Milton the Mouse
Who listened to Beethoven and quoted John Milton
A very smart mouse!
In my previous blog I addressed the Art Budget Wars. Can anything be done to convince the powers-that-be that Arts achievement statistics are real? Can we aim for the 25% achievement increase? Agree to improve school morale? improve student behavior? benefit student mental health? What can parents do about the Arts Budget?
First, maximize your own efforts at home with your own children. Provide art materials, trips to museums, piano lessons, outdoor walks with a sketchbook or nature journal, music listening—start with nursery songs, advance to folk, gospel, classical music for children, dance to polka or other toe-tapping tunes, discourage ear-damaging sound, play Charades, tell stories, act out stories, I could go on and on. Some children enjoy solitary time to draw or build; others love the group activities best. Be supportive, not critical, of their efforts. Make it enjoyable and watch as they gain in skill.
Remember to include yourself in the fun! Some methods teach the parents first (Suzuki); you can learn along with your child. It’s enjoyable and a great outlet. Amazingly, you will hone your own sensory perception, become more disciplined, increase your language in a concrete way, and assist your own brain operations. With the Arts, it’s a win-win for everyone. Enjoy!
At the same time inform yourself about the benefits of these activities. Visual and Performing Arts are a keystone to learning, to health, and well-being. You can be a positive influence in promoting this in your school and community. Educate, educate, educate—spread the good news—talk it up, vote for it, organize a school support group, etc. Promote visual and performing arts for every student, not just the gifted ones. Child prodigies happen, but we are talking about educating the “whole child”, not just grooming professionals. Slow learners, disadvantaged children, and those who, after graduating, will never again touch a trumpet, still have gained practical skills, thinking skills, achievement levels, cultural norms, and expressive outlets to carry them into adulthood. How can anyone be against that?
As School Budget season approaches, be watchful. Well-meaning but ill-informed decision makers are in charge. Speak up before the budget folks remove the glue that binds learning together. With professionalism and due respect, try to educate the School Board, the Accountants, the Superintendent of Schools (who should know better!), and the Principals involved. The best time for sharing facts and figures with a decision maker is probably ahead of official meetings. Take your turn at Board Meetings to speak for the importance of Arts classes. Join with other parents to build community-wide support.
Balancing the School Budget is not easy, and sometimes the money is just not there for anything but survival. Then perhaps parents can offer to help in other ways. A good friend once organized several talented parents who could teach art classes, and with the support of the Principal, they were allowed into classrooms as volunteers to do just that. It was a win-win for students and a huge help for the classroom teachers. Another way is to help fund outside artists to present special school programs. That builds appreciation for the arts and can be inspiring to students.
Sometimes there are no easy answers, but if we do our homework, try to influence others, and share experiences with our children, we will have done our best.
Do you need outside reading to spur you onward? I offer my story, Milton the Mouse (https://www.amazon.com/Milton-Mouse-Janice-Kirk/dp/1532672039 ) . Read it to your children, then let them act it out! What fun with a stowaway mouse, a cat who can chase, a mouse who can hide, and the children who are trying to catch him. While Mom worries in the kitchen, Dad can deliver great lines of poetry. Enjoy!