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Elementary

Guest post by Amy Hood of Amy Hood Arts.

Making art with my kids means I get to make art, too. I’m not being selfless here. I’m not arranging things solely to benefit my kids, although they do benefit.

I need to mess about with paint and such just as much as they do, and while it’s easier for me to find time to do this on my own now that they’re older, it was impossible when I still had a toddler in the house. When I finally figured out that we could just all make art together, yes even the then-two-year-old, it was soul-saving.

Never mind that sometimes I only got ten minutes of drawing in. I got my hands into the charcoal, and it felt restorative.

Here is the thing about making art alongside children: they remind you that it’s play. It’s exploration.

If you have very young children in the room, you’ll notice it doesn’t even occur to them that they’re “not artistic.” A toddler doesn’t see paint as intimidating; she sees it as another interesting item in her world.

My kids and I sit down together to explore open-ended, process-based art.

What on earth does that mean?

It means we have no set end product in mind; our creations will all look different. And it means we are often learning or experimenting with a new process, technique, or material.

If you think about that - no set finished product, coupled with experimentation and learning - you might see that nobody has to be an expert.

We have no model of what our finished artwork “should” look like, and we are learning together. In a very sneaky way, so sneaky that I didn’t even realize it at first, this approach takes all the pressure off the adult. I don’t have to be a perfect, polished artist. If you don’t feel you are at all artistic, truly, this is an excellent approach. You don’t have to be.

But, I would argue, you should really sit down and make art alongside your kids anyway, even if you think it’s just something for them, not for you. I would suggest you give it a try, with no end goal in mind.

Get out some materials and play with them. Use what you have on hand - pencils for sketching, or scraps of paper for collage, nothing requiring a trip to a store - and experiment.

If you have children, I’m guessing there are many places they’ve taken you that you never thought you’d go. All my children, as toddlers, slowed me down, and that was a gift. I coached a soccer team of preschoolers; that was certainly a surprise. I’ve never even played soccer.

Making art with kids is the same. If you don’t consider it your thing, you might surprise yourself, and you just may discover a satisfying outlet for yourself as well.

And if you do have that urge, even if you have time to pursue it on your own time, something magical happens when parents and kids are fellow art adventurers.

Ideas zing. Creativity expands. Conversation wanders. It’s time spent together. And even when I’m in our art area working on my own after my youngest is in bed, often one of my older children will come in and sit with me, to read in my company or to watch and ask questions.

I like how comfortable we all are together there, how the art area is a busy, messy, used part of our home, and how the rest of the house is populated with art-making materials as well.

We’re not just creating art, we’re creating a shared life. We make art together, and we are all the better for it.


Renee here: A couple years ago I wrote a little ebook about nurturing creativity in our lives as busy moms. One of the things I believe in, strongly, is creating with our children.

And as a blogger with artistic children I field a lot of "how do you get children interested in art, what supplies, what materials did you use?" type questions.

For these reasons I am so happy to bring you today's guest post and resource.

Amy Hood is an artist, writer, and homeschooling mama living in coastal Rhode Island. She’s passionate about inspiring confidence and creativity in artists of all ages, and she believes we are all artists.

To that end, she has created Art Together, the e-zine of artistic inspiration for children and adults. Each issue is packed with activities, resources, supply lists, and more to explore fun, open-ended art-making alongside children.

The spring 2014 issue of Art Together is Printmaking. I've read it, it's inspiring and hands-on informational for making art together. I love the artist spotlight.

I think these magazines would provide all the inspiration and direction you'd need for planning an art component to your homeschool curriculum, or would be a great supplement to anything you're already using.

To get a copy for yourself use the code: FIMBY and get 20% off the $5.00 cover price.

This month I've been writing about winter inspiration. A couple weeks ago I did seven re-posts from previous years, the most re-publishing I've ever done on the blog.

In re-publishing those posts and publishing last week's two brand new posts, both on the subject of action and inspiration, I saw themes emerging.

It's fun to pull a bunch of writing together, that's been done over different years, in different situations of my life, to see the common threads and truths.

This post is the recap of these nine posts, a wrap-up of winter inspiration and action.

inspiration action FIMBY
you can pin this post, there's a handy button on the bottom left

Quotes

First, some quotes from those posts, which illustrate key points of inspiration and action, of having dreams and then making those happen.

Make time in your life to be inspired. This inspiration will give birth to dreams.

