I am not a graphic artist. In fact, I am a bit stickmen-challenged when it comes to drawing. But that fact certainly didn’t stop me from approaching a 6th grade art project with all the gusto of Renoir. Our class had returned after Christmas break to discover the bulletin boards covered in blank white paper and several new 64-count boxes of crayons placed around the room.
“Children, this will be our art project this month,” Mrs. Elliott announced. “We will work together to make a winter scene mural. Be thinking about what you most like to do during January and what you would like to draw. This afternoon we will begin.”
All 30 pairs of eyes turned to the 40 or so feet of empty paper, some of us already envisioning the finished work as we tried to concentrate on fractions and spelling.
Lunchtime found several of the girls excitedly talking about their ideas, describing ice skaters on a pond and children building an enormous snowman. Janet, a tall, willowy girl, had a natural talent for drawing and her own sketchbook in her desk. While everyone watched, she used her recess time to plan her part of the mural. Her friends “oohed” and “aahed,” pronouncing her the best artist in the 6th grade.
Two o’clock finally arrived and Mrs. Elliott told us to each find a spot around the room where we would like to draw. I chose my place next to a large window overlooking the playground and downtown streets beyond. Tall trees cast their afternoon shadows across the landscape; smoke curled from chimneys above the snow-covered rooftops of our little town.
I picked up a few crayons and turned back to the board to sketch. With a clumsy hand, I outlined the black and gray limbs that stretched across the schoolyard. I filled in the lines of the tree and added a golden squirrel peeking out of a cozy nest in the hollow of one tree. Once satisfied with my scene, I unwrapped the Cornflower Blue crayon from it fresh wrapper and, laying it on its side, proceeded to cover the page with blue rolls and waves. Stepping back to admire my picture, comparing it to what I saw from the window, I sighed with pleasure.
“Mrs. Elliott!! Mrs. Elliott!” I heard Janet exclaiming. “Just look! Karen Allen has ruined our mural! She made all the snow blue!!!” Suddenly feeling small and dumb, I looked at all our friends, shaking their heads and pointing as I waited for Mrs. Elliott to rip my drawing from the board and agree that I should not ever again be allowed near a piece of white paper or a crayon.
“Come here class!” she motioned toward the window. In unison we stared at the yard below as she asked, “Tell me, what colors do you see?”
“White!” Janet barked, looking over her shoulder at a group of girls nodding their approval.
“Black and gray!” shouted Bobby. “All the trees are black and gray but the mud is brown.”
“The school building is red and the bus is bright yellow,” added Crystal.
“But the snow is white!” Janet repeated, making sure everyone understood her official position.
“Is it?” Mrs. Elliott asked. “What do the rest of you see when you look at the snow?”
“It IS blue!” said Debbie. “And sparkly when the sunlight hits it.”
One by one the students saw the blue in the snow where the shadows crossed the lawn.
“Yes,” Mrs. Elliott agreed. “It IS blue.” Then turning to me she sweetly smiled and said, “Karen, what a lovely picture. Thank you for helping us all see the blue in the snow!”
I learned two very important lessons that day.
First, I am an outside-of-the-box thinker. When most people see white snow, I see blue snow. It is just the way I am. Rather than accepting what is expected to be the right answer, I often observe things in the shadows.
There are many children like this. In fact, there are many adults who, by the time they reach adulthood, are silenced or even shamed into giving the “correct” answer, the one society has labeled the right one, even when further research might prove them wrong. Institutions rarely accommodate those who play by different rules and are quick to label such children as “rebels.”
My guess is that all children would fall into this category if given the chance to pursue learning according to their God-given bent. Imagine if filling in worksheets or choosing from endless multiple-choice answers were exchanged for the opportunity to explore the world with gusto and joy!
I also learned another valuable truth that snowy afternoon in Mrs. Elliott’s 6th grade classroom. A teacher who looks for the outside-the-box thinkers and not only accommodates them but encourages them in ways that help them stand against the tide of public opinion, is a rare jewel. She can change a life forever!
Homeschooling moms and dads have the unique opportunity to step into this teaching role with confidence and leadership not afforded to others. We don’t need to design our days or lesson plans around someone else’s goals for their children. We will be the most satisfied as homeschooling parents when we embrace the unique gifts and talents under our own roofs, remembering this important truth: true homeschooling success is found at the intersection of these gifts and the needs of the culture in which we are placed!
“True education means more than the perusal of a certain course of study. It means more than a preparation for the life that now is. It has to do with the whole being, and with the whole period of existence possible to man. It is the harmonious development of the physical, the mental, and the spiritual powers. It prepares the student for the joy of service in this world and for the higher joy of wider service in the world to come.”
from Education, The Moore Foundation