stream of consciousness

image via Etsy

To follow up that last post... we just set up the last payment on my undergrad school loan, a mere four years after graduation. As I clicked the mouse, a feeling of triumph rose & settled into doldrums as I considered how quickly our boys will grow into "school-aged" children. Am I prepared to love my kids by taking responsibility for their education, regardless of what format(s) we choose? Not a teacher by vocation, this reality intimidates the moby-wrap right off of me.

I was the "scout child" for what sort of education would fit our family best. Kindergarten was in public school, travel by bus. Significant bullying & an uncooperative elementary principal changed mum's mind to homeschool the next two years (my younger brother & I). Third grade was a private school, which was intimidating, but I learned to thrive in a social learning environment. In April,  3/4 through the school year already, we moved to another city & attended a new private school, to which I did not adapt fast enough. Everyone had their "best friend" picked already, the curriculum was a different enough pace that I was bored in math but confused in history & science. So fourth & fifth grades mum taught us & found a rather extensive social network of home-educated families in order to help us feel the new town was home. Knowing me well, mum chose the Sonlight curriculum which is a literature-rich, liberal arts, Christian worldview approach. With my parents as my primary educators & the clear expectation that I would manage my own studies, I flourished. School work was completed according to my own motivation level. Because the material was interesting, I loved to read & retained content that dinner conversations could be about the books themselves.

My brother, however, has to move in order to think; thus homeschool frustrated him & he rushed through the work in order to get outside & play. To this day, he is more socially-oriented (I am task-oriented), doesn't enjoy reading & relies on authority to process/summarize information for him. Seeing the discrepancy, my parents sent us to private school after we moved again. From grades 6-12 we continued talking about making a change but never pulled the trigger. We waded through relatively unscathed; I was considered a "good student." All this means is that I learned to discern what each teacher wanted & "worked the system" to earn mostly As, convincing adults that I could handle myself & should be left alone. By the time I got a driver's license, my decision-making process was rather unilateral, not relying on my parents or even my peers very often. Being a college prep structure, our school pushed "gifted" students toward electives in math & science so I took everything through Calculus. But my junior year, I stubbornly chose the responsibility of yearbook editor in order to learn Photoshop & have an extra "free period" without wasting time in study hall. Having an affinity for both photography & creative writing, I not only continued that through senior year but also opted for Studio Art over Physics. Teachers, parents, etc. tried to talk me out of taking art. But I'm so glad to have gone with that gut feeling.

She was the first instructor, Mrs. Guntharp, who had not only an ungrad degree but two MFAs (from The University of the Arts) & who encouraged me to use my brain to communicate visually. As soon as I stepped into the studio, I felt remorse that I hadn't begun sooner. There was a huge learning curve. I couldn't draw realism worth beans. But it didn't matter. I didn't want to leave, unless I could take the work with me. The exercises helped start training my eye to see what it used to see when I was little, in all the play-pretend & story-telling & craft-constructing. It was nauseating to realize at 17 that I had almost been educated out of creativity. Shame on me, for letting it happen. Shame on them, for implying that art was for dumb/lazy kids. She asked if I was applying to any art schools & convinced me to drum up a portfolio for VCU (where I ended up) & Pratt Institute. I even made a trip to Queens to interview, small-town girl though I was. Invaluable lessons through observations made during that trip.

Conclusions: In order to make art & write, both loved, I can study in a non-traditional environment. Fine arts majors aren't my only option. A degree is meaningless if I don't cultivate & become excellent in something I love to continuously do & be. Thankfully, these convictions helped in wading through university prerequisites until I settled on studying under Bridget Camden & stopped trying to pick a minor. That let me explore creative writing courses, art education service-learning projects & fine art photography at the university level... instead of wearing myself out in an arbitrary direction.

Looking at my current life, at home with babies & not even desiring NY or LA, I see why this changeable path was best. Perhaps initially driven by anti-establishment sentiments yet an addiction to pleasing/impressing others (esp. authority), I have the piece of paper everyone told me I needed to be a valid adult. Did I really need it? No clue. Just glad I own my education & hope to help our kids make informed decisions about theirs.

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