Thursday, 25 October 2012

Creative Expression: An Inside-Out Approach

Have you ever noticed that we are 'taking in' so many things as if we are given a series of lectures and never got an opportunity to express outwardly about what we want to communicate. That is how it has been for me until late. I see that there was so much 'taking in' and there were not much opportunities to express myself. Schooling did not allow me to express as much as I always wanted to express. So, when I entered life after schools and when I was going through a difficult phase in my life, I started to blurt too much and over communicated that affected many of my relationships both at work and personal life. While many considered my way of communication as very overwhelming, some of my good friends used to say that I should start expressing myself in writing. When I told them that I am no good at writing and asked the reason why they feel that I could become a good writer, one of the persons told me that I have so much knowledge, thoughts and ideas in my mind which is not expressed but actually suppressed. He added that it could be the reason why I talk too much. It almost seemed like I was exploding rather than expressing. I realized there is so much knowledge and information stored in my mind which I was not able to unleash it out through a medium. I used to sing very well, I could have used that as a medium to express my feelings and who I am. Somehow I did not improve that talent either, for another reason. I felt a strong urge to channelize the knowledge constructed and stored in my mind, through an expressive medium; hence I guess I am blogging here. Since I am very verbal, expressing through speech is something that is very easy for me, though I am learning how to write. The blogger is doing a great bit in helping me to improve my writing skills which I could not focus and improve on during my childhood. Surprisingly, when I started to blog here, there is some kind of peace and inner work going on. I could see myself being much more calmer than I generally used to be. Nowadays, I do not feel the need to talk much and bother people. 

Similarly, in the past, I noticed that my child was struggling with the same challenge. He had much knowledge and information that he wanted to share that was stored in his little head which he could not express through words. An incident that I could never forget in my life is when one day, he was late from his school. At that time, he wasn't talking much since he was a young lad. His van came very late and when I tried to call the van driver, he didn't pick up and I was very worried. At last, when the van came, the driver didn't wait long to explain why they were late since they were in a hurry to drop other children. I enquired my child about the delay. He simply told, "come home, amma'. As soon as he entered home, he took the black board and started drawing something using the chalk and told me, "read and then write". He drew the following picture and I narrated what I understood from the picture. He has represented in his picture, the driver underneath the bus changing the tyres and S watching it. He simply nodded 'yes' and 'no' to all my narrations and when I arrived at one particular narration, he nodded a big 'yes' and wrote down the same in the board.

If you notice the sentence, he could not accept when I said, "Uncle repaired". He was not aware of 'past tense' at that time, and for him every sentence had a "will". So, he nodded a big 'yes' for this sentence, hugged me and he said, "afraid, afraid, me afraid". I was moved into tears how the child used drawing as a medium to express his feelings and what happened. He started to express like this only when I bought this black board and chalks. Later, he started to draw many such pictures in the black board and I got into the habit of narrating it for him and thus he picked up the language and started talking very well. 

That moment, my child taught me a beautiful lesson in my life that everyone has an innate craving to express.  He proved it to me that not knowing a particular skill is no big deal (in his case, it was language skills at that time of his life). He somehow expressed what he wanted to say through another medium, which is 'drawing'. He made me understand how much I am craving to be expressed myself. There is a big gap when we have much going on 'inside' and when it is not expressed 'outside'. I then believed that learning has to be 'inside-out' too. While I believe in 'looking inside' and learning about the 'inner self', I also started to believe that more inner work happens when we express it out in authentic manner through a particular medium. When we don't fully express ourselves this way, then we are not fulfilled, then it becomes more harder to 'look inside'.  Later, after many researches, I understood the importance of creative expression. Creative expression enables us to tell a story about how we feel and enable us to see the world in a new way.

The more we started to practice creative expression through arts, I noticed that we were starting to explore our inner selves. Whatever we expressed, the models or paintings we produced told us a story about the insights that we got. It revealed something about ourselves. Very soon for both me and my child, this kind of expressing ourselves became a regular pattern and we started to use this learning method very often. Not only it helped us to reveal some insights about ourselves, some of our expressions also revealed many other insights related to understanding nature and science. 

So, whenever we 'take in' something, for example, even when we read a story, we always made it a point to express what we learnt and journal insights/learning points and experience through some other medium. Waldorf education specifies seven arts - drama, drawing, movement, modelling, music, painting and speech. They also suggest that after listening to a story, the child should be given opportunity to express themselves in some way. There are many ways to express, for example one can draw a scene from the story, sing a song connected to the story, make models, create a scene and retell stories using puppets etc. At this time, my child expresses mostly through painting, drawing and music and we are slowly moving to express ourselves through drama, movement, modelling and using speech to retell a scene or express feelings related to the story. 

