In preparation for a cross country move this last March, I was making the difficult, dreaded decisions on which clothes to keep and which clothes to give away. Unfortunately, my love of clothing didn’t make this chore particularly easy or fast. I keep old clothes, too, for many different reasons including sentimental ones. It was from one of these “old clothes” boxes that my son pulled out a pair of my old jeans from high school and gasped before adding, “Mom, these are so artistic.” My daughter, just as fascinated, agreed with him as they sat down to admire the now precious material. The “art” they were referring to was scribbles and doodles that had been slapdashedly placed onto the jeans during boring classroom lectures in my four years of high school. No doubt, I loved those jeans too…but I never pictured them as art. Yet, to my two kids, growing fast into the middle teenager years—art is exactly what those jeans are (perhaps with a dash of rebel).
At our house art takes many different forms. Sometimes it is simply the making of a card, the creation of a painting, or drawing. Of course, also are the forms that are less than simple such as the wood carvings, the ice sculptures, and the making of jewelry. But the forms that really set art apart here are not planned or even thought of as artistic. This would include throwing colored sand in candle holders, creating a new recipe, taking pictures of objects from different angles, and designing a better dog brush.
This is art to us, and it took my adult brain a little while to understand that a final product wasn’t what made art beautiful or worthy or sensual. Art is not just a form admired, but a form to move through and experience. This is exactly what early artists tend to do as they are growing and learning, and, it is this human experience that creates the outcome we so admire in the final product. This is why we can admire a picture of beans glued to the top of green craft paper.
For children it is not necessary the final product that counts. Sure, they are proud of this product, but really it is the process that matters. It is the moving through the art itself, the creation process, the harmony of creativity and output that will grow a child’s mind. There is plenty of time to be a perfectionist later. As I look at my old jeans, I try to remember the thoughts behind all those doodles. I’ll never know but now that they are considered an aesthetic masterpiece over at our house, I think I’ll name them: Circa 1994.
Amy teaches college English and literature full time. She recently self published a book of poems, and her novel is currently with an editor. Amy started homeschooling her oldest when he was in first grade and now he is a junior in high school. Her other two are 9 and 12. They are eclectic and Amy has dived into several curricula. Her middle son is dyslexic so that’s a challenge in itself. They have done umbrella schools, groups and even online curriculum.