When other parents learn that we homeschool, they often express doubt in their own ability to do the same. They say that certain subjects – usually math or science – would be their undoing.
I once would’ve shrugged at that; I was a math major in college and worked as an engineer after that. Recently, I have changed my response; I point out that the math and science are still pretty basic at my kids’ ages.
There is one subject, though, that I am insecure about: art.
I grew up in a small town where we sometimes lacked the educational opportunities of our peers in suburbs or big cities. Due to cutbacks in the 1980s, my elementary school lost its art, music, and gym programs.
By the time I once again had a dedicated art teacher in middle school, I froze in front of every project. Most kids found art class liberating; I found it terrifying. Unlike my other classes, where I happily took a place in the front row, I longed to be invisible in the art room. High school brought relief; I was no longer required to take visual arts.
Twenty years later, my anxiety resurfaced while sorting out my children’s art lessons. First, I made sure that they had access to quality materials. As preschoolers, both Myles and Brigid had plenty of pencils, brushes, paints, good paper, and clay. I set these out for them to use, but couldn’t help them to produce anything beyond the most basic scribbles.
By the time they reached school age, I needed another solution. I didn’t want my kids to be short-changed, especially if – unlike me – they had any aptitude for art.
I considered evening and weekend programs at several art centers in Changping. While popular, they were difficult to work into our schedule. Homeschooling friends living in the city co-oped with us instead, booking art classes in studios and even in their apartments. Most recently, we worked with Atelier; these options are quite far from home, but have been worth the trip.
Myles now has four years of art instruction under his belt and it has been incredible to see him progress with the right guidance. When he’s not combining art with his first love of paleontology by endlessly sketching dinosaurs, he aspires to write comic books.
Brigid patiently watched her brother take art classes while she waited for her turn to enroll. Last fall, she asked me on the eve of her first class: “Do you really think I can do it?”
Had she inherited my art phobia, I wondered?
However, her fears were assuaged when I reminded her that she already knew how to draw and paint. By the end of her first class, Brigid was happy, chatty, and eager to show me her work; there was no sign of the uncertainty from the night before.
I’ve delighted in her growing confidence as I’ve watched her session-to-session. At age 5, she has already surpassed me in artistic ability.
This article originally appeared on p55 of the beijingkids May 2014 issue. Check out the PDF version online at Issuu.com.
Illustration: Sun Zheng