Take a look at the work produced by S after he read a story 'The Singing Dinosaurs". It is a story about how the three baby dinosaurs were lost, they started to sing when they were afraid and then at last found their parents. 

Not only he expressed a scene from the story through painting, he learnt some blending techniques using oil pastels. More important, he got an amazing insight that "Sound travels through air" which he has journalled in his picture. Since he got this insight about 'Sound', we also played a game to figure out if sound really travels through air. I asked him to close his eyes and stay in the living room, while I vanished into a room and starting singing in a feeble voice. His job was to follow the sound and find out the exact room where I am in, in the very first attempt every time we repeated the game. He was surprised to experience that sound did travel in air and that helped him to find out where am I. We took turns to find each other, by following the sounds produced and that travelled in the air. We ended up having loads of fun. This kind of playing games to understand science can be so much fun and children naturally learn many concepts through real experience. In this case, our game also involved movement and singing. 

Also, take a look at this art work that represents 'Reflection' which he expressed after reading the famous story 'The Hamster And The Lion'. Art work idea is inspired by Deep Space Sparkle. His understanding of what 'reflection' means, couldn't have made a mark in such deep manner if he had not gotten the opportunity to express in such a brilliant way. 

There is nothing more fulfilling than to be able to express. The ability to express or create something can reflect and nurture children's emotional health. In my case, writing this blog improved my emotional health too. 

So, are you just 'taking in'? Then, it is time to express. In what ways, do you nurture your creative expression?

Enjoy Learning and Sharing

Monday, 22 October 2012

Connecting With The Light

From Darkness To Light
It is a bliss to let go of the sense of urgency to accelerate the growth and development process of my child. When my child wants to sit in front of this light for many hours and just watch this radiating light with keen interest, I realize that he is learning. I muster patience to let go of the common opinion that he has to be completing some worksheets instead. The world will be better place if we could allow our children to slow down, pause to enjoy the birds chirping, connect with the light and the rain drops, listen to the frogs kwaking,  watch the candle melt until it is fully over and get dirty in the mud not just for one block of period but for longer hours. We have to believe that they are deeply learning, growing, healing and transforming. 

I wish the Goddess of Knowledge and Wisdom bestow Her blessings to the entire world. I imagine a world filled with wise and transformed learners of life.

Enjoy Learning and Sharing

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Freedom To Express Learning In Informal Way

I always get confused whether I should let my boy express his learning always in an informal way or I wonder if I should deliver some formal learning instructions too. The little boy always clears all my doubts by asking questions such as, "Can we do some Math Art and have fun today?"  and teaches me that there is always a 'taking in - input' and 'expressing - output' way to how he wants to learn. Sometimes he prefers the 'taking in' part to be facilitated, particularly if it is about Math. I ask him if he would like to do something on his own or if he likes me to facilitate something for him. Answers are always different most times. Recently, he is all obsessed about measuring things. He roams around in the house with the measurement tape measuring the walls, toys and many other objects. He also measures things using interesting and fun measurement tools other than the tape. Take a look at my earlier post Measuring Fun With Jenga blocks

Lately, as usual, he expressed his interest to get involved in Math art. So, I planned a facilitation which is more formal. As far as I understand with whatever research that I have made about formal learning and informal learning, formal learning is nothing about the formality of the learning. It is all about who sets the learning objectives and goals of learning. It is intentional and may involve coaching and mentoring. On the other hand, informal learning is more about self motivation. It is unconsciously incidental and the educator or the learner is not conscious about learning goals and objectives. It is very natural for the learner to do something informally and it happens in a spontaneous manner in the natural world. I have noticed that in our case, there are many formal learning moments which corresponds to more 'taking in' has led to informal 'expression'. And I like this balance. 

When he asked me to facilitate some Math art, I set some learning goals for him related to his favourite recent passion which is 'Measuring'. I discussed with him that that we will do an abstract art work that will relate to learning measuring skills, scissors skills and learning to use rulers and to understand the measurement unit - centimetre. He was excited about the idea. 

I cut a thin strip of coloured construction paper that will span only one part of the sheet's length and pasted it.    

His job was to measure the rest of the area's length in centimetres, and mark the same in the construction paper, cut and paste the other strip of paper to complete the whole row.

