Did you ever have a moment in your life when you KNEW something so true about yourself that you never doubted it again?
I had that moment.
When I was five years old in kindergarten, we celebrated Abraham Lincoln’s birthday by making colored paper log cabins. As I built my cabin I remember a wonderful feeling coming over me. That feeling was joy. I knew at that moment that I was an artist and I have retained that belief my whole life. Luckily I had parents who nurtured my love of art by making sure I always had materials (I still have a set of pastels from when I was a teenager), taking me to museums and talking about art, music and all things creative.
While we all want our children to grow up fulfilled and choosing a profession they are passionate about sometimes our belief in what is a viable career clashes with what our children want. In my capacity as an educator I have worked with children whose families don’t support art careers, believing they are less than or their children will end up having to work in menial jobs white pursuing their art dreams. So it takes a lot of discipline to support your child’s passions if they lean towards art.
But take heart Parents! Whether your child ends up in art-based career or not, supporting any creative outlet for your child is a really positive thing. Now I’m not going to quote a bunch of statistic because you all can look that shit up. What I will say is I grew up making art, playing classical piano, and working in our high school’s drama program. All those things gave me opportunities like having a middle-school competition with two friends about who could play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, and building sets for a high school performance of Annie Oakley.
The important thing to note here is that there are both internal and external factors that affect creativity. Here’s a quote from Kiymet Selvi, “Individuals continuously learn from their feelings, imagination, experiences and their environment. Some of the external factors of learning such as the educational system, learning environments, learning processes, teacher competences may cause barriers to creativity potential.” What that means to me is that people get too focused on the end result. I remember suffering through Algebra in 9th grade. My teacher was endlessly frustrated with me because I just didn’t get it. She never bothered to explain what those x’s and y’s represented, so I was left mystified. In 2005 I began the work to earn my USCG Captain’s license with the goal of teaching sailboat cruising classes in the Caribbean. And Voila! I need algebra to calculate the righting moment of large cargo ships. All of the sudden it all became clear to me why algebra is important. But isn’t that a bummer. I sometimes wonder if my teacher had bothered to explain to me the beautiful history of algebra, would I have become a math wiz?
I often wonder where I would be today if my parents had not accepted and supported my creative efforts. One thing I do know is that every time I make a mark on paper or push a paintbrush across a canvas I feel joy. So while you encourage your child to excel in STEM take a moment to transform it to STEAM. Add the arts in there and focus on nurturing your child’s creative life. Believe you-me, their brains have room for all of it
Always making joyful marks.