Megan Dowsett is a creative consultant working in museums, galleries and the arts, an illustrator who is finding her voice through personal and local projects, and a parent to two young beings who can't help but influence her creative journey.

Through the name Norris and the Flamingo, she shares the sense of adventure that runs through all of life, wherever we are on our journey. A sense of imagination, of possibility and discovery, for children and adults alike.

30 April 2020

Begin with a Story: Tell Me a Dragon

20200424_105712 Things got a little tricky at the beginning of last week. A little burnt out and at the same time bursting with ideas and exuberance, all of us frustrated at how little space there is, physically and spiritually, I suddenly realised my thinking had gone a bit haywire: home-schooling was such an opportunity for ME to be creative, for ME to enable learning the way I believe it should be, for ME to build a portfolio of experience and ideas. I have to be honest, it was becoming a bit too much ME and not quite enough of the KIDS.

20200424_121240 I've shared my thoughts with a couple of people - a few others who are simmering with ideas, pressure, juggling and a serious lack of headspace, and I realise I'm far from alone. Parenting is such a creative thing - we had found a balance, long ago when the kids were at home and we provided social time, free play, and independent time too. Then we found balance in a different way when kids started school or nursery. And now ... now there is a whole new equilibrium to find, in very narrow confines.

So, I took a big step back. I took a few days off Instagram, and abandoned my blogging plans. (Yes, I'm here, but I'm not sure how often I'll post!). It was mighty hard - this EGO is a powerful thing!
20200424_111606 20200424_110626

Added to the mix was a bit more direction from school; I find it very difficult use the more prescriptive approaches to learning with Feets - especially while Bean is in the same room, demanding attention and distracting Feets the moment she tries to sit down. Still, I decided to try a combination - the theme from school was mythical creatures, and so the week evolved from Tell Me a Dragon, a poetic, magical vision by Jackie Morris.

20200424_104256 The week had a serious dip in it: recently, we've hit a serious wall of perfectionism in our previously carefree, experimental 6 year old. We make so much mess together, but all of a sudden, everything we do - all the things that used to make us happy - go terribly 'wrong' in the first 30 seconds and deteriorate fast into tears, shouting, and gloriously stamping feet. And that's just me!  (And as is so often the case, we burst through the other side of dip when I was least expecting it...)

So, here is how we responded to Tell Me a Dragon, by Jackie Morris, which you can see her reading here.

- We read the book, and picked out the words that described each dragon. Wrote them into little dragon eggs.

20200423_105332 - We fell out. Feets took on the planning of her own literacy for the rest of the week. Not much literacy happened as a result, if I'm honest, but she did write an incredibly poetic description of her own dragon (when I find it, I'll share it :-). Perhaps there's nothing left to teach her.

- (Also, as the week began to improve, they wrote invitations to their two closest friends and delivered them, inviting them to hunt for dragons in the woods on Friday afternoon...)

IMG-20200425-WA0002 - With Mr Liam, Feets got to grips with fifths and thirds, through the tricky task of dividing birthday cakes for Shrek and his friends.  Our shed door was littered with pictures of fairytale characters! (One day, perhaps I too will manage a completely spontaneous shed-door lesson complete with full chalk illustrations, but for the time being this is definitely Liam's forte)

Creative Time
20200423_233515 - We used a technique suggested by my Mum's fabulous art teacher, Debbie Chisholm, to create our own dragon eggs: paint your egg with water; grate some watercolour pencil into dust using sandpaper and sprinkle it onto the wet paper - beautiful results, thank you Debbie! (I thought it was a fail-safe experimental technique for a perfectionist Feets. It wasn't. But Bean loved it.)

- Inspired by the willowy shapes of Jackie Morris' dragons and the variety of forms they take, we took a sack of watery art materials outside and experimented with creating dragon forms. Again, Bean immediately filled her page with joy, while Feets burst into tears and stormed off with the snappy instruction to 'find 10 positives'. The sensible part of my mind took enough control to suggest we stop for lunch, before she got to 10 positives. And the magic happened after lunch, when I turned around to discover Feets on the table, churning out one flamboyant, experimental, magical dragon after another. I left her to it and took Bean for a walk.
20200422_115621 20200422_132746 - The next day we made glitter glue and gave our dragons a shimmer, along with eyes, mouths and other details.

20200424_112116 - Everything came together with a buzz of energy and a glow of magic on Friday morning, as Feets awoke early, cut out numerous eggs and dragons, and helped me write a sign for the fence. We set off with chalk, dragons, eggs and wire. We hid the eggs in an abandoned bird's nest, in our den in the woods, and strapped the dragons to trees leading back to the entrance gate. We hung our sign, and passed another happy half hour creating dragon footprints in chalk up the first part of the path. Then we hid to watch our friends doing the hunt.

20200425_104401 With a clear message in my head to remove the pressure on myself and the kids, I had begin the week with the idea of a dragon trail as a possibility, depending how it all went. By Wednesday, it was looking highly unlikely. But the joy of watching our friends follow the dragon trail erased (almost) every memory of our tricky start to the week! 20200425_132044 What's more, we sent the message to a number of their school and nursery friends, and the families in our block, and were rewarded with numerous photos of children doing the trail. Dinosaur stampers appeared in the nest; video messages of thanks; a chalk message on the pavement by the gate to the woods; and every time I went to re-stock the eggs, the sound of voices hunting for dragons.

We floated like kites into the weekend! 20200425_161302