Why I can’t stomach the ‘good colouring’ chart

The "Good Colouring" Chart...

The “Good Colouring” Chart…

Okay.

As a reasonable person… (who tries to see differing perspectives)… I’m going to approach this little colouring chart from two directions.

To be honest, my first response was one of instant, irritated frustration.  But now that I’ve given it some thought and calmed down somewhat…  I’ll offer this perspective instead:

Option One:  This Chart Was Designed to Teach Children how to Follow-The-Rules

If the purpose of the chart was to help children understand The Rules (of life, school and perhaps, even…art), then the chart does it’s job.   Most schools teach kids – from an early age – to follow-the-rules and colour-in-the-lines… and to be compliant and obedient little worker bees.   If that’s the purpose of this chart, then it succeeds.  If the idea of the exercise is NOT to encourage children to be creative thinkers and initiators… then full-marks, ten out of ten goes to the teacher who created this chart.  If the idea is to demonstrate to children that art… (as in life)… has a “right way” and a “wrong way” – and that colouring in the lines is the *Right* Way (just like fitting-in and living within the constraints of the Status Quo is also the *right way*)… then, well, the chart isn’t so bad after all.  It does what it was always meant to do (kinda like schools).

Option Two:  This Chart Was Designed to Teach Children the *Right* Way to Create Art

To be honest, I’m leaning towards option 1.  Because “colouring in books” and “colouring in sheets” have nothing to do with “Art” in the first place.  Art is about creative expression.  What – pray tell – is creative (even slightly creative) about colouring in a picture that somebody else has drawn?  And… jeez… if you can’t even add your own creative expression whilst colouring… and choose your own colour palette… or draw outside of the lines… what’s the point?  It’s definitely not art.

One of my pet personal hates is colouring-in-books for children…  or colouring-in-sheets.  I think kids should be allowed (and encouraged) to create… and express themselves… in whichever way they choose.  There is no *right* way to draw a cat… or a flower… or a sun.  Walt Disney was scolded by his teachers at school for drawing faces on flowers… and it seems like Society is still hell-bent on imposing similar stupid rules on our kids today.

My mother (bless her) banned colouring-in-books from our home.  We drew – on paper – what was inside our head.  We didn’t colour in neat little cartoons that adults had drawn.  To this day – all of my artwork comes straight out my head.  I don’t copy from other people’s illustrations, photos or references.  Mom did me a huge favour… encouraging me (in a multitude of ways) to express myself fully and authentically.

This came out of my head yesterday morning… while waiting for a coffee to arrive.

This came out of my head yesterday morning… while waiting for a coffee to arrive.

A couple of years ago… when life was very different… my daughter spent her days at pre-school.  And the pre-school teachers seemed to love colouring-in books and colouring-in sheets.  “Art” lessons simply required handing out some photocopied sheets of a cat or a dog… and instructing the children to “colour in neatly”.

It was only 3 years later, when I took my daughter out of pre-school, that I realised how something so seemingly insignificant as colouring-in-books (and the accompanying rules) had really taken it’s toll on my little girl.

We were doing art at home… and I had supplied her with a colourful range of paper, pencils, paint – and encouraged her to draw.

“What must I draw?”  she asked me.

“Anything you want!”  I said.

“But I don’t know how to draw” she said.

“Of course you do!” I encouraged her, “Draw what’s in your head!”.

She agreed to attempt to draw a mouse.  But… no sooner had she made the first marks on paper, she began getting very upset.

“It’s all wrong!” she cried

“It’s not wrong!” I said, “I really like your mouse”

“But it doesn’t look how it’s supposed to look!”, she said… with tears streaming down her face.

Morgan had already – even with only 3 years of pre-school – been so programmed to believe in “right” and “wrong” and rule-following… and how things are “supposed to be”… and “supposed to look”… that – in her mind – only the neat predictable cartoons, illustrated by adults, were “right”.

Her beautiful art – in her eyes – was *wrong*.

It took 2 years of gentle encouragement (and – of course – NO colouring-in-books and stupid rules like ‘colours must make sense’) until Morgan really began to embrace her own, unique creative expression.  Today, she draws confidently and many, many hours of joy has been derived from making art.

Here’s a little picture that she drew (about year ago).  I love it!

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All of this reminds me of The Logical Song by Supertramp.

It goes like this:

When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful, a miracle, oh it was beautiful – magical…

and all the birds in the trees, they’d be singing so happily, joyfully, playfully watching me…

Isn’t childhood like that?  When kids are so full of innocence and wonder?  When life is beautiful, miraculous, magical?

But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible, logical, responsible, practical…

and then they showed me a world where I could be so dependable, clinical, intellectual, cynical…

Well… yes… that’s what school did.   That’s what school taught.  Even Morgan’s pre-school taught those lessons to her.  Taught her how to obey orders, be ‘good’, follow rules, fit in with everyone else and comply.

