Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Product or process?

That is the question that I ask myself when I go through the pile of "projects" that Beanie and Bubbie bring home from school. What I do is store it all in a flat box, then sort through it every other week or so: Meaning when pieces spill onto the floor.

I typically recycle, reuse, or repurpose "process" as soon as it emerges from the backpack: Construction paper glued with elbow macaroni or beans or "shapes" that demonstrate the development of scissor skills from Bubbie usually goes straight into the circular file while worksheets and last week's homework, returned with a smiley face drawn on it, from Beanie become grocery lists or even "practice" paper for more drawing by the kids.

It is harder to tell you what "product" is. In fact, I go through the product bin when it becomes near full and start re-categorizing pieces as "process."

This is a task of modern parenting, I suppose: I am relieved to know that I am not alone, as this story in The New York Times demonstrates:

No one has quantified just how much art children create at school, said David Burton, a professor of art education at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. But having worked in the field for more than 40 years, Dr. Burton refutes the notion that present-day parents have coddled and attaboy-ed their children into overproducing.

Art classrooms of the 1960s and ’70s followed “a philosophy of make and take,” Dr. Burton said. That is, at the end of every 40-minute class, an art project would be ready for Mom and Dad. Art educators today have been trained to encourage a deeper exploration of material, process and theory.

At the same time, Dr. Burton said, tots now start scribbling with ergonomic crayons by the age of 18 months: “Years and years ago, people — even art educators — believed that children would just waste materials when they were really toddlers.”

I have to disagree with Dr. Burton. I believe that the amount of children's art has escalated. Every parent I know has curatorial problems.

How do you solve yours?


I consider this neither product nor process, but a promise: It is Beanie's New Year's resolution for home:


The lack of activity on my blog during the last week might have indicated to you that my so-called life is even less lively than usual. The semester started last Wednesday. I will get over it.


  1. I wish G embraced the goal of "finishing (his) mills without being reminded"!

    It's interesting to me *how* *much* *less* artwork comes home from the boys' current school. So, presently, I don't have to think too much about it.

    At home we have a plastic file bin in which I tossed everything that didn't immediately get mounted on the wall. I waited to cull at the end of the year. Mostly because I'm lazy and the bin was big enough to accommodate the goods, but also because the passage of time gave me some perspective on what really was worth keeping. Journals -- absolutely. Some token form of hand and/or footprint art that shows just how small they used to be. And then a few choice favorites, including things the boys felt especially proud of.

    I've heard of parents arranging artwork in a collage on the floor or wall, taking a picture of it and saving the picture ... but not the art.

  2. Kate, now that I think about it, I think it is true that there is less "art" work that comes home (as in what the kids create in, say, art class), and more drawing / writing and journaling that comes home. Not to mention the morass of worksheets from 1st grade. Then again, not sure how else kids learn - I certainly would not support a wholesale move away from paper and pencil.