It’s been over a year since I’ve written something on my blog. “Letting Go of Fear” was the last column I wrote about last February. Thankfully the fear I had of going out again after the pandemic subsided awhile ago and I’m out in the world again. In going forth with the normalcy of life again I’ve discovered two things: 1) I’d forgotten a really important life lesson and 2) I’ve had a big shift in thinking regarding schooling children.
If we look for the positives in the time of the pandemic, one thing that comes to mind for me was that everything slowed down. Gone was the rushing around. Gone was competing or ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’ Life seemed simpler in so many ways. Now that things have ramped up again I’m noticing this intense urgency to keep up with everything and everyone and I’m out of practice. I notice this in many areas of my life, even in things I’ve taken up for fun.
For example, I’ve recently gotten more into pickleball. The game has seriously exploded here in the Bay Area. I introduced the game to a friend of mine in the fall. After a short time this friend has become rather obsessed with the game and is going out multiple times a week to play. It is super fun having her to play with but I’ve realized at the same time I’ve been struggling to try to keep up with her. I was trying to figure out why I was feeling this way with a game that was supposed to be fun. I knew I was having the ‘keep up with the Joneses’ feeling but I didn’t understand why until recently. In the midst of ramping back up again after Covid, I’d forgotten that the only person I need to compete with in this world is myself – in pickleball and in everything else. My focus always needs to be on what I want in my life and never on what others are doing or what others want. No one is judging me except for myself!
I’ve also had some big changes in perspective since the pandemic regarding schooling. Pre-pandemic I had gotten a part time job going into elementary schools to teach art to elementary kids. When the pandemic hit I began homeschooling my son and my job was put on hold. This year my son is in 6th grade and he is maturing and becoming more independent so I decided to return to teaching art part time in an after school class at a nearby elementary school. I taught my first class two weeks ago and it was both nostalgic and also very eye opening. I love being an art teacher and bringing art to children (the nostalgic part) but I have a total shift in perspective now about how and what kids are being taught in school since the pandemic and in seeing first hand the benefits of homeschooling my son (the eye opening part).
As much as I know that the kids need art, I also know the importance of down time, free play, and free choice in what they play in the healthy development of all children. Kids in public schools (and in many private schools) do not get enough art, nor do they get adequate down time to play and explore, and they definitely do not get free choice in what to do with their time which is all necessary for healthy development and in figuring out what one’s strengths and interests are. Recess time to play and interact freely with peers helps build much needed relationship skills. I feel very torn coming into a school’s after school program after kids have had a long day of school to teach them art. I see so clearly now that although some kids do benefit greatly from my bringing art to them at that time, other kids in my class (ones pre-pandemic I might have labeled “problem kids”) would clearly rather be running around playing. The truth is that these kids are not problem kids at all, they simply desperately need time to run around and play. Does that mean those kids would not benefit from art? Absolutely not, everyone can benefit from art. It simply means at that time of day those kids would benefit more from running around and getting their energy out and having some free play to decide what they want to do. I can’t help but ask myself, am I now being a part of the problem by coming into the schools providing yet another required lesson for the kids?