggested that perhaps one of her big girls would be willing to “teach” a “clay class” for her middle kids and my little crew. It was brilliant. Our first Mom School was born. Colleen would teach the technique, Veronica would mentor my littlest and Meredith would float between the middle kids helping where necessary. The three big girls were all going to mentor the middle kids and what a beautiful lesson that would be for everyone involved! We still had the problem of what to do with her three littles (twin 10 month old babies and a 2 year old). We decided that we would plan the class for Labor Day when the dads could help.
An idea takes shape…
A great recipe for any Mom School will probably involve food, prayer, community building and learning something! As the idea was formed we decided that it would be a good idea to start early in the morning and run it just like our respective Kid Schools with prayer, Pledge of Allegiance, a saint reading and our Family Creed. We asked the dads to care for the babies and the toddler as well as grill the burgers and hot dogs when the babies napped. Because the big girls were “teaching” or “inspiring,” we moms were free to lay out the other food, snap photos, encourage the kids, answer questions and manage the logistical nuances of the project.
The morning of our Mom School, we opened long tables in my garage, the big girls set up, each family contributed materials and tools and then we were ready to go! We gathered in the kitchen to do the prayer, pledge, etc. and then we moved out to the garage where the kids literally spent hours listening to Elizabeth Mitchell and working with clay.
By way of supplies, each family brought a tray of colored Sculpey clay as well as a brick of white and tools. I knew that we were going to love this and so I purchased a book to inspire us. (We discovered that it actually calls for Air Dry clay and so some of the projects were not accessible to us… but that just got us excited. We have an idea for another Mom School!).
After the clay was done, we all cleaned the tables and re-set them with food and marbles. The kids ate and played and hada great time. Just as the parents were filling their plates, the kids were ready for an audiobookwhile they played trains and magnet dolls.
As they played and we ate, the grownups talked about future Family Schools. The dads were inspired and they would help teach future sessions on history, science and sports. Already in the works are two more art classes: latch hook and needlepoint.
These Family Schools are going to be a wonderful way to get through our long and brutally cold Wisconsin winters. I am so glad that I do not have to be an expert in inspiring art but that my kids can still have access to something as wonderful as clay. Colleen, Meredith and Veronica inspired me! I cannot wait to plan a few Friday kidschools with the left over clay. We might even build a bigger Tardis.