Every time I teach a class, I find that there are as many lessons for me to learn as there are for me to teach. I have been teaching a class on Native American history to a group of twelve children, with ages ranging from 7 to 13 years old. A few weeks ago, Cheril Walker, a homeschool mom and professional artist, arranged for Edwin George, a Cherokee artist, to teach a painting class to the group.
Mr. George is a wonderful folk artist, who paints pictures inspired by Cherokee stories and legends. His friend, Donna, told our group the Cherokee legend of “The Witch and the Rabbit,” and when she finished, Mr. George began to paint. He started by painting his mind's picture of the witch and the rabbit. Each of the students in the class had been given a canvas and paints and brushes, and when Mr. George finished his witch and rabbit, he asked the children to paint the witch and rabbit as they imagined them to look.
This is a very artistic and imaginative group, and they began work immediately. As they painted, Mr. George watched and commented on the variety of images that were appearing on the canvases. He spent a lot of time observing, most of the time very quietly. After a few minutes, he began to paint on his own canvas again. He would paint one small image at a time, and after each figure he drew, he would pause. Sometimes he would watch the children, other times he would look out the window, or at the faces of those in the room, and still other times, he would gaze at his canvas.
At one point, he explained that he doesn't always know what he will paint next. He said that it is important to be patient, and to let ideas come to your mind. The children began to look at their witch and rabbit and then around the room and outside, as their minds contemplated what they would add to their painting next. These young artists were totally focused on their work.
Mr. George explained that sometimes he paints an image, and when he looks at it later, he decides that he doesn't like the way that image looks, so he tries making some changes to it. Other times, he thinks he would prefer to have something else in that spot, so he paints over the image, and adds what he would rather see.
As Mr. George explained his painting style, I immediately thought that it is much the way we need to see our lives, our careers and our homeschooling venture. Too often we hurry to accomplish things, to get them down on our canvas. Maybe we should add things more slowly, and when we add something new to our life, we should be patient, and see what appears next. When we add something that doesn't work, maybe we should try to adjust it. If it still isn't working for us, paint over it, and make a fresh start.
I think this is especially appropriate with homeschooling. Too often we spend time trying to find the right things, and to squeeze as much as possible into each day, instead of choosing an activity carefully, and giving ourselves time to study it, and think about it, and savor it. Too often we are impatient, and rush on to the next activity before we have had a chance to see what, if anything, we have gained from the activity in which we just participated. Watching Mr. George as he worked at his canvas with an obvious love and joy for what he was doing, was a tremendous learning experience for me.
We need to take the time to step back and really study our canvas, and see what we have so far. Then, we can begin to think about what one thing we want to add next. Patience is a very difficult lesson for some of us to learn, but impatience and rushing can cause us to miss the work of art that could be developing before our very eyes.
“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.” ~John Quincy Adams
“Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them - every day begin the task anew.” ~Saint Francs de Sales
“He that can have patience can have what he will.” ~Benjamin Franklin