At some point in their education journeys, I’ve homeschooled all four of my kids. When I was first starting out with my oldest two, I wanted to encourage their creativity. I would give them art supplies and explain what they were to make and then tell them, “okay, go do it!”, but they didn’t really embrace it. It wasn’t something they picked up and ran with; it was kind of a forced thing and it didn’t work out too well. At that point, I had put aside my personal art practice… partly because of the busyness of motherhood but also largely due to my own self-criticism flaring up and stealing the joy.
So many things shifted in my life when I came back to art and started practicing creativity as a habit. The particular path I've taken involved addressing my inner critic head-on. It uprooted a perfectionism that I've battled for years, and in the process, I've learned to have more self-compassion and empathy.
“The most profound thing we can offer our children is our own healing.” - Anne Lamott
As I’ve modeled less perfectionism and more kindness to myself, I’ve seen a similar shift in my children. Through the years, my daughter has been afraid to try new things because of a deep fear of failure and self-disgust when things wouldn’t work out perfectly. I’m thankful that children emulate what they see modeled, because she’s been walking a similar path of using self-compassion to dismantle her perfectionism after watching my own journey.
A year later, she’s now taking flight on her own; she has a willingness to try and fail, is more flexible and excited to learn, and shows much more kindness to herself. I’ve seen my children develop a hunger for information and desire to express themselves. They’re more likely to start projects on their own and creativity is self-motivated rather than something I try to impose on them. Because I decided to address my own inner critic, now they’re experiencing the benefits of that for themselves.
My two younger children have been growing up as I’ve been coming back into my art practice and making it a consistent part of my life, and they’ve been so much more engaged and hungry for art and creativity themselves. I hear them say things like, “Where’s my nature journal? I saw a cool-looking bug and want to write it down!” and “I have this idea and I need to draw it out”. I know the difference with my younger two is because they now see me carrying my sketchbook everywhere, drawing, writing, documenting, capturing the things and ideas I discover. They’ve absorbed this curiosity and need to express themselves because they’ve seen me do it; they go whole-heartedly into the paint because it’s something they see me loving.
“The attitude that you have as a parent is what your kids will learn from, more than what you tell them. They don’t remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are." - Jim Henson
Our homeschooling path has been greatly inspired by Charlotte Mason, an English educator at the turn of the century. In Charlotte Mason circles there is a concept called “mother culture”: the importance of mothers taking time to create their own culture - to grow their own minds, to read literature and get lost in a story, to watercolor, nature journal, or anything else that brings inspiration, joy, and growth into the mother’s life. It’s easy as a mom to get caught up in all the physical things that need to get done: dishes washed, laundry folded, meals made, homework finished. Our own development of culture often takes a backseat when there are so many other things that also need our attention. The things that are important get replaced by the things that are urgent. It is so easy to feel guilty when I take time for myself. Yet, I’ve learned that when I do, I not only parent from a more refreshed and growing state of mind, but my children are learn from it too, absorbing the occupations that I am feeding myself with. They seem to be nourished by those things vicariously. It reminds me of the way my nursing infants would be nourished by what I fed myself. I’ve worked hard to make it a priority to take time to grow my mind and creativity - knowing that it benefits my whole family.
My newest adventure was born out of a desire to teach people how to develop creative habits after I’d experienced such growth (my own and my family’s). The Growing Creative Fellowship is a membership that I am launching from Jane Boutwell Studio to help others step into the habit of practicing creativity. It will include online tutorials, prompts, and resources, subscription boxes delivering art supplies and inspiration to your door, and an online support group to give you community to walk alongside as you develop creative habits and bring compassion into any conversation with your inner critic that might flare up along the way! The date is set, boxes are planned, and lessons are in the works for the Growing Creative Fellowship to launch soon with the first boxes shipping out on September 1st! If you want to join us on this journey of developing creative habits, and in turn, developing the same in your children, be sure to check out more information here.