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Sunday, December 12, 2010

A more creative approach, perhaps?

The first time I did art & craft work with my son, we made a wind-chime. Or should I say, I made the wind-chime.
Well, an ordinary piece of craft you would say, and I would most certainly agree. But what made me ashamed was not how ordinary this piece of work was. It was that this craft was well ... 90% my work and only 10% my son's. *blush*

In short, this was the work of an adult made to look like a child's.

And you could probably tell, the only part he helped to do was to punch holes, under my guidance.

Try to take a look at kids' crafts everywhere; in preschool, sunday school classes, you will probably see the same thing. Beautiful pieces of craft, wonderful laces of fish, or ingenious piglets made out of cupcakes wrappers. Do we wonder how much of it is really a child's work?

Ok, I'm not saying a child is incapable of such wonderful work. There are instances where childrens' work blow our mind away, a thousand times. One way is to look at their developmental stage and how much of the craft originates from the child.

I remembered once when my son came back from a particular class and showed me some colourings. I asked him, "oh that was so beautiful, you coloured it?" "No, my teacher coloured it." came the reply. There was no pride in his voice, he just said it matter-of-fact, flatly.

To be fair , I suppose the teachers everywhere were probably under pressure to show parents what 'real work' took place in class. It would also be almost impossible to have 20 kids pick up their favourite materials and do what they like with only 2 teachers ratio.

So, the question to ask is, would such approach to art have a place in class?

A craft that has been conceptualized and steps that are thought out by a teacher leaves little room for a child's imagination. That is why you would see 20 crafts done by 20 kids looking exactly the same. The same ingenious piglet made out of cupcakes wrapper is the same 'ingenious piglet" by 20 kids.

Thankfully, all is not lost. :) There is a place for such craft. It is when we decide to hone in a specific skills, for instance, cutting, pasting, hole-punching, pasting... that is where such craft requires the attention of doing a skill repetitively so that the child can perfect it, through practise. Or where a craft is called upon as a reinforcement to a subject, concept, or a lesson.

This is a craft of an owl. I followed the instruction of a craft book, merely because this particular craft trains the art of cutting straight lines and using scotch tapes to paste. You can see that these skills forms the intent of this project.

There are at least 12 straits lines to cut and probably about 15 tapes to stick. Talk about repetition. As a parent-teacher, I praise how well the child could hold s scissors or tape papers and not how beautiful he created the owl.

There is difference between his work versus mine. Someone else came up with the owl concept, not him. So give credit where credit is due. Of course, I could say, "look how we created the owl", or "look how your cut papers can create an owl".

Technical dexterity is an important consideration of art. It is however, not the only thing that counts. For that matter, creativity is not really an art subject as much as it is a lifeskill. We need creativity to solve problems, or to get along with others, for instance.

Young children are the world's most imaginative people, yet it is most contradictory that their natural imagination and creativity not given an outlet to flourish.

This year, during lantern festival. I told my son, aged 3, that we are going to make a lantern. I was doing a lesson on mid-autumn festival and wanted to emphasize the significance of a lantern. So I initiated the idea of making lantern. However, he is free to choose the materials and conceptualize his craft. Ask 20 kids how they would like their lanterns made, and you most definitely would have 20 different designs. Now that is creativity!

Creativity lets a child take it from ground zero. He conceptualizes, designs, and makes various decisions on how it would function.

He owns the process of making his craft, he imagines how the craft would look at the end.

Ask a child "who made the lantern?"and you will most certainly see that unmistakable beam right across the child's face, "I did it!" He knows and you know that it is 100% his work. What confidence and pure fun that brings!

But beyond that, we would have built in a child, lifeskills that extends further than just preschool years. Lifeskills are survival skills. Problem-solving, decision-making, creativity, having ownership, independent thinking/ group discussion (if you have more than one child together), are just a few skills-set that can be achieved with this approach to art.

Adults often look only at the results and ignore the process. We missed much of the effort that a child has put in. The process is bigger than the performance itself!

We need both technical excellence and innovation. The key is to strike a balance. It is not hard, with a little imagination. Anyone can help a child's creativity take flight!

Next time we look at a child's art, try not to t be too quick to dismiss the results. There are alot more going on then we ever know.

We could also be less impulsive with our praise for art work which we know is not 100% a child's. He knows that we are either being phony or just too lazy to recognise where his true potential lies.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

my music journey & a new hobby

I love music , how much? like air (second to water), like hues (second to rainbow), like hymns (second to God) ... I grew up in the environment of music ... my father works for the greatest music company (then), and my mums hums the best childrens' songs (she's a kindergarten teacher). My encounter with music started when I was just 4 yr-old. I got a nice piano. Unfortunately, I could not recall feeling magical when I touch the keyboards, there was always one more grade to go and one more exam to take. Finally at grade 6, I called it quits and moved on to competitive singing. I was so in love with singing.

I started competing as young as 8-yr-old actually (thanks to my mother who spotted my love for singing), I think its got to do with having her radio blaring all day... mandarin songs! Unfortunately, I never bagged a first. I vaguely remembered being overwhelmed by the Big colourful lights on stage (at semi-finals) and forgot my lyrics. That day I cried my heart out. I could not take my dinner and I was only 8.

Then I was involved in a local radio company that produces drama (the then Singapore Broadcasting Corporation). I did singing and voice acting for 5 years. I was picked out of a company of 20, after endless rounds of audition to sing at a radio program. I was about 10 yr-old. Then at about 12 yr-old, I developed chicken pox and after a long medical leave, never really made it back to the group, much to the regrets of many of my mentors who begged my mum to persuade me to go back. It was a time of chaos for me. I was young, impulsive and very confused.

