The girls got a variety of art books for Christmas to join our collection. We have quite a lot of these, which are variously successful, depending on their approach. Maddy has always been out most artistic but really struggles with accepting ‘teaching’ in any form. She feels she should be able to do things rather than have to learn them. This got rather worse over the summer when her cousin, who she admires enormously for her artistic talents, told her she should just develop her own style, not try to copy other peoples. They’d been drawing Pokemon very happily but after that Maddy wouldn’t do any more. I did try to point out that in fact her cousin had learned to draw so well by using a huge heap of books they’d looked at together but Maddy just couldn’t see past what her mentor had said. *sigh* to combinations of exasperating, highly literal 11 year olds with short memories!
I still bought them a few books though; Amelie has been loving Manga style and asking lots about it and loves to draw faces with make up on, so I got her some of those and I just topped Maddy up with some mythical creature ones in the hope she would try again. I could see she wasn’t overly impressed though. She gets ideas in her head that she isn’t good enough and won’t work at things, which I find familiar but oh so frustrating.
Once Xmas was over and we’d done all our decluttering, I got Amelie to set up an art shelf. It still needs a bit of work actually, but it does have all our step by step books, pads and all our pens on it which works for now.
And then one day it occurred to me that really I’m letting Maddy succumb to her inhibitions about all this and it isn’t really doing her any good. She loves to draw – and she does it well – but she is so hung up on not being as brilliant as various other people that she gets completely strung out. So, as we got back to work, I said that for the next few weeks, everyone had to do a piece of art from a book first thing. I said the object was not to be perfect, just to keep trying to expand skills and to finish each piece as best it could be finished before starting the rest of the day.
This did not go down well and the first few attempts involved angry-ness and scribbling. But, having tried the very autonomous approach with Maddy in all these little niggly places, I can see it isn’t really working for her. She doesn’t expand on her own, she contracts into ever more convoluted circles of self-disapproval and criticism. So for once, I decided to push her boundaries.
And this is what I love about home ed. No long meetings with teachers and hoping they actually do something. No waiting for funding or IEPs or wondering if the staff just think you are mad. You can just spot a problem, realise it is becoming limiting and bend your ordinary life into moving forward. I don’t care really whether Maddy is a great artist. I do care that she is always happy to give things a try, at least once. I do care that she continues being eager to learn and explore and when I saw that stopping, I love that with a bit of thought we had a means, threaded with love and as much patience as I could muster, to tackle it.
Best of all, of course, they ALL worked together and after a week or so, we have some scrap books to show for it and it has become a really lovely way to start the day and a real joy to watch them growing in confidence at it. Maddy is suddenly drawing constantly again – and I’m so pleased.
And I’m feeling smug. Plus we’ve done maths every day this week too 😉