Monday, October 30, 2006

Emily Carr and the philosophy of learning

On my mini-vacation to Vancouver before Thanksgiving, I went to the Vancouver Art Gallery and saw their Emily Carr exhibit. (It is true the always have Emily Carr stuff there but this was an exhibit of her lifetime of work in the whole downstairs of the gallery. Of course I had learned about Emily Carr in high school. About all I could remember is that she was a painter and she was from BC and there is an art school named after her…So I was interested to go and learn something about her. Alongside her work, they had many Haida and Tsimpsian artifacts that inspired her work. They had the gallery laid out so that you followed her work in chronological order.

Confronted with the body of her work, I was quickly drawn in. Mostly because I could see and feel that she had the same love affair with the north that I do. She captured the mystical landscapes, the haunting, quickly vanishing aboriginal presence – the memory of greatness… (before European contact there were 100,000 Haida in settlements around the Haida Gwaii [Queen Charlotte Islands] by the early 1900’s there were 600 left…). I could tell that she too was touched to the depths of her soul by the beauty of that land, that it changed her forever. It re-awoken that yearning in me for my northern home – for the rugged, overwhelming beauty of the Skeena River valley. When I looked at her paintings, I had that same, reverent, wild ecstasy that I felt out of doors where I grew up. Man is just a mere fleck on the face of the earth up there.You can feel the power of nature, of the elements, of the seasons, of the earth. And she captured the sense of loss of the guardians of that magical place, the tragic waste and the misunderstanding of the nobility of the west coast natives by the early white settlers and missionaries. I can understand her passion to preserve it, to capture some feel of it. And my heart ached and I missed my home…I loved the Emily Carr exhibit. I brought home some postcard prints of my favourite paintings and an art calendar for next year to hang in our homeschooling room.

So you want to know what ‘unschooling’ is? (well maybe you don't but I'm going to tell you anyways....hehe) This is what it is. In school I learned what I was taught about Emily Carr but I did not EXPERIENCE Emily Carr. I did not know that she understood a part of my soul, that she felt similarly to how I feel about the area I grew up in. Now I have learned something about Emily Carr and I am very interested in learning more. My appetite has been whetted. The philosophy of ‘unschooling’ is that any learning that is not personal and meaningful is only an illusion. Sure, we can memorize facts and regurgitate them. But that day in Vancouver, I connected with Emily Carr. As a homeschooling parent, this is the type of experience that I seek for my kids, without and expectations. Perhaps a far better word to describe ‘unschooling’ is ‘child led’ learning. We follow no curriculum in this house, we strive to follow our hearts and I strive to support my children in following their interests and passions. And I have learned to trust that they really do learn all the important things when they want to and then they learn it quickly and there is no struggle between us. Like Andrew. His printing didn’t improve since he left school at the end of grade 3. I worried that no one would ever be able to read his scrawl. Then one day this summer, he left me a note and his printing was beautiful – like an artist. So all those hours kids spend doing ‘penmanship’? Unnecessary for him (and I would guess for most). When he really wanted to print neater, he did.

Anyways, there is my experience of Emily Carr and a bit of my holiday that I wanted to share with you...and my explanation of how we homeschool… in case you were wondering ;-) I was just going to tell you about seeing Emily Carr but it just illustrated how we really learn so well... you got the full meal deal...

3 comments:

katie said...

i saw the emily carr exhibit in victoria a couple of years ago. although i didn't know everything about her art, school did teach me her name and that is why i went to see the exhibit in the first place.

beetlemack said...

i love emily carr. she painted what she felt.

bum.by.the.sea said...

yah she's an art hero of mine.