At about 19 yr-old, I was accepted into one of the most prestigious choir. After several rounds of audition, I was finally accepted into The Singapore Youth Choir. I love the beautiful blending of voices, the male tenors, the female sop (Then, I'm a higher sop :) ), the amazing repertoire of songs makes my hair stand up on ends. I love the choir, particularly of beautiful voices, even without music accompaniement. I dream of travelling with the choir to perform. Like usual music groups, frequent auditions are common, only to maintain a stellar standard. SYC is a performing choir
with strict standards. I often feel like I have to be perfect to be in. So in one of the auditions, I crumbled singing an Italian song, only to repeat the 1st stanza the second time round. I knew I was voted out.

I left the music scene to pursue other interests, only to be attracted by night scene. Ambient music, techno music, canto pop, bright lights, fancy clothes, platform dancing etc. etc. At one point, I picked up smoking and my voice was like never before. I could never hit high notes.

Then at 21, God came. In his presence, I felt so ashamed with scanty clothes, I dropped on the ground crying and shaking. After that I could only dance in his presence and to please God.

When I finally belonged to a local church, I served in worship ministry as a vocal back-up. Frankly, the blend of voices was not great, it was a far cry from what I experienced in all my years of music background. I struggled with pride. And then I realised I had to start from ground zero. It was my faith experience, and not how badly others sing. Then I fell in love, hook line and sinker. It was the worst experience to love a musician and not have him love you back. I thought I was going to marry him, then I thought I was going to die. I left the front line ministry, but survived. ;p

In my late twenties, God did something in my heart. He dugged out the pride of years and years of musical experiences that made me think I was better than good. He flung out feelings of failures. He set me free from the lies I was shackled too. I began to cry and cry non-stop at a keyboard class. But after that, I played like never before. For the first time, I finally felt that magical touch. I felt I was not good yet, but not a failure.
Something miraculous took place. He parted the red sea literally inside me. My brother (a talented musician, he performs smooth jazz in cafes, pubs, weddings and is proficient on guitars and drums) commented my music is finally flowing like water and not raining rocks! (See the spiritual connotation?)

Today, I am a mother of two toddlers. I play the keyboard now and then, and they worship with me. We worship as a family every Monday evening over my keyboard. We battle as a family and make desperate calls to God in hard times over my keyboard. But most of all , I loved singing in the night. When all my boys go to bed, I put on music, a you-tube trailer, a CD and I sing and sing... on top of my voice. One night, I sang "The greatness of our God" next to my sleeping boys and then the next day, my elder boy started singing the chorus . God truly knows how to surprise me.

I love this new hobby... when I sing, right beside my sleeping boys, none of them wakes, even when I sometimes go crazy and sing real loud. :)

God... he is soooo good. He is not done with me I know. He still continues to make all things new.

Enjoy this very upbeat, summery song by Brooke Fraser. Wonderful melody.

The next song talks about how we can find ourselves in God even when our world falls out, an absolute favorite. Inspirational. Blessings!

BROOKE FRASER - Something In The Water
Do do do do do do do do do do

I wear a demeanor made of bright pretty things
What she wears, what she wears, what she wears
Birds singing on my shoulder in harmony it seems
How they sing, how they sing, how they sing

Give me nights of solitude, red wine just a glass or two, reclined in a hammock on a balmy evening
I'll pretend that it's no thing that's skipping my heart when I think
are you thinking bout' babe? I'm crazy over you

Aaah Aaah Aaah
there's something in the water, something in the water
Aaah Aaah Aaah
There's something in the water, that makes me love you like –

I've got halo's made of summer, rhythms made of spring
What she wears, what she wears, what she wears
I got crowns of words a woven each one a song to sing
Oh I sing, oh I sing, oh I sing

Give me long days in the sun, preludes to the nights to come previews of the mornings laying in all lazy give me something fun to do like a life of loving you
Kiss me quick now baby I'm still crazy over you

Aaah Aaah Aaah
there's something in the water, something in the water
Aaah Aaah Aaah
there's something in the water that makes me love you like I do

Oooh oooh oooh Oooh(x3)

Give me nights of solitude, red wine just a glass or two, give me something fun to dooooo

Aaah Aaah Aaah
there's something in the water, something in the water
Aaah Aaah Aaah
there's something in the water that makes me love you like I do

Aaah Aaah Aaah
there's something in the water, something in the water
Aaah Aaah Aaah
there's something in the water that makes me love you like I do

Aaah Aaah Aaah
there's something in the water, something in the water
Aaah Aaah Aaah
there's something in the water that makes me love you like I –

Do do do do do do do

Shadow Feet <object width="480" height="385">


Walking, stumbling on these shadowfeet
towards home, a land that i've never seen
I am changing; less and less asleep
made of different stuff than when i began
And I've sensed it all along
fast approaching is the day

when the world has fallen out from under me
I'll be found in you, still standing
When the sky rolls up and the mountains fall on their knees
when time and space are through
I'll be found in you

There's distraction buzzing in my head
saying in the shadows it's easier to stay
but I've heard rumours of true reality
whispers of a well-lit way


You make all things new


When the world has fallen out from under me
I'll be found in you, still standing
Every fear and accusation under my feet
when time and space are through
I'll be found in you