Madame Anthromama’s Art Lesson

I know that according to Waldorf early childhood principles, I should not use too many words or abstract concepts with my children. But sometimes, I just can’t help myself….

SillyBilly loves to tell his sister what to do and how to do it. This often occurs when they are at the table “arting.” They sit facing each other, sharing a large bin of paper, crayons, construction paper, etc.

SillyBilly is always telling Napoleona, “that’s not how you draw X” or “that doesn’t look like a Y.”

This makes me crazy.

So, the other day I got fed up. I went to the shelf and pulled out Gombrich’s The Story of Art, and called the boy over.

I showed him pictures of the Annunciation throughout the ages (chosen simply because they are ubiquitous). I asked him, do any of them look the same? He said no. I pointed out that none of them are “wrong.”

Then we looked at some paintings by Van Gogh, one of his favorite artists. I asked, does the sky really have swirls in it? He said no.

I asked, do people really have green and purple and yellow and orange spots on their faces? He said no. And I pointed out that these are still beautiful paintings.

I hope that I didn’t go overboard, but it just seemed so important to me that he understand this. I hope that he sees that there isn’t just one way to do things, and that there are ways to do things that don’t necessarily depict what’s “real” but are still valid. And I hope that pointing out “reality” doesn’t crush his imagination in some way.



Filed under Parenting, waldorf education

5 responses to “Madame Anthromama’s Art Lesson

  1. Charlotte

    I think he’s a lucky boy to have a Mama who cares about art and takes the time to show it to him. I’m sure that his creativity has been encouraged rather than curtailed by your lesson.

  2. Papa Bradstein

    I sincerely doubt that your kids will have their imagination crushed growing up with you and Anthropapa. The colors on the face are the beginning of an interesting lesson for SillyBilly–why are you drawing the trees green? Let’s go outside and see if they’re green–maybe they are, but maybe the shadows in them are blue, or purple. And maybe with the light on the leaves, the leaves look silver . . .

  3. szilvi

    I think this was a very good lesson. Much better than telkling him that she can draw the way she wants to. I just learned from you, thank you. 🙂

  4. MC Milker

    You know, I enthusiastically supported the “no abstract concepts” part of Waldorf early childhood, up to age 3 or 4. For toddlers it was great and highly appropriate. At about 4 though, I started to question it as appropriate for all kids during the preschool years. Since my DS was very interested in “facts” at 4, I started to provide them.

    Like many Waldorf early childhood concepts, I think this one is excellent at very young ages and keep us from overloading kids with ABC learning too early. Something too many parents are bound and determined to do.

    However, in the late preschool years, you have to know your own kid though. Like reading, IMHO, kids are ready for facts at different ages.

  5. Henitsirk

    Charlotte: I do love art and am so very, very glad my kids do as well. Now I just need to figure out where I’m going to keep all the reams of drawings they make every day!

    Papa B: I will have to do some serious phenomenological observations with the boy as the leaves turn this fall…how many colors will we find?

    Szilvi: I do a lot of “telling” too! But sometimes I find a way to be more creative. You’re welcome!

    Mc Milker: I often wonder if hewing too closely to traditional Waldorf methods balances the effects of modern culture, or doesn’t meet the kids where they actually are. It’s just a balancing game I guess. And as you say, every kid is ready for things at different times…as is clear to any parent of more than one child!

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