Thursday, November 30, 2006

You Can't Rush Art

Yesterday I took Sweet Pea and The Bug to the community center for a "messy art" class I had signed Sweet Pea up for. As you can imagine, the theme right now is Christmas. The class is called "Tinsel Time." ha ha!

This is actually the first class of any sort Sweet Pea has ever attended so it was interesting to see her in that setting. Made me really want to get off my butt and look into Montessori, because if regular school is anything like what I witnessed yesterday, they would take my focused child and MAKE her have the attention span of an MTV junkie. But she had a lot of fun.

The first activity of the 45-minute class was story time. The teacher had the kids gather 'round on the floor and she read a book to them. I had to all but push Sweet Pea over to the group of kids because she didn't know anything about sitting in a bunch to hear a story read. What? I should take my child to the library, you say? hee hee. Once sitting down she was very interested in the story and looked at the pictures and listened attentively, but every so often would turn around, make eye contact with me and mouth "Mama," to make sure I was nearby.

After story time the teacher told the kids what to collect from the table and then they took their supplies and went to sit down at a lower activity table. The supplies were a large pinecone each, hot glued to a sturdy piece of card stock, a small paper cup containing glue, and a tongue depressor. Then the teacher came around and put a tray of beads and other sparkly things on each table and gave each child a tiny paper cup overflowing with some sort of foamy stuff. They were supposed to mix the glue and the foamy stuff and then wipe the result all over the poor unsuspecting pine cone. Sweet Pea stopped mixing when she got a little foam on her hand and wanted me to do the messy part. ha ha!

Anyway, we finally got around to the part where she could stick the beads, etc. on the foam to decorate her "tree." Sweet Pea took great care in her selection of decorations and was so incredibly focused that I thought she couldn't hear anything else. The rest of the class moved swiftly from that activity to painting and shaking glitter onto paper Christmas tree cutouts, but Sweet Pea did not want to stop the first activity, and the teacher came by, noticed how focused she was and said, "she can do that for as long as she wants." So even though she had wanted to fingerpaint when we talked about the class at home, she chose not to do that while we were there.

After the very quick tree-painting activity there was "circle time" when the teacher taught the kids a little poem with movements. I prompted Sweet Pea to go join the other kids if she wanted to do that but she just watched for a minute and then went back to decorating her tree. As soon as circle time was over, however, and the other kids and parents started gathering their coats and bags and exiting the room, she had a mini-fit about wanting to do circle time too, and burst into tears. I had to encourage her to clean her hands and get her out the door relatively quickly because everyone else cleared out very quickly and the teacher seemed ready to leave too. Or ready for us to leave, anyway.

Granted, we had to settle for a class that happens pretty much at Sweet Pea's naptime because the morning class was full, so that didn't help anything. But she can push her nap later now and then without too much trouble.

Anyway, ultimately we had a good time and Sweet Pea is quite pleased with her tree, although this morning she chose to partially undecorate it for some unknown reason, so it's not as cute as it was and it probably won't last until Christmas. When we got home she wanted to call her daddy and auntie and Grandma to tell them about her art class and how much fun she had making a pine cone tree.

Now, I do realize that no matter what kind of school Sweet Pea goes to she will need to learn to switch tasks and do things within a set time frame. But the swiftness of change of activity was really shocking to me, and completely out of whack with her personality. And I, personally, as an artist, was happy to see her take her time decorating that pine cone. I think there is something to be said for doing something until it's done, rather than throwing a handful of decorations at it and calling it art.

The age range given for this class was 2-4 but my feeling (I am a horrible judge of age, even in little kids) was that Sweet Pea was one of the oldest there. The majority of the kids seemed to be more like 2 years old. And most of them were just fine with the rapid-fire activities as well. I was intrigued. I know that there is a HUGE difference between ages 2 and 3, but I also think that there was a personality element to Sweet Pea's super-laid-back approach. It occurred to me hours after the class that the age difference might be related to most people putting their kids into preschool by the time or before they're Sweet Pea's age. I wonder if we'll run into this a lot in future classes. I wonder if it will be a problem. Will I be forced by popular practice to get Sweet Pea into preschool just so she can be around other kids her own age?Posted by Picasa


Stahl family said...

"...Will I be forced by popular practice to get Sweet Pea into preschool just so she can be around other kids her own age?"

I was! But, I also found that Jayden very much enjoys his school and his teacher and the kids in his class. The academics are not important to me right now, but he is seeing how learning his letters and how they sound will help him learn to read and he really really wants to read. But, he is getting a lot of social interaction and skills from school that I can see in him and it's doing him a world of good.

Queen of Spain said...

I had too...but only because if we didn't, he wouldn't have a spot by preK

Anonymous said...

My understanding of Montesorri-type preschool is that it's a lot more unstructured for longer periods of time, where the student can choose the activity. Perhaps Sweet Pea would take more to that. Of course, I really don't know what I'm talking about! ; ) Just signed our little one up for a Park & Rec class too - we'll see!
- a friend from Burbank

Christina said...

See, I worry Cordy would do the same thing - she's really on her own schedule and doesn't follow along with other kids. I hope that when she starts preschool at 3 that she will pick up some good social skills there, but I also worry that she'll be the loner in the corner of the classroom while the other kids do something else.

Anonymous said...

I love what she made! It's adorable!