Today my friend Lara Munro is guest posting. I met Lara for the first time almost 8 years ago on a Friday morning. She whisked two of my children away for a few hours. She was a statuesque angel with her hair pulled back into a loose bun who greeted my #2 and my #3 with open arms and a big smile, as if she had known them all their lives. And has pretty much loved them ever since. She was their preschool teacher at Pegasus Studios’ amazing program Childhood Expressions.
I was looking for a program that re-created what I wanted to do with them at home but after just having #4, I was overwhelmed and was more interested in a break to re-charge. Eventually, #4 also did the program. Due to scheduling constraints, #5 didn’t do the program but at least Lara is his music teacher.
I am so grateful for having found this program for two reasons: 1) It isn’t about “learning.” It is about expression. It isn’t about the end process – the art brought home or the songs recited. It is about the process of creation – the act of creativity that is inherently bursting forth in children every second of the day. It is about honouring those natural acts and facilitating it in a way that further ignites curiosity by saying, “Look at how you did that…what do you think of this too?”
And the second reason can be found at the end of this post…
I am a homeschooling mother of three boys and an early childhood arts educator. As an educator, I focus on movement but music, visual art and literature are always incorporated into my work. I try to bring all of these elements into our home too.
I love structure and find that I work best with some sort of structure. The times when structure has fallen away and chaos sets in I feel myself becoming very stressed. Because of this, a large part of my creative process is finding or creating the structure in which I can work. The structure changes depending on the project but I have always loved the beginning, middle and end format and fall back on that as my jumping off point.
I have really had to think a lot about creativity in my life. It has always been something that I value and can easily see and appreciate in others but it is not always apparent to me in my own life. But then I realized that everything I do has a creative element – from designing my dance or music class plans to cooking dinner to my favourite activity, mothering. Creativity is a matter of approaching the task at hand in your own unique way and style. Even when I am modeling myself after one of my mentors or following a recipe or trying to live up to my own mother, I always put my own spin on things.
I grew up surrounded by creativity and the arts. My mother is a dance teacher and my father worked in film and is a singer. I don’t actually remember a time when I was not in a dance class or listening to my father sing. I was always surrounded by movement and music and I feel so grateful for that. When I was a child, my grandmother returned to school to study early childhood art education at OCAD and my younger sister and I became her practice subjects. My visual arts education began as we spent hours in her basement and then the art studio painting and learning the principles of fine art.
Chaos is my creative enemy. Most often my creative process starts with clearing my space. That might mean clearing the dining room table or cleaning the kitchen, or it might mean purging the entire basement! Sometimes it can even mean sitting quietly in the garden or having a bubble bath with a cup of tea to clear my mind. Then I move to my structure. All of my music and movement class plans have a very set structure. Part of the reason for this is that young children (like myself) thrive on rhythm, knowing what is coming next. The importance of this is very apparent when I change the slightest thing and all of the children notice! I also try to keep a set rhythm in our home and school life. It really helps to reduce conflicts in our home and make my children feel secure.
Sometimes the structure can start to feel stagnant and that’s when I shake things up. One of my children’s and my favourite memories was when on one evening a couple of years ago, after baths and pajamas, I decided we would hop on the subway and go downtown. We rode the train to Bay station and went up to the Indigo in the Manulife centre where everyone got to choose a book from the bargain table and a bedtime snack from Starbucks. That spontaneous adventure was so much fun and shook up our bedtime routine so that it was fresh again for weeks to come.
Here we are breaking free from routine on an impromptu trip to Riverdale Farm:
When I was younger I used to enjoy going into the dance studio to just move. If I was really brooding over an issue, the movement would help me release any negative energy. Now that I don’t have much time to myself I have realized that that free movement is one of the reasons I love teaching preschool classes. Their movement is ultimate freedom. They have no preconceived ideas of what they want to achieve with their movement. I can just enjoy their freedom of movement and my own as I dance with them.
I recently watched a documentary about choreographer Elizabeth Streb and one of the things that she said really stuck with me. “… get beyond the barrier of self protection before you can really fly.” Isn’t this the essence of creativity? To abandon your self, to release everything, to fly.
And so my prompt for you today is to pick a favorite song and move with freedom. Have a dance party with your family or friends, or with yourself. And as many a fridge magnet says “Dance as if no one is watching.”
Thanks Lara for the prompt today and for sharing your thoughts on creativity!
Ok ladies and gentlemen, get on up today and…
This is one of our favourite activities to do in our house. Someone chooses a playlist and play it and we all dance. Sometimes it is 80s throwback. Sometimes it is old school hip hop. Sometimes it is dancehall reggae. Sometimes it is Katy Perry because really, who doesn’t want to move freely to Firework?
Sometimes we dance in the driveway in front of the neighbours who get a kick out of our dance parties.
Oh and the second reason why I am grateful for registering my kids for the Childhood Expressions program? Little did I know that Lara would be one of those people, outside of family, that loves my children as much as I do and someone who would become one of my closest friends. We homeschool together and I am constantly inspired by how she prepares and delivers a feast for the senses and a feast of the arts for her children and her students to devour day in and day out.
And she definitely inspires me to dance more.
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