Watch what you say, or they’ll be calling you a radical… a liberal… fanatical, criminal…

“Won’t you sign up your name, we’d like to feel you’re acceptable, respectable, presentable…” (a vegetable)…

(That’s how I often feel about posting in this space…  we can’t be TOO honest… too *radical*… we need to watch-what-we-say….)

There are times when all the world’s asleep, these questions run so deep for such a simple man…

Will you please, please tell me what we’ve learned?  I know it sounds absurd – please tell me who I am!

Well…  I know who I am now.

And I know who my kids are.

And even though Society… in general… is *still* trying to tell us fit-in, slot-in, follow the rules, be normal… colour-in-the-lines… we have found *SUCH* freedom in saying:  “No thank-you.  We’re doing it OUR way”.

stupid7

 

 

Stuff that is (and isn’t) important…

hawaiiAbove:  The stuff I treasure most about my childhood was the memories we made together.  Here’s a pic Dad, Mom, Soo and (16 year old me) in Hawaii.  I’ve forgotten a lot of stuff that happened during my teenage years – but I’ve never forgotten that trip…

Stuff that is important:

  1. My family.
  2. My marriage.
  3. Spending time with the people I love the most.
  4. Feeling fulfilled, rewarded and happy in the work that I do.
  5. Being healthy.
  6. Food / shelter (the basics).
  7. Beautiful experiences with my loved ones.
  8. Making memories with my children.
  9. Facilitating and encouraging our children’s growth and development.
  10. Being generous with our lives.
  11. Respecting the planet… and the life that it nurtures.
  12. Respecting LIFE – and not deliberately going out to hurt or harm others.
  13. Deep and meaningful relationships.
  14. Being the change we wish to see.
  15. Learning, evolving, growing…
  16. Being happy – and making others happy too.
  17. Love.

Continue reading

Stupid Rules Don’t Apply…

At the risk of sounding like an anarchist – I thought it was time to tell you about the way Nick and I view “Rules” (in general).

I know lots of people who don’t like to break-the-rules.  Any rules.  Rules-are-Rules according to them.  Rules must be obeyed.

Because I’m a Questioner (so is Nick)…  I’ve always been the person who asks:

WHY must we obey the rules?”  or  “Who invented these rules in the first place?”  and  “Why did they invent these rules?”  and “What hidden motives are behind these rules?”  and also “What if the rules are stupid?”…. or  “What if the rules just don’t make any sense to me?”.

You can imagine how frustrated my school teachers were with me!  Especially in an education system that teaches children to Answer-the-Questions… NOT Question-the-Answers!  I was always a Questioner (nothing has changed) – and specifically – I wanted to question the stuff that everybody else seemed to blindly accept.

Don’t get me wrong.  There’s lots of rules that I “obey”.  But, I abide by these rules – simply because they make sense to me.  They’re not stupid.

Like Traffic Rules.  Those makes sense.  If everyone obeys the laws of the road, we can fit thousands of cars on one stretch of highway and everyone can get to their destination without hurting or killing anyone else.  People who ignore traffic rules are, in my view, inconsiderate of other commuters.

Laws of the Land – like how we shouldn’t be stealing from one another… or killing / hurting / raping / committing fraud, etc – those laws / rules also make sense (although – I’m pretty convinced that those of us who “obey” those types of laws and rules don’t do it ‘because’ there’s a Rule out there somewhere that says we mustn’t.  We don’t rape, kill and steal because that’s not how we were raised and it goes against our core values and against our sensibilities and against our moral judgement).

There are so many “rules” out there.  Government Rules.  Religious Rules.  Company Rules.  Society Rules.  School Rules.  Social Rules.  Family Rules… and sooo much more.

But – as always – I’m the annoying person who questions every rule.

Like…

Who invented the concept of breakfast / lunch / supper?  And who decided that you can’t eat pudding for breakfast or cornflakes for supper?

And who decided that little girls need to be dressed in all-pink… and little boys need to be dressed in all-blue?  Is pink a girl’s colour? – Why?  Is blue a boy’s colour?  Why?

What’s with all the “rules” that go with weddings?  And what’s the difference between “traditions” and “rules” – why do people freak out when you do things differently – and don’t want to abide by the traditions / rules… whether that means donning a black wedding dress (a friend of mine did this)… or having the groom come down the aisle instead of the bride (another friend of mine did this)… or having a chocolate fountain instead of a tiered wedding cake…?  Really… what’s the big deal about doing things differently?

And – more on weddings… Why do people feel the need to sing that awful Jolly-Good-Fellow song after toasts?  Why do so many brides choose not to speak (during the speeches) at their own wedding?  I get it if you’re shy and don’t like public speaking.  I don’t get it – if you’re slotting in with a wedding tradition / rule that insinuates that bride’s mustn’t speak.

Why are Baby Showers only attended by women?  Is “baby stuff” the sole domain of the mother?

Why (at school) was it so important for us to look exactly the same?  Why were Dress Codes considered so vitally important?

Why (at school) were we not allowed to question the rules?  Surely it’s better to teach children to think for themselves – instead of teaching them to blindly obey every rule that is thrust in front of them…?

