"Is that Kong Kong's Hair?"

Just a quiet walk...
It all began about two months ago when the family was enjoying a brief holiday in Genting Highlands, Malaysia. It was almost dusk; and the four of us, together with Sue's parents and sister, were taking a lovely walk along the golf course. With the heat of the day almost behind us and a gentle breeze by our side, we were feasting our senses on the luscious green scenery which seemed to stretch as far as the eye could see.

Our two-year-old son Z was clearly in his element. A nature lover from as far back as we can remember, Z was walking with his left hand holding his mother's, and his right hand swinging wildly in the air. Walking behind them with our younger son E in the stroller, I could hear Z talking excitedly to Sue, chatting about all kinds of things he loves, from the butterflies to the mimosas and to the palm trees.

All at once he came to a stop. He lifted his right hand to point excitedly at the leaves of a lone pine tree.
Z & his Kong Kong at the age of 4 months

"Is that Kong Kong's hair?" he asked.

The entire group turned our eyes to Z, and then to my father-in-law, and then back to Z. The little boy was chuckling as if he had just told the most humorous joke of his life. We couldn't help but burst spontaneously into laughter.

Z was mischievously making a statement on the physical adornment of his grandfather's crown (or lack thereof).

And the entire evening continued with our two-year-old comparing various trees to the different members of the family. Of particular interest was when Z compared his younger brother's hair to a little shrub growing on the ground. And he made all these remarks with a sparkle in his eye and a chuckle of satisfaction following our acknowledgement of his comparisons.   

Our son Z has always possessed a creative imagination. This has evolved from the simple sessions of make-believe he engages with Sue. For instance he often offers to cook all kinds of food - from puck puck rice (otherwise known as chicken rice), to vegetables and fish. Then there was this time when he was determined to put his babies to sleep (we got a set of dolls for him when we were preparing him for the arrival of a younger sibling); and we found that all three of them had been clothed with his younger brother's diapers, and were lying in a row in the little one's cot.  

A more recent story of creative thinking emerged after Sue asked him what the cheetahs had been fed with during his visit to the zoo. And the little boy replied without the slightest hesitation, "puck puck rice and soup and ice cream". 

In moments like these, I'm glad that we made the decision to homeschool Z. I believe that among other benefits, homeschooling Z has helped to deepen his sense of creativity, and this stands in stark contrast to a story I read many years ago. It was based on a poem in 1961, "The Little Boy", written by Helen E. Buckley. The poem, which is reproduced here, talks about a little boy who goes to school and is conditioned to produce exactly the same work of art as his teacher - a red flower with a green stem; nothing more, nothing less. And when the young boy eventually moves to another school and is asked to produce anything that he desires, all he could come up with was a red flower with a green stem. 

Of course not all schools espouse the same philosophy as the teacher in the first school, but both Sue and I feel that learning is best in an environment that nurtures creativity and the freedom to explore.

Sue recently attended a networking fair for homeschooling parents, and learned many interesting aspects on the subject. One of the topics was about the use of process art and how to empower children to explore freely while pursuing their artistic studies. This imbues the philosophy that the process of artistic creation is more important than the actual product itself. In a homeschooling context, children are taught about the work of different artists such as van Gogh or Picasso, and then taught the process by which these individuals created the art. The children are then left on their own to create works of art utilising the processes taught. The artistic creations will then naturally take on forms completely up to the inclinations of the individual child, thereby averting the "red flower and green stem" mindset, which is often the staple of mainstream art education.
The "cocoon" preparing to emerge as a butterfly. 

While Z's current homeschooling curriculum has not yet reached this level of artistic study, I am glad that he has so far been growing in the art that he produces and the things that he has been learning. Sue recently conducted a session centred around Eric Carle's The Hungry Caterpillar, after our son developed an interest in the subject. This has not only allowed Z to create a caterpillar using the technique of balloon printing, it has also helped him learn the stages of metamorphosis by re-creating life stages of the caterpillar using play dough. In addition, Z also re-enacted the transformation process by lying still as an egg, eventually fluttering his "wings" just like a butterfly that had emerged from its "pillowcase" cocoon!

The creative process is always dynamic and exciting. Our little boy does not go around comparing the leaves of trees to the hairstyles of his family members as often as he did two months ago. However, this has not stopped him thinking of new and innovating questions to shock us. After all, it was just a week or two ago that a little voice was heard from the backseat while I was driving.

"Mummy, is there a pink flamingo in Daddy's car?"

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