Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Exposing children to more of the Arts
OPINION: That which someone else might deem inappropriate for their kids, I might embrace for my children's developmental enrichment.
In America, from the 40s and well into the 80s, a lot of useful information on the topic of taking care of children, was made available to parents and caregivers via Dr. Benjamin Spock’s The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, who became a sort of ‘guru’ on the subject and people used his book almost like a ‘bible’ when approaching any hurdle with their offspring.
Though Dr. Spock was an intelligent and reputable pediatrician, he did have some professional opinions which I in particular do not agree with, one of which is the topic of multi-lingual children’s struggle with learning. Because of Dr. Spock’s view/opinion on this subject, thousands of immigrant families in America abandoned their native tongue – believing that their children would not be able to develop to their full potential, due to the ‘handicap’ of having to deal with two languages at a time – and only spoke in English... broken English at best, but definitely only English. In the 90s, in research conducted at the University of California Berkeley, a study confirmed that in the development years (0 – 7) children are capable of learning up to seven languages, at the same level of a mother tongue. Though initially children struggle with having to handle multiple languages, but eventually they master all and retain them – with practice – for life.
I was fortunate enough – though at the time I dreaded the idea of it – that my parents moved a lot when I was a child, and I picked up a new language wherever we landed next. My parents were fond of the idea that their daughter could switch from Italian to Serbian, and vice versa, so they encouraged me to study more languages, as in their opinion I had the ‘gift’ for language. What I also liked was art and performing, and I was quite good at it, but I was discouraged from that on what seemed a regular basis.
At first, I was praised for being able to draw pretty pictures, but the first time I expressed a desire to pursue art further than the compulsory art class in the 8th grade, I was told by my father that I should instead look to a ‘real’ career, like a doctor or a lawyer. Gradually the discouragements escalated to comments like: “You’re not that good, and people who tell you that you are, are simply lying to you.” My parents suffered from the stigma – as do people still in some parts of the world and in socio-economical levels – that artists are bound to suffer, and will never be able to put food on their family’s table.
Eventually I pushed toward my dream of working in the arts hard enough that my parents were supportive of my ambitions, and paid for my degree from Art School, and bragged to their friends that their daughter had become a Graphic Designer (whatever that was), but they bragged, and that’s all that is important.
Having experienced the hurdles of misinformation about the arts first hand, and still having to prove myself to my parents (“yes, my children do have food on their table, mom”), I vowed that I would introduce my children to art from infancy. They might not know what the hell they were looking at, listening to or touching, but they were going to experience great museums, hole-in-the wall galleries, theatre or street performances, symphonies or a steel drum bands, whatever was ‘wow’ producing or for that matter ‘groan’ extruding, my kids were going to live and breathe it, so that they became familiar with that part of the world, which lies in the shadows because of a certain ‘shame’ which has been imposed upon it by people who don’t know or don’t wish to know any better.
Armed with information from Psychology Today – among other sources – I have become a one woman crusader for the Arts and its impact on children’s development. i.e.: According to the Association for Psychological Science, intelligence test scores grew higher in children who took lessons in keyboarding or singing. In another study, boys between the ages of 6 and 15 who took music lessons scored higher on tests of verbal memory than a control group of students without musical training. (Source Suite101.com)
Another example: Physiologically, the human brain consists of two parts, the left and the right hemisphere. The left brain is used in logical thinking and analytical processes. This is typically what is trained in school work that consists of math, reading and science. The right brain is used in emotional perception, intuition and creativity. It is the right brain that is mainly used when a person is involved in creative endeavours such as making art. It is this part of the brain that typical school environment neglects to train.
It is shown that when gifted kids solve problems in their areas of giftedness, there is increased electrical activity in both hemispheres. It appears that for the brain to be efficient, the two hemispheres of the brains must work together. (Source: Raise Smart Kids)
My cheat sheets or note cards have not been pulled out very often these days, in the attempt of convincing... or perhaps defending the reason why I insist on exposing my daughters to the right brain world. I have reached a new level of their exposure though, where I am no longer posed the question: “Why do you take them to so many museums?” instead I find myself defending my values, or views on foul language and nudity in the performances I have taken them to lately.
My daughters are ten, eight and six years old. I realise that too much of even a good thing is not healthy for their growing and pliable little brains, so obviously the ‘bad things’ are worse for them, right? I admit that my point of view may be perceived as a little skewed, by some, but my father’s advice stands true – in my opinion – and that is: “everything in moderation is OK”... (he added to that... “it says so in the Bible”).
Hey! If it is written in the Bible, who am I to go against it? Therefore, I believe that an occasional swear word – which they hear on the school yard anyway – is not necessarily going to make my daughters into habitual foul mouths. For that matter, if a mostly naked man (NEXT WAVE FESTIAL - Comfort zones) runs across the stage singing a mere three feet from my ten year old daughter, it will not be the end of the world. After all she can go on the Internet, while at her friend’s house, look up porn sites and see plenty worse all the while claiming that she is playing on Club Penguin.
As my girls grow older, I introduce them to the next level of what I deem appropriate for their maturity level. As their Arts experience ‘bucket’ fills, so they grow more confident about different mediums, and express a desire to see more specific performance pieces, or art exhibitions. I try not to gush with joy, when they meet a famous artist (John Olsen or Michael Johnson) or when they start explaining to me what the artist envisioned when producing a specific painting, but secretly my heart swells with pride, and I think that I am aiding in the development of a human being who will hopefully be more complete, because of the fact that they have been raised in an Arts environment, and they find it as welcoming as that of Sports, or Sciences.
They will be able to then choose their path in life, whatever that may be, without ever feeling that they were not given the full spectrum to pick from.
This article/opinion was published on artsHub.com in May 2010, to read it on the AH site click here.
I found my article quoted here.