(I won’t even start on Religious Rules – too many to count….)

Anyway – you get the point.  I could easily rant on for days on this particular post.

STUPID RULES DON’T APPLY

I am now, in my 40th year – comfortable about adopting this mantra.  I’m not going to do something because somebody ELSE has decided that I must.  Because *gasp!* — it’s A Rule… and we *must* obey rules!!

No – I live my life according to the rules / laws that make sense to me.

Obey the laws of the road?  Sure!  It makes sense to do that.

Pay our taxes?  Yes – we do that too.  It makes sense.  The country still needs our money (in spite of the fraudulent politicians who steal much of it).

Do not steal / kill / rape / hurt / de-fraud people?  Obviously!!

And so on…

But if it’s a stupid rule?  If it doesn’t make any sense?  If it’s sole aim is for manipulation or control?  If it’s a greed tactic rule?

Sorry – I’m not obeying.

Case in Point:

Nick and I enjoy watching movies.  Movie theatres, apart from charging for the movie, like to make lots of money from their obscenely overpriced popcorn and coke that they sell at their concession stands.  They’ve invented a Stupid Rule to force all movie goers to buy their stuff – and their stuff only.  A big sign at the entrance declares that movie goers are forbidden to bring any of their own food or drinks into the movie house – and can only buy food and drinks at the theatre concession stand.

Umm.

No.

Stupid Rule.

Stupid Greed Tactic Rule – what’s more!

Nick and I continue to take our own snacks into the movie theatres.  I casually carry them in my big bag , casually slung over my shoulder.  We once managed to smuggle in a large pizza.

And then – there’s the most insidious set of Stupid-Rules of them all... and that’s the way we “ought to” live our lives.  This is one of those unspoken societal stupid rules – by the way.  And it goes like this:

  1. You’re born.
  2. At the age of 6, you start attending school in order to receive an “Education”.
  3. You attend school for 12 years of your life.  Usually, you attend an institution where you sit in neat rows and where you’re told to keep quiet, obey and behave.  You’re taught to parrot-fashion facts… and retain those facts long enough to pass a couple of standardised tests.  These tests will determine your level of intelligence – and will tell you whether you’re clever… or stupid.  One day, after the final set of standardised tests – you leave the institution of school – and you either attend another institution (college or university) – or you enter “The Real World”.
  4. Once you’re in The Real World – you get a full-time, 9-5 job.
  5. You earn a salary, you move out of your parent’s house, you start acquiring “stuff”.
  6. You buy a car.
  7. You get married.
  8. You buy a house.
  9. You fill the house with more and more stuff.
  10. You get a promotion at work… and buy more stuff.
  11. You have children (they come packaged with LOTS of stuff).
  12. Your children grow up.
  13. You send them to school.
  14. You work, come home, make supper, watch TV, go to bed… (repeat, repeat, repeat).
  15. Occasionally, you go away on a holiday which you’ve saved extra-hard for.
  16. Or you buy more stuff.
  17. Your kids finish their education.
  18. They move out the home.
  19. You fill the gap with more stuff.
  20. Eventually, at the age of around 65, you retire.
  21. You spend your days gardening, watching TV, knitting or other hobbies that interest you.  If you have enough money – you may even travel a bit (lucky you!).
  22. Then you die.
  23. And then you’re buried in the ground… with a tombstone… and a gathering of sad family members who will miss you – until they die too.  Which is what they eventually will – and we all, eventually do.

And this is what we are told is a “Normal Life” – additionally, a life we’re all supposed to aspire to.  A life we’re all supposed to WANT.  A life of routine, duty, expectation, predictability… a ‘normal’ life.

Yawn – yawn- yawnsome – yawn!

And if you rebel against these societal… rules…  these… expectations… people get all panicky and offended.

“What’s wrong with you?”  they want to know… although, the unasked question (hence the offence) is:  “What are you saying is wrong with me?”

For the record – I’m not saying anything is wrong with “you”.  My decision to live life differently is not a direct affront on your decision not to.  You have your own choices to make.  Everyone has their own choices to make – about how they want to live their lives.  And each of us are where we are – because of decisions that we have made (even if that ‘decision’ was simply to drift along on the sea of Status Quo).

If you don’t like your life?  CHANGE IT!

If you DO like your life – carry on doing what you’re doing!

It’s actually very simple.

Nick and I haven’t liked our life for the past – say – 18 months.  This Season-of-Suburbia is over and we’ve overstayed our welcome.  I don’t regret the past 7 years – we’ve had many lovely times – and have grown and established our little family.  However, the season is over now – and it’s time to move on.  It’s time for Travel & Adventure Season!  Hence… selling the house… getting rid of all our stuff… road schooling… and going on a long, indefinite adventure.

When will we be back?  I don’t know.   Will we be back?  I don’t know.

Ooooh – but it’s so wonderful and liberating and freeing – to live life by OUR Rules – instead of slotting neatly in with reams and reams of Stupid Rules – which, thankfully… no longer apply!