Imagine having time to unplug, time to dream, time to push your limits and boundaries.

All you feel is tired and cranky and maybe like this whole trip is just too much work. But then you hit the trail head. And your push yourself through that first mile and realize "I can do this".

Much of the weekend was spent talking and listening; dreaming and scheming. I came home from last weekend inspired to do something about it. To make changes on the small level that affect change on the big level.

Sure, I don't particularly love the work of getting ready, but you know what, life is work.

Hard work? Yes. But living the life you want is good work, life changing work, family building work. Kind of like backpacking.

I like to regularly remind myself that I am just passing through. Literally. When I die I don't take anything with me. None of us do. I want to live a life that brings me joy in the living, not in the acquiring and owning.

The beauty of winter (life) is all around, I just need to appreciate and celebrate it, not wish it away.

Enjoying winter (life) is a choice.

A strong, healthy family life provides the best structural framework for reaching our potential, for getting out the door, making ideas happen, getting things done, and doing the work.

Family life, when operating at its best, provides the unconditional love and accountability that humans need for personal growth and self actualization.

The process of writing clarifies goals and gives you a fixed point to work towards. This clarity, whether you are conscious of it or not, helps you sift through all the input coming your way. Helping you filter out that which is not helpful to your end cause or goal.

After you've been in nature for an extended period, say a few days or longer, you will start to see how your everyday patterns and quirks - maintaining a standard you thought was necessary - may not be so necessary after all.

And when you let go of controlling all these things, mentally and physically, you gift yourself and your family with more breathing room, more time, and more peace. You gift yourself with freedom.

I want this wrap up of inspiration and action to be very applicable to you, regardless of if you camp, hike, or ski. Regardless of if you live in the city or the woods, whether your "dream" is RVing around North America, homesteading, cycling from Alaska to Argentina, doing non-profit work in the Philippines, or traveling the world with your family.

So here's my takeaways from these nine posts, which are actually takeaways from five years of inspiration to action movement in our family life.

Takeaways

Give yourself space to dream.

For us that literally means wide open spaces. The more time we spend outdoors the more we dream. You might not be outdoorsy but I encourage you figure out some way to spend regular time outdoors with your family - walking, biking, beaching. Get into nature.

Evaluate your life.

Identify areas you want to see change and forward movement, and then work towards that. Write down your dreams, goals, values, and mission.

Start exactly where you are.

Today. And move forward. Don't disdain humble beginnings. We all start somewhere.

Surround yourself with inspiration.

Tune into inspiring people, music, blogs, books, and media. Be inspired in relationship and community.

Question the status quo.

Question what society says family life (student life, retired life, "wherever you are" life) must look like. Must it mean a house of a certain size, a job with certain benefits, a certain schedule? Get creative and think outside the box of how you might achieve your dreams.

Do something difficult.

Do something that you think might be nearly impossible. It will inspire you to do the next nearly impossible thing. You will set a precedent in your life of doing difficult things. And what was once difficult will be easy and you'll move on to more challenging tasks.

Allow for mess.

Moving ideas from inspiration to expression is messy (and you may experience what other people call failure, we call it growth), but this is the stuff of life. Let go of perfection. Getting out the door is better than never crossing the threshold.

Living is hard work.

Regardless of how you slice it it's going to be hard. Why not invest those energies into moving forward in your family and personal dreams and goals?

Do it together.

We're wired for relationship for many reasons, one of them is simply that there is strength in numbers. Working together helps you capitalize on individual strengths (you don't need to do it all!) and support each other in weakness.

I believe you can make goals and work towards them. You may currently feel trapped in a situation, but you can make choices, right now, today, that move you in the direction you want to go.

Questions to ask yourself

Where do we want to be? What direction do we want to go in? (Hint: You'll need some dreams to point the way.)

What can we do right now, today, that moves use closer to that?

What are we willing to change in our life to make that happen?

Where can we find inspiration for these dreams? How can we surround ourselves with inspiring dreamers and doers?

What big, scary difficult thing can set our sights on? And how do we move that direction?

Who are we, together? How can we maximize our "team effect"?

There are no guarantees in life. Ever. There are no guarantees of success, health, or happiness when you "go with the flow" or accept the status quo. So why not live the life you dream of living?

In the context of homeschooling

I'd like to suggest that homeschooling is no different.

Let your kids dream. They'll need spaces of open time for this.

Surround them with inspiration.

