In order to bring our children to a point of focus, we as parents/home teachers, must recognize an important principle in the learning process. At Oak Meadow, we call it conscious process. Conscious process simply means doing an activity consciously. This is quite different from an activity which is done unconsciously, or without having full attention upon it.
As home teachers, we might find that leading our children through a process is a new experience. It is sometimes difficult to understand and perhaps somewhat frightening. Because some of us are uncomfortable with the art processes, I have chosen to share with you step-by-step instructions on how to consciously direct a watercolor or wet-on-wet painting activity.
If you facilitate an activity in a conscious manner, your inner and outer intentions for the activity must be clear and consistent. Let us look at a specific example. It is that time of year when we are encouraging our children to share their gifts and talents with loved ones, and there is nothing better than painting a lovely picture for a grandparent or favorite aunt and uncle. So you tell them to get out the paints and make a picture while you do the laundry. In this case, your intentions would be neither clear nor consistent, and your children would most likely not be very pleased with their end result.
However, if you prepare a special place with the paints, brushes and paper, you are consciously creating a space that provides optimum opportunity for your children to express something beautiful through their watercoloring experiences. You might even find that preparing the space together would add a special touch!
Now suppose your children sit down alone at the table, takes the paintbrush in hand, mixes the paints together on the page until it turns into a muddy brown, and then announces they are bored and do not want to paint anymore. Or perhaps they hurriedly paint several pictures without putting conscious effort into any of them. In this case, they would probably not be pleased with the process or with the final product.
To avoid situations like these, the best approach would be to consciously enter into the activity with them and bring more of your intention and awareness to bear upon the activity. For example, after you have prepared a space for all of you, then you might begin by wetting the papers with your sponge. This process will help draw their attention to a greater focus, thus preparing them for the next step. Now introduce one of the colors, such as yellow. Talk about the brilliance and warmth and cheerfulness of the sun. Or you might tell a special story about the sun that would set the mood for the watercoloring activity. Perhaps even playing, singing or humming some complementary music during the exercise would also enhance the experience.
Now you can begin to paint. Show your children how to carefully dip the brush into the paint, how to stroke the paint on the paper, and how to wash the brush and gently remove the excess water. Doing these extra steps brings about an even greater focus on the process. Then introduce the next color – perhaps a bright, vibrant red. When the project is over, your children will have completed a beautiful painting and experienced a full happy feeling that comes from a satisfying activity.
Please remember that one of the most essential factors for a successful experience in conscious process is sharing your guidance and direction with love. Sitting and working with your children, acknowledging and giving positive feedback, and engaging in friendly communication are also important keys in allowing a focused process to harmonize with free creative expression.
A conscious activity also does not mean controlling every aspect of the process. Leading children into and through any activity, whether it be artistic or academic, is a delicate balance of simply showing the unlimited possibilities and trusting them to explore these possibilities further. So when you do guide your children in a process, help them to focus on that process and show them the possibilities present, but then trust in their initiative and creativity to complete the process. Trusting their abilities encourages them to complete projects on their own without your input and aids in the development of their creative faculties and inner strength. Therefore, conscious directing of the process does not hinder free creative expression. It actually enhances it by providing a safe, loving space within which children can express more clearly who they truly are.