Author: Sarah Bernhardson

Children’s Art: Process or Product?

When I was an undergraduate studying art education, we spent lots and lot of time discussing process versus product in the art room: What is more important in an art lesson, particularly in the younger grades…the creative process in which children engage or the final product that they create? Opinions vary on this topic, and volumes have been written about it. My thoughts on the matter tend to be that it’s a continuum; process matters almost exclusively in the early years of art-making, and as children grow, develop, and become more aware of their abilities as an artist, they begin to use their skills to create something specific, often with a message. This is when product begins to matter as much as process. As a parent, however, the answer isn’t so clear. Pinterest, where I spend an embarrassing amount of my free-time pinning party ideas, home decor, fashion inspiration, and of course, projects for my kids, is chock full of product-oriented projects for young children. These are the projects we so often see on bulletin boards in schools and daycares; there are rows and rows of construction paper trees, each looking just like the one before it, clearly created from a teacher’s model. I can see value in this sort of project: children are practicing cutting, gluing, fine motor skills, following multi-step directions…but is it really an art project? I’m...

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Finally Declaring Victory on Groceries

When I first moved out of my parents’ house, the thought occurred to me that I would now be solely responsible for my own meals, every single day. For someone who loves to plan, such as myself, this was oddly overwhelming. While I loved “free taco bar at happy hour” night just as much as the next 22 year old, I put quite a lot of time and thought into meal planning: what could I cook that was A) cheap, B) relatively healthy, C) delicious, and D) did I mention very cheap? I started listing dinners that were successes on all fronts so I’d have a bank of ideas from which I could pull weekly. I plotted where I’d shop based on grocery store sale fliers, and planned a weekly menu based on coupons and store specials. via GIPHY I lamented how much I spent on food each week, striving for healthier meals and lower totals at the check out. For whatever reason, I felt guilty if I spent more than I’d planned to on my weekly Stop & Shop trip. Even now, over a decade later, and with two children and a husband, my weekly grocery shopping trip is a source of stress. Figuring out breakfast, lunch, and dinner for four people– one quasi-vegetarian, one omnivore, and two picky children– while staying within a budget isn’t easy. via GIPHY But this...

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The Top 10 Reasons Quality Early Childhood Education Matters

With the youngest of my two children about to leave the world of “early childhood education” and enter the world of elementary school, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the importance of this short phase of our education and how crucial it is. Years ago, when I was an undergraduate studying art education, we learned about how linked drawing and literacy are. The visual development required for writing and reading is so closely connected to the stages of drawing development that children typically progress through. As a mother, it has been amazing to see the giant social leaps children take between the ages of two and five. No other time of life has so much growth, development, and change in such a small period of time. I’ve watched my children at home and in the classroom go from shy, hesitant two year olds, reluctant to be separated from their parents and unsure of how to interact with their classmates, to boisterous confident children, running into the classroom and seeking out chances to play with their friends and show off their talents. Watching this change is always exciting, whether as a parent or as a teacher. For these reasons, I cringe when I hear parents and teachers brush off early childhood education as less important than the “real school” our children will later face. Alarmingly often, I’ve heard parents and...

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Spoiler Alert: You already have a Valentine.

February has arrived, and I’m downing Reese’s hearts as I write this. You guys, VALENTINE’S DAY IS COMING. I say this not to make you panic, and not to initiate the “UGH, I hate that Hallmark holiday” naysayers…but to let you in on a secret. Chances are very, very high that you already have at least one Valentine if you’re reading this. And chances are even higher that your Valentine(s) would love nothing more than to go all-out celebrating this day of love with you. In my first year as a teacher, fresh out of undergrad, I was single on Valentine’s day. I had no fun dinner plans (um, I was likely still in my classroom at dinnertime that year…), no one was sending me roses at work, and if you’d asked me, I would have said that I didn’t have a Valentine. I paint a sad picture, no? However, this was possibly the best Valentine’s Day, or at least one of the best, ever. You see, I quickly realized I had not one, not two, but 18 Valentines! The kids in my class that year made it impossible to feel sorry for myself. They showered me with handmade cards, carnations, tiny boxes of conversation hearts, and sticky cupcakes from tiny frosting-covered hands. By the end of the day, my desk was literally covered in adorable surprises from my many, many Valentines. We wrote poems together...

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Celebrating the Kids You Have

Before I became a parent, I had an image in my head of what my children would be like one day. They’d wear cute matching, preppy outfits and have adorably styled hair at all times. They’d of course love music, and start piano lessons no later than age 4. I’d never give in to letting them wear clothes branded with cartoon characters, and I’d certainly never let them leave the house in totally mismatched outfits with those hideous plastic Crocs on their feet. My children would only play with creative toys that stimulate mental growth, and they would eschew all things violent. I was quite sure of all these things. Eight years ago this month, I got my first positive pregnancy test and so began this dream of my “someday children”. In that eight years, I’ve started realizing that the kids I have aren’t necessarily the kids I’d imagined. This is not a bad thing at all; the kids I have are fantastic, creative, caring, wonderful people. In fact, the kids I have are way cooler than the imaginary kids that lived in my head. However, I’ve had a strangely hard time letting go of some of my preconceived notions of what they’d be. My older son loves crafts, martial arts, and all things tie-dyed. He has a fantastic sense of humor and is incredibly kind and caring. My younger son is a super-hero enthusiast. He...

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