Art has no limitations – and neither do you

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I came across an inspiring TED Talks video featuring artist Phil Hansen.

I called my children in to watch with me – and we were amazed at the art he created once he “embraced the shake” and began to work with his so-called limitation. It’s one of the perks of homeschooling to be able to stop everything, watch an interesting video and talk about it together.

Creativity is a big deal in our house. Art and music (and writing) trump all other subjects. It’s where we’re naturally gifted, so to us it makes sense to pursue those gifts. That’s not to say we neglect math, science, history – but we make breaks for art, music, and creative projects when the muse strikes.

My thoughts on education and creativity were drastically affected when I watched this video a few years ago. The talk is about 20 minutes long – but well worth watching. Our entire educational approach was changed after hearing Sir Robinson speak.

“We don’t grow into creativity, we grow out of it. Or rather, we get educated out of it.” – Sir Ken Robinson, Ph.D.

We were particularly interested in the story he told about Gillian Lynne.  When Ms. Lynne was in school, she often turned in her homework late, had trouble staying still and paying attention and was labeled a disruption for the other students. Her mother took her for a student-teacher meeting to discuss what should be done for Gillian. After talking about her struggles in school, her mother and the teacher left the room to talk and left Gillian alone with the radio playing. Gillian began to dance and the teacher told her mother that there was nothing wrong with Gillian. She was simply a dancer and needed to go to dance school.

From there, Gillian attended dance school, became a star dancer in several ballets and eventually became a well-known choreographer. Ms. Lynne choreographed such famous productions as CATS and The Phantom of the Opera.

Sir Robinson made the extremely astute observation that today, Ms. Lynne would probably have been given medication and told to “calm down.” This made me think of my own struggles in junior high, particularly in math class. In the sixth grade I had absolutely no interest in math. I refused to do any of my math assignments. Instead I drew pictures and comics all over my pages. I was given detention, grounded at home, given spats from the principal and eventually sent to isolation for the rest of the year. It didn’t matter, I still didn’t do any math assignments. I failed the sixth grade.

Eventually, as my family moved around to several different towns and I attended different schools, my class credits jumbled around and I was promoted up to my original grade. All through high school I wanted to be a police officer. It seemed like an exciting job with plenty of respectability and leadership. I thought it would please my family. It wasn’t until my senior year that I had a teacher pull me aside and tell me that I was a talented artist and writer. She encouraged me to enter several writing contests, which I won. She also encouraged me to apply to a selective art school. I was accepted. She was the only teacher in high school, middle school and elementary who ever told me that I could do something with my talent.

I never want to educate the creativity out of my children. I want to teach them that limitations are not the end. Limitations are simply a new angle, a different way of accomplishing a given task. Our talents and gifts – and even our limitations – define how we look at the world and how we tackle new challenges and projects.

“Not being able to do everything is no excuse for not doing everything you can.” – Ashleigh Brilliant

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