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Art and Character Training - Issue 216
September 09, 2011
Hi there! ....

This week we’ve had two of our kid’s friends, who used to live in Kununurra, visit us. Our kids were so very excited to hear that they were coming. We have tried to keep some semblance of order to our days with study in the morning and free time in the afternoon. We did take an extra morning off to visit a creek with another family and the kids caught up with their study in the afternoon. The girls have cooked, sewed, walked, talked and played games. The boys have played war games, nurf wars, helped around the house and yard, and lots of talking – both serious and ridiculous! Dinner conversation has been lively and it was a delight to have extra young people participating in our mid-week Bible study.

The other thing that I am excited about is the release of the download-video series There’s a Person in There – a series of short video clips to encourage parents with children with special needs and challenges. With the help of my kids, I presented one session. Read about that on my blog.

Live life with your kids!

If you are an Australian reader I would appreciate you reading this special request.

Art and Character Training

Though I often say I had to teach myself to accept the mess of art in my house reality was the mess was in my head more than anything. From an early age I taught my children to have order as they created.

It started with rubber stamping. This was thanks to a resource I used early on in my homeschooling journey (Learning at Home by Ann Ward). I followed her system for rubber stamping and it was then adopted for every creative project the children worked on. The idea was that you taught your children how to use their tools and supplies with respect, you taught them clean up after they had finished. It sounds obvious but until I read this I hadn’t thought of bringing character training into art so intentionally.

Her system went like this (this is my words because I no longer have her book):

  1. You have your work area – and for rubber stamping this meant a messy mat where the paper/card went. On one side went the ink pad, and on the other side we had a wet ‘chux’ (cleaning cloth), and a dry handtowel.
  2. I taught the child to press the rubber stamp on the ink pad and count to three (1-2-3). Press the stamp onto the paper and count to three. Rub the stamp on the wet chux (1-2-3) and wipe it on the dry towel (1-2-3). Place the rubber stamp face upward so the next person can use it. They didn’t have to clean the stamp until they were actually finished with that particular stamp.

At the end of our rubber stamping time there may have been a few little corners I had to clean out but generally speaking the stamps where clean, the ink pads weren’t messed up and everything was in order. Yay!!

But at no time did this limit their creativity. Creativity is not an excuse to be disrespectful for supplies and property or even disrespectful for mummy’s time. I must admit initially I was reluctant to share my stamping supplies with my kids – I thought they would damage them. But since I taught them to look after the supplies rubber stamping was a delight – it became something we could do together.

We have continued in this vein with other creative skills the children have pursued.

Painting with acrylic paints on an easel was always a mental stress to me and I could just not let a child wave a paint brush around in my house! But I realised that they could do this outside in the shade or on the veranda. I taught them a process there too – each pot of colour had their own brush. Water needed to be changed if the brush came out murky. Wash the brush if it touched another colour before you put it back in the pot. I must admit painting was messier than rubber stamping but it wasn’t completely crazy and disastrous and the kids loved it.

There were times though that I let them mix colours – but they soon learnt that you couldn’t go back to clear primary colours once you’ve ‘murky-ed’ them up! This was a good lesson in being intentional and not just lazy (not wanting to wash out brushes) and it highlighted the fact that there are consequences to their actions. But playing with colours is a part of being creative and as long as they considered what they were doing this was okay too.

Glue can also create a mess but there is no need for this really. I taught my kids to put the glue on the item going down. This was a bit tricky for them to grasp initially but they got there. When you put the glue on what is going down you are more precise with placing the glue in the right place, and you waste less. I also taught them to generally use less and spread it around - moderation / thriftiness.

Textas (or markers) were something that just invites disaster! My children had to ask if they could use textas – and they were kept in my cupboard until I knew they would use them with respect. We had a system for using them as well – they had to ask, they had to have a messy mat sitting up at the table and I had to be available to oversee – they never used textas at the other end of the house while they were little. They had to stay on the paper (or if very little on the messy mat) – the consequence of going wild with a texta and going off the paper was bigger than doing that with stamping ink or acrylic paint so they had to be extra careful and show self-control. If they lost self-control, they would lose the textas for the day.

There has been one art media that I have simply refused to have in the house – it defies order, it defies respect, it defies forgiveness (LOL) and that is glitter!! Glitter doesn’t stay where you put it: it invades your house, it invades your very being! Glitter glue though was our redeeming product for the girls who loved glitter!

I have shared my scrapbooking supplies with my children as well. They know when they have finished on page they put everything back – the papers, the stickers, the title stickers all have their place and if you just accumulate on your desk until you’ve done for the day you have a big mess and you don’t remember where anything goes. So page by page they keep their scrapping or card making area tidy.

Training your children to use art supplies with character means that you have to be there. It is easy to think that you can set your child up and walk away - maybe have 10 minutes to get something done. And eventually you can, but we have to put in the training first. We need to be with them when they start to use any art media for the first time so we can guide them to using it properly. They don’t get the opportunity to do these creative projects on their own until they have learnt these character lessons.

People often think that this type of instruction inhibits creativity. And to some degree it does – I do not want my child painting my walls just because they feel the creative urge to do so – being creative does not mean doing whatever you want. At no time does one aspect of our character have the freedom to over-ride another aspect. Character training has all aspects of character working together. Creativity works well with respect, deference, order, resourcefulness, diligence, orderliness, patience, just to name a few.

Do your children make character based decisions when they are in the throes of creativity? Now is a good time to help them find this balance.

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Until next week

Belinda Letchford
Living life with her kids in Australia!

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About Live Life with your kids Newsletter I know homeschool mums are busy with lots to read, so I have divided my newsletter into four sections and you will receive one section a week; short but regular newsletters!
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  • Family Life – Spotlights on a particular aspect of family life so we can see the natural opportunities available to us in educating our children.
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