Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Art Summer School: Paper

In the paper section, I wanted Tiger to do more than one activity so I started out with what I thought would be the easiest of all: Lab 35: Paper Masks.

The instructions in the book are very straightforward so Tiger got on with folding, cutting and gluing.  He wanted to jump straight into his own design right from the start but as I told him to try out the instructions from the book first, he reluctantly agreed.

"This is how I feel when my Mum asks me to do something."

After Tiger has completed the above, he asked, "Can I do it my way now?"  Of course he could.  The result of a voluntary effort is as follows:

"This is how I feel when I get to do what I want."

Comparing the two masks, it is quite clear that my son does not hide how he feels about being coerced into doing something when he has his own ideas of what he wants to do.

Things got more interesting from here.

After a short break, we moved on to Lab 34: Collage Tissue Self-Portraits.   I placed a mirror in front of Tiger and asked him to draw a self-portrait in pencil, which was to be used as a template for collage later.

I then laid out pieces of craft tissues for him to choose and asked him whether he needed any help.  He said no so I left him to complete his work and went into the kitchen to start cooking dinner.

After 10 minutes, Tiger said he has completed the collage.  I took a look and saw this:


Nobody would have guessed that this is the work of a boy who, until 18 months ago, had such strong perfectionist tendencies that he would not even start a piece of work if he decided that he could not get it "right" (whatever "right" means) within 10 seconds.  It took us many years of constantly working through different situations for him to not throw his arms up in the air and storm away from something deemed "too difficult" at the first glance.

Now it's time for a different type of conversation.

Mum:  Is this completed?
Tiger:  Yes.  What do you think?
Mum:  Hmm... What do you think?
Tiger:  I think it's fine.
Mum:  Are you happy with it?
Tiger:  Yes, I think it's ok.  What do you think?
Mum:  Well... if this has been submitted by a three-year-old I would have said the work is excellent, but it doesn't make the cut as a piece of work done by an eight-year-old.  I have seen better work from you.
Tiger:  I think it is ok.
Mum:  There is a huge difference between doing an ok job and doing your best.  Is this your best?
Tiger:  I think it's just fine.
Mum:  (starting to walk back into the kitchen) Ok, it is your work and it has your name on it.  If this is the level of work that you're happy to be associated with, then that's fine.  Remember to clear the table when you're done.

Tiger sat in his seat for a few moments after our conversation, then came into the kitchen.

Tiger:  I think I'll do the exercise again.
Mum:  Good decision.  I would have done the same.
Tiger:  How much time do I have?
Mum:  Take as long as you like.  Daddy will be home in an hour.

Tiger said he didn't need any help, so I continued to cook dinner while he went back to the table and restarted the exercise from scratch.

This is the result of his second attempt:

This incident is one reason why I am glad I am doing the art summer school in-house.  If I have paid for Tiger to attend an external art summer school for children, he could have gotten away with submitting the first piece of collage because most children's art teachers are far too polite to give any genuine feedback on children's work.  In all the external art classes that Tiger has taken, no one has ever made any real comments about his work.  All I've only ever heard was the term "wonderful" used to describe his art work.  Really?  Is every piece of my son's art work "wonderful"?  Isn't that just being as politically correct as describing someone as "nice"?

Being a parent myself, I understand how difficult it can be for parents to listen to any criticism of their children or of their work.  Therefore I am very glad that homeschooling has given me the opportunity to gain an intimate understanding of Tiger's abilities and weaknesses, so that I am able to respond to them accordingly and to support him in a meaningful way.  In other words, to know the right buttons to push at the right moment.

You can read all about our in -house Art Summer School series here.


  1. Ha ha ha ha, I had to laugh at the difference in effort between the one you made him do and the one he chose to do. Sounds so familiar.

  2. I know! Isn't it amazing that children are so similar to one another in some ways, even when they live thousands of miles away from one another and have never met?


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