We continued to repeat the same until we completed several rows to fill the whole sheet. I pasted the first half and he went on to paste the second half in each row. Simple it might seem, though it needs a lot of patience on the facilitator's part. For an adult, the skills involved in this activity might seem so simple, but for a child learner, there might be skills that they are probably demonstrating it for the first time such as trying to hold a ruler, measuring and marking. They might be improving on skills such as using the scissors and pasting. In our case, it took a full one hour to complete the following abstract art which involved 'Measurement' as a key concept.

At the end, he evaluated his own art and decided that he needed to fill the gaps by colouring it red. I let him evaluate his creations because evaluation is the highest order of thinking skills and it helps children to assess oneself, paves the way for improvement and further development and growth. As you see that you could also notice some imperfection in the way he has measured and that is just fine with us. I would share with you about my ideas about embracing imperfection and allowing the child to be imperfect, in another post. But for now, I will focus on what I intend to share, more on the balance that we were able to create with both formal and informal learning. 

So, this was some formal learning that we did. As I said earlier, formal learning always and naturally leads to some informal learning that follows up. The very next day, S was so very excited to apply the skills that he learnt. As soon as he woke up, he said he is going to make a bus and jumped into actions. For at least 4 hours,  he was playing and running around, eating, watching his favourite programs in television in between and was also focusing in a very sincere manner to just create this.

The main thing I would like to share here is not about the craft work itself. It is about the application of a new skill that he learnt while creating something new. He has created many craft work other than this and those did not involve using a ruler and measurement skills. In the past, he used to place the paper on top of the cardboard and cut the paper directly. This is the first time he used a ruler to measure the length of the box and cut a paper of similar length. He very carefully measured the length and breadth of the box on all sides  using the ruler, repeated the same on a construction paper, marked carefully and cut a paper of similar dimensions. It clearly seemed to me that his focus was not to create a fantastic good looking bus, but he was more keen on applying his newly learnt skill which is - to use a ruler, measure and mark length in centimetres. So, the main thing that I want to share with you is how a skill learnt in formal set up might naturally lead a learner to apply the same skills in an informal way resulting in a creation which is more self motivated.

Hence, I am curious to find out from you whether you allow the freedom and time for your learner to apply and express the skills learnt, in an informal way? Last but not the least, needless to say, we always love to integrate Math and art. 

Enjoy Learning and Sharing. 

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Colours that revealed an Universe

A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions 
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr

Oh well, new experiences have been a way of life for us recently. We are trying everything new. Lately, we have been experimenting with water colouring. We do not know anything about painting, but we just do it. Our favourite has been the wet on wet techniques. 

Here is a quick painting that we created and it was totally unplanned. It all happened within five minutes. We coated the sheet with water as a first step. We chose two colours as the primary colours. I chose purple and blue while S chose red and yellow. I dropped the first colour (purple) on the sheet and I let it flow all over the sheet. Then, I added the blue colour and turned the sheet to all sides. The two colours blended with each other and produced a magic. I used a sponge to blot out the excess water from the sheet. 

I just loved this abstract painting. For some reason, I felt so happy, the vibrant colours reminded me of a saree that I have. Oh, how much I am inspired by colours these days and they bring in so much happiness for me. 

S poured his first colour (red) on the sheet, he turned his sheet on all sides, then slowly added the yellow colour. He watched how the red and yellow blended together to make a baby pink coloured painting. At the end, he decided to use the sponge that I used to make some imprints on his painting. Since the sponge had some left over blue and purple colours on it, his painting had some blue prints on it. He just loved his painting.

When I said, my painting brought me so much happiness, he exclaimed that he could see an universe in his painting. I realized how a quick five minute activity connects body, mind and spirit and helps a child imagine an universe in his art work. His sparkling eyes secretively told me to create more such experiences for us.

So, what are you waiting for? Pick a sheet, pour colours, watch them blend and create happiness for you. It doesn't take much time. 

Enjoy Learning and Sharing. 

Monday, 1 October 2012

Analysing is Good

There is an innate need for a left brain person to analyse. It is a way of learning, they analyse and learn. Analysing is a higher order thinking skills which is very easy and natural for a left brain learner. But many left brain people are demotivated sometimes by comments like, "Don't think too much, you are analysing a lot, take it easy, just do what works for you an what you feel like now." Such comments shut down the learning process that the left brain-er want to pursue. Have you ever caught yourself saying that to your child or any other learner, "Don't think too much", if so then you are probably stopping him/her from learning.

Enjoy Learning and Sharing

An action has a consequence

Guiding a child to be aware if they are inspired by the consequences that they generated through their actions; will help them to make right choices.

Enjoy Learning and Sharing