Tag Archives: homeschooling

Raising the Artists

Noah Louvre

When my oldest was about eight years-old, he wanted to be an astronaut.

“Yes!” I agreed enthusiastically, “You can be anything you want!”

Thus, he went several weeks wearing a NASA costume and having adventures with his stuffed animals in ships made of cardboard boxes and fuzzy blankets.

I was pleased. How AMAZING to raise a person who not only wanted to pursue science but also had the adventurous spirit to be blasted into the galaxy on an engine of fire.

 I would keep the tissues handy for the moment he said, “I owe it all to you Mom,” from the space station on Mother’s Day.  

Homeschooling Mom triumph.

Mission accomplished.

Phenomenal social media potential.

So when the space fervor died down, and this same child (upon whom the fate of many future Facebook posts rested) started sketching ghoulish creatures and writing stories involving ninja mice and robotic dinosaurs, an alarm went off in my head. And when he later expressed interest in a career as a *gasp* filmmaker; I thought to myself, “Well, at least I have three other kids who can pursue something ‘practical,’ ” while handing him a camera.

When you have four kids, odds are one of them will turn out “well.”

But now that two of my other children have gone over to the art side, it leaves me with the hope that the one careerishly undecided child might do something for a living that will fund a winter condo on Santorini.

This same child attends a German school, and interestingly enough, when he was tested for a possible career, the experts said that while he has all the makings of a good engineer, they noticed he thinks outside the box and could pursue a more creative field.

The shock! The horror! What did I do wrong? When the most practical, logical people on earth are against me? 

I suppose my kids never had a chance with a Mother who, as stated on her Kindergarten report card, has her head in the clouds. This same mom with a Masters degree in English Literature (nominally more practical than a creative writing degree) and a passion for fiction writing, not only permitted, but encouraged a multitude of creative endeavors.

The real shock is not that my kids have turned to their artistic sides, but the shock is that it took me by surprise.

How could I NOT see it coming? What, with all the puppet shows and frenzied writing marathons during NaNoWriMo. Maybe if I’d forced them into science boot camp (if there is such a thing) they would’ve chosen careers that would pay for our future family reunions in San Tropez.

No. I have raised artists.

kate sus bw

*Parents Beware: When you allow children to spend time plucking stringed instruments, dancing in full costume, writing books, and performing home-grown scripts, you increase the chance that they will WANT to follow their dreams as adults.

Holy hell, what was I thinking, building that puppet theater in the basement?!

The bare-bones fact is that our own insecurities force expectations on our kids that fit them like straight jackets.

Can you imagine a world without Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, or Hogwarts or R2D2?

Why are we so damned afraid to raise artists?

Life would have the depth of a mud-puddle, without art to reflect precious intangibles, such as beauty, spirit and love.

I have slowly made peace with the idea that there is a place for artists in the world. It is a gamble, but maybe it’s okay for my kids to eat ramen noodles and work two jobs while they happily pursue their passions.

If I, as a parent, can live simply yet contentedly doing what I love, then maybe the young artists under my roof can also be satisfied in the richness and beauty of the lives they create for themselves. And when they share a higher ideal with someone else; when their art moves another person towards an emotion; then life becomes that much richer.

I don’t want to button up my kids with my fears. Though my motives might be “practical” and though they might make more “money” as bankers or dog psychologists; I would rather have them live free; and breathe; and make beautiful things.

There is too much ugliness in the world already.

It’s time to boldly raise the artists.

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Don’t Let Failure Win

 

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Sometimes life seems to be one steady stream of dropping the bar.

  • The dog eats the vacuum cleaner.
  • The side-view mirror randomly falls off your car.
  • Your toenails are the color of rotten robin’s eggs.
  • You don’t front squat as much as you would’ve liked.

But the fact is: this is life.

I don’t think life has ever been perfect for anybody.

While the past is etched in stone, it doesn’t mean you have to tie yourself to it.

But you should look at it from time to time.

Read it. Learn from it. And move on. 

I’ve been SO wrong about SO many things; and I can either let mistakes sideline me, or I can write a better game plan and jump back in.

I am working towards a goal–a dream.

And anyone who’s actually ever lived a dream knows it comes with a shit ton of hard work.

I want to stay in Germany. To live here. To work here. To become fluent in the language and be part of the community. But it’s intimidating. It’s a lot of paperwork. It’s a lot of mental work. I have fears and misconceptions to arm wrestle.

This week, I stepped foot into a German school, something entirely alien to a homeschooling mom (homeschooling is illegal here for Germans–illegal, as in: people go to jail rather than send their kids to school). So, German schools must be like prisons, right?

Not so much. At least, not in our little town.

Everyone was friendly. The staff seemed happy–laughing, smiling, joking. They brought me cake and coffee. They made me, this strange American former homeschool mom with four *gasp* kids, feel welcomed.

The Principal kept shaking his head and blowing air through pursed lips while he put our information into the computer.

“I’m giving you a challenge, aren’t I?” I asked, between mouthfuls of cake.

“Yes, yes. This is a challenge, but it will be more of a challenge for your children.”

“They’re up for it,” I replied.

And they are. I know they are–even if they don’t think they are. Moms, like great coaches, know these things.

Life is difficult.

But I truly believe that those horrible, difficult times scrawled on the pages of my tear-stained journal have been for my benefit.

I appreciate the millions of good little things better than I ever have in my life: Laughter at the dinner table. Meat on the grill. Lesson plans to prepare. Someone saying, “Hey, I read your blog!” and they don’t roll their eyes.

The hard work, the hard times have incredible value. Why NOT go for the challenge? Because even ‘failures’ help shape us into better people, as long as we don’t quit.

My son told me that I need to re-write my book (I have several manuscripts in various stages) because I’m more ‘vibrant’ now.

Standing hip-deep in this strange circumstance has made me more real, more alive, and so maybe, all of this has made me a better writer. Maybe the fact that I can’t beg, borrow or steal a full-time job means I’ll have more time for writing. Maybe I’ll look back and say, “I’m glad I DIDN’T get that job with Adidas.”

Who knows?

Sometimes desperation inspires greatness.

All people fail.

Some of us fail again and again.

But the key is to never fail the same lesson twice.

Pick up the bar.

Take some weight off, if you have to.

Work your way back up.

It will be intimidating. It will require sweat and perseverance and your hands won’t be quite as smooth as they once were.

But it’s totally worth it.

Just don’t quit.

Because if you quit, then failure wins.

And that shouldn’t be an option for anyone.