Evaluate your core beliefs about living and education. This is your educational philosophy.

Do your homeschool methods and resources align with those beliefs? Are your days, the rhythms and patterns, an expression of that philosophy.

Help your kids do hard things. Show them how. Partner with them. Let go of perfection in your homeschool, in your life, and gift your children the freedom of good enough.

And above all else, do it together. Invite your children into a lifestyle of learning, study, and scholarship.

What are your thoughts. How do you take winter dreams (or summer dreams) and make them real? How do you move from inspiration to action in your life?
Welcome to a week of winter inspiration! This post first published in January 2011. Enjoying winter is a choice.

I love having four seasons but winter has been the most challenging for me to embrace with my whole heart.

Not as a child mind you. Winter as a child was fun.


photo credit: Becky Tougas

When you've outgrown childhood winter can become a drag. Dark nights, cold cars, and high heating bills. But I'm finding that if I surrender to the season and not fight it the fun factor goes up.

  • Dark nights. Cuddle with your whole family on your bed (the warmest place in our house). Read, play games, and go to bed early.
  • Cold cars. Drive less.
  • High heating bills. Don't crank the heat, wear some fun layers and save money. (Editor's note: my winter warmth factor has significantly increased over the last 3 winters, living in houses with woodstoves!)

In truth, my winter fun has increased now that my children have grown past the toddler and preschool age. Nothing against young children, I loved mine dearly. But all parents know that by the time you bundle them up and spend a few minutes outdoors they are ready to come back in. Which works out to 45 minutes of clothing prep and clean up for about 10 minutes of outdoors. Such is life with littles.

As I sit here typing this my children are donning their gear, with minimal help from me, to head outdoors for an hour or so while I write. No wonder I think winter is more fun!

But seriously, enjoying winter is a choice. I'm not always good at making that choice but at least I recognize it as such. I can choose to bundle up for a winter walk or a morning of sledding with my kids or I can give in to the temptation to park my butt down in this computer chair (which I'm doing right now) and miss out on the incredible beauty of winter.

The squeaky crunch of packed snow beneath my boots.

Winter's pink, purple and orange sunset making long shadows of bare trees.

Climbing city snow mounds pretending to summit Mt. Everest.

Sledding down mountain slopes on sparkly winter weekends.

The bright red barberries contrasting the white snow.

Making music with a row of thick hanging icicles.

The beauty of winter is all around, I just need to appreciate and celebrate it, not wish it away. 

Here's a few things we're doing to celebrate winter this month of February. 

  • Go outdoors, every weekend, as a family. We call this one day a week and it's a family ritual. This of course is our big weekly family time but throughout the week the kids and I spend time outdoors together also.
  • Winter camping. This weekend will be our third annual trip to Camden Hills State Park here in Maine. It is the highpoint of our winter. We've added another family to the mix this year. So it will be a full cabin with days outdoors, meals shared and evenings around the fire. 
  • Chinese New Year. For years I've wanted to do something to celebrate Chinese New Year. So why not? And why not make it into a homeschool study while we're at it.
  • Crafting. I think it's about time to use the Staedler Carving Block I've owned since 2009 to make hand carved stamps. I think we'll try some Chinese New Year inspired designs, maybe hearts for Valentines and then let our imaginations go from there.
  • Laurent's birthday. The boy turns 10 this year and I can't wait to make a special day to honor him.
  • Winter reading. I love reading all year round but winter reading is just so cozy. I keep a whole shelf of winter-related books at Goodreads if you're looking for inspiration.
  • Inspirational evenings. The first time I heard of this was in Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning. Inspirational evenings have revolutionized our winter nights. Winter is a time for ideas and evenings with the family are for inspiration (and fun). Adventure stories, documentaries, games and occasional nights out that inspire us to dream, explore and plan for our future with excitement and anticipation. All day I look forward to our inspirational time in the evenings.
  • Homeschool fun. February is a great month to plan a field trip. January is all about getting back to routine but February it's time to mix it up a bit. This month we plan to meet friends at our state museum (free for schools and homeschoolers) and we will join a local homeschool co-op. Our first co-op experience ever. And I don't have to teach anything, though I will volunteer in my kiddos' classes. 

And I think that might be all the fun we can manage for one month. Because there still is that one big project our family is getting ready for - moving out the country in just over 3 months.

Before I know it winter will be over. But I'm not wishing it away. Too much fun to be had in the moment. 

How are you celebrating winter this month?