Last week we attended a Kunst og Kultur open house. Though it sounds sort of dirty, Kunst og Kultur is simply Art and Culture, and the open house was the culmination of my first grade son’s recent unit of study. We parents sat in folding chairs in the cafeteria and clutched cups of coffee. The children sang, they danced, they served us breakfast. Then we all traipsed up a spiral staircase and viewed self portraits and other masterpieces. I was tickled by the performances, impressed with the breakfast and astounded by the quality of that six and seven-year-old art.
As I left, I was once again struck by what you can learn from a gaggle of first graders. If it’s true what they say, that all you ever really need to know you learn in kindergarten, well then those lessons seem to continue well on into First Grade, for both of us. It’s entirely possible that I will end first grade having learned more than my son. Things like….
Ideas come before spelling and punctuation
Sure, spelling is important and yes, capitalization and punctuation are crucial, but not at the expense of ideas. As much as kr8tiv spelling and lower-case sentence starters make me twitch, at six and seven, it’s far more important to express yourself. If we get too caught up in neat handwriting and perfect spelling then the ideas bouncing around in those six-year-old heads get stifled. They get caught in the filter of mechanics. They become less special. So let them get their ideas out, the rest will follow.
If you sing loud enough, no one can tell you don’t know the words
Enthusiasm counts for a lot. So does using expansive hand gestures. No one remembers that you forgot the chorus, they remember that you were a part of the whole. You know who you do notice? The one standing sullenly in the back row, arms folded, refusing to sing. Then therapy appointments have to be arranged and it’s all just a big mess. It’s far more fun to sing along in your loudest voice, even if you don’t know the words.
The kids did a traditional English patty-cake dance jig thing. Heel-toe, skip to my Lou, knick knack paddy whack throw the parents a bone. Boys danced with boys, girls danced with girls, boys danced with girls, students danced with teachers. Because at six, it’s waaaay more fun to spin around until you feel like you’re going to throw up than it is to make a fuss over who your partner is. And they’re right. As adults we spend far too much time contemplating and not enough time doing. So, make like a first grader. Go forth and doe-see-doe or you’ll regret that you doe-see-didn’t.
The one having the most fun wins
Sure, there’s always going to be the kid who reads the introduction in a loud, clear Shakespearean trained voice. There’s always going to be the X-factor kid who sings in key and knows all the hand gestures. But the kid that looks like he or she is having the most fun with the whole thing, the one that looks like they are just up there enjoying themselves, that kid wins. Because when is the last time you let loose and had that much fun? (Actually, I can answer that one!)
Eat the croissant first
After the song and dance routines, the kids served us breakfast. They were asked to go and choose what they thought we’d most like to eat. Almost all of them came back with plates laden with croissants and mini hot-dogs. Life is short, folks. Eat the croissant your kid is giving you. If you go for fruit first, when you decide a croissant would be nice after all, there won’t be any left.
Self-portraits are not Rorschach tests
I was confused as to why my six-year-old had gray hair in his self-portrait, until he explained it was a hat. He doesn’t have a gray hat. Curly haired girls drew themselves with straight hair and one boy drew himself with shoulders that took up the entire page. Another child had a head in the shape of a triangle. There were white kids who drew themselves with brown skin and brown kids who drew themselves with pink skin. Don’t read too much into it. They’re six. Their ideas of who they are and what they present to the world are fluid and ever-changing. The way they see themselves is not the way we see them and is probably not even close to the way we want them to see themselves. And that’s ok. You know, maybe that day that kid felt like a triangle. We’ve all been there. Don’t pretend you’ve never felt like a triangle.
Since my son entered first grade in August, he has made leaps and bounds in his reading and his math, in the way he can get an idea down on paper. He learned to tell time (on a REAL clock) and shouted out “Paul Klee” to a trivia question about artists the other day. He can identify the different instruments from Peter and the Wolf by sound. He’s also learned how to whistle, make paper airplanes and imitate a fart with his armpit. I hope though, it’s the lessons he’s not even aware he’s learning which will be the ones that stay with him and me.
Oh, who am I kidding? It’s the armpit farting that